Most of you will likely wake up one morning to discover that much of your Internet of Things (IoT) tech is misbehaving, with the only viable solution to unplug and replace it. Here are some things to keep in mind for avoiding that situation.
Have a clear idea what you want to accomplish with the IoT in the first place. Just because everyone is connecting things doesn’t mean you need to go that route. Prioritize the things that need a lot of maintenance or where a connection (as with a security system) can massively improve its performance.
Put security first. It will do you no good to have a bunch of connected things if those things are taken over by a hostile entity. If you can’t secure it, don’t connect it. (This is something Chrysler should have considered before its massive recall.)
You need to both control and maintain IoT technology. A lot of work is going into ensuring that you can control and monitor things that are connected. But you also need to patch and update. You need to both control and be able to maintain and update these systems remotely because if they become compromised, the cost could be staggering.
One of the key reasons to pursue the IoT is to save costs. To do that, you need analytics. If this isn’t included at the start, adding it later could be excessively expensive. Know the data you’ll need and what you are going to do with it to make sure the components you buy will provide that information.
Have an experienced resource you can call and consult with in order to stay away from avoidable mistakes.
Choose vendors that are aggressive with interoperability. You’ll quickly find that most of the legacy vendors are really into proprietary solutions that don’t play well with others. You should avoid these legacy vendors like the plague because they’ll become an almost impossible impediment to completing the project.
I suggest starting with a gateway and making sure your connected devices are on their own network and tied to that gateway. I’m most familiar with the Intel Gateway and Dell’s implementation of it because they’ve been doing IoT the longest of any of the firms I follow. Nexcom also makes a gateway but I don’t know it as well. The gateway was designed to be secure and to work with the greatest number of third-party offerings; however, most are only controllable, not updatable, which creates what could be a shorter list of approved vendors you can use to finish up your project.
Microsoft's Azure IoT Gateway is an interesting alternative. It's in its early phases and will be provided as a cloud service. Likely best for small or medium-sized businesses at first, this gateway fits into the overall trend of Software Defined Everything a tad better. Microsoft recently jumped into the open source belief system with a vengeance and has been working to be a leader in interoperability for over a decade so, once this matures, it should provide an interesting alternative. (It’s worth watching, in any case.)
I find the concept of the IoT frightening, largely because I’ve been personally aggressive with smarthomes for decades and know the pain of getting this kind of thing wrong. I also remain concerned that every time the industry gets excited about stuff like this, it tends to start from scratch. That means the ramp to market is excessively expensive.
So my advice is to ease into this with vendors that have been doing this for some time. Start with some kind of central component that ensures security and interoperability because you can’t depend on the device makers for this yet (f ever). Also, it would be wise to visit some of the firms that have been aggressive at IoT and learn from their mistakes; that’ll be a ton cheaper than learning from your own.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+.