The speed at which the enterprise has embraced IoT infrastructure has been impressive. But with most deployments still in a nascent stage, many organizations are only just now starting to encounter some of the challenges associated with scaling up to production levels.
According to Strategy Analytics, nearly 70 percent of businesses have deployed IoT solutions, and that is expected to increase to 80 percent within the year. But as Datamation’s Pedro Hernandez points out, many organizations are struggling with the analytics side of the equation. While gleaning insight into complex environments is the main driver of IoT, it isn’t always easy to determine exactly how the analytics should be done. As the data coming into the enterprise mounts, so too will the complexity of the analytics process, which can deliver vastly different results based not only on what data is collected and how it is conditioned but what questions are asked and even how they are phrased.
Perhaps not altogether surprising, the most effective use of IoT is not happening in the enterprise or in commercial operations but on the manufacturing floor, says tech journalist Chris Neiger. Recent research from BI Intelligence shows that industrial manufacturers are well ahead of verticals like banking, telecom and energy in their deployment of IoT solutions. The field is being led by General Electric, which is leveraging IoT for everything from industrial assembly lines to navigation and fuel management systems. Company executives say an IoT-supported Industrial Internet could contribute $10 trillion to $15 trillion to global GDP in the next two decades.
Any technology initiative presents numerous barriers that must be overcome, so in this regard the IoT is not unlike IT advancements of the past. But as Kepware’s Tony Paine tells eWeek, the IoT requires a highly disaggregated infrastructure, which means the enterprise will have to push more functionality to the edge than ever. At the same time, it will need high degrees of visibility, addressability and discovery as unique data points start to proliferate across the environment, not to mention advanced traffic management to navigate data through the inevitable outages that will occur on both wired and wireless network infrastructure.
The enterprise is likely to encounter multiple failure points in the rollout of IoT services, says Monika Jha, of application framework developer Allerin, so it is better to plan for them now rather than alter deployment strategies later. Key things to watch out for are security, which can be spotty as the IoT extends to non-enterprise assets such as consumer devices, and the proliferation of multiple platforms, architectures and vendor solutions that must be integrated on a granular level in order to support the automated workflows that drive IoT functionality. And the fact is many IoT solutions today come from start-ups, which may or may not exist in their present forms once a working IoT ecosystem is in place.
In all likelihood, this is only a smattering of the challenges that organizations will face as they attempt to build a working IoT infrastructure, and the most nettlesome will arise from the unique aspects of individual processes, workflows and data models. But at this point, there do not seem to be any technological deal-breakers on the horizon, as long as the enterprise begins the deployment process with a clear understanding of the systems in play and the outcomes it hopes to achieve.
Without doubt, the IoT is a massive undertaking and it will probably remain a work in progress just like the legions of legacy data infrastructure. But it does provide the means to remake digital processes in a fundamental way, and for that reason alone it will become a key factor for success in an increasingly interconnected world.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.