Just 30 years ago, what we now call the “internet of things,” or IoT, was a figment of science fiction’s imagination.
That’s rapidly changing. From autonomous vehicles to smart fridges to hospital equipment, the IoT industry has seen steady growth for the better part of a decade. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates IoT products could generate up to a jaw-dropping $12.6 trillion in economic value by 2030, spanning factories, urban planning, retail environments, the human body, vehicles and more. With so much riding on IoT technology, how can we make sure the industry’s momentum isn’t derailed?
3 Challenges Facing the Internet of Things
- Wider adoption.
- Connectivity issues.
- Cybersecurity threats.
The Internet of Everything
IoT devices are already enabling individuals and organizations with new ways to connect to the internet, disrupting industries along the way. But as demand for more devices with improved performance grows, industry experts have expressed growing concerns about whether the current internet landscape is capable of maximizing these devices’ capabilities.
IoT use cases within healthcare highlight these concerns, as medical devices account for one of the fastest-growing sectors within the IoT industry. With the rise in demand for telemedicine solutions and the increasing sophistication and diversity of monitoring devices, the IoMT (internet of medical things) promises to blossom into a $176.8 billion sector by 2026. With this growth, expect to see continued rollouts of new and exciting devices with advanced features such as augmented reality or ingestible sensors.
As healthcare providers get accustomed to working with and alongside cutting-edge, innovative internet-enabled devices, their increased use and sophistication will present a few major challenges. First and foremost, with so many use cases already across a growing number of sectors, and so many more in the works, how will our internet infrastructure be able to successfully handle all this data in real time?
Lack of Necessary IoT Infrastructure
We desperately need a stronger internet infrastructure to meet the demand for impressive and innovative IoT products. Right now, across the globe — and especially in the developing world — internet connectivity is insufficient enough to support the number of IoT devices expected to be in use in the near future.
Simply put, our current networks can’t smoothly process the immersive and interactive experiences that many connected devices require. It’s easy to imagine a future scenario wherein a doctor supervising an AI robot performing a surgery can’t effectively oversee and analyze the robot's actions in real time due to lagging caused by a lack of necessary bandwidth.
Despite all the progress made in the area of fiber optics, 5G, and high-speed internet, our current infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with all the data needed to run this growing list of connected devices.
Connected devices that require large amounts of data to function right now need to rely on a limited number of 5G networks and 5G data receptors. Lifewire estimates that, by the end of this year, only 32 percent of North American mobile connections will be on 5G, some four years after its launch. The lack of global 5G coverage already results in inconsistent processing speeds, and telecom and infrastructure providers are already playing catch up.
Deploying edge servers that support protocols such as MQTT closer to end users or devices to eliminate the potential impact of high latency disruptions is the best solution to this problem. Edge servers help process data closer to its point of origin, which enables processing at greater speeds, allowing IoT devices to perform at their highest potential in real time.
Additionally, CDNs, or content distribution networks, have now enriched their portfolios to provide IoT devices with real-time communication and data processing protocols and platforms. As an example, a user can configure its sensors and cameras to send video and information with video-specific data centers and services, further reducing latency. CDNs can also manage edge devices and applications while centralizing and hosting the static parts of web-based applications that connect to those devices, boosting performance and enriching such applications.
Securing All Devices
With so many IoT devices for both business and personal use flooding the market, addressing security threats will also become important. Securing IoT devices requires a slightly different approach than traditional cybersecurity in the sense that it blends cybersecurity with engineering disciplines to address the physical and security aspects of hardware devices.
While CDNs are part of the infrastructure solution by enabling IoT devices to function in a more agile manner, they can also provide important insights that can enhance cyber protections. By monitoring CDN logs, security professionals can defend against risks such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) and bot attacks.
Other security vulnerabilities can result if product interfaces don’t support securing debug access or the device doesn’t support signed software updates. Furthermore, choosing a product that uses strong and proven cryptography, ideally with peer-reviewed methods and algorithms, will protect the device when it communicates with other devices or cloud networks.
Most IoT devices come with baseline security mechanisms like automatically applied updates, which work to monitor and apply patches when necessary. But hackers are becoming better equipped to counter these defenses, and as more and more products become available, adding as many security features as possible is the right move for enterprises and individuals.
Building the IoT
In order to support this anticipated wave of IoT products and the inevitable security threats that come with them, our infrastructure needs to be augmented and empowered. Deploying more CDNs alongside edge and cloud servers can be the key to making this a reality. These crucial infrastructure pieces help facilitate seamless and instant connectivity, but we need more to meet the traffic and data demands that will be generated.