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Getting started with IoT? Six concepts you need to know

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By Niall Strachan, Head of Product Strategy  at Pelion 

More businesses  are taking advantage of  the internet of things (IoT) to gain insights in data that can enhance their operations or products. As a result, IDC expects the total number of IoT connected devices worldwide to reach 80 billion by 2025.  

The pace of IoT adoption is accelerating, but complexity, complacency or lack of proper planning often lead to unsuccessful projects (as many as 40%!) IoT projects must address a clear, well-defined and well-considered business challenge, and solving that challenge should contribute towards the business achieving its long term vision. So, how do we navigate the trials of a successful IoT project? Let’s begin by  Understanding what’s driving digital transformation, then dive into some of the considerations that make up a successful IoT deployment   

1.The Drivers 

Operational efficiencies 

Put simply, the term operational efficiencies refers to the huge range of benefits that the IoT can bring to a business and is a key driver behind organisations adopting the technology  

You only need to look back over the past year to see how IoT technology has improved operations: From remote equipment diagnostics and operating locations remotely, to monitoring supply chains to ensure delivery of critical healthcare supplies. IoT connectivity can be as simple as monitoring road conditions, which then reports back to a central dispatching system, allowing fleet managers to tweak routes and save time, to large industrial machines that need their status and integrity monitored to predict when they need maintenance or repair. A connected device OEM might find the products’ firmware needs to be updated after they’ve been sold and shipped; this potentially challenging and time consuming task can be simplified with an online dashboard and a one-click remote update.  

Cost savings and ROI 

According to Gartner, the average time to financial returns on an IoT project is only three years, so it’s clear that the initial investment is relatively quickly recouped through cost savings and other operational improvements. And Gartner notes that, as IoT deployments are relatively new for most companies, there are a lot of quick wins available in predictive maintenance and establishing more efficient processes. 

As the value of accessing and analyzing real-time insights on a business’ performance or an entire project’s lifecycle is being realized, many businesses are aiming to better align stakeholders, processes and their data in a way that provides clear and actionable insights.  

A few examples of how businesses in different industries can realize reduced costs:

  • Fleet management: Companies in this sector will realize huge savings in their cost of labour, fuel and vehicle repair after implementing smart monitoring. Not only are they saving time with better routing, but there may also be shorter driving intervals, less fuel usage and reduced wear and tear on their vehicles. 
  • Heavy industry: For factory managers, any downtime can be costly, in addition to emergency repairs requiring an extra call-out fee. Enabled by connected sensors, they’ll soon see huge savings with their predictive maintenance capabilities.
  • Connected devices: Device manufacturers will save on data charges, improve customer retention, and avoid any potential liability issues.
  1. Considerations 

Hyperscale 

Within the next 15 years, the IoT will be made up of over a trillion connected devices — it’s hard to wrap your head around! Hyperscale refers to the ability of a technology architecture to improve and scale appropriately as more resources are added to the system, contributing to an even bigger distributed computing network. Every “thing” in the Internet of Things, from tiny sensors to industrial gateways, will need to be securely connected and managed throughout its lifecycle. Once the cause of data storage nightmares, hyperscale IoT connectivity creates a strong and scalable distributed system. 

However, as hyperscale connectivity becomes more complex, security concerns naturally follow. The GSMA’s recent IoT Security Report looks at how picking the right partners, products and technologies is a crucial first step in supporting your requirements as you continue to grow. 

 Lifecycle

From design, to deployment, to ongoing maintenance, to decommissioning, the lifecycle of an IoT product can be from weeks for a disposable tracking label to ten years or more for a piece of industrial equipment.

As connected devices have become more ubiquitous, the attack surface and security concerns have grown. Security from the design stage is vital in reducing complexity, saving time and lowering the risk of security breaches. Throughout the IoT device’s lifecycle, provisioning and configuration of the platform need to be quick and seamless while system operators need to be able to monitor the status and performance of devices remotely.

Senior leaders are often tempted to press on with IoT projects because, ultimately, they are closest to the company’s long term strategy. However, to ensure everyone understands the diverse requirements of the device lifecycle, teams need to be thoroughly engaged and communicated with from the initial design stage through to device obsolescence. 

Future-proofing

IoT future-proofing is possible by embracing two key assets: longevity and complexity. Shifting a team from maintaining a static configuration to developing a living application architecture helps embrace fluctuations that are bound to happen over a 10-year (or more!) lifecycle. 

The technology supporting the IoT is constantly changing, with new protocols and platforms always appearing on the scene. A key aspect of IoT success lies in thinking ahead while you’re scoping out your product or project. Having the ability to pivot and adapt to new developments in the market can make or break many deployments. Keeping a close eye on cutting-edge technologies means you’ll be a step ahead of the competition. An example could be a device manufacturer implementing eSIM or iSIM in their latest design, allowing their products to connect to networks right out of the box, anywhere in the world.

eSIM / iSIM 

Largely considered background technology, SIM cards are responsible for authenticating subscribers on a mobile network. However, as people, devices and machines become increasingly connected in the IoT, SIM technology will become crucial. Two relevant advances in SIM technology highlight this trend: embedded SIM (eSIM) and integrated SIM (iSIM).

  • eSIM: A tiny, remotely provisionable SIM card permanently soldered into a device. eSIM has increasingly gained popularity as an alternative to traditional SIM technology by reducing the cost and management complexity of physical SIM cards, making IoT more easily scalable. 
  • iSIM: SIM functionality is built directly into system-on-a-chip (SOC) architectures. iSIM amplifies and extends the benefits of eSIM, and no separate processor or additional hardware footprint is required, making it ideal for ultra-low power and very small form-factor use cases.

Beyond a list of common IoT business terms, the best way to demystify the IoT is to dive in with industry partners who are steeped in this world. Learn from their case studies and real-world deployments, take advantage of missteps made by others to avoid common pitfalls, and set your sights on the tangible benefits of incorporating IoT into your business.

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