The growth of the Internet of Things is picking up its pace. The numbers are huge, with hundreds of millions of connected devices entering the industry every year. IoT will soon outnumber humans, and by 2020, there will be an average of three connected devices per living human being.
Much of this connectivity will be concentrated in cities, where sensors and smart devices will be scattered across roads, parks, offices, homes, cars and the people themselves. This increased connectivity will certainly transform our lives for the better in many ways that are unimaginable at present.
But it will also trail along some distinct challenges that need to be addressed. Here are some of the things to look out for.
Nearly all IoT devices rely on wireless technology for their communications and connectivity. Current wireless tech rely on radio frequency (RF) as their transport medium. RF is better known to us by names such as Bluetooth, ZigBee and Wi-Fi.
The problem with RF is that it is intended for far field communications, while many IoT ecosystems, such as the personal area network (which includes your wearables, implanted medical devices, Bluetooth earpieces…) merely span over a few feet.
This will cause huge interference problems when more and more devices become connected and start filling up the frequency space. New solutions are needed that will allow short-range IoT networks to coexist at a few feet of each other without causing collisions or interfering with each other.
Energy consumption will be another one of the big issues of IoT explosion. More connected devices will mean more wireless transmissions, which will be energy consuming. It’s funny since one of the main goals of IoT is energy saving. There are technologies that use low energy transmission techniques, but they’re not complete and are either too slow or not secure enough.
We will need new technologies that will be low on energy consumption, and at the same time provide acceptable data rates and be deployable on numerous different devices. In contrast to generic computing devices that are usually operated by humans or are regularly serviced by operators, some IoT devices will be deployed in unattended environments and will rely on battery energy to function, where they will have to continue working for long periods without a hitch.
Security is always among the top concerns of IoT. The growth of IoT ecosystems will introduce new issues in maintaining the security of devices. Device identification, authentication and authorization will surely become a bottleneck. Currently, most IoT security solutions rely on identifying and authenticating devices through a cloud server where every single device that belongs to a network is registered. While this is a viable solution for small ecosystems, it can become problematic when thousands and possibly millions of devices start sharing the same network. It can cause network lags, downtimes and the possibility for identity spoofing among others.
Decentralizing device identification in a secure way can enable IoT ecosystems to expand and grow without causing scalability issues. This can happen if devices themselves can establish local policies among themselves, which can help authenticate new devices that enter their network.
The management of IoT ecosystems becomes a nightmare when their numbers grow. This is both a functionality and security administration problem.
On the security side, controlling credentials and updates for the huge number of connected devices in smart homes, cars and offices become problematic. It is easy to manage security for a dozen connected devices in your home, but when that number reaches the hundreds, maintaining passwords and managing updates for each individual device can become an impossible task.
This can be solved through centralized security administration systems. These systems should have an access portal that helps users view a list of all devices in their IoT network, use password manager style systems to control credentials for all devices, and keep track of and apply updates for individual devices.
Functionality issues also need centralized systems. With so many different vendors offering IoT devices, users will be required to learn to use dozens of different applications and portals to access, control and coordinate device functions. Centralized systems can provide a hub for all devices to be recognized and their functionality controlled and linked to each other.
With so many devices soon sharing the same network, controlling traffic and improving efficiency will need the smart management of data transmission and bandwidth allocation between devices and device groups. This can become especially crucial in smart cities, where congestion and activity in different areas will vary during different times of day.
Smart systems based on machine learning can learn city activity patterns and intelligently allocate resources at different times based on the changing needs of network. Having such systems can help reduce equipment costs and make the most efficient use of networking infrastructure without scaling up uselessly.
The change is here
IoT is growing beyond the capacity of current systems, and we need to keep pace with it as it does. This requires us to first and foremost recognize these changes and embrace them, and then adapt our technologies and innovations to meet the growing needs of this industry that is becoming more and more ingrained into our lives.
What other challenges does the growth of IoT present? Share with us in the comments.