Top Issues Include Interoperability, Security & Connectivity
The term “Internet of Things” was coined in 1999, and the technology itself began to gain traction approximately five years ago. Of course, the IoT has matured significantly over that time, but to realize its full potential, it must overcome several acute challenges.
The IoT is heading toward a crisis point, but the adoption of network gateways can help enterprises overcome those challenges and achieve hoped-for ROI on IoT deployments.
The Top Three Challenges Associated With IoT Adoption
The Eclipse Foundation and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers released research identifying the top issues associated with widespread adoption of IoT: security, interoperability, and connectivity.
Following the natural trajectory of all disruptive technological development, we are now seeing a proliferation of IoT-enabling technologies, which can be classified in the following four groups:
- Cloud providers, which facilitate communication from the edge/IoT device through the WAN
- Data protocols
- WAN network technologies, used for long-range communication
- LAN and personal area network (PAN) technologies, often used for near-range communication
In fact, there are so many competing providers and proprietary protocols that a company deploying an IoT project could conceivably choose from 160,000 different combinations of technologies. No set of widely accepted standards has been adopted.
In the meantime, organizations may need to connect or send data between various systems operating on different protocols, but have no way to do so. It’s likely that eventually a set of standards will be adopted, but that point has not yet been reached.
There are several challenges to securing the Internet of Things, chief among them is the fact that IoT scalability and security appear to be at odds. IoT sensor devices are, by their very nature, resource-constrained, containing very little processing power or computing capability. They are designed to perform their exact function and nothing more. This simplicity is necessary to scale IoT systems and keep costs down. However, it also is impossible to achieve the enterprise-quality hardening of systems for security that one would normally expect to see in enterprise-class technologies.
Another challenge is ensuring the security of the WANs used with IoT deployments. The Mirai malware attack, discovered in 2016, is an example of the potential scale of a WAN security breach. The Mirai attack affected networked devices — primarily IP cameras running Linux. More than 100 countries were affected, and security expert Brian Krebs places the size of the attack at a record-setting 620 Gbps. Many blue-chip companies were impacted, and variants of the Mirai botnet were used to attack Liberia’s entire telecommunications infrastructure.
There are also security challenges associated with the personal area network. A somewhat recent development in IoT security is the rise in the use of man-in-the-middle attacks to intercept communications in short-range IoT systems. The attacker can spoof one of the devices in communication, allowing them to generate false beacons, record keystrokes, or hijack the connected device, like a smart lock or a temperature monitoring system.
Organizations deploying IoT systems on a PAN also find that sufficient bandwidth is a problem. The short-range nature of many IoT systems creates a situation in which the many sensors that make up a certain IoT deployment may encounter a bottleneck in the network as they all attempt to send and receive data over the PAN simultaneously. Further, multiple communications protocols reside on the same radio frequency bands, and some protocols don’t help mitigate the effects of unstable signals, which might cause data to be lost in transit.
The Role of the Gateway
Network gateways present a promising means of countering many of the challenges of the IoT. From an interoperability perspective, gateways can perform the management and protocol conversion required to make IoT technologies work together, and they can mitigate the need to manage different protocols independently.
In terms of security, gateways provide the fundamental security functions necessary to protect IoT systems, including authentication, blacklisting/whitelisting, frequency hopping, content filtering, deep packet inspection, and encryption. Gateways also can help address connectivity issues by providing an uninterrupted stream of service. They achieve this through Fog Computing and edge-level mechanics that buffer to avoid information loss.
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