There’s been a lot of talk about the Internet of Things (IoT) lately, though the concept originated more than 15 years ago. Though mostly still just a concept, IoT is the next logical step in our interconnected world. Forbes describes it simply as the concept of connecting any and all devices with an on/off switch to the internet—and to other devices. This could potentially revolutionize how we live our lives, improving efficiency and allowing us to eliminate a lot of unnecessary steps in our everyday routines. What are some examples? New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) points to the efficiency of delivery drivers, who make around 120 stops per day. With the help of the advanced Orion computer, a “traveling salesman” algorithm can calculate the most efficient route for the driver to take, improving the speed of each delivery. UPS could potentially save $300 million to $400 million a year after the technology is fully implemented in 2017. UPS is ahead of the curve, however, many other organizations are not ready to consider the IoT just yet. Why? Let’s go over the major challenges that are holding the IoT back from becoming more mainstream.
With so many more devices connected to the network than ever before, IoT does have the potential for cyber attacks that could wreak havoc by hijacking devices. Security breaches mostly involve theft of information and funds, but an IoT breach could become even more dangerous if criminals had access to industrial equipment. Internet of Things Institute cites a 2014 cyber attack at a German steel mill that caused extreme damage. To help protect against these kinds of attacks, devices would need to be equipped with proactive internal security.
Even though most people have become aware of the sheer amount of data that can be collected from individuals just by using the Internet, preserving data privacy is still a major concern for most people. Health insurance companies heave dealt with some of the largest privacy breaches in history. The largest to date targeted Anthem’s 78.8 million health records. These exposed records included names, birth dates, personal data, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, member IDs, employment information, and income level. In the future, the IoT will have the ability to collect even more data about our lives, a concern that will likely slow down the widespread adoption of IoT. Encryption technology will need to continue evolving to keep up with the needs of IoT and modern data privacy standards.
Cost of Implementation
Visionary technology is expensive, and many companies and individuals are wary of funding the implementation of IoT technology with no clear answers about the return on investment (ROI) of the technology so far. The startup costs of equipment and connectivity are just one piece of the overall cost of implementation, as ongoing maintenance and data storage/transfer will be expensive as well.
As Recode notes, many companies working on IoT solutions are still in the proof of concept phase after several years. This is because the IoT has been incredibly difficult to scale. Many companies that would use IoT as a business solution have wildly different workflows and needs, even within the company. Their equipment is also likely to vary in age, posing further challenges. One solution to aging equipment is to replace all machinery, but this can be cost prohibitive for small and large businesses alike. Redcode also notes, however, that these current limitations do not mean that the IoT will never become reality—it’s a process more than a product, and that successful scaling will be a slow process. Another challenge that big data poses for many leaders of these companies lies with identifying which data is relevant, understanding what data to use and what to discard, and focusing on formulating the right questions to ask. Because of this, there is an estimated need for 1.5 million additional managers and analysts in the U.S. who can ask the right questions and use the analytical results of big data.
Because different companies develop different types of optimized IoT (such as for a specific industry), the growth of the overall network will be limited and create “islands of connectivity,” says Ambiq Micro. The solution to this will need to be partnerships between different companies, promoting an ecosystem of connectivity that will allow the IoT to become fully realized.
Availability of Reliable Internet Connectivity
While many people in developed countries have fast and reliable Internet service, this is not true worldwide, and does not apply for many in rural areas of even North America and Europe. Beyond basic Internet connection, the IoT would require much greater network capacity than is available in many areas. Ubiquitous, fast, high-capacity connectivity would be needed for IoT to show its true potential and serve as many people as possible.