I spend a lot of my time talking to product companies, partners and analysts about the state of the IoT market. Many believe that the IoT marketing is moving slower than it should and that the lack of standards, poor security practices and complexity of implementation are an anchor to overall growth. I’ve even been one to say those things. What’s interesting, though, is when you get down to the working level, it’s actually the opposite.
Across both real implementations that are scaling and in the ecosystem of IoT partners, the journey to success is getting easier every day. Most of the core challenges that were seen early in the market – like managing IoT data, making that data actionable and security — are now being adequately addressed by IoT solutions. Let’s dive a bit into each one:
Structuring IoT Data
One common problem with IoT is that companies rush to simply connect their products and don’t spend the time to model their connected business first. That’s the equivalent of trying to run a marathon before you even learn how to walk. A key step in the modelling process is defining a flexible and extensible data model, so that as the data associated with product, users and relationship mapping inevitably changes, the data model can manage these changes and synchronize it across business systems. This challenge of data management extends to how data packets are structured to be sent to and from the device, such as in topic structure, and in how changes in the data model impact other systems, like a CRM or ERP, that have their own data object models. This challenge is often not foreseen at the outset of an IoT journey and can cause major headaches down the road.
Making Data Actionable
A second major challenge is making the data actionable and operationalizing connected products and processes. Too often IoT projects are done in a silo with very technical teams leading the charge and building custom solutions that meet initial project goals. These custom solutions often struggle to work at scale and offer unsatisfactory, or no, integration to existing business processes. In addition, there is a rich variety of operational data that comes from connected products, such as usage, errors, lifecycle events, that can provide valuable insights on customers and overall product health. Understanding these insights used to require significant development time and expertise but now are included with any best in class connected product management platform. IoT projects are shifting from technology implementation to business value and processes.
Security is making an essential shift to a front and center priority in IoT projects, rather than an afterthought. There are too many examples of IoT cybersecurity failures in the market today that could have been prevented through common security methodologies and technologies. Having an end-to-end security strategy is critical and now is often baked into a connected product management solution, where the recipe for eliminating cybersecurity risk is provided. Any company looking to launch a connected product must understand their plans around provisioning, authentication, certificates, 2FA, secure transportation layers, and user management. This is the cost of doing business for securing a connected product and the data associated with it.
Over the next few weeks, our team here is going to be providing more detailed and technical accounts on how they are working to tackle these challenges within the Xively platform. Please check back regularly to learn about all the great work our product team is doing to make the IoT easy and accessible to more and more companies.