The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to be one of the next big trends in the IT sector. Some estimates suggest that as many as 50 billion devices will be connected to the world's networks in the next few years, with these having the potential to transform how businesses of all sizes create, share and use data.
But this trend will present significant challenges for networking professionals. All the information generated at the device needs to go somewhere in order to be useful, and with some sensors creating a constant stream of data to be collected, analysed and acted on, the bandwidth demand of the IoT will be significant.
Therefore, adapting a business' network to cope with this influx of new hardware and data sources will be essential. However, there are likely to be a wide range of hurdles that must be overcome as part of this process if IoT is to be a success.
Writing for No Jitter, contributor Matt Brunk highlighted several of the most common network issues that will have to be addressed in order to prepare for an IoT deployment.
For instance, he noted that one ongoing issue for both IoT and LAN infrastructures more generally at the moment is a lack of adequate power within the network to support the growing number of devices. While extending Power over Ethernet capabilities within a building is one solution to a lack of access, this can prove to be a challenging task that may require expensive recabling.
One way around this is to use raceways for cabling of any type, though Mr Brunk added that certain devices, such as point-of-sale machines or IoT sensors, will have unique challenges.
"Expansion joints can be a cable guy's dream come true, provided there's no significant movement and no building code concerns," he stated.
Another problem that must be addressed is poor wireless coverage - whether this is within a Wi-Fi system or a cellular network. As many IoT devices will depend on wireless connectivity to connect with the rest of the network, identifying and closing any gaps in coverage needs to be a top priority. Conducting a thorough evaluation of a business and identifying the best location for solutions such as wireless access points needs to be a first step in any deployment.
The continued use of IPv4 may also hinder IoT deployments. While many companies may have made the move to IPv6 for many parts of their business, the chances are there will be parts that still use IPv4.
Therefore, getting these to connect effectively with IoT tools, which should always use IPv6 technology, is another factor that needs to be considered. Mr Brunk noted there are many ways to make IPv4 and IPv6 work together, but while middleware solutions will have a role to play "their effectiveness remains to be seen".
He added there is no one network solution that will prepare businesses for IoT deployments, and different layers may emerge as companies determine the most appropriate route to take.
"As you attempt to layer IoT onto your existing networks, it will be interesting to see the ratio of sensors and AI devices to IT staff, as well as the ratio of IT staff to others in the organisation," Mr Brunk continued. "In other words, work will be focused, direct, and specific."