The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to be one of the biggest trends in the IT sector in the coming years. It's estimated that billions of connected devices are set to come online over the next few years, with sensors having the potential to transform many businesses, as well as change the way we interact with our workspaces.
While industrial applications may benefit from the use of IoT sensors on the factory floor to monitor a range of systems, it can also find a place in office buildings and even homes, controlling things such as smart lighting, HVAC systems and security systems.
As such, installers may need to adjust their networking plans to take these systems into account. But what factors should they consider when looking to build a strong, future-proofed network that supports IoT gadgets?
Low Power Wide Area Networks
Many of the individual sensors that will make up an IoT network won't have great power or bandwidth demands, so a traditional network may not be the most cost-effective way of deploying them. Instead, using a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) that can connect these devices to a central access point is likely to be a more efficient solution.
According to a recent report from IDTechEx Research, there will be 2.7 billion LPWAN IoT connections by 2029. However, this technology is far from standardised, with a huge range of proprietary and unlicensed tools out there. Sigfox, LoRa and NB-IoT are among the most widely used options available.
This can cause headaches for deployers, as it may be difficult to know which of these are likely to survive in the coming years, as IoT becomes a standard fixture in any new installations. Therefore, it pays to research the options carefully, understand each of their advantages and drawbacks, and keep monitoring and adapting plans throughout the deployment and maintenance of networks.
Implementing flexibility and scalability
Whatever scenarios a deployment is expecting to use IoT for, it will be an area of constant change and evolution, so flexibility and scalability should be built into any installation at the start, in order to prevent potentially costly and time-consuming upgrades at a later date.
IoT architectures will need to be able to cope with anticipated future increases in traffic, so businesses must think about how they will go about this. Whether they rely on wired networks, Wi-Fi or future solutions such as 5G to transmit their data, having the capability to scale up without replacing infrastructure will be essential.
Keeping security in mind
The need for strong security is another consideration that should be factored in to IoT infrastructure thinking at all times. These devices are expected to be increasingly targeted by hackers in the coming years, as they are often seen as a soft point of entry into a network that will be overlooked by traditional defences.
Indeed, one recent report from Kaspersky suggested that the number of malware programs targeting these devices in the first half of 2018 has more than trebled compared with all of 2017.
As well as keeping systems patched and monitored carefully, the physical IoT infrastructure will have to be protected.
Microsoft advises deployers: "IoT deployments may require hardware to be deployed in unsecure locations, such as in public spaces or unsupervised locales. In such situations, ensure that hardware deployment is tamper-proof to the maximum extent."