Preparing IoT deployment: 5 questions to ask
Internet of Things (IoT)

Preparing IoT deployment: 5 questions to ask

This is a contributed article by Ian Marsden, CTO at Eseye

 

Preparing for an Internet of Things (IoT) deployment can be overwhelmingly complicated for many businesses. Each question you ask yourself can spark further questions, resulting in a vast number of inter-related choices. Most importantly, how do you ensure your project is a business success throughout its lifecycle?

Here are five key questions every business must ask itself before embarking on an IoT plan.

  1. What are the financial implications of lost connectivity and down-time?

Calculate this carefully - you might be surprised at the speed in which the numbers escalate. For example, single network operators average around 80% coverage at the locations in which IoT devices are installed. The more downtime costs you, the more you should invest in the build and in connectivity options. You should also estimate the cost of onsite maintenance visits and do everything you can to minimise these. Early procurement savings may have long-term negative results on the project if ongoing costs escalate.

  1. How can I ensure that I build devices that will stay connected, wherever they are deployed?

Do you fully understand the range of environments the device is expected to work in? This knowledge is crucial and has significant impact on the hardware and software choices you will make. Will you go inhouse or use a third-party contractor for design, and how much are you prepared to spend on device hardware? This is another area where early planning and investment will reap rewards further down the line.

  1. With regards to cellular connectivity, what measures can I take to ensure that my devices operate across various locations, regions and countries?

If you plan to manage this inhouse, you'll need to build expertise and capacity. For global deployments you'll need to understand local regulations, which for example, can stop a standard roaming SIM card working in a number of countries. Nor is the legislation as light or simple as you might wish: different countries require different certification and are subject to local laws. In terms of contracting with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), if you engage in a multi-country deployment, be prepared to find their world fragmented. There are around 800 MNOs worldwide (source GSMA), and individual contracts will result in you having to manage across multiple SLAs, languages, customer support centers, data price points and billing formats. Plus, if your business case requires over 80% network coverage, you'll need to contract with at least two different network operators in each country. There are also in-country roaming rules you need to keep on top of. An alternative is to engage with third-party multi-network companies, who become a single point of contact and contract, and manage all of the above.      

  1. What cloud storage should I use to effectively compile and analyse information from all my devices?

This is the essence and value of IoT: to be able to gather information from all devices and centrally view and manage them, in order to save or make money, or to deliver some other kind of impact, such as social or environmental. There will be a budget and benefit analysis to undertake, but you have two main routes to choose from: either build inhouse server and developer capacity or buy-in Cloud services and configure your project around their rules. Your requirement may be so unique you have no choice but to retain a developer team and to build and manage inhouse hardware and analytics software. However, for most, customisable off-the-shelf storage and analytics solutions will be fit for purpose and give better value and scope to scale. Bear in mind that the bolt-on data analysis and security device management software that companies like AWS are developing will continue to add services; just as long as you are willing to configure by their rules, e.g. MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport). On this note, in establishing their rules, cloud providers have invested thousands of hours designing, building and testing for reliability, in the wide variety of real work scenarios. Whilst you may initially find adhering to some of the design rules and standards difficult and will be tempted to design a simpler custom solution, think hard about whether this is a sensible and scalable, long-term strategy.

  1. How can I ensure my deployment is as secure as possible throughout its lifecycle?  

It is essential to consider the implications of someone getting into your system before it happens, and to invest at the right level. As you prepare your devices and connectivity you should decide where your security boundary is and plan accordingly. Give serious consideration to contracting in third-party penetration testing experts and ensure your team is keen to encourage this.

 


Ian Marsden is the founder and CTO of Eseye. He has a passion for developing technology-based solutions that deliver real improvements to business, the environment and quality of life. Previously he co-founded CompXs to deliver the world's first ZigBee design. Prior to CompXs, Marsden held senior software leadership roles at Philips and has since spearheaded the ground-breaking innovation of our global AnyNet Secure cellular solution.

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