a worried woman in front of images of devices
Security isn't the only issue the IoT poses. Here are nine other issues to keep you up at night PHOTO: pixel2013 on pixabay

Along with the wealth of opportunities the Internet of Things (IoT) promises, it also introduces a wealth of headaches. 

While security issues usually top the list of concerns for enterprises entering the world of IoT, it is by no means the only problem IoT deployments raise.  Many of the other obstacles can, if not managed correctly, damage not only an organization’s IoT presence, but also its reputation.

San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco dove into some of these issues in its Journey to IoT Value research, presented at the Internet of Things World Forum in London this May. The research found 60 percent of IoT initiatives stall at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage and only 26 percent of companies have had an IoT initiative they considered a complete success. The research also found:

  • Nearly 75 percent of IoT business projects are failing
  • Roughly 80 percent of companies fear they lack the skills to make sense of all the data the IoT provides
  • “Collaboration between IT and the business side” was cited by 54 percent of business leaders as the reason they succeeded in an IoT project, followed by a technology-focused culture (49 percent) and “IoT expertise" (48 percent)
  • At least 61 percent of business leaders believe they “have barely begun to scratch the surface of what IoT technologies can do for their business."

9 Obstacles to IoT Success

According to Harrison Brady, communications specialist with Stamford, Conn.-based communication systems provider Frontier Communications, security breaches that cause identity theft threaten your company's reputation, but security breaches to your IoT systems threatens lives.

As an example, Brady cited the statistic that 60 percent of healthcare organizations have already introduced connected devices into their facilities. When those devices are hacked, it literally puts lives at risk, he told CMSWire.

The high failure rate Cisco's research noted can be attributed to a number of common problems. Brady pointed to two other places where organizations stumble:

1. Investment Issues    

Investing in IoT carries substantial risk due to its relatively early stage in development. While it's easy to say the IoT will inevitably grow, it’s harder to say how long it will take before the technology and society as a whole are advanced enough to work well together.

2. Human Factors

Most IoT projects fail due to a lack of coordination or a lack of skill. As IoT technology develops, Brady said we will see an increase in research and training, but for now most projects rely on IT pros who might be in over their head.

The Cisco research bears this out. It identified “human factors,” including culture, organization and leadership, as critical.

In fact, three of the four top factors listed as enabling successful IoT projects in the survey had to do with people and relationships: Collaboration between IT and the business side was the most important factor, cited by 54 percent.

A technology-focused culture, stemming from top-down leadership and executive sponsorship, was described as key by 49 percent in the same research. IoT expertise, whether internal or through external partnership, was selected by 48 percent.

3. Data Deluge

Saar Yoskovitz is an IoT expert and CEO of New York City-based industrial IoT company Augury. He sees data management as a core problem, with many organizations struggling to handle the amount of data the IoT can generate.

He cited the example of simply connecting sensors to the cloud for continuous monitoring of machines. This, he said, can cause more harm than good for those working with Industrial IoT.

“We need insight into what is happening with our mechanical equipment, not just more data. We should expect more from our systems. A switch to continuous diagnostics, that is to say, algorithms that analyze the data in real-time, is critical to avoid IoT data overload,” he told CMSWire.

4. Power Problems

While a lot of the focus on the IoT has been on software and application development, many organizations overlook the physical problems the IoT can create.

Bryan Dow is CEO and co-founder of Somerville, Mass.-based environmental services company Understory. He said power can be a major problem for those looking to work on the IoT.

For many IoT applications, there usually is limited access to power, which requires tight specifications related to power consumption and limits the breadth of available technologies or connectivity.

With prolonged periods of scheduled disconnection, debugging devices that lose internet connectivity becomes quickly impossible without a physical inspection. One advantage of IoT devices is their ability to scale, but this scale becomes a daunting, potentially crippling, challenge if a physical troubleshooting procedure is required for even a small percentage of devices.

He added that many different failure modes can present themselves as the device ages, a situation which runs counter to the fast-paced scaling that many companies strive to maintain. 

6. Scanners

Dow also sees bots as a potential problem. Devices are under constant threat from scanners looking for insecurities to exploit and make into bots. Keeping all of the devices updated in a timely fashion is paramount. To further complicate things, hardware in the field is usually heterogeneous, so keeping track of the different requirements as well as testing updates on each of those devices, is important and challenging.

7. User Trust

RaShea Drake is a B2B specialist with New York City-based communications giant Verizon. After studying successful and failed products in the IoT space, she identified a number of factors that apply to both the B2B and B2C spaces.

Lack of trust and confidence from users is one of the major issues she told CMSWire. She said it’s easy to buy into IoT products backed by corporate giants such as Samsung or Alphabet. It's much more difficult for consumers to trust a company they aren't sure will be around in five years, let alone one year.

8. Device Compatibility

Drake also sees the inability of devices to talk to each other as a problem for IoT-focused enterprises. This has been a problem since the beginning. It is particularly problematic for global companies trying to communicate across large distances prompting Cisco, for example, to buy Santa Clara, Calif.-based Jasper to enable it to connect networks and devices.

“As more IoT projects appear, many of them require additional effort on the part of the user, which in many minds, makes them more trouble than they're worth,” Drake said.

9. Guidelines and Standards

Leigh-Anne Galloway is cybersecurity resilience lead at Positive Technologies, a provider of enterprise security solutions for vulnerability and compliance management.

To combat the combined list of insecurity and problems, she told CMSWire, the industry needs to create comprehensive, agreed-upon guidelines for how to secure these apparatus.

“Hardware manufacturers, service providers and security experts need to cooperate with one another rather than acting as individual silos. Comprehensive security guidelines and industrial standards for IoT manufacturers would also help,” she said.

She cited the Industrial Internet Security Framework (IISF), developed by several big IT industry vendors, as an example.

As the IoT grows in scope, the problems and security issues are sure to grow as well. Any company diving into the space will need a proactive team monitoring these threats and issues as they arise.