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Global organisations storm ahead with IoT implementations but challenges persist

by Phil Beecher, President, The Wi-SUN Alliance

With just a few days to go before the DistribuTECH conference and exhibition opens its doors to visitors from around the global, the Wi-SUN Alliance is putting the final touches in place to greet members, partners and guests to its booth no. 2861. Please do come along to say hello and find out more about our new industry research report ‘The Rise of the Internet of Things’.

5888 Origin Wi SUN Infographic WEBThe Internet of Things (IoT) has the power and potential to transform businesses and change the lives of citizens. It’s already happening around the world — from Birmingham to Bangalore and from New York to New South Wales. But just how fast is this digital transformation happening, what’s driving it, and where are the main challenges for organizations in utilities, smart cities and other industrial markets? That’s exactly what we set out to discover with this piece of research compiled from interviews with IT decision makers in the UK, US, Denmark and Sweden.

It reveals that IoT implementation is happening further and faster than perhaps many imagine: over half (51%) of those investing have already fully implemented an IoT strategy.

Driving success

This is an impressive vote of confidence in IoT — with sectors including oil and gas (75%), technology (59%) and energy and utilities (57%) seeing even greater numbers of organizations with fully implemented strategies.

But just why is IoT becoming so popular? The key drivers seem to be improving citizen safety and quality of life (47%), creating business efficiencies (42%) and improving the reliability of systems (41%).

Some 99% of IT decision makers say they are already seeing some clear benefits — most notably business efficiencies (54%), but also improvements to the customer experience (49%), collaboration (48%), reduced costs (45%) and faster time-to-market (40%).

Struggling with IoT

However, almost all (90%) respondents claim to have struggled with these projects.

Given the increase of real-world IoT-related cyber threats in the news, it’s perhaps not surprising that security is by far the biggest concern. With power stations being shut down by hackers in the Ukraine and Russian agents attacking the UK’s critical infrastructure, these are very real concerns.

But they’re not insurmountable, as long as we aim for enterprise-grade security across all IoT networks. That’s why we as Wi-SUN ensure devices are upgradable over-the-air to stay protected at all times, and are rendered unable to connect if the firmware has been replaced by an unauthorized third party. Other security controls enforced by the Wi-SUN Alliance include strong encryption and authentication of all network traffic, and frequency-hopping capabilities to combat eavesdropping and signal jamming. It’s the kind of multi-layered protection that IT leaders told us they now demand for smart cities (50%) and smart utilities (44%).

Aside from security, IT decision makers say they also encountered challenges around obtaining funding and getting leadership to support projects (both 32%). This illustrates the continuing need for IT bosses to communicate with the Board in language it understands, perhaps by sharing some of the many real-world examples that exist to show the value of IoT to the organisation.

Support for standards

The good news is that our research reveals strong support for open industry standards of the sort the Wi-SUN Alliance is promoting to drive IoT success across all industries. Over half say standardization is what they are looking for when evaluating these technologies. Other key criteria included network topology (58%) and communications performance (53%).

It’s heartening to see respondents so advanced in their planning and understanding of networking — with most (53%) favouring a combination of star- and mesh-based networks. We’re also glad to see IT bosses prioritizing latency and bandwidth; another area where Wi-SUN can help organizations’ IoT implementations.

We are delighted that IT decision makers are most likely to be familiar with Wi-SUN (56%) over other network technologies. It made us proud of the work we are doing and continue to do.

We continue to forge ahead with new standards, incorporating the latest technical innovations whilst crucially ensuring backwards compatibility for organizations. And we will continue our efforts to improve education and awareness in the industry, especially in areas like security where concerns are holding back deployments.

We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

DistribuTECH takes place on January 23-25 2018 at the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Visitors to the Wi-SUN booth no. 2861 can hear more about the progress made with the Field Area Network (FAN) Profile and Certification Program as we continue to work rigorously towards the introduction of FAN Certified products later this year. Now is the time to get on board to learn what it takes to make sure your products are compliant. 

Wi-SUN will also be co-hosting a ‘lunch and learn’ event with security partner GlobalSign on Weds January 24, to explain new methods and technology available for end-to-end wireless security for utilities, smart cities and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). For more information and to register for the Wi-SUN and GlobalSign event, visit here.