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Know your 'IoT rights' -- or deploy IoT the hard way

For all the promises of IoT, there are just as many unknowns.

The IoT marketplace is exceedingly complex, has many moving parts, sees a massive influx of new devices being connected annually and has seen many organizations propose new “standards” or “platforms.” The industrial IoT segment is evolving, and maturity is well beyond the horizon. And no single vision of a desirable future is sure to emerge.

This is a market where the certainties are few.

But there is one point of relative certainty: Connectivity matters. In fact, outside of security, nothing matters more. Wireless IoT architects must carefully consider their options for a host network on which to deliver their IoT services. There are many choices. Proprietary or standards-based? Regional or global technology? Fully upgradeable over the air, or not? Licensed or unlicensed spectrum? Architected for high security from inception, or security as an add-on? Mesh or star architecture? The available technologies differ markedly in their approach, creating challenges for IoT architects (and IoT customers in general) trying to make informed infrastructure decisions.

And, let’s face it: It’s hard to know in advance every potential application you, as a customer, can build on your network. Not only do you have to face the current challenge, but you also don’t want to limit your capabilities before you’ve even started by selecting a future-constrained network technology.

But, even with the inevitable uncertainty that comes with all emerging technologies, one thing is certain: You can know your IoT rights. Those rights do not have to be enacted, ratified or even codified. They’re yours simply by asking for them. So, let me propose “10 IoT rights” for your consideration. And let me say that these rights can become part of a stated covenant — and contractual obligations — between you and your network provider of choice.

Ten IoT rights

Customers should be able to expect and demand …

  1. The right to ubiquitous coverage, even in areas obstructed or excluded from carrier networks.
  2. The right to a technology based on open industry standards. No network should be locked into a single vendor’s products or proprietary platform.
  3. The right to persistent safeguards from unauthorized access and detection. In short, security standards that enable true military-grade security.
  4. The right to leverage a large and diverse ecosystem of providers. Customers should expect network technologies 1) with a breadth of vendor support, 2) with a variety of device options offering an array of features and functionality, and 3) offering prices driven by market competition.
  5. The right to consistent performance for every device, everywhere. IoT devices can be located anywhere, including in remote or obstructed environments, and in both sparse rural and dense urban areas. Expect and demand that IoT devices have a direct and unbroken connection to network towers or gateways, even in harsh environments.
  6. The right to power-efficient devices that communicate as often as you need them. IoT network operators should deploy power-efficient communication modules, which extend the service life of battery-powered devices.
  7. The right to use a platform that has been proven at scale. Field trials alone are not sufficient to demonstrate real-life scalability. In fact, the only true test for an IoT network is actual performance, day in and day out over years.
  8. The right to guaranteed service levels. When it comes to networks that connect critical IoT devices, customers should get what they pay for. That means network providers should deliver iron-clad SLAs as part of every IoT network agreement.
  9. The right to massive scalability. The largest IoT networks will look small a decade from now. But making a large network larger is less of a challenge than managing that network and deriving maximum value from it. Ask and expect your provider to guarantee massive scalability of its network.
  10. The right for your network to live long (and without failure). The best IoT devices are built to last 15 years (including the battery). However, IoT networks can live far longer than that if they have the flexibility to adapt and offer now capabilities as technologies evolve. Look for an end-to-end network designed to be future-proof.

As for choosing a network architecture for industrial IoT, here’s my recommendation: If you, as a customer, are weighing the merits of Wi-SUN, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT in determining your IoT network architecture of choice, make these 10 IoT rights your guidepost.

I invite your comments.

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