Published: 01 Apr 2016
Two words come to mind when Ted Ross considers what a successful implementation of Internet of Things technologies looks like: "managed chaos."
"The Internet of Things is a very powerful concept," says Ross, chief information officer for the city of Los Angeles, where wireless sensors monitor over a quarter-million objects in the city. "It's exciting. I think if we approach this in an intelligent fashion, we can reap many benefits. But if you don't have a strategy around it, it becomes unmanaged chaos."
A large part of that strategy is the enterprise networks that support the Internet of Things (IoT). Because even if those hundreds or thousands of wireless sensors communicate via Bluetooth or other standards, odds are that the data they transmit will need to traverse an IP network. That means that when network engineers are designing their approach to IoT, wireless network design and a long-term strategy should be at the forefront, says Andre Kindness, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.
"The engineer has to approach it as looking out a few years at what wireless technology will be adopted," he says. "You can't just roll out Wi-Fi and that's it. You need to design the wireless environment for what you think will happen in your specific industry in the next five years."
Network engineers and other experts agree a sound strategy starts with talking to business departments to figure out ways that IoT can improve business practices and create efficiencies to save time and money.
Those conversations evidently aren’t happening often enough, though. Only 45% of networking pros have regular conversations with other departments in their companies -- or even other disciplines within IT -- about their network needs, according to Forrester's "Global Business Technographics Networks and Telecommunications Survey, 2015."
At the very least, experts give this piece of advice for IoT wireless networks: Think big.
"When in doubt, design for at least 10 times the number of devices connecting now," Kindness says.
What else does it take to run an IoT wireless network in the real world? Four organizations that have immersed themselves in it -- the city of Boulder, Boston Medical Center, the city of Los Angeles and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority -- share their experiences.
Read more from this series: IoT networks
City of Boulder: Designing networks for IoT sensors can be a learning process
Boston Medical Center: Internet of Things in healthcare keeps patients healthy, safe
City of Los Angeles: An Internet of Things network ready for presidents and earthquakes
Columbus Regional Airport Authority: Getting IoT ready for takeoff
What impact will IoT services have on the network?
Take a look at three IoT networks in the wild
The IoT migration requires specialized networks