Enterprise IoT Deployments, Spurred by Growth in 5G, Pose New Challenges 

By AI Trends Staff  

The increased availability of 5G networks is spurring interest in enterprise IoT deployments, which is causing a range of questions to surface around how the deployments are going to work, especially with existing operational systems, according to a new report from technology research firm Information Services Group (ISG).  

Mobile network operators, trying to manage costs as they transition to 5G networks, may choose to shut down older networks to reallocate available spectrum to 5G, in a process known as “shuttering.” These events can happen on a per-operator basis, which makes them difficult to manage.  

Ron Exler, principal analyst, ISG Research

“While 5G hype is rampant, not all spectrum types are available in a particular country or on a particular mobile network,” stated Ron Exler, principal analyst with ISG Research and author of the report, in a press release. “Enterprises need to work with their network and IoT providers to manage the selection of replacement technologies in advance of shuttering events, preferably in conjunction with 5G deployment.”  

US enterprises are moving ahead on industrial IoT, interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with industrial applications in, for example, manufacturing and energy. “Manufacturers need smart factories and supply chains to keep up with the competition,” stated Dave Lewis, partner, ISG Manufacturing. “Many organizations already have chosen their IoT platforms and use cases, and are looking to their service providers to help them scale deployments.”  

To respond to concerns from companies about cybersecurity, many IoT service providers are building security services into their consulting and managed services engagements, the report states. In particular, engagements focused on IT and operational technology (OT) convergence are concerned about cybersecurity. Many security services cover the entire IoT ecosystem from the edge to the cloud to on-premises systems.  

The convergence of IT and OT systems is a major challenge for enterprises deploying IoT systems, the report says. The use of legacy systems in both worlds can slow down integration and mobility. Service providers apply industry expertise and IT proficiencies to develop the converged systems.   

Service providers are also helping enterprises deploy artificial intelligence in IoT systems, including on the edge, the report adds. AI can help IoT systems better process large volumes of data, and service providers often offer customized AI for IT Operations (AIOps) systems for specialized customer needs.  

Move in On to Update Aging Industrial Control Systems  

Industrial control systems that have been adopted in many industries to monitor and control industrial assets are aging, and their maintenance is time-consuming. Many industries are seeing an opportunity to make the systems more efficient by integrating with digital process management workflows, according to a blog post from Flowfinity, The Vancouver, BC-based company supplies a platform for low-code development of business process applications.   

Modern IoT platforms offer an opportunity to reimagine the OT system and reduce the cost of maintaining complex integrations required to update existing control systems. Today, developers can buy pre-configured controllers with internal processing power and built-in database and workflow integrations. For example, developers can configure dashboards to visualize real-time sensor data, and couple that with existing OT systems to analyze large quantities of data quickly, providing a view in a large, physically-distributed utility or manufacturing facility.  

Predictive maintenance is one benefit. An IoT sensor can collect calibration data many times a minute. As soon as a machine falls out of an acceptable range, an edge device automatically flags the error and creates a maintenance order in a workflow solution. This allows an employee to step in to perform an assessment quickly and take corrective action to prevent a serious malfunction, or accurately predict when a future maintenance cycle should be scheduled to optimize uptime, the Flowfinity blog suggests.  

The company’s M1 Controller is said to enable this automation by being capable of taking control of a physical asset while also launching the appropriate workflow actions and recording data.  

Essential Steps to Secure Enterprise IoT Deployments 

The move to IoT applications brings with it new security risks, with each device added to the network representing a potentially vulnerable endpoint. Research from IDC analysts projects that the number of IoT devices will grow to 41 million by 2025, according to a blog post from Telit, an IoT communications firm based in London.  

Mihai Voicu, CISO, Telit

“Organizations cannot afford to ignore this,” stated the author, Mihai Voicu, chief information security officer at the firm. “By the time risks of compromise arise, it’s often too late to manage them.” Among his suggestions for securing IoT deployments:  

Ensure data encryption. Enterprise IT teams must ensure all data is encrypted in both directions from every endpoint, using standard encryption methods. “More endpoints means more entry points for bad actors,” Voicu stated. “Any internet-connected device presents an exploitable attack surface.”  

Minimize physical security threats to field devices. Determine which staff members have access, how they gain access, and how these permissions can be revoked when necessary. Have measures in place to ensure only authorized users can gain access to the devices, to ensure they are not compromised or stolen.  

Secure end-to-end communications. Edge computing introduces new vulnerabilities, such as not being able to change default passwords and operators unfamiliar with the evolving IoT cybersecurity landscape. Operators need to study best practices including end-to-end encryption, long-term plans for edge computing deployment, securing devices with strong passwords, encryption keys, and even biometric authentication systems.  

“From device to data transportation to platform communications, ensuring secure communications should be a priority,” Voicu stated. “The most effective way to guarantee data security is by choosing a single provider for all hardware, edge devices and management software. Having one provider reduces potential security risks and creates a sealed environment with fewer entry doors for cybercriminals.”  

Keep track of IoT devices. Fewer than 20% of respondents to a recent Ponemon Institute and Shared Assessments survey could identify most of their organization’s IoT devices. Further, 56% reported not keeping an inventory of IoT devices.  

“This study highlights a serious issue,” Voicu stated. Firmware and hardware must be updated with the latest security patches and additional features to remain optimally secure. Over time, devices may require battery replacements, repairs, or other maintenance. “If you take the time to consider how you’ll manage these tasks before deployment, you can minimize security risks,” he stated. 

Planning for the enterprise IoT deployment is critically important, suggests Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, an IoT connectivity supplier. The track record of IoT deployments so far is not so good. Cisco Systems found that more than 75% of IoT deployments fail, and Microsoft estimated that 30% of IoT projects fail at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage, according to an account from IoT news.  

Invest in device design, prototyping, and pre-deployment testing, Earle advised. Device design must consider the need to standardize and simplify production and deployment. “Appliances should be future-proofed,” he stated, suggesting that IoT devices with a single stock-keeping unit and one SIM are suited to global deployment.  

“The key to success is ensuring that your device performs in a predictable way,” Earle stated. “Devices not only need to connect to any network, but also adapt to network variances automatically and stay connected.”  

Read the source articles and information in a press release from ISG Research, blog post from Flowfinity, a blog post from Telit and from IoT news.