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Analysis: How to improve on the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been nothing short of revolutionary. It allows vehicles to drive on their own and household appliances and medical equipment to be controlled over the internet. IoT products have become so prominent that the McKinsey Global Institute projects that they could generate up to $12.6 trillion in economic value by 2030.

Given how much IoT can do, the question now is, can it get better?

Eduardo Rocha, a senior solutions architect at GlobalDots, believes so. In fact, he recently wrote for Built In that improvements are necessary if IoT is going to continue to function at a high level.

Can IoT continue to do everything?

Individuals and businesses alike have leveraged IoT devices to connect to the Internet, which has led to a number of industry disruptions, according to Rocha. The concern is as more people use IoT devices and command better performance, can the current Internet landscape continue to maximize the devices’ capabilities?

For example, medical devices are one of the fast-growing sectors in the IoT industry. Telehealth solutions demand has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. An expectation has formed that these devices will continue to be deployed and grow in their sophistication and capabilities — the Internet of Medical Things is projected to expand into a $176.8 billion sector by 2026. That kind of growth could yield a lot of new devices with advanced features such as augmented reality or ingestible sensors.

While these innovations are exciting, as IoT stands today, there are no guarantees that the existing internet infrastructure can handle all of this additional medical data in real time.

IoT infrastructure needs a boost

As the list of IoT products grows, so does the need for a stronger internet infrastructure, according to Rocha. Global internet connectivity isn’t strong enough right now to support the amount of IoT devices projected to be used in the near future, Computer Weekly reports.

“Simply put, our current networks can’t smoothly process the immersive and interactive experiences that many connected devices require,” Rocha said. “It’s easy to imagine a future scenario wherein a doctor supervising an AI robot performing a surgery can’t effectively oversee and analyze the robot’s actions in real time due to lagging caused by a lack of necessary bandwidth.

“Despite all the progress made in the area of fiber optics, 5G, and high-speed internet, our current infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with all the data needed to run this growing list of connected devices.”

A main part of the issue is that there are not enough 5G networks and 5G data receptors to handle all of the connected devices and the amount of data they need to function. Only 32 percent of North American mobile connections will be on 5G by the end of 2023, according to Lifewire. The shortage of 5G global coverage has already led to inconsistent processing speeds, forcing telecom and infrastructure providers to play catch up.

The solution? Deploy edge servers that support protocols like Messaging Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), an OASIS standard messaging protocol for IoT, closer to end users or devices, according to Rocha. Doing so could help eliminate potential high latency disruptions. Putting edge servers closer to their point of origin allows for faster processing speeds and better IoT device performances in real time.

Content distribution networks (CDNs) offer another potential solution to the IoT infrastructure issue, Built In reports. CDNs provide IoT devices with real-time communication and data processing protocols and platforms. For example, a user could set up their sensors and security cameras to send video and information that has video-specific data centers and services, which could help decrease latency.

All internet-connected devices need to be secure

IoT devices provide a lot of benefits, but they are also susceptible to hackers. It’s important IoT device security is approached differently than standard cybersecurity, according to Rocha. There needs to be an act of combining cybersecurity “with engineering disciplines to address the physical and security aspects of hardware devices.”

CDNs can be key in protecting IoT devices — security professionals can review CDN logs to ward off risks such as bot attacks and distributed denial of service (DDoS).

It’s also imperative for product interfaces to support securing debug access and signed software updates to prevent additional security vulnerabilities. Businesses should also opt for products that use strong cryptography that can protect their IoT devices when they talk to other devices or cloud networks.

A lot of IoT devices are equipped with standard security measures like automatic updates, but hackers can easily sidestep these protections. Businesses and individuals must take the extra step to add as many security features as possible to shield their IoT devices from bad actors.

“In order to support this anticipated wave of IoT products and the inevitable security threats that come with them, our infrastructure needs to be augmented and empowered,” Rocha said. “Deploying more CDNs alongside edge and cloud servers can be the key to making this a reality. These crucial infrastructure pieces help facilitate seamless and instant connectivity, but we need more to meet the traffic and data demands that will be generated.”

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