July 12, 2024
IoT Infrastructure

Navigating the IoT Landscape Evolution, Infrastructure, and Security Imperatives

The internet of things (IoT) refers to the ever growing network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which enables these objects to connect and exchange data. The growth of IoT infrastructure and systems has expanded tremendously in the last decade and is poised for further exponential growth in the coming years.

History and Growth of IoT

The concept of IoT has been around since the 1980s but widespread adoption began in the late 2000s. In the early stages, IoT systems were limited to machine to machine communication like RFID tracking of cargo shipments. However, with advancements in wireless technologies, embedded systems design, remote sensing and big data analytics, IoT has now evolved into connecting billions of everyday consumer and industrial devices.

Industry estimates indicate there were around 5 billion IoT connected devices in 2015 which grew to over 25 billion devices by 2020. Forwards thinking analysts project that there will be over 45 billion connected IoT devices by 2023 with total global spending on IoT solutions surpassing $1 trillion annually by 2022. Nearly every industry vertical from manufacturing to transportation to healthcare is rapidly adopting and integrating IoT infrastructure into their operations and business models.

IoT Requires Robust Connectivity Infrastructure

The massive growth in connected devices places tremendous demands on the underlying connectivity infrastructure needed to support IoT solutions at scale. Traditional cellular connectivity through 4G LTE networks have enabled the initial proliferation of IoT but new low power wireless technologies are also emerging to complement cellular for different use cases.

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN): Technologies like Sigfox, LoRaWAN and NBIoT are optimized for low data rate, long range connectivity for devices operating on battery power for years. LPWANs are ideal for distributed sensor applications like smart city infrastructure monitoring, precision agriculture, fleet management etc.

5G Networks: The next generation 5G mobile networks will play a pivotal role in supporting IoT infrastructure at scale. 5G offers benefits like ultra-low latency, high capacity, multi-Gbps throughput and ability to connect millions of devices per square kilometer. This will open up new possibilities for mission critical IoT applications.

Edge and Fog Computing

With billions of IoT devices generating massive volumes of sensor data, managing and processing such huge volumes of data in centralized cloud infrastructure can be inefficient and challenging in terms of latency, bandwidth constraints and reliability requirements of certain applications.

This is where edge and fog computing comes into play as an integral part of next generation IoT infrastructure. Edge and Fog computing refers to deploying compute and storage resources closer to where IoT devices are located i.e. at the network edge. This enables processing and analysis of data locally before transmitting insights to the cloud.

Edge servers can be deployed at cellular base stations, inside industrial machines, private LTE/5G networks and other locations. Edge infrastructure reduces bandwidth requirements, latency, and makes localized processing and response in real-time possible for applications like industrial automation, smart cities, augmented reality etc. Fog computing extends this distributed model one level deeper by embedding intelligence directly in network enabled devices as well.

Interoperability Standards and Platforms

One of the key challenges for building seamless Iot Infrastructure infrastructure is the lack of standardized connectivity, communication protocols and data formats across the dizzying array of connected devices. This has led to device and system level silos inhibited cross platform interoperability.

Several industry bodies and forums are working to develop open interoperability standards for core IoT technologies like 6LoWPAN for IPv6 connectivity over LPWANs, MQTT for M2M messaging, Lwm2m for device management, Grafana for analytics visualization etc. Platforms like Microsoft Azure, AWS IoT, IBM Watson are also focusing on providing platform level services to simplify development and management of IoT infrastructure across diverse solutions.

Cybersecurity is Paramount

Given how critical IoT infrastructure will become in controlling physical systems, ensuring security and privacy of connected devices and networks is absolutely paramount. Traditional IT security methods are not sufficient and new approaches tailored for IoT need to be developed. Challenges include constraint devices with limited resources to run robust security, lack of built-in security in many legacy devices, complex attack surfaces due to integration of OT and IT systems.

Authentication of devices, data encryption, firmware signing, device management and monitoring for anomalies, network segmentation are some key aspects of IoT security. Governments and industry associations are working on policy frameworks covering data protection, liability, and security best practices for enterprises and vendors building or operating IoT infrastructure.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it