Potential barriers to preventing IoT adoption

The Internet of Things (IoT) has enormous potential and can change the way how businesses operate, but there are still numerous obstacles to hurdle before wide-scale adoption is possible.

04/16/2016


It's early days for Internet of Things (IoT), but we've already seen how it can transform industries and the companies within them. It affects everyone from insurers leveraging telematics, smartphone, wearable, and drone data, to manufacturers utilizing robotics and Internet-connected modules using Industrie 4.0 initiatives to become smarter and faster. We've seen retailers installing beacons, farmers deploying sensors to save crops, and ingestible sensors to improve diet.

It is clear that the IoT has the power to overhaul businesses, changing the way they operate, make money, and liaise with their customers. The smart companies realize that IoT is not a gimmick—it's a business differentiator and a valuable one at that for commoditized industries.

Recently, one alarmed chief information officer (CIO) of a large insurer said that the IoT: "Has the power to completely change how we operate."

And yet, there are many barriers to its adoption, which are hampering companies from evolving. There are several reasons for this. 

Business culture puts the brakes on IoT

The biggest challenge to any (and mainly large) organizations deploying IoT is the company culture. Senior management are usually unconvinced by the need to innovate, and they need to see some significant case studies from other companies before they even consider investing into new technologies or partnering with other companies.

This is a tricky balancing act for CIOs and innovation departments, who are caught between showing these examples to influence decision makers, while also being aware that such a delay could see early-adopter competitors move ahead. It's not just IoT that is facing these challenges: more broadly, a number of industries—especially those that are highly-regulated—are looking at ways of innovating on the cheap.

Changing company culture is a difficult task; it requires new processes, people, and talent, before you even think about technology. However, it can be done through education, awareness, and with an open attitude to working with industry partners. 

IoT skills gap

IoT requires a whole host of new skills and people, from data scientists and analysts to innovation managers and IoT software engineers. Data scientist, in particular, has become a growing profession in recent years, yet many organizations don't know where to find them.

Smart companies are acquiring and partnering with start-ups for this, getting involved with accelerator programs and establishing partnerships with universities and other education establishments.

Privacy and security

Technically speaking, it is fair to say that there is a huge question mark over IoT in relation to privacy and security. This is for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, these devices are collecting and transmitting huge quantities of data, which could be intercepted (security) or leaked (privacy) if the proper controls are not in place. Sadly, this is often the case with developers and designers prioritizing user experience and the rush to market and all too often leaving security to a later date.

This could soon change—especially with European Union (EU) regulations levying bigger fines for data breaches and pushing for "privacy by design"—but it will remain a significant problem for some time yet.

Standards may ease this path, but it's also recommended that companies identify the right products and make sure their security measures are up to speed before rolling out these devices.

Legacy systems

Legacy systems are a burden to all large companies. These back-end systems are often propriety, closed systems, which are highly customized to the needs of that business, and sometimes have no further support from the software or hardware suppliers that made them. Some of these may have even gone out of business.

What does this mean for IoT? Essentially, that you have to tread extremely carefully with how these technologies integrate with existing systems. 

Standardization

Wi-Fi or cellular; ZigBee or Bluetooth? How IoT sensors communicate with each other is critical for the IoT ecosystem. Deployments won't work otherwise, and products will be useless and short-lived. The standardization debate on IoT is one for the vendors, and it threatens to go on and on in the coming months and years. Open source has to be the way forward. 

Data analytics

It is believed that open source holds the key to the future success of IoT, and this is especially true of the data coming from IoT devices. To actually make sense of this data, companies will not only need the right skills, but also the ability to leverage data that is both open and sharable. There are already questions over who owns the data, and how companies make sense of unstructured or structured data. In time, those answers will come to light. 

Doug Drinkwater is editor at Internet of Business, which is hosting the Internet of Manufacturing Conference November 1-2, 2016, in Chicago. This article originally appeared hereInternet of Business is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Joy Chang, CFE Media, jchang@cfemedia.com.

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