By Edmund Gair, Head of Operations & Strategy, Viatick
The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interconnected computational devices and digital machines that can share data over a network without requiring a human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. We have witnessed a widespread introduction of such technologies across various industries over the last few years. Everything, from compact smart home devices like Amazon’s Alexa to Bosch’s large-scale smart irrigation systems, has helped increase the efficiency of particular tasks and made our work/lives simpler, overall.
The rate at which digital transformation continues to foster has increased year-on-year with the emergence of new technologies. But the initial attention was always on B2C markets; technology that makes our home lives easier. Gradually, more sophisticated IoT systems came into place that massively increased operational efficiency and turnaround times, while decreasing costs, in B2B markets like factories, waste management facilities, hospitals, etc.
But the introduction of new technologies is closely followed by the surfacing of bigger problems to solve. In the case of scaling IoT integrations in B2B, there lies the arduous task of seamlessly integrating and automating the technology being used in smart projects. To elaborate, there are three main challenges that businesses face when trying to automate their IoT workforce:
- Lack of a universal interface – there are multiple enterprises working on various kinds of IoT devices across the world, and it’s possible that a particular business requires different products from different brands to upgrade their operations. Now, the problem arises when all these products have to work together but aren’t able to smoothly integrate with each other. This can result in an increase in machine downtime and cause unnecessary interruptions in the workflow, which is counterproductive to the entire concept of digitizing the workspace. This problem calls for a universal solution that promotes brand inclusivity and ease of work – much like the USB-C charging port in the B2C space. With a universal interface, businesses will be able to pick and choose the best products from different brands without having to worry about integration issues.
- Increased resource expenditure – Without the availability of a universal interface, the expenses of managing and maintaining different machines can also increase. There are services available that help you integrate machines from different manufacturers but they tend to be temporary solutions and require constant observation to make sure everything is running smoothly. In this case, the business would have to employ someone to oversee the results of the data collected by the machine, defeating the purpose of no human-to-computer interaction.
- Nothing is hardware agnostic – Currently, there are few-to-none computing components that can work with various systems without requiring particular adaptations. This means that entire industries are dependent on the production of specific machinery in order to function and grow steadily. As we saw during the COVID pandemic, the global supply chain was disrupted, resulting in a shortage of chips which brought the automobile industry, among others, to a standstill.
- Security breaches – Since the IoT infrastructure is an amalgamation of sensors, gateways, hardware, and application software, it makes the entire system vulnerable to security breaches, the chances of gaining access to vast amounts of data through cyberattacks and brute force attacks are high. Additionally, IoT systems often fail to get periodic security updates, making them vulnerable to hackers and other malware attacks. Such breaches can lead to massive revenue loss, especially for smaller firms. This is the most crucial challenge faced by companies when trying to integrate IoT devices with their systems are network security, data security, and application security.
- Data integration – Enterprises continue to grapple with the enormous amounts of data streaming in from disparate sensors and devices. A simple need for cleaning the data sets by eliminating unusable or repetitive data is proving to be challenging. Let alone, collating, and analysing this data to leverage it for any practical purpose.
- Data privacy – Manufacturers face significant obstacles when collecting data from sensors embedded in their devices. By connecting these gadgets to the Internet, manufacturers also expose them to cyber threats. IoT-based production requires a comprehensive plan for data protection from the project’s onset to ensure compliance with security standards and minimization of privacy risks. In response to these challenges, manufacturers are gradually increasing their awareness about how they can benefit from IoT technologies in their day-to-day work. Even though a lot is still left before this technology can be considered mature, IoT-based solutions are already being implemented in many industries.
While the digital transformation of our workforce is cause for celebration, it is also an opportunity to further innovate and solve the next generation of problems that are sure to arise. We are all aware of how change is the only constant, but it is our responsibility to pave a polished path for that change to arrive in style.