IoT has rapidly exploded from hype to reality. IoT implementations can be found in products across nearly every industry, from wearable health trackers to weather monitors to voice-activated smart speakers.
The popularity and diversity of these devices are much higher than non-IoT technology, which has remained level for the past decade, increasing from 8 billion to 10 billion devices globally.
At the same time, the number of IoT devices in use has grown exponentially from just over a billion devices in 2011 to 46 billion in 2021.
Since it’s a relatively new technology that is only recently gaining steam as its potential is still being realized, there hasn’t been much emphasis on standardization until now. Some believe that vital standardization will ease the rollout of new IoT technology, strengthen the networks, and allow simplified implementation across devices.
The latest 5G standard for mobile communications could be the preferred channel for IoT devices to communicate. Some benefits come with using 5G communications to power the IoT, but some challenges lie ahead with standardization.
5G and the IoT
The most significant advantage that 5G has to offer to the IoT is its connectivity. 5G is faster and more capable of handling large amounts of data than 4G or LTE because of its increased bandwidth. This is good for the IoT because it will allow many additional devices to connect without compromising speed.
The broader spectrum of 5G will also improve the augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) experience, enabling this technology to become widespread in business, education, and industrial applications.
Edge 5G networks provide a roadmap for IoT that is truly programmable, adaptable, agile, and responsive. As storage moves closer to the edge, 5G networks establish data connections quickly.
This move will fundamentally change how devices are designed, from centralized cloud communications to individual processors. However, as these devices become more generic, the 5G networks that they run on are becoming hyper-specialized through private spectrums.
The issue with powering the IoT on 5G networks is vulnerability. Globally, cybersecurity has become an issue as digital transformation, and the explosion of the IoT has lulled populations into a false sense of security regarding their data vulnerability.
An unprecedented amount of ransomware attacks have already occurred this year following the devastating SolarWinds hack that proved that the internet is not a safe place for personal data to be floating around unprotected.
Not only are owners of IoT devices at risk of becoming a victim of a cyberattack, but these devices can also be used to access proprietary data. Shadow IoT devices, unauthorized devices that are deployed on a network, can connect to enterprise networks without being easily detected and potentially wreak havoc on businesses.
Although these devices are dangerous to organizations, only 8% of companies regularly scan for shadow IoT devices connected to their network. With more organizations deploying IoT devices, it is becoming more difficult for IT to keep track of them all. In addition, IoT devices are more vulnerable than corporate-managed computer systems. When it comes to IoT, the attack surface area is vast.
Fortunately, the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 provides some standardization for producing IoT in the United States regarding the development, management, configuration, and patching of IoT devices. These standards are not globally recognized, so theoretically, the risks of running IoT on 5G networks are still there.
Despite these risks, IoT development offers opportunities for innovation that can’t happen otherwise, and the experts agree. According to the Worldwide Edge Infrastructure Forecast for 2019-2023, edge infrastructure is positioned to become one of the main catalysts for growth in the server and storage market moving forward.
Existing internet security standards did not encompass the vision of the IoT since it is a new concept. The scope of current regulations is not wide enough to support the IoT, and uses and devices are still being developed. Currently, IoT devices are still deployed with specific protocols that make intercommunication very difficult. To enhance the communication capabilities, standardization of software aspects will allow applications to be deployed across IoT systems while maintaining data privacy.
The biggest challenge in developing standards for the IoT is that there is no single regulatory body creating these standards. Numerous organizations and governing bodies are attempting to come together for standardization, as it is a necessity for interoperability, research, and development.
Future of IoT
The rapid expansion of the IoT is not slowing down any time soon. Previous predictions that the number of IoT devices would reach 26 billion this year have already been far surpassed. They did not consider the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on digital transformation.
Currently, the total volume of IoT endpoints data across the globe is expected to reach 75 billion zettabytes by 2025, but that could change according to markets and innovations. eSIM technology could be the next step for IoT development. Smaller than nano-sim cards, this technology can be embedded into devices that will allow manufacturers to integrate data and privacy protections while increasing edge computing power. Right now, some people resist eSIM implementation due to the complexity of the technology. But, just like the ever-expanding IoT, this technology is still being developed.
Business and technology leaders should consult with their analysts and end-users to understand where IoT can enhance existing business processes and focus their efforts in areas that provide long-term business value. Regulators should be mindful that the standards are set to open market opportunities instead of shutting off entire sectors from benefiting from the advanced technology
In a nutshell, IoT devices and software standardization will be critical to the widespread adoption of IoT technology. There is some good news for IoT developers. There are plenty of other proven wireless standards that can be followed until 5G IoT standardization comes together.
What’s more important is to be thoroughly aware of the pitfalls and advantages of adopting one standard over the other as the IoT is still a rapidly evolving market. To learn more about IoT, visit our Beyond ERP insights page, where you can access IoT whitepapers, webinars, data sheets, and much more.