6 things keeping IoT pros up at night

Implementation and security are the top concerns among professionals involved in the Internet of Things, according to a survey from the organizers of IoT World 2019.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to help many organizations by shrinking operating costs and improving workplace safety. But the technology faces several hurdles as it tries to gain a larger foothold in the business world, according to survey results released Wednesday by IoT World.

Among the more than 100 IoT leaders interviewed for the survey, 34% pointed to the ability to implement the technology as the top challenge they face, while another 25% listed security as the toughest hurdle. Though cited separately, both areas are seen as intertwined. Any business that wants to implement new IoT technology must investigate the possible security risks while at the same time figuring out how to deploy it and gauging their staff's ability to support the technology.

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Among other IoT challenges weighing on the minds of respondents, the initial purchase cost was cited by 17%, scalability by 10%, business buy-in by 8%, and upkeep costs by 3%. Upkeep costs scored low on the list as many of the IoT pros expect or are already seeing a greater return on investment due to the improved efficiency offered by IoT technology.

A full 66% added that C-Suite executives support their IoT rollout plans, though such support by itself doesn't resolve the obstacles they face in implementing or securing the technology. To tackle these challenges, 45% of respondents said they're deploying IoT devices on a dedicated network as a way to address security risks. Some 46% reported that they're adding internal training systems for their entire workforce to improve the effectiveness of the IoT devices and reduce potential problems due to oversight.

Once the IoT devices are in place, security continues to be a priority for many respondents. Some 68% said they regularly update firmware and software for the devices, 44% check the physical access to IoT devices to guard against hacking, 35% enable data decryption by default, 26% shut down the devices when they're not in use, and 17% are using using blockchain to beef up security.

"Cyber threats come from so many different directions for the modern enterprise," Zach Butler, director of IoT World, said in a press release. "So often the difference between being compromised and being secure is having done the checklist of best practices, like making sure every device has the latest software updates. Our research showed that luckily IoT executives are very aware of this reality."

Many IoT leaders are focused on education as 46% of respondents said they plan on training current employees to take on more technical roles. Hiring is also a key goal to help support IoT. Some 63% of respondents said they plan on hiring new employees, 33% are eyeing more data analysts, 30% are looking to fill other technical roles, and 10% said they plan to hire more remote workers.

Blockchain has been a hot buzzword in the tech world, though it's been slow to catch on among businesses. A Gartner study from 2018 found that 77% of CIOs surveyed said their organization has no interest in blockchain technology and no plans to investigate or develop it, while only 1% said they've adopted blockchain. With the IoT World survey, IoT leaders were split about the benefits of Blockchain. Some 29% said they see blockchain as an effective way to enhance security, while another 29% said they saw no benefit to deploying it in their organizations.

5G has been another technology much in the news lately. But only 41% of respondents said they would use IoT devices on a 5G network this year if it's available. Some 37% said they're adopting a wait-and-see approach with 5G, while 22% said they don't use wireless networks for their IoT deployments.

Respondents to the survey included IoT leaders across a range of industries and sectors, including manufacturing, telecom, healthcare, retail, construction, supply chain and logistics, oil and gas/energy, government, transportation, and agriculture.

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Image: iStockphoto/metamorworks

By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.