How to prevent increased IoT adoption from straining your network

The Internet of Things is set to change the way we do business forever. Here's how to ensure your organisation's network is IoT-ready.

Mike Mead

07/12/2020

The Internet of Things is a trending topic for businesses of all shape and size – and for a good reason. Connected devices are taking the world by storm. According to Statista, the global IoT market will be worth about $1.6 trillion by 2025.

As the world continues to move towards a future of digital enhancement and transformation, connected devices promise to make our lives and workplaces more convenient. With today’s devices, people can control their heating with their voice, or print a document from a smartphone.

In the years to come, the demand for IoT will only increase, driven by the demand for more efficiency and cost-savings in the business landscape. When machines can talk to each other, the enterprise can operate more effectively. Imagine a future where a machine could tell you through your computer when it was about to break down – for instance.

The only problem? There are still a few barriers that are preventing companies from implementing IoT at pace.

The network implications of IoT

Various challenges are currently making it much tougher for businesses of all sizes to move into the IoT landscape and discover the benefits it has to offer. Most business leaders assume that the biggest concern is security, however, the true roadblock for a lot of companies will actually be bandwidth.

Deploying and maintaining fast connections that support an effective IoT environment isn’t always easy. Although faster connections are emerging, and 5G is on the horizon for mobile innovation, most companies simply aren’t prepared for the network demands of IoT.

Remember, most IoT tools operate wirelessly, and the sheer volume of connected devices in your business could mean that your current network just doesn’t have enough bandwidth. On top of that, it’s worth noting that the slightest delay in a connection speed can significantly reduce the efficiency and performance of your IoT devices.

An intelligent device on a manufacturing floor that communicates with another machine for production only needs a split second of delay to throw the entire line off kilter

So, how do you prevent increased strain on your network?

Adapting your network for IoT

In an ideal world, we’d all have access to the exact amount of data we need to facilitate quick connections between all of our devices and resources. However, that’s not always the case for some companies. If you’re working with many IoT devices, you might need to completely rework your approach to connectivity, switching from a public to a private network.

Private networks can reduce some of the security concerns associated with IoT, while making it easier to distribute the right amount of bandwidth to individual parts of your business. You can also set up dedicated network solutions that use artificial intelligence to determine how much bandwidth any request in your business needs at any given time.

An intelligent system that knows how to route network traffic effectively to give you the best experience with any connected system you’re using can save you many problems with lag and latency. The key to success in the connected world of IoT is figuring out how to improve data flow in your business, without putting security and performance at risk.

Here are a few solutions that could help reduce the chances of increased IoT adoption playing havoc with your network.

1.   Adopt Edge computing

One of the most effective ways to reduce the influence of IoT on your network strategy, is to simply move to the Edge for your computing. Edge computing is a concept that involves processing information closer to individual IoT devices. Many companies that rely heavily on IoT for their operations leverage the edge because it forces the most bandwidth-intensive activities to occur on the IoT device themselves.

Edge computing is still a relatively new concept for a lot of business leaders, but it’s quickly becoming a table-stakes solution in the age of 5G and IoT. With edge computing, you reduce the need to send information back and forth through centralised servers for processing. There’s fewer interactions with the middleman, which also means faster processing speeds.

Computing on the edge for your IoT strategy can even improve your standing from a security perspective. When there’s less information to pass between devices and locations, there’s less chance of communications being breached.

2.   Explore SD-WAN

Software-defined wide area network, or SD-WAN technology is another excellent way to enhance the performance of your IoT network. With SD-WAN technology, your systems will automatically choose the fastest path for operations from all of the available connectivity options in your business. The result is reduced WAN congestion and fewer outages.

SD-WAN technology can work over any kind of network connectivity, which means that you can easily adjust your processes and switch to different environments in the event of an outage or disaster. Traditional WAN links typically lack the intelligence required to move data from IoT technology across your network in the most efficient manner.

However, SD-WAN combines multiple WAN links with artificial intelligence algorithms. This allows data to move over the path that’s most suitable for getting it to its required destination. Your system will identify IoT data that’s critical to operations, prioritize that information, and move it through the fastest connectivity path.

3.   Plan and test thoroughly

Understanding and modelling the network traffic requirements of your business will be crucial to ensuring solid service for your IoT devices. The idea that you can’t truly manage something that you can’t see is still true in the age of IoT. The best organisations will begin by assessing their environment carefully and figuring out what their requirements are from an IoT perspective.

Visibility and understanding is crucial to making effective decisions. It’s also crucial to test how effectively your plans are working when you begin to implement them. For instance, you may decide to reduce the impact on your network by using segmentation. This is one of the most common strategies for IoT deployment, according to most experts.

Segmentation allows you to separate your IoT traffic from the production traffic of your enterprise, or even from corporate Wi-Fi network traffic. This ensures that any issues in one segment of your network won’t spill over and affect the performance in another environment. Network segmentation for IoT also reduces your exposure to potential security issues because you can ensure that each part of your network has the right protection in place.

However, you can only see if your network segmentation strategy is effective by putting it the test. You may discover that you don’t need to assign as much bandwidth to your IoT environment as you thought or that you need additional security in place. Testing is how you set yourself up for future growth.

Preparing for the future of IoT in Business

The Internet of Things has a lot of value to offer companies in the right circumstances. With an IoT strategy, you can enhance the connections between your people, processes, and things, allowing for greater efficiency and productivity in your workforce. You may even be able to automate some of the repetitive processes in your business so that your employees can focus more completely on creative tasks and making sales.

However, just like any new technology, IoT comes with challenges to consider. You’ll need to ensure that you have the right strategy in place to prevent the excess pressure on your network from harming your business operations.

If you need help planning how you can make the most out of your new IoT strategy, reach out to the team at Nice Network. We can help you with everything from IoT adoption to planning your network connectivity strategy, so you’re ready for anything!