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4 major IoT challenges that stand in the way of success

Michael Morton, CTO, Dell Boomi | April 4, 2016
We use a fictional case study to identify problem areas.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

Heralded for driving positive transformations in consumer products, retailing, healthcare, manufacturing and more, the Internet of Things (IoT) promises a “smart” everything, from refrigerators, to cars, to buildings, to oil fields. But there’s a dark side to IoT, and if we don’t overcome the challenges it presents, we will be heading for trouble.

The easiest way to see these challenges in action is to explore a possible IoT deployment. Let’s assume the following. A very large industrial food storage warehouse and distribution center is using Internet-connected devices to ensure the proper temperature of various zones, such as a massive refrigeration area for items requiring constant, non-freezing cooling and a massive freezer area for items requiring constant freezing.

Some of the requirements of the deployment include:

  • Several dozen zones, placed strategically in the layout of the warehouse to optimize energy efficiency.
  • Several thousand thermostats as well as ventilation and humidity sensors inside the warehouse.
  • Several hundred sensors outside, including on outer walls, roof top, intake vents, exhaust vents, etc.
  • Dozens of vendors providing the required devices and sensors.
  • Real-time notification of climate changes that may put inventory at risk.
  • The elimination of security breaches and malfunctions that could cause a temperature imbalance and ruin inventory. 

With this use case in mind, let’s explore today’s top four IoT challenges and what we need to solve them.

Problem 1: Not understanding the data

Having a lot of data doesn’t mean you can understand and use it. Because of the range and diversity of IoT use cases, it is unlikely that a single vendor can create a comprehensive solution for an environment of the scale of this warehouse. Even if one were created, it would likely force a rip-and-replace approach that would be cost prohibitive.

Instead, creating a fully functional, secure, and robust IoT environment requires a complete peer-to-peer solution in which devices from one vendor can translate the information from the devices of the other vendors. This, however, isn’t feasible, given the possible involvement of perhaps hundreds of vendors, including legacy devices. Without a better solution, the warehouse solution designer is facing a modern day Tower of Babel.

A more practical solution to ensuring all data can be understood and fully utilized across the deployment is to create a hub model in which one or more IoT gateways and IoT central servers are constantly receiving data from all the devices and sensors. A rules engine can analyze the incoming data, and the hub can then pass on appropriate commands to a receiving controller, such as turn the refrigeration up in Zone 2 where the sun is heating up the southwest outer wall.


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