7 Myths of IOT, Debunked

by Anand Tamboli

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those hot topics, which means many things to many people. However, a few myths are floating around. IoT has been mythicized and has sometimes stoked irrational fears and irrational enthusiasm. Some of the unfortunate myths are also contributing to false economics, and in the long run, they would affect everyone.

Internet of Things has a great potential to enable improvements in so many facets of life; the list is endless. However, for it to create a positive impact on us, we need to focus more on the facts.

Myth # 1: IoT is just another version of M2M

With the data moving between multiple devices, IoT seems to have many aspects of M2M. However, in reality, it covers more than M2M. In IoT, there could be more than one host on the Internet that could act as a repository and control system, which is not a typical case with M2M. IoT also implies remote monitoring and control of not so machine-like devices such as smartphones which could have an app communicating with the same host as of the other devices.

I think looking towards IoT like another M2M would be very limiting. Using M2M analogy for explaining IoT to someone familiar with M2M is understandable. However, comparing it with M2M or conflating it to be the same wouldn’t seem so logical. Seeing IoT as an extension of M2M would be more appropriate.

Nonetheless, debating on precisely what IoT is, implementing it thoughtfully and prudently would be more useful.

Myth # 2: IoT is just about sensors and things

General understanding and expectation so far seem that IoT should always involve sensors and things. However, they are only one of the many other sources of information for an IoT solution. Some of the things and sensors are just the producers of data while the other elements act based on inbuilt logic or remote commands.

IoT is not just about sensors and things; it is also about the management and support of the entire IoT solution. The solution would involve not only things and sensors but also all the other infrastructural parts such as gateways, hubs, repeaters, cloud, application, software, etc. and more importantly — the end product or service as a whole.

Limiting IoT view to just sensors or things may seem logical for device & sensor manufacturers. However, it limits their ability to see the whole solution.

From the end customer’s point of view, the end-to-end application makes more sense and things and sensors are just a few cogs in the wheel.

Myth # 3: All the IoT devices must and will work together

While too good to be true and somewhat unrealistic, it seems unlikely, because most of the devices are cordoned off from the larger world. However, those devices could work together with other devices provided by the same vendor. From the business perspective, it only makes sense as of now to keep things in control. Many of these vendors offer access to their device data and limited control via APIs, and that should be enough. It is not guaranteed and may or may not follow strict standards in terms of the semantics or syntax. While protocols being used in IoT solutions are quite limited, it is always up to the vendor to allow data or control to be shared using these protocols.

There is minimal incentive to design any device that works with any other heterogeneous device in the world. Such that cars may talk to other vehicles, but vehicles would never speak to TVs. Devices would eventually get logically grouped, where a few standards may dictate compatibility and communication protocols amongst them. By and large, all IoT devices will not work together; they don’t have to.

There is very little incentive to design any device that works with any other heterogeneous device in the world.

Myth # 4: IoT is just about big data

Mostly floated by the IT sector, this is another great myth about IoT; and it is not the fact. Big Data is an idea that useful information can be derived or extracted from a large set of data. With the advent of IoT term, everyone has started to stick it to smart and connected things. In some cases, data being aggregated may be sourced from IoT devices, but that is not a requirement or typical for the majority of IoT devices. Many devices are often paired with an application on user smartphones. Quite often, the data generated by IoT devices do not even touch levels of big-data limits. Just because massive data can be created with the least efforts does not mean that it will be indeed generated. That is an inefficient and less responsible approach.

This is evident by new terms that are coming up like fog computing and roof computing et al. Each of those terms is merely marketing gimmicks to generate some attention; core utility is getting buried ten feet under due to this naming game. Moreover, this is just another view from cloud services & IT infrastructure providers, which is limiting their ability to see through the whole solution.

From the customers’ point of view, only the end-to-end application is sensible and useful, big (or small) data doesn’t matter to them at all.

Myth # 5: Every IoT device can be hacked remotely

One of the over-hyped security issues is — every IoT device can be hacked remotely and therefore, must incorporate heavy security. However, truth is far from this myth. Every IoT device cannot be hacked remotely and not even locally in many cases. Besides just incorporating SSL communication and encryption of data, there are umpteen issues to be dealt while working on IoT solution. This includes physical security of the device, collateral damages, misuse, etc.

Take an example of a temperature sensor that is sending temperature readings at a specified interval to its gateway or hub or maybe to the Internet directly. How, do you think it could be hacked? How can someone change the working of this device? If this device doesn’t listen usually and is only transmitting the data, how can the hacker modify the device and render it useless? Data spoofing, modifications while in transit are different problems and do not affect the IoT device as such; it is an infrastructure level issue. However, the impact is still visible in the solution as a whole.

Primary advancement of IoT is enabling the interconnectedness of things,which can result in insights and synergies. And yet the same connectedness raises concerns for security and privacy that must be addressed.

Not everything in IoT solution is hackable. There are only a few vulnerabilities to be worked upon.

Myth # 6: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Due to overhype, many people are having FOMO feeling these days. FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. This fear is being breaded by smart sales tactics to push products at different levels. Many companies are feeling that if they don’t do anything now about IoT, they will lose forever.

Losing an opportunity is a different issue, and IoT is not the only ground for this. If you are facing FOMO, the right thing would be to ask yourself, is it relevant to you? Is it relevant now?

For instance, if your industry doesn’t have any infrastructure or relevance for getting products internet connected as of now, would it make sense to convert your product or solution to the Internet-connected? Why would someone waste resources on doing something too early! The keyword here is too soon. If a company wants to take the lead and set the precedence by being the first in that industry, it could be a valid reason.

Just remember that IoT is not timed or limited phenomenon, the clock is not ticking! It will continue to exist for many years to come. Being restless and jumping into doing something without due thinking would only harm your product.

Sane and sensible adoption of any technology is the key. Keep a close watch and grab the opportunity only when there is a right time.

Myth # 7: It is easy to deliver an IoT solution

The biggest of all! Plug & play or drag & drop sellers the ones who want to thrive on this myth. Due to open source tools, various cheap boards and software packages, the myth has a firm footing in the mindset of many that it is easy to deliver an IoT solution.

This is what most of the vendors who are selling an IoT development solution want you to believe. But let me break it for you — getting an IoT device talking to a user application is just the beginning. Any cheap development kit will let you do this in a jiffy. The challenge is moving from a single IoT device to many and then managing to monetise it while maintaining reliability, security, and privacy. When we say a solution, it involves far too many aspects than just a sensor or a platform.

Things like business viability, product feasibility to user acceptance, user education, servicing & maintenance, certifications, liabilities, etc. are crucial for real IoT solution developers. An IoT solution is much more than just a connected product — it has a smart product or device, a mobile app, cloud software, dashboard, or one or more application programs. Each IoT solution development has to touch base with at least seven different critical stages to deliver a meaningful solution that would be business viable, technically feasible and would make sense for the customers.

I have been involved in several IoT developments from the past several years. And, I have seen that people who started their journey with these false assumptions, they are finding it challenging to keep up and are failing to reap real benefits. Instead of making money, they are wasting it on patchworks and being frustrated.

The fact is — it is not easy to deliver real IoT solution. It may be easy to show a physical prototype or create an app or software that does some fancy things. But if you think from a solutions’ perspective, which has to matter to its users and customers, it is a real pain.

Developing an IoT solution is not plug & play or drag & drop thing, it is way more than that.

In short…

Many of the myths stated above invite more extended debate to boil down more facts. With more points, it would be clearer to have the right strategy and approach towards utilising the IoT for your business, product or service as such. Having a professional and balanced approach as against hype of any type always proves more beneficial. Given all this, it would not be prudent to ignore these pointers when utilising the true potential of IoT.

Note: This article was first published at http://electronicsofthings.com/expert-opinion/busting-seven-myths-iot/

About the Author

Anand Tamboli has built several technology systems over the last two decades; small, medium, large, and everything in between. During this period he has garnered deep expertise in various technologies and domains, such as internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science. He is the founder of Knewron Technologies, Australia. With technology as a passion, Anand helps businesses increase efficiency and productivity by leveraging emerging technologies. Sane and sensible adoption of technology is his current area of focus.

This article was contributed by Anand Tamboli, author of Build Your Own IoT Platform.