Why security and a standardised ecosystem are keys to drive widespread IoT growth

By: Phil Beecher

16, April, 2018


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According to analyst firm Gartner, IoT endpoints will grow 32.9 percent up until 2020 by which time the installed base will have reached 20.4 billion units. With a market experiencing this kind of growth it’s imperative that any organisation thinking about implementing an IoT initiative considers their chosen network wireless technology.  This decision will ultimately define performance, longevity, reliability, interoperability and scalability for many years to come.

Interoperability will be a key component to drive the growth of IoT and creating a standardised ecosystem where devices can communicate, and developers can work together.  As a result, this will almost certainly lead to more product options and features supported by stronger pricing competition.


Speed, flexibility, cost saving and improved reliability are just some of the many benefits that IoT networks deliver, but with these benefits comes the increased risk of  vulnerabilities which can be exploited by hackers. Nowhere is security more relevant right now than in the Internet of Things. Recent global research from Wi-SUN Alliance highlights that the majority of respondents see security as a barrier to IoT adoption. For this reason, any organization embarking on an IoT project must take time to understand their requirements and ensure that a robust security strategy is central to any network deployment.

Careful consideration should be given to each of the following five areas:

1. Threat assessment – security should be integrated across all products and solutions to gain a better understanding of the threat landscape to thwart attacks and improve their ability to detect security breaches and reduce damage.

2. Certificate-based authentication
All devices should include certificate-based authentication, which is similar to a biometric passport and verifies that devices have not been tampered with or reprogrammed.

3. The risk to critical infrastructure applications such as distribution automation and traffic management means that organizations must shoulder the responsibility for developing a strategy to manage risk.

4. Standards based interoperability
Creating a standardized ecosystem where devices and developers can communicate and work together incorporating robust security should be at the heart of development and design.

5.  Education
Organizations must understand the risk that connected devices present and strengthen their defences accordingly. They must also implement policies and restrictions and educate both employees and consumers as to how they can protect themselves.

A connected world may be just around the corner, but the cyber-security risks it poses are very real. Organizations should ensure that security is central to their IoT strategy from the outset in order to realise the long-term benefits that IoT offers, but with minimal risk.

Like the internet, IoT networks should be built on a set of standard protocols and structured to provide the flexibility to support an ever-increasing range of applications, as well as provide highly resilient connectivity. IoT networks additionally need to be fault tolerant while providing the capacity to deal with very large numbers of devices.

It makes sense for a local authority or municipality to deploy a multi-service network, which supports a wide variety of applications, such as street lighting, traffic management and smart parking, as well as applications as yet unknown.  A single communications infrastructure not only avoids the replication of network equipment and the effort involved in management, but enables new and smart functionality where different applications can interact and share data.

Among the new and diverse applications are an increasing number which require low latency and localised processing. This need for distributed control, together with low latency and the need for resilient, fault tolerant networks demonstrate the value of peer to peer mesh networks.  An overview of the benefits of mesh networks can be found here.  Wi-SUN has also produced a white paper comparing three wireless technologies which are targeting outdoor IoT networks.

One of the biggest benefits of being a network owner or operator in a standardised IoT ecosystem is that there is no need to be locked into a single vendor. Solutions built on open standards, supported by a certification program for interoperability, provide the network operator with a choice of vendors, competitive pricing and the confidence of a continuity of supply.

IoT is already transforming towns and cities with the goal of enhancing the lives of both consumers and organisations alike. There are many unknowns, but one thing is certain: those cities which implement their IoT initiatives on an ecosystem using open standards will derive greater benefits than those who don’t.