IoT is the future of mobile technology. The number of connected devices is exploding yearly and shows no signs of slowing down. According to Forbes, the number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023.
Reliable IoT connectivity can impact your business and customers tremendously. For example, in healthcare, all devices must be properly connected, as patients’ health is on the line. As smart cities and autonomous vehicles become mainstream, IoT will affect the lives of citizens all over the world. A minor mishap or security breach could prove catastrophic. Take the Mirai IoT Botnet attack of 2016, for instance. This Denial of Service (DDoS) attack brought down most of America’s internet, including platforms such as Twitter, Netflix, and Reddit. For these reasons, it is essential to secure IoT networks adequately.
What is IoT connectivity?
IoT connectivity refers to how IoT devices link with each other or with a centralized place, collecting device data and sending back commands. This system of interrelated computing devices doesn’t require human interaction. The devices themselves can be as simple as a sensor or as complex as a smart vehicle, but what they all have in common is their ability to communicate over a network. There are many ways IoT devices can communicate over an IoT network. Here are the most common:
Cellular IoT is popular due to its wide global cellular coverage. Devices from smartphones to GPS devices and monitoring sensors are connected through cellular networks. 2G, 3G, 4G, NB-IoT, and LTE-M networks are the most common, although 5G is gaining momentum. There are various advantages to adopting cellular IoT, including higher reliability, speed, and scalability. These are crucial for businesses that want to connect many devices over a wide area. In addition, the prospects for private cellular networking are also developing rapidly. The opportunity for enterprises to take direct control of their on-site traffic needs, coupled with the increasing use of Edge IoT to meet low latency requirements, has increased interest in the use of cellular for private networking.
Many smart devices connect to the network via WiFi in homes, offices, or industrial settings. Think Amazon Echo devices or smart lights connecting to WiFi routers. They have a coverage of 10 to 400 meters. WiFi is excellent for data-intensive devices as it is bolstered by high-bandwidth broadband connections. With the growing deployment of WiFi 6 and WiFi 7, IoT applications are now being specifically targeted. However, WiFi is less secure than cellular and more susceptible to interference.
Bluetooth is a more straightforward connectivity option for devices, which include smartwatches, activity trackers, and industrial sensors. They have similar coverage to WiFi. With limited security controls, Bluetooth is prone to attacks, but it is simpler than the previous two options, as long as security protection and long distance are not required. This makes it a great candidate for single-purpose devices.
LoRaWAN has an ultra-long wireless range and is designed for secure bidirectional communication, mobility, and localization services. It works in an unlicensed spectrum and is particularly beneficial for rural locations, where access to cellular networks can be extremely limited. However, it is less global and less secure than cellular connectivity.
Satellite IoT is inherently international. It has also developed substantially over recent years, enabling connection using small, portable satellite devices with integral antennas costing a few dollars. Its latency is down to seconds or less. Satellite IoT may be more expensive than cellular IoT and may experience delays due to long-distance data transfer or weather changes.
7 Approaches to Improve Your IoT Connectivity
Now that we understand the various IoT connectivity options, let’s dive into the seven ways you can improve your IoT connectivity.
1. Segment IoT networks
Rather than traditional perimeter-based network security, IoT networking would benefit from network segmenting. Network segmentation enables the customization of unique sub-networks within the main IoT network. It can be ideal for companies with many teams that deal with vast and diversified requirements. It also helps to improve security because it enables identity-based access control and provides more granular access to users, so they can only access the part of the network related to their business. Plus, each network segment is separated, so chances are lower for cyber attacks to access the whole IoT network.
One of the methods to implement network segmentation is through firewalls, just as the above image shows. Firewalls are deployed into a network and can segment into various areas, making it more difficult for attackers to access the entire network. There are also other ways to implement this security measure, including SDN segmentation and Micro-Segmentation.
2. Migrate to modernized cellular IoT networks
Older standards of cellular networks like 2G and 3G are fast becoming outdated and are being replaced by 4G and 5G. This shift benefits all organizations managing IoT systems as the modern alternatives bring lower latency, lower power consumption, higher speeds, greater flexibility, better security, and better energy efficiency with NB-IoT and LTE-M configurations. There is clear market demand for faster and better mobile networks to improve operational efficiency, save money and take advantage of new business opportunities.
3. Invest in security tools
IoT security can become an afterthought as IoT connectivity options expand to accommodate more devices and reach more places. However, it’s crucial to remember that while technology gets smarter, so do cyber security attacks. Some examples of cellular IoT attacks that need to be prevented are DDoS (distributed denial of service), fake cell towers, location tracking, and SMS phishing.
These attacks cannot be prevented using outdated hardware and security tools.
They require robust network security solutions like FirstPoint. Our solution protects devices at the network core using an agentless or lightweight device-agnostic agent approach. It continuously monitors traffic, looking for anomalies and suspicious behavior. Being device-agnostic, it works across all IoT devices, from the most simple sensors to the most complex industrial tools.
4. Analyze and leverage data
IoT devices continuously generate and transmit data to a central location, so much vital data passes through the network. Collecting and managing IoT data well is key to monitoring and managing remote systems in real-time. For example, network congestion can be the bane of an IoT network.
Technologies like AI, machine learning, and computer vision can be used to extract and analyze IoT data. Companies can then use this data to optimize and automate processes, perform predictive maintenance, automate routing, and schedule security improvements.
5. Invest in a robust IoT Connectivity platform
IoT Connectivity management platforms (CMP) are purpose-built solutions to manage IoT systems better. They can bring complete visibility into network traffic end-to-end, quickly onboard new devices and retire old ones, allow management of all devices from a single platform, and enforce robust security measures. FirstPoint is a leading IoT Connectivity management platform that is highly customizable and comes with added security tools to ensure the IoT network runs smoothly. It is also seamlessly scalable to any number of devices and users.
6. Plan and test continuously
IoT systems are constantly changing and evolving as they are a nascent technology. It is imperative to test and improve your system proactively continuously. You must test every system part, from the hardware to networking, storage, backend, cloud infrastructure, management interface, and more. IoT connectivity requires testing different bandwidth, coverage, power consumption, and cost factors to arrive at the ideal mix for your organization and customers.
7. Adopt edge computing
Edge computing is an approach where the computing and processing are conducted near the user or on the IoT device itself. It reduces the load on the network so that the edge does the heavy lifting of data processing. This directly affects the performance of IoT networks, but it can be challenging as you need energy-efficient devices capable of processing data. They need a certain amount of computing capacity, storage, and memory. The simplest sensors are not the best choice for this purpose. Though it can be a long-term effort, you can see significant improvements in your IoT network connectivity by adopting edge computing.
Get the most out of your IoT connectivity
IoT connectivity is a significant development for telcos, enterprise organizations, industries, and consumers. By segmenting your networks, using modern networking options, ensuring they are secure, not clogged with too much data load, and planning adequately, you can ensure your IoT connectivity is of the highest quality. IoT connectivity solutions will help you adopt best practices faster and keep your networks performing at optimum levels. If you’re interested in seeing what a platform like FirstPoint can do for your business, you can request a demo to start benefiting from managing connectivity with unparalleled security.