IoT is only good for connecting coffee machines or refrigerators to the Internet and it makes devices vulnerable to cyber-attacks – these are just two of several widespread misconceptions about the Internet of Things.
Some myths about the Internet of Things (IoT) have persisted for years. But that hasn’t stopped half of the companies in Germany from already implementing an IoT project. And it turns out that not all perceived wisdom about the technology and its application is always valid. Here are five of the most common IoT misconceptions:
1. IoT Ist Just About Talking Refrigerators
A refrigerator that orders milk and vegetables by itself is a well-worn and misleading cliché about the Internet of Things. For the media – and its public audience – the concept of a smart home has long been the most popular vision of IoT, because it offers a tangible impact on our everyday lives. In the smart home of the future, everything will be completely automatic: The lights are first turned on in the bedroom and then in the already preheated bathroom. A favorite radio station plays some tunes while the coffee machine in the kitchen brews the first cup of the day. The shutters open and the house’s heater fires up. Everything reacts to voice commands: lamps, television, robot vacuum – and, of course, the talking refrigerator.
In reality, the smart home is just one of many potential IoT applications. The broader concept of the smart building includes networked electricity meters for remote readings (smart meters), as well as automatic climate control for offices. The Internet of Things makes everything smart: Thanks to sensors and networking, a regular plant becomes a smart factory with mobile communications and trackers enabling smart transport and smart logistics. And the town of tomorrow will become a smart city thanks to networked traffic lights, streetlights, CO2 sensors and garbage bins. It just goes to show that IoT innovations are bound to have a far greater impact on society than simply ensuring everyone at home can chat with their refrigerator.
2. All IoT Devices Are Vulnerable to Cyberattacks
This common concern is based largely on stories from the smart home. “This myth is so widespread because many everyday objects in our homes are connected these days,” says Rasmus Kjellén, a supply chain manager at Minut. The Swedish start-up specializes in smart home technology security. “You keep hearing horror stories about how users of smart home devices are spied on or eavesdropped on, and movies with cyberattacks have also become increasingly popular.”
It’s true that everything networked is susceptible to attack. “But at the end of the day, the decisive factor is how much effort a company has put into ensuring that its systems are protected,” says Kjellén. “Or that your security camera cannot be hacked so someone can spy on you.” Here the principle of security by design is important: The security aspect should be considered during the development of a product and integrated into the device during production. Also crucial is the security of data transmission. Fixed network connections and wireless network links for most mobile applications offer the greatest security. If you aren’t able to increase your own level of expertise in IoT security, out-of-the-box offerings are the safest option: The right partner can provide all IoT components such as hardware and software, connectivity, platform and cloud services from a single source – including comprehensive security.
3. Just Connect Devices to the Internet Somehow and I’m Doing IoT!
Sure, the Internet of Things – as its name would suggest – connects things to the Internet: devices, sensors, machines, vehicles and much more. But it’s all about why. “For example, if you connect a door, simply knowing whether a door is open or closed doesn’t make much sense,” said Alexander Wehrmeister, an IoT product manager at T-Systems, at the hub:raum TechDay in Berlin. “But if you bring in additional questions like how often it’s open and what kind of door it is, this can be valuable for your client.” If, say, it’s not a door but a toilet lid in an office building restroom, the service personnel could use this information to create an optimized cleaning schedule. “Working with people with experience in the field and combining their expertise with our data? That brings benefits,” said Wehrmeister.
Of course, simply connecting things to the Internet is not enough. The Internet of Things also requires the appropriate infrastructure to support it: the right interfaces and standards, efficient technology for data transmission, analytics software – in the cloud or on-premises – and intuitive access for users, for example, via a web-based dashboard. One good example from the industrial sector is Eaton, an energy management specialist in Dublin. The firm enables its customers to monitor their machines in real-time with IoT tech. Eaton’s automation components send all sensor data to a Telekom IoT platform, where it can be evaluated using big data analytics. This allows engineering customers to monitor complete plants directly from the cloud. Thanks to such condition monitoring, they can see when a worn part needs to be replaced and also identify dependencies between various aspects of the production process – e.g. watching over individual components like filters or monitoring temperature and pressure readings for ongoing operations. This enables both predictive maintenance for machinery and overall process optimization.
4. IoT Is Mainly About Collecting as Much Data as Possible
The more data companies collect, the better: that concept is far too simple. It’s not always the sheer mass of data that counts, but rather the intended use of this information for a company. For example, for predictive maintenance for the Industrial Internet of Things applications, the sensor data from machines must be filtered before further processing in the cloud. This is done via edge computing – i.e. in computers close to the actual production, for example, on-site at the factory. Only when readings such as temperature or speed deviate from the norm does the edge device transmit this data for further analysis. This saves both time and bandwidth. The data must then be made available to the right people at the right time in the right form. First of all, this requires a secure and reliable transmission of the data. When preparing and analyzing data on a cloud platform, companies now have numerous AI-supported analysis tools at their disposal. And IoT platforms such as Telekom’s IoT Cloud make the results clearly visible to the user via a convenient web dashboard.
Meanwhile, more companies, organizations and authorities are going one step further and monetizing their data. Previously, there was widespread fear of revealing business secrets contained in their own valuable data, but now many are reconsidering. If, for example, all participants in a supply chain exchange the data they have collected, deliveries can be planned more precisely and production downtime prevented. If a town makes municipal data publicly available on marketplaces such as the Data Intelligence Hub, companies can use it to offer new applications, such as a parking spot search app or digital solutions like a local recreation portal – and that, in turn, has real benefits for town residents.
5. IoT Is Only for Big Companies
But that’s just not the case at all: Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have also discovered the Internet of Things can work for them as well. In fact, 84 percent of SMEs in Germany are already using at least one IoT application, as the Deutsche Telekom-commissioned PAC study “The Internet of Things and German SMEs 2019” shows. One reason? Both IoT hardware such as sensors and wireless modules, as well as the connectivity for sending data, have become considerably cheaper in recent years. Wireless technologies specifically designed to save costs like NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) and soon LTE-M are also now available. Meant to transmit only small amounts of data, they enable an IoT network to be set up using long-lasting and affordable hardware.
One reason why small and medium-sized firms have so far been reluctant to embark on IoT projects is personnel. Potential employees with the requisite IoT expertise are quite often in short supply. So more companies are turning to external experts when it comes to specific tasks such as development, implementation, networking, security, consulting and operation. And taking advantage of a partner’s end-to-end IoT knowhow can allow companies to concentrate on gaining insights for their businesses from the IoT data they collect.
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Ümit has been working at T-Systems since 2015 and knows a great deal about many facets of the Internet of Things. He is particularly interested in topics related to the digitalization of the business world. For the blog, he reports on new developments and trends in the IoT world that offer real added value for customers.
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