Cheryl Ajluni
IoT Lead, Industry and Solutions Marketing, Keysight Global Marketing
Blog

Succeed in the Mission-Critical Internet of Things with These 3 Tips

April 6, 2018 by Cheryl Ajluni

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing EVERYTHING. There are literally billions of IoT devices around us today, with hundreds more coming online each second. By 2020, there will be roughly 50 billion connected devices. As part of that growth, the IoT is evolving from a focus on consumer-based applications like smart appliances for the home, connected clothing and wearable fitness gadgets, to mission-critical applications for virtually every vertical IoT market there is. Mission-critical IoT devices will be used to automate energy distribution in smart grids, to enable remote machinery and remote surgery, and in autonomous vehicles for things like automatic emergency detection and autonomous vehicle accident prevention. It’s happening already.

As these applications proliferate, what will emerge is a mission-critical ecosystem designed and hardened to withstand the rigors of the real world. It will be able to deliver new functionality and new efficiencies, and it will bring with it many new opportunities for IoT designers, manufacturing engineers, network operators, and service providers alike.

Here’s 3 important tips to help you realize success in the mission-critical IoT:

Understand Your Requirements

Unlike consumer-based IoT devices, mission-critical devices and networks have to work right every time, without fail. A failure in a pacemaker or a disruption in a network connection that’s sending a critical alert from a medical wearable to a healthcare professional, could result in a patient’s death. That’s why mission-critical IoT devices and networks have specialized requirements dictated by the industry in which they will work. Most require rock-solid security and unfailing reliability—even in harsh environments and remote locations. They also must abide by any applicable industry or government regulations.

In healthcare environments, network disruptions or IoT device failures can mean the difference between life and death.
In healthcare environments, IoT devices and networks are mission-critical. In some cases, a network disruption or device failure can mean the difference between life or death.

Making sure you fully understand the requirements of the product you are designing and the network on which it will operate is the quickest and easiest way to avoid any costly missteps. It also can help improve your confidence that both the product and IoT network will operate as expected in the real world.

Don’t Overlook These Considerations

Designing any product is hard. Designing a mission-critical IoT product and network is even harder! That’s because there are just so many things you have to consider. Here are a couple of the considerations you should pay extra close attention too:  

  • EMI/EMC. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can be problematic in scenarios where large numbers of IoT devices operate simultaneously in close proximity to one other. Be sure to weed out such problems early in the design process when they are easier and cheaper to fix.
  • Wireless Connectivity. Mission-critical IoT devices have to perform in the presence of multiple users, with different wireless technologies, in the same spectrum. Verifying that your device can handle this load is critical to ensuring robust wireless connectivity.
  • Co-Existence and Interference. With lots of mission-critical IoT devices entering the market, the chance of interference between devices goes up and that can impede the ability of your product to peacefully co-exist with others. This can be especially problematic in hospitals where medical monitoring devices share the 2.4-GHz ISM band with the likes of cordless phones, wireless video cameras, and microwave ovens. Making sure your product can work as anticipated in this type of environment is crucial.
  • Network Readiness. Mission-critical IoT devices support a broad range of wireless communications technologies, and that means networks must also support these technologies. They must also be able to provide that support in a range of different environments and locations where RF conditions may differ dramatically. Making sure you identify and eliminate any issues that can impede network readiness or cause a disruption in its quality or performance is essential.
  • Erratic Devices and Security. Roughly 50% of all IoT devices come from companies less than 3 years old. While many have been thoroughly tested, some are not. These devices may behave erratically and even allow malicious agents to bring a network down. In the mission-critical IoT, such a scenario is unacceptable. Ensuring your network can handle erratic devices and the potential security concerns they may enable should be a top priority.
  • Service Quality and Performance. Continuous updates and upgrades to network equipment keep networks in constant flux. Whether existing network devices are capable of supporting a new service is a question often left to chance. Verifying that the deployed network is reliable and can provide the best possible quality of experience (QoE), without disruption from constant updates, is essential.

Choose Your Solutions Wisely

While your creativity and skill are essential to a successful product and network, if they are not built on a solid foundation, it could all come crumbling down. To ensure the foundation of your IoT products and network are solid enough to survive the real world, you have to choose the right solution for the right job, and those solutions must be accurate, high performance, and flexible:

  • Wireless connectivity and co-existence testing solutions can help you ensure your products can communicate effectively.
  • A network simulator can help you test the real-world performance of IoT devices by verifying their compliance to a carrier’s test plan in the integration, interoperability, and carrier acceptance testing phases.
  • A network readiness solution will allow you to verify coverage from the wireless communication network to ensure high-quality networks and a high QoE.
  • Network and infrastructure performance assessment and monitoring tools can verify and troubleshoot your network and infrastructure performance and reliability.
  • A network validation solution can help you validate protocol compliance and interoperability during a device’s lifecycle to help you better understand how well it will handle traffic.
  • Applications and network security test solutions will allow you to harden the performance of network and security devices by emulating real-world application protocols and modeling security attacks/malware, and validating network and data center performance, as well as service provider networks.

There is no denying that the mission-critical IoT is ripe with opportunity and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Whether or not you succeed in this arena will depend heavily on the choices you make. If you are looking for more information on the choices you face, go to www.keysight.com/find/IoT. And while you're there, check out the latest solutions from Keysight and Ixia, a Keysight Business, to help you address your mission-critical IoT device and network challenges.