The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been hailed as the next big thing in the world of technology, offering huge efficiency and productivity improvements. However, despite the hype and the potential benefits, IoT projects have continued to struggle with high rates of failure. The main reason for this is the fragmentation of the market. Many providers focus on offering a single IoT technology to customers, expecting a “one size fits all” approach to many and varied use cases. We explore why IoT projects fail and why a unified protocol unification approach is the key to success.
The Hype Cycle:
The hype cycle is a classical illustration that shows the fragmentation of the IoT market. Many providers are focused on offering a single IoT technology to customers and expect a “one size fits all” approach to many varied use cases. It is the classic case of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. The result is a high rate of project failure.
The Pros and Cons of Wireless Technologies:
One of the fundamental issues is that every wireless technology has its pros and cons relative to a particular use case. Wireless technologies always involve trade-offs in range, data rate, penetration capability through structures, power efficiency, and therefore battery life. The laws of physics dictate these constraints, and no amount of marketing spin can change that. Because the development of silicon chips for wireless devices is such a capital-intensive process, it is logical to expect vendors to loudly and endlessly beat their own drum in the marketplace.
Standardization, Collaboration, and Unification:
During a recent panel discussion at the Hardware Pioneers event in London on ‘Connecting the Future’, standardisation, collaboration and unification were words used on numerous occasions during discussion. The panel was made up of esteemed influencers from Silicon Labs, Synaptics and Raspberry Pi whom all expressed their opinion and views as to the future trajectory of the IoT and its associated technologies and standards. Standardisation, collaboration and unification were overshadowed by a self-regarding commercial focus on the core products/silicon available from their respective product line-ups.
IoT Failures and Siloed Behaviour:
Despite the hype around IoT, the siloed behaviour of the market is constantly approaching each request in isolation, which is a key contributor to the high rate of project failure. Vendors push their solutions even when their technology is not necessarily the best fit for the customer. There are many single-use-case deployments where the solution deployed can often offer a good fit and appear to meet the needs of the customer’s requirements. However, 12 months later when other use cases are looking to be addressed, the initial investment can seem ill-considered. Technology limitations and an inability to expand to meet further use case requirements are common occurrences.
Moving Beyond Current Needs:
We must look beyond just the current needs being addressed. For example, an application to monitor equipment today may be being solved through LPWAN, but what if they need to include asset tracking tomorrow covering both indoor and outdoor environments? What if 3D positioning is required? How do we remove the friction of adding more functionality? The market needs and will demand a truly unified approach in a single technology solution avoiding the siloed deployments which remain commonplace.
We can quote many real-life examples of IoT failures, and we will illustrate our point using Bluetooth (BLE) as the technology in question. Do not misunderstand us, we are NOT bagging Bluetooth; it is a truly wonderful technology for many short-range data transfer applications! We are simply relaying what we have seen first-hand in a number of industrial customers. A large Expo Centre (230,000 square meters) required 1,400 BLE beacons for coverage (In fact, these only covered 130,000 square meters) for asset tracking on the site. The cost of the Bluetooth solution was exorbitant, and the economics simply did not add up. The solution was not future-proof, and it would not have been scalable if the customer needed to expand its use cases.
In contrast, Wittra has provided a wireless IoT network, which provides both asset tracking and sensor data in one technology deployment, for less than 20% of the total cost of the Bluetooth solution. This might sound exaggerated, but it is simply the result of choosing a wireless technology that fits the customer’s use case while also satisfying the economic objectives. In addition, the Wittra approach is future-proof, allowing the possibility of mixing different wireless technologies through the Wittra Unified Gateway, so new use cases are highly likely to be covered with very little additional investment.
Another example is a manufacturing company that tried to deploy an IoT solution using Wi-Fi. The company had invested a significant amount of money in Wi-Fi access points to cover the factory floor, but the results were unsatisfactory. The Wi-Fi signals were not reliable enough, and the data transmission was slow, leading to data loss and errors in the manufacturing process.
Again, in contrast, Wittra provided a wireless IoT network for this manufacturing company that used a combination of LPWAN and BLE technologies, which resulted in reliable data transmission and improved manufacturing process efficiency. The cost of the Wittra solution was significantly lower than the Wi-Fi solution, and the deployment was much faster and more efficient.
These real-life examples demonstrate the importance of choosing the right wireless technology for a specific use case. It also shows the need for a unified approach to IoT deployment, which takes into account future expansion and scalability.
The market needs and will demand a truly unified approach in a single technology solution avoiding the siloed deployments which remain commonplace. The key is to identify a protocol that allows for interoperability between different devices and technologies, and enables them to work seamlessly together. A unified protocol approach has the potential to break down the silos and create a more interconnected IoT ecosystem.
One example of a unified protocol approach is the use of IP-based protocols for IoT communication. IP-based protocols are already widely used for internet communication and can be adapted for use in IoT devices. This would enable IoT devices to communicate with each other over the internet, using the same protocols as other internet-connected devices.
The use of IP-based protocols for IoT communication has several advantages. Firstly, it allows for greater interoperability between devices and systems. As IP-based protocols are already widely used, IoT devices can be integrated more easily into existing internet infrastructure. This makes it easier to create a connected ecosystem that can support a range of use cases and applications.
Secondly, IP-based protocols are already well-established and have a strong support network. This means that there is a wealth of knowledge and resources available for developers and engineers working with these protocols. This makes it easier to develop and maintain IoT systems and reduces the risk of compatibility issues and other technical problems.
Thirdly, the use of IP-based protocols for IoT communication makes it easier to ensure the security and privacy of IoT systems. As these protocols are already used for Internet communication, they have a strong security framework in place. This can be adapted for use in IoT devices, ensuring that data is transmitted securely and that devices are protected against cyber threats.
However, there are challenges to the adoption of a unified protocol approach. One of the biggest challenges is the fragmentation of the market. There is currently a wide range of different protocols and standards being used in IoT devices, which makes it difficult to create a unified ecosystem. It is important for industry players to come together and agree on a common protocol that can be used across a range of use cases and applications.
Another challenge is the development of new technologies and applications. As new use cases arise, it may be necessary to develop new protocols and standards to support them. This can lead to fragmentation and create additional complexity for developers and engineers. It is important to strike a balance between innovation and standardization to ensure that the IoT ecosystem can continue to grow and evolve.
In conclusion, the potential benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have been widely recognized, but high rates of project failure have been reported due to the fragmentation of the market. Providers focus on offering a single IoT technology to customers, leading to a “one size fits all” approach that does not fit every use case. Wireless technologies have pros and cons relative to specific use cases, and standardization, collaboration, and unification are necessary for a successful IoT deployment. Real-life examples illustrate the importance of choosing the right wireless technology for a specific use case and the need for a unified approach that takes into account future expansion and scalability. To achieve this, a unified protocol that allows for interoperability between different devices and technologies is essential. By adopting a unified approach, businesses can achieve improved efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness, ensuring a successful IoT deployment.