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Network Automation and IoT

by | Sep 3, 2021 | Internet of Things

Back in 2016, Alfonso Velosa, research vice president and analyst for IoT at Gartner, stated: “The IoT itself will help digital transformations but will take 5 to 10 years to gain mainstream adoption.”

His predictions have come true. 

2021 is seeing evidence of this mainstream adoption, and right on schedule. The number of IoT devices will hit 46 billion within this year (2021), a 200 percent increase since 2016. Business Insider says the IoT marketplace will grow to over $3 trillion by 2026.

This rapid influx of IoT device utilization poses substantial security risks, especially with the ongoing adoption of 5G. Network automation is not only necessary, it is the critical prerequisite for all the pieces of the global IT puzzle to fall into place. 

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) extends new internet capabilities to objects, processes, and environments above and beyond computers and smartphones, which already have internet capabilities. 

Sensors are a key component of IoT. Sensors detect information in their environment (motion, temperature, moisture, etc.), which allows machines to react to those changes in their environment and even learn from these changes through algorithms. 

IoT sensors collect information; then, once paired with an internet connection, they send this information to a central command center (e.g., phone, computer, etc.) where specialized software can act upon the information to create a response. Some IoT devices have both of these capabilities built into the device itself. 

What is Network Automation? 

Networking is the use of hardware and software to move data between endpoints, which are called nodes. The traditional “hands on” networking requires a technician to manually log into a router, switch, load balancer, or firewall in order to make changes to the way the data is exchanged between endpoints. 

When you remove the human activity from this equation and replace it instead with software, you have network automation

Automation software creates repeatable instructions and queries that guide the network components to carry out targeted tasks with minimal or no human intervention.  

How Does IoT Network Automation Work?

IoT devices are only as powerful as their connection to the internet. Network automation provides the network availability and functionality necessary to support IoT and also allow the IT landscape to scale. 

IoT network automation is reliant on the interplay of specific technology and components (most importantly, sensors and actuators): 

  • Sensors: A wide variety of sensors detect, collect, and send information from the environment to the controller.
      • Example: A temperature sensor detects abnormal heat in a hotel room. 
  • Controller: The control center receives the information from the sensors and uses previously defined logic to make a decision and then dictate a command to the actuator.
      • Hotel IoT software recognizes the information from the temperature sensors as abnormal heat. 
  • Actuator: The actuator creates a physical response based on the electrical input from the controller.
      • In response to the abnormal heat, the software instructs the actuator to activate the sprinkler system in that hotel room.

In simple terms, automation connects stimulus (heat) to an accurate response (sprinklers on) without the intervention from a human. 

This process can be applied to a host of examples. 

Examples of Network Automation and IoT

Network automation is already integrated into many IoT devices, making homes, cars, and health more connected than ever. 

Below are examples of exciting new applications of network automation and IoT. 

Connected Homes

Tovala

Smart Oven

Imagine food that cooks itself. Sounds like something from the future, right? Well thanks to network automation and IoT, this dream has become reality. Tovala creates a smart oven and meal-kit delivery service that removes humans from the work and mess of cooking. 

Tovala scans either a QR or barcode on the product, then connects to WiFi to determine the best time and temperature for cooking the product. 

Security

SimpliSafe

Home security monitoring solution

Simplisafe offers a wireless home security monitoring system. It works like traditional home security systems, but it has many more features and it costs less than what traditional home security systems cost. 

Simplisafe is designed to provide whole house protection, including detecting water intrusion, fires, and medical emergencies. You can customize detection features and you can arm or disarm the system from anywhere.

Connected Agriculture 

HerdDogg

Animal Traceability Platform

HerdDogg makes technology that captures important data about herd animals such as cattle, sheep, and bison. For example, their patented ear tag technology, DoggTag®, uses sensors to capture animal identification, and then tracks location, movement, and welfare. It then delivers the data to a mobile device. This protects the herd and allows livestock professionals to keep track of their herd from anywhere at any time. 

Connected Health

Propeller

Health Sensor Technology

Propeller uses sensor technology to help people with asthma or COPD track and understand their condition. It can also alert friends, family, and healthcare providers of pulmonary emergencies.

Common Challenges with Implementing Network Automation

A Beecham Research study predicts that global IT spending will reach $1 trillion by 2022. However, only 42 percent of respondents in this study reported successful IoT efforts, with 18 percent saying their IoT projects failed completely, and 40 percent saying their efforts were mostly unsuccessful.  

Why is it so difficult for organizations to successfully deploy an IoT proof of concept (POC?) 

Complexity and interdepartmental collaboration are the most common barriers. 

In general, organizations will have the following standard challenges, regardless of what type of IT innovation they are deploying: 

  • Implementing a new technology into an existing organizational structure. 
  • Modifying the existing architecture to accommodate the new technology. 
  • Detecting and subsequently filling gaps in subject matter expertise. 

Organizations that want to implement an automated IoT innovation into their existing infrastructure face additional challenges: 

  • Funding expensive resource shifts.
  • Creating a cohesive multidisciplinary team.
  • Ensuring uncompromised security in concert with increased requirements for development speed and agility.

IoT-Related Resource Shifts are Expensive

Manufacturing companies that adopt smart tools and machinery have large up-front investments in both IT and engineering. Many companies must replace their aging, outdated, and incompatible network equipment before they can implement IoT devices powered by network automation. 

Solution: Enlist third-party experts in IoT innovation to ensure that the transition is smooth and cost-effective. 

IoT Requires a MultiDisciplinary Team

The IT silo structure must be replaced with an Agile structure to meet the cross-functional demands of IoT. Maximizing the business value of IoT network automation requires many different subject matter experts collaborating and cooperating with each other. 

Expertise is needed in project management, engineering, product development, application development, data management, security management, and customer support. 

Solution: Identify an expert third party who can partner with you to help to integrate the disparate silos in your organization for optimum efficiency. 

An Automated IoT Network Must be Swift, Scalable, Agile, and Secure

All organizations need IT engineering services securely delivered with speed and agility, but the scope of the IoT ecosystem heightens this requirement. The goal is to optimize speed and agility without compromising security. 

Solution: Align DevSecOps to IoT. IT and non-IT organizations alike must make security the central focus of their operations. 

Knowing where to start is the biggest challenge for many organizations. IoT expert Harald Remmert states that it’s important for organizations to ask, “What are the problems we are experiencing in our industrial environment, and how can technology service these problems?” Remmert recommends partnering with a third-party IoT company for guidance through the complex process of answering this question.  

IoT Network Automation: The Red Carpet for 5G

What is 5G?

5G is the new generation of cellular networks that promises increased bandwidth (up to 10 gigabits per second) and lower network latency. Network latency is the time required from data to travel between point A and point B. With 5G, network latency is expected to be faster than a blink of an eye (1ms.). To put this into perspective: 4G network latency is about fifty blinks of an eye (50ms.). 5G networks can send and download large amounts of data at unthinkable speeds. 

Latency is the leading prerequisite for the upcoming wave of IoT network automation.  

However, decreasing latency raises the bar on network response time. With 5G both accompanying and driving the rollout of IoT, phones and and other digital devices trying to connect with the wireless network will be competing with factory machinery, traffic lights, agricultural smart machines, and other commercial IoT devices.  

According to the  MIT Technology Review Insights Report, within the next five years each person in the industrialized world will adopt at least 10 connected IoT devices. If this prediction is true, then the demands on the mobile network will intensify.  

Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are the gatekeepers of IoT. CSPs make information, media services, content entertainment, and application services available over their networks. They need to have the ability to leverage the network infrastructure with ease, efficiency, and precision. Network automation is a must for CSPs to create services, generate revenue, and ensure network availability. 

Moving Forward: Network Automation and IoT Post-Pandemic

Combining 5G and Wi-Fi 6 for IoT

IoT network automation requires network administrators to maintain connectivity beyond the walls of an office environment. Smart warehouses, distribution centers, and even outdoor locations such as parking lots will now also require network connectivity. This expansion of requirements means that new IoT deployments will need to increase in their flexibility without compromising traffic. Combining Wi-Fi 6 and 5G is a promising solution for indoor and outdoor coverage. 

Neutralizing the Threat of Unknown and Unclassified Devices

Not all IoT devices will be defined and classified; but they’re still going to demand network connectivity. This adds a significant security risk. Intent-based networking could potentially automate and control the network segmentation of wireless IoT devices. Combining this tactic with Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) to the mix as well as AI-enabled IT could minimize risk. Partnering with third-party experts will be the most effective way to overcome risks such as this

Automated Device Classification

The massive influx of IoT devices will need to be classified and controlled. AI-driven classification can determine which devices need to be protected by expensive security measures and which devices do not (e.g., sensors, monitors, etc.). 

You Want IoT Network Automation For Your Company – What to Do Next

IoT Network Automation is complex and will only grow in complexity. Industry best practices demand a system that is secure and scalable. Many times, the most cost effective way to do this is to partner with an IT company that specializes in IoT and Embedded Systems Development Services

The IoT network automation revolution is upon us. Are you ready to participate? 

<strong>Ed Kuzemchak</strong> - Ed is the founder of Software Design Solutions. He has been creating embedded software solutions for nearly 30 years and has been the president of Software Design Solutions for over 13 years.

Ed Kuzemchak - Ed is the founder of Software Design Solutions. He has been creating embedded software solutions for nearly 30 years and has been the president of Software Design Solutions for over 13 years.

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