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The design challenges for the Internet of Things

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Similar to any emerging market or technology, the booming Internet-of-Things industry and products present several challenges and pitfalls. Making the right choices in terms of IoT platforms, data security, or hardware and software standards can be a major challenge. 

When choosing IoT platforms, for instance, one may face problems with privacy, security or expensive over-engineering of technology. One will need to decide whether it is worth replacing existing systems that aren’t really broken in a way that offers no real return in terms of user experience or economic value. Given that the standards of the IoT are not entirely fixed, issues such as reliability, privacy, security, ownership and control of private data still pose questions that are barely beginning to be worked out.

The Internet of Things is not just something that is hidden away out of sight somewhere inside an embedded control system. The growth in this field has seen a corresponding rise in the use of smart devices and technologies that are directly facing the domestic or industrial consumer.

One of these challenges is security of end-user data. As various devices enter the domestic arena, increasingly-enlightened consumers will have concerns about their privacy and security. When Internet of Things devices start to generate detailed real-time data about how much electrical power is being used, which lights and appliances are turned on at particular times, or even personal medical data logged directly from biomedical sensors, customers and end-users will expect to know where that data is being collected and used, by whom, and why. 

To achieve confidence and acceptance amongst consumers, companies collecting data through Internet-of-Things systems must do so only with the consumer’s consent and only in a secure and controlled way.

Demonstrable financial benefit is the other challenge in the Internet of Things. Consumers expect to pay for new technology that will serve them, and not just the utility provider or manufacturer. For example, if residential electricity consumers are paying for new smart metering infrastructure, they will expect to see how the new technology actually benefits them, and not just provide a financial benefit to the energy provider who can save money by removing the number of meter readers.

Another challenge is educating potential and existing customers about the benefit of IoT devices. For example, Internet-of-Things devices must be relatively inexpensive if they are to become truly ubiquitous in the home and not only adopted by early adopters who see past the initial price tag. If an IoT-enabled light fixture costs $100 against a few dollars for a conventional bulb, wide acceptance of the product may be a problem. However, if the consumer is educated about the total cost of ownership including the necessary cloud or software services, and not just the cost of the hardware node, this challenge can be overcome.

The hardware or software standards being used in the device is another larger challenge, and one that needs to be overcome before any final sales and installation. For example, can the device work with IPv6 addressing? With the upcoming exhaustion of IPv4 addresses, the address space represents a significant limit for the Internet of Things; for instance, there is no way that every refrigerator can have an IPv4 address exposed out to the Internet. However, with the introduction of IPv6 the problem is solved.

How does one ensure their hardware will meet upcoming or new standards? Will Internet-of-things ideas translate into profitable, desired systems by all stakeholders? Can existing systems be enhanced to benefit from the Internet-of-Things without a total redesign? All these and many more questions can be answered by partnering with the design house LX Group.

As a partner, LX group will discuss and understand the client’s requirements and goals, and help them navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve their problems.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia specialising in embedded systems design and wireless technologies.

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