The IoT connectivity market is a great business to be in, given that we see significant growth in all segments and that we really do see customers using our connectivity to make fantastic services that improve everyday life. So, that is really an inspiration.
One thing that we have seen lately is that the adoption of IoT tends to increase the dependability of connectivity. We see an increasing amount of use cases, and an increasing number of users, where the connectivity is real time critical. Either the criticality is from life/death situations, such as:
- Elderly alarms
- Home/business alarms
- Remote drones flying CPR equipment
Or the criticality is from a business perspective, where their business cannot function without connectivity:
- Charging stations that need to be activated when payment comes through
- Taxis that cannot accept fares without the connectivity
I think this increasing dependability puts a high responsibility on operators to put resilience, high uptime, and security at the top of the agenda, both in terms of investment in the network, but also by providing services and consultation on how to build connectivity solutions that are designed for high uptime.
Why choose cellular connectivity for the IoT application?
In general, I think cellular connectivity is great, especially with the new technologies that are developed for IoT. Think of it like this:
- You have coverage almost anywhere in the world without any investment or running any equipment yourself
- It has become much more affordable, and I would say that the value for money is amazing
- The networks are very high quality
- The security settings are in general high in the networks – and the requirements on 5G are much higher than previous generations
- The networks are supported by a very strong industry, both on the technology side and the service provider side
- The volume of connected devices enable components such as radio modules or routers at competitive price points:
- You can assume that the services will live on for the foreseeable future. This is important since you want to be sure that the devices you roll out will have connectivity for their lifetime
- If you have a service that has a large geographical spread and that is important to you, I have a hard time seeing any better option .
Challenges, threats, risks with IoT applications
When setting up an IoT application, most are focused on the benefits they want to achieve and how to get there quickly. And this is natural – you want to test the market fast to understand its potential. However, if you don’t consider the long-term operations of the platform, things can go wrong.
I would divide the consequences in two areas. Consequences that make the solution unavailable and make you unable to reap the benefits, and consequences that are costly.
Examples of things that make the solution unavailable are:
- Devices that are being hacked. A typical hack is when they are connected to the internet and a vulnerability is found and exploited
- Single point of failures in the solution making all devices go down at the same time
- Devices not being able to automatically recover from smaller disturbances or maintenance in the network.
Example of things that can be very costly are:
- Stolen SIM cards used for fraud
- Hacked devices misusing network resources for fraud
- Device updates causing behavior that disturbs the mobile networks or suddenly increases the usage for a large number of devices
- Services that are designed to use services that are normally free, such as USSD, voice and SMS MT, but not used as intended.
The costs for misbehaviour or telecom fraud in a largescale roaming solution are significant. Worst case, you could be talking about millions and the cost for unavailable solutions can put you out of business. So. this is important.
Luckily, most of this can be avoided with simple precautions before scaling. Think about it: most hacks are not super hackers exploiting complex backdoors or deciphering your state-of-the-art encryption. Most of it is devices being on the public internet because you didn’t secure a VPN or have default passwords, etc.
Start small, but think ahead on how the solution can be scaled already from start. Make sure you take advice from the experts of your operator before scaling to avoid common risks.
Customer challenges when setting up secure solutions
One thing which I think is underestimated in terms of challenges is the setup of VPNs between the operator and the customer’s data center. In a cellular IoT connectivity solution, an IPsec tunnel is often used to create a virtual network between the customer’s network and the network of their connected devices. This IPsec tunnel is used to communicate all data traffic to/from the device and, if not configured correctly, it is both a security hole and a single point of failure.
I don’t know how much you know about IPsec tunnels, but on paper it looks easy. Reuse your internet connection and just encrypt the data to avoid any eavesdropping or attacks. However, the configuration requires specialist competence, especially when designing a setup that your business is to dependent on.