IoT Implementation Best Practices: Achieving Seamless Integration
The adoption of IoT is expanding fast across all industries. The global IoT market size is projected to grow to $3,352.97 Billion by 2030. This represents a CAGR of 26.1% based on the 2023 market size of $662.21 Billion.
It's not hard to see why the growth in this segment is so robust. As organizations have come to discover, the massive data from the multitude of devices connected to the internet can fuel growth to high levels never imagined before.
You can improve productivity, increase time to market, offer better customer service and even quicken the pace of innovation. Ultimately, IoT presents the opportunity to save costs and increase revenue.
However, to succeed, businesses must follow certain best practices for IoT implementation. Some of these best practices include keeping an eye on security and making sure you have the right talent that understands IoT.
Below, we uncover the best practices that every organization must follow for effective IoT implementation:
New to IoT? You might want to start with this article discussing the various ways IoT is transforming businesses.
17 best practices for successful IoT implementation
The following best practices are based on our experience and involvement with some of the best IoT use cases across different industries at the global level.
Whether your organization is small, medium or large, these practices will help you get the best results from your IoT investment.
1. Set clear objectives
The alternative of setting objectives is guess work. Do you really want to implement an expensive IoT system based on guesswork? No way!
So you want to be very clear about what it is that you want to achieve with IoT technology. Reduce costs? Increase time to market? There is so much that IoT can achieve.
If you are not sure about what objectives to adopt, you may want to consult professionals in the IoT field. They have extensive experience derived from working with many companies. This experience in addition to their IoT expertise gives them an upper hand you can leverage to refine your business objectives for IoT.
2. Start small with a prototype
IoT is not only new but can also be complicated. You do not want to implement an IoT system then later discover you did it the wrong way. This can be disastrous and may end up interfering with your processes.
Start with a working prototype, see how it works, gather feedback, use this feedback to make improvements, then scale.
3. Establish robust processes that turn insights into action
It would all be all work in vain if your IoT infrastructure generates insights that just sit there. You need to make sure that those insights translate to measurable action.
A good example we can use to demonstrate this is in the application of IoT for predictive maintenance in manufacturing. If the insights show that a certain machine is likely to break down in a month's time, this insight should translate to a repair or a replacement. So you need to establish a clear process, if possible automated, that triggers actions with clear deadlines, follows up to ensure execution, and generates completion reports with success rates!
If you are a manufacturer, this article gives deep insights into IoT transformation for the manufacturing industry. Please check it out!
4. Add more data sources on continuous basis
IoT is as good as the quality and amount of data you have. The larger the data sets, the better the results. Of course you need to ensure that the quality of this data is quite good.
The best way to do this is to design your IoT systems in such a way that it's easy to add more data sources without incurring heavy extra costs or the need to bring in more hands.
5. Measure results
The metrics you can measure are determined by the objectives you set at the beginning. If you have cost reduction as one of the objectives, for instance, then you need to keep an eye on the specific costs you intended to reduce.
Other metrics you can look at include efficiency, time to market, resolution time for customer issues, customer satisfaction levels, etc.
6. Invest in professional IoT app development
Since IoT technology is still in its early days and considering that different industries and unique business environments present different needs, the best strategy is to invest in custom IoT application development.
This will save you a lot of agony and costs in the long term. No solution can beat an IoT app that is carefully designed to succeed within your organization’s unique environment.
Coordinate with your developers to distill the most critical features that the app should have, and most importantly, the expected performance threshold.
It’s advisable that the developers use modern methodologies such as the Agile framework. This will enable them to quickly incorporate changes and iterate the app when need be.
7. Don't guess on the areas you need to transition to IoT
Some businesses, such as those in complex industries like manufacturing or healthcare, will always have so many moving parts.
This becomes even more complex when you are a large organization. It means that you might not find it cost effective to transition all the areas of your business to an IoT environment. You can also not guess which areas to start with and which ones can wait.
The best strategy here is to do a cost - benefit analysis. Identify those areas that present the highest level of complexity and the highest promise of return should they be driven by IoT.
Expert advice will come in handy here, again. Talk to peers who have already implemented some level of IoT, or contract an IoT consultant to specifically help you identify the most practical areas to start with. They’ll also demonstrate why those areas are the most qualified.
8. Focus on interoperability
The different tools you use will have to work together.. Some tools are easy to integrate, but others can present extreme challenges.
In case technical skills are required to configure some of the tools in order to achieve interoperability, make sure you can find the necessary skill if you don't have it already.
9. Incorporate cybersecurity
Just the way businesses are aware that IoT is increasingly becoming important, cyber criminals are also aware that more and more devices are being connected to the networks of organizations. They also know that, as usual, many organizations have this habit of implementing solutions first, then come to think about security much later!
Because of this set up, a trend is emerging where IoT systems could potentially present a weak link. Because of the vast number of devices that are interconnected, criminals can easily exploit vulnerabilities and infiltrate your systems.
This calls for robust integration of security into IoT projects. From apps to firmware, cybersecurity should be a key requirement.
10. Continuous employee training
Like many other technologies keep changing, so will IoT. In fact, let's just say that you can expect more changes in the IoT field because it's relatively new and there is so much that is yet to come.
Your employees are the backbone of successful implementation and will continue to play a vital role throughout the life-time of the technology. As changes happen, so should their knowledge.
Design a training program that incorporates the latest trends as well as enables employees to conversant with the latest changes to your IoT environment.
11. Benchmark within and outside your industry
As we said in the introduction, many organizations have already implemented IoT solutions and are already well equipped with important results. Fortunately, it's easy to get your hands on IoT use cases right within your industry and even outside.
We advise that you don't restrict the benchmarking to just your industry or niche. It's possible that an approach that has worked elsewhere, including outside your niche, could as well be adjusted and adopted in your industry.
The importance of benchmarking is that it gives you a good place to start. You can see what others have been able to achieve with their technology, as well as the challenges to watch out for.
12. Bring the right skills
Your current talent may not be familiar with IoT at a technical level. Sometimes this may actually include your in-house developers. It takes time to master skills such as IoT app development and get to a level where one can actually develop the kind of applications that can meet the complex ecosystems in different industries.
Of course your developers can always get more training and add IoT to their core competencies. This can take time though, which is okay if time is not a constraint for you at the moment. But if you are facing mounting pressure from competitors who have already implemented advanced IoT solutions, you do not have the luxury to wait for your existing developers to catch up. In this case you will need to think about hiring the right talent to get the project off the ground. You can hire and have the developers work in-house alongside your developers, or outsource to competent IoT developers.
But the skills do not only end at developers. This practice should apply across all areas of what you envision will be your IoT ecosystem. If you need specialized talent to manage the IoT devices, you need to bring the most competent hardware managers.
Also Read: IoT Outsourcing Trends
13. Invest in instant data generation
We have already highlighted that data is the engine that will power your IoT system. The speed at which this data is generated will play a critical role in determining the levels of efficiency.
This practice should be particularly prioritized in industries where quick decisions are the order of the day. A good example is the healthcare industry. For the most critical areas of your IoT infrastructure, employ data collection tools that can generate data in real-time - as things happen.
14. Invest in systems that guarantee sufficient internet bandwidth
Some IoT tools can consume a lot of internet bandwidth, in fact most do. This means that if these tools are going to be sharing the same bandwidth with the rest of the utilities within the organization, then you're looking at potential slow down.
Even when there is no sharing, the IoT systems can overwhelm their own bandwidth. You can easily avoid this by investing in high capacity internet bandwidth. If you are not sure what this translates to, discuss with your ISP and let them understand your IoT implementation requirements.
15. Have a strategy for third party software and hardware
IoT implementation also relies on various third party software and hardware components. Devices such as sensors are mostly managed by vendors or their appointed agents. This is the same case for some software tools as well.
The most frustrating challenging moments with third party tools come when the vendor or agent stops supporting a certain tool. This could be either because they have gone out of business or they no longer see value in that tool, and thus stop allocating resources to its support.
For every third party you are going to use, you must think carefully about these possible challenges. You would be in a better position if you go more into customizable tools with wide universal support as opposed to tools that cannot be customized or can only be managed by one vendor/agent.
Make a point of asking for service guarantee. Ask questions around what happens when support suddenly stops due to unavoidable circumstances.
16. Keep an active inventory of all the connected devices
You will have many devices that power your IoT ecosystem. Some may be installed within your premises, some outside, depending on how elaborate your implementation is going to be. If you are an energy company, for example, you may as well end up having so many devices out in the fields.
Regardless of the location, you must keep a neat inventory of all the devices on your IoT infrastructure. This makes tracking and monitoring easier, allowing your teams to act quickly because they are able to locate the affected devices fast.
17. Implement in stages to manage costs
If you do not have all the resources to get everything done at once, consider implementing in stages. Start with the installations your budget can allow, as long as it gives you a certain level of service that allows you to get started.
Conclusion: What about standards?
IoT is in the early stages. This means the standards for IoT implementation are equally young. But this doesn't mean we should implement without standards, nor does it mean we should wait until all foreseeable standards are in place. That's the essence of these best practices we've just covered here. They offer a foundational guide to get your IoT implementation up and running.
There is already good progress in standards formulation. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published the P2413 draft to serve as a standard for IoT architecture. This essentially created a universal IoT language with the goal of making it easy to share data. Such standards wil simplify the implementation of IoT, especially simplifying cross-platform sharing of data. This effectively makes it easy to find useful data regardless of the larger IoT ecosystem or platform around which you choose to build your IoT solutions.
Finally, when implementing IoT, there are certain things you should be careful not to get wrong. Find out the places you need to get right all the time and why doing it wrong could hinder your implementation journey. If you think you are not ready, please counter check with this IoT readiness checklist.