Industry Insights

Top Challenges to Successful IoT Initiatives — And How to Overcome Them

IoT project management is complicated. I'll guide you through overcoming the obstacles that hinder successful IoT initiatives.

Calum McClelland
September 18, 2018

In the past few years that I’ve spent in the IoT industry, helping to develop, deploy, and improve IoT solutions potentially involving millions of sensors, I’ve learned that often the biggest hurdles to success aren’t technological. A Gartner study last year found that only 26 percent of surveyed companies were successful with their IoT initiatives. This is an abysmal statistic, but it doesn’t surprise me given the many challenges I’ve personally seen—many of which are purely operational or organizational.

Although many of the issues aren’t technological, they’re no less painful and difficult to overcome. And if every organization has to overcome these challenges in a void, a 74 percent failure rate is likely to continue. But here at Leverege, we believe in openly sharing the knowledge and insights that we’ve gained through our extensive experience because it’s this open sharing of knowledge that will help us all to move forward together, collectively amplifying our human potential.

So in this series, I’ll be exploring the issues we’ve seen, with examples taken from our experiences, and how you can overcome similar challenges as you pursue your own IoT initiatives. Whether you’re a solutions provider building new solutions for clients, or you’re one of the organizations integrating IoT technologies into your current systems and processes, I hope this series of posts will equip you with knowledge and strategies that will help you to succeed.

If you’re relatively new to IoT and the various technologies and terminologies associated with it, I encourage you first to read the Intro to IoT eBook I wrote. This is a comprehensive (but simple!) introduction to and explanation of many important concepts that I’ll assume readers know as I explore various challenges.

I’ll save the in-depth exploration for future posts, but here are just a few of the topics to come:

You Need to Associate

We’re increasingly using sensors and devices to allow us to represent physical objects and their attributes digitally. For example, in asset tracking applications, you’ll likely have a tracker that’s attached to a given asset you’d like to track. The asset is the thing we want to track, but the tracker is the thing that’s capturing and sending data. Therefore, you need to know that this tracker is on this asset, which we call “association” or “pairing.”

For most asset tracking applications, someone needs to manually associate a tracker to a given asset, and when you introduce a manual step there are bound to be problems. From labeling issues during manufacturing to operational issues like employees simply not associating trackers to the assets, I’ll share some of the challenges we’ve faced and how you can avoid or overcome them.

Little Changes Are Big Changes

The Internet of Things is often called "a system of systems," and with good reason: successful IoT initiatives usually involve a combination of hardware, software, and connectivity, which is then tied into business processes and operations. Because of the complexity and systemic codependence, a simple change in one part of the system—or subsystem—can effectively break the entire system of systems.

Let’s say that you want to make some changes to the firmware on your sensor/device to help reduce the battery drain, so you reduce the number of messages sent from the sensor/device per day. Great! You’ve just added on a few months of battery life!

But unbeknownst to you, your IoT system uses the number of messages from the sensors/devices to flag when a sensor/device may be defective. After making this change, suddenly you have countless sensors/devices being flagged by the system as defective, which at best hurts user confidence and at worst means that the system itself doesn’t work (e.g. if defective sensors/devices are automatically prevented from being used).

Although this challenge effectively boils down to good communication, this can be difficult within a single organization—let alone across the multiple organizations and partnerships that IoT initiatives often require to be successful. In this future post, I’ll share some examples to demonstrate how seriously you should take even the little changes. I'll also offer some strategies for effectively communicating and managing these changes.

What Challenges Are You Facing?

I have plenty more topics in mind that I’ll be covering after the above two posts, but this series is ultimately meant to be helpful to you, the reader! So if there’s a particular challenge that you’re facing or that you’d like me to explore, please let me know and I’ll make sure to prioritize it. Just click the button below and include your suggestion in the "How can we help?" field.

Calum McClelland

Chief Operating Officer

Calum graduated from Brown University with a major in Philosophy. Striving to change himself and the world for the better, Calum values active living, life-long learning, and keeping an open mind.

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