Planning a global IoT deployment? Here's what you need to know

Global Internet of Things (IoT) deployments are complex, and many fail due to connectivity issues. So how can you plan for a successful deployment -- and what could go wrong?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor on

Where is the raft of IoT-connected 'things' predicted a few years ago? Deploying a global network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is significantly more complex than anyone initially thought.

Cisco Systems reckons that up to 75% of IoT deployments fail, and Microsoft says that 30% of IoT projects only get to proof of concept stage before failing.

But the IoT is here to stay, and with billions of IoT devices are already active, how can you plan for your own global IoT deployment and make sure that it's successful? Nick Earle, CEO of Guildford, UK-based IoT solutions provider Eseye shares some tips for success, and what to watch our for.

Invest in device design

Consider standardizing and simplifying production of your IoT devices, making sure they meet specific requirements of your global project. Ensure that they are future-proofed and can connect to any network, adapting to all local network-specific variances to stay connected.

Choose the right partner

It is complex to work globally across mobile network operators (MNOs) which might have different contracts in place and may not be able to deliver 100% connectivity for these devices around the world.

Look for IoT partners that can offer network switching, or consider implementing an embedded universal integrated circuit card (eUICC) that can switch networks to keep the connectivity to home as network conditions change.

Scale analytics and data management

Make sure that your cloud provider can significantly scale to store huge amounts of incoming IoT data in a well-managed and secure way.

Storage of this mass of data will be expensive -- so make sure that only relevant data is stored, and that time-sensitive data is handled as a priority.

Design for optimal device security

Make sure that your IoT hardware is tamper-proof, and consider including an embedded eSIM in the device. Use one that is write-protected with no programming interfaces and no debug code.

Ensure that application security is enabled by transport layer security (TLS) and HTTPS. Consider network security via the GSM network or by VPN. You could also implement side band security via SMS.

With 'over the air' (OTA) and zero-touch functionality, a device connects to the service provider and downloads the security certificate when it powers up. This method ensures that security certificates are not manually assigned to the device. In this way, the software security can also be strengthened and updated over time.

Implement flexible device management

Make sure that you design your deployment assuming that it will grow as your device implementation demonstrates more success. Incorporating the ability to massively scale the implementation of a service is important.

Use automation to manage the IoT implementation and build in predictive maintenance and fault identification to quickly identify errors. Being able to see all connected devices and their state will ensure success.

But there are some challenges that you need to consider too.

Watch out for permanent roaming challenges

Global IoT rollouts can fail due to permanent roaming and regulatory hiccups. Guaranteeing connectivity is a challenge for IoT devices, no matter wherever they are deployed.

Some countries such as Australia, the United States, China, Canada, India, Turkey, and Singapore have restrictions or bans on permanent roaming when a device is connected to a network outside of its home country for over 90 days.

Commercial disputes over roaming agreements can lead to the termination of connectivity agreements, meaning your device will no longer communicate.

A potential solution could be the use of eSIM localization so that IoT devices can connect to the best local provider for data services.

At the end of the day...

Earle concludes, "Uncertainty about both initial and lifetime device connectivity is a huge concern for businesses rolling out large-scale IoT projects. Global rollouts are not cheap, and the level of investment needed is harder to justify in commercial terms when the connectivity environment is not assured."

Planning your global deployment is critical to ensure that wherever your IoT device is, it can connect and transmit data to its management system, wherever in the world that happens to be. 

Without this connectivity, and a scalable data management solution, your IoT deployment is bound to fail. Use Earle's tips above to raise your probability of success.

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