The problem of data integration is among the biggest hurdles to IoT adoption that businesses across the world are experiencing with the continued propagation of the technology.
Solving this challenge may require technology leaders to rethink and revamp their traditional IT infrastructures.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly emerging as a technological necessity for modern enterprises. And realizing this, businesses are ramping up their efforts to implement and expand their IoT networks. However, while businesses are increasingly investing in IoT initiatives, they are running into multiple challenges associated with the technology’s adoption. Among the most significant problems to IoT adoption are the need for high-capacity communication networks, the security implications of using a myriad of smart connected devices, and the problem of data integration in IoT. The emergence of technologies like 5G communication can potentially solve the problem of the need for high-bandwidth communication which will enable high volume transfer of data across the IoT networks. Similarly, the use of technologies like blockchain can potentially help in securing IoT networks. However, the challenge posed by the need for data integration in IoT has yet to receive a definite solution. Read on to know why there is a need for data integration in IoT, why it is difficult, and what are the potential solutions to the problem.
Understanding the Need for Data Integration in IoT
Ever since its emergence, among IoT’s primary appealing factors has been its ability to offer remote control and visibility over enterprise-wide processes. IoT is also viewed as something that would be instrumental in the end-to-end integration of various business units and processes, which can lead to better coordination between these entities, leading to enhanced business performance. However, business and technology leaders are increasingly emphasizing the fact that the real value of IoT lies in the data generated by it. And to leverage the data for any practical purpose, it is important to collate the data generated by the different sources. This need for collating data, or data integration in IoT, as it is known, can be more challenging than for earlier forms of analytics like big data.
But why is it necessary to collate IoT data, you ask? Put simply, data integration is necessary for enterprises and the chief decision-makers in these enterprises to have the complete picture of what’s happening throughout their organization and its environment. Different parts of an enterprise -- through its growing network IoT sensors and other data collection devices -- constantly gather valuable data regarding different aspects of the business, in different forms, and in unprecedentedly large volumes. These bits of information can be used as they are collected for making quick, short-term decisions that drive the daily operations. In short, the data gathered can be used to make the enterprise and its components more responsive to exigencies. However, compiling all the information gathered through the network of sensory devices to form a single body of information that can enable businesses to get a big-picture view of the entire organization and its performance with respect to established long-term objectives. Having such insight can enable business leaders to strategize with more certainty and effectiveness. Such analytics can also be useful in setting more realistic long-term objectives and aid in proactively solving impending problems. Centralizing all the data gathered by the IoT network can also help in retrospective activities such as reporting and audits.
Exploring the IoT Data Integration Challenge
The utility of IoT data integration mainly stems from the enormous volume of data gathered, the variety of the same gathered through the different sources, and the precision of the data gathered. However, the same elements are what stand as the hurdles to data integration in IoT. The ever-increasing number of connected devices that constantly gather data from the edges of the enterprise network makes it harder for the enterprise to keep track of all the data flowing in from different directions.
Additionally, all the data gathered from the endpoints also comes with a lot of noise, repetitive information and other kinds of problems that make the data hard to use. Thus, before compiling all the data in a single repository such as a data warehouse, it is vital to clean the data and make it usable. This adds the need for investment in specialized tools, processes, and personnel for performing the cleaning and structuring of the data.
Moreover, the variety of IoT device vendors and the potential incompatibility of their offerings with those of the others is also a concern. Due to the need for a large volume and variety of ending devices needed to complete the IoT network, businesses end up using devices made by different vendors, leading to incompatibility and security issues. Also, standardization of the data gathered by the different devices also becomes a challenge. Since different sensory devices can be calibrated differently, the accuracy of the results gathered by the sensors made by different vendors is subject to vary. This can potentially compromise the reliability of analytics used in the data.
To overcome these and other challenges to data integration in IoT, businesses must proactively identify them and their implications. Then, they should devise solutions by using multiple approaches, i.e., through the right strategy, practices, and technology.
Overcoming the IoT data integration challenges
By combining new policies, practices, and tools, businesses can solve the issue data integration in IoT. They should devise a scalable system of IoT days integration that should be embedded into their IoT adoption plan. Following are a few ways in which enterprises can overcome the challenges to data integration in IoT:
1. Have a Clear IoT Data Integration Strategy
As mentioned earlier, businesses should, before they embark on their IoT journey, strategize for emailing IoT data integration. To do so, they must understand the scope of their IoT projects, its implications, the expected challenges and opportunities, and potential solutions. Anticipating the challenges and preparing for the data integration challenges in these early stages will prevent the creation of data silos that may lead to numbers missed opportunities in the future. Having set objectives for IoT projects and coherent strategies for the same will enable businesses to incorporate data integration into the core IoT architecture. Having a data integration strategy helps in consequent steps such as making communication requirements, i.e., the modes of communication required between different devices and sections of the IoT network. It also helps in defining the need for edge computing in different parts of the IoT environment. This can ensure that the central data warehouses are not inundated with unnecessary data that has little or no strategic utility.
2. Leverage API for IoT Communication
IoT networks are predominantly comprised of smart, software-driven devices that need to communicate with each other. And using application programming interfaces (API) is there simplest yet the most effective solution to enable device-to-device communication and overall network and data integration. Using API and other broadly compatible middleware can help in employing any discrepancies in the data quality as it travels from the edge to the data centers. Enterprises should aim to use APIs as the primary tool for data integration in IoT.
3. Use Integration Platforms
Enterprises can leverage cloud platforms that can unify the network-wide operations on a single platform. There are numerous platform-as-a-service (PaaS) vendors who offer solutions for large-scale IoT implementation. Businesses can also benefit from the newly emerging service segment of integration platform as a service that specializes in large-scale integration. Enterprises seeking to leverage the wealth of data generated by IoT should not ignore the significance of data integration in IoT. That's because, while the automation, visibility, and control offered by IoT technology can undoubtedly improve business operations in the short run, truly gaining an edge over the competition means leveraging the cornucopia of data generated by IoT to create real impact.