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Security top concern for IoT, says Wi-Sun Alliance

Steve Rogerson
December 14, 2017
Half of organisations undertaking IoT projects have fully implemented strategy, but there are concerns over security, lack of funding and commitment, according to research by the Wi-Sun Alliance.
The study found that enabling IoT was one of the top IT priorities for next 12 months.
The member-based association for driving interoperable wireless services for smart cities, smart utilities and other IoT applications found that half of organisations investing in IoT initiatives already have a fully implemented strategy in place, while more than a third (36%) have a partially implemented strategy. Companies are most advanced in the oil and gas industry, with 75% having a fully implemented strategy, followed by technology (59%) and energy and utilities (57%).
The survey of 350 IT decision makers in the UK, USA, Sweden and Denmark examined attitudes to IoT, including the drivers, barriers, challenges and benefits. It highlights the growing number of smart utilities, smart cities and broader IoT projects in progress. While respondents report that enabling IoT is the second most important IT priority for the next 12 months, just behind improving security, almost all (90%) of those with an IoT plan at various stages of implementation have struggled to implement this, with over a third (36%) saying they find it very or extremely difficult.
When it comes to the key drivers for IoT implementation, around half (47%) of those surveyed report it will improve network intelligence and connectivity for citizen safety and quality of life, followed by creating business efficiencies (42%) and improving reliability of systems and services (41%). Two-thirds of respondents’ organisations with an IoT strategy report that it covers how IoT can be used to improve the customer experience, while six in ten say it includes a plan for continuous IoT improvement.
Nearly all (99%) have enjoyed benefits as a result of IoT implementations, including better business efficiency (54%), improved customer experience (49%) and better collaboration (48%). Additional benefits include reduced costs (45%) and faster time to market (40%).
Respondents highlighted security as a barrier to IoT adoption, with 59% of them citing security concerns, with the USA (65%) and UK (64%) far more concerned than those in Denmark or Sweden. Nearly a third (32%) see funding, as well as a lack of commitment from leadership, as barriers, while 30% view leadership’s lack of understanding of the benefits of IoT as a challenge.
The technical challenges when delivering IoT are security and safety (63%), data management (46%), network configuration (41%), recruiting IoT talent (39%) and wifi connectivity (39%).
When asked what their organisation looks for when evaluating IoT technologies, 58% of respondents look for network topology and coverage, followed by communications performance in terms of latency, bandwidth and bi-directional communication (53%). Other characteristics include support for industry standards (52%), while standardisation is also important when it comes to choosing IoT in specific applications – 45% of respondents demand that smart city IoT services be built using industry-wide open standards, while 43% say it is absolutely crucial in a smart utilities.
As for network technologies, respondents are most likely to be familiar with Wi-Sun (56%), Sigfox (49%), or NB-IoT (45%).
“While all organisations taking part had IoT initiatives underway, it’s very encouraging to see that over half have an IoT strategy fully implemented, with the vast majority of those in sectors you’d most closely associate with smart city and smart utility initiatives, such as energy and utilities, as well as oil and gas companies,” said Phil Beecher, president and CEO of the Wi-Sun Alliance. “It’s also encouraging to see Wi-Sun supported by so many products out there and leading the pack in terms of networking technologies.”
However, he said there was a lot of education still to be done for those looking to implement IoT, smart cities and other IoT initiatives, especially when selecting the right technology.
“For example,” he said, “there are some fundamental advantages of Wi-Sun, including support for higher data rates delivering lower latency, mesh network configuration, increasing network resilience and, importantly, extremely robust security. Our advice for those developing, designing or procuring IoT, now or in the future, is to look closely at the reliability they need, the latency and the security, and to make sure that these match up with the needs and goals of the organisation.”
Between a third and half of respondents’ organisations investing in an IoT initiative have already implemented industrial IoT (45%), smart cities (41%) or smart utilities’ (34%) initiatives. If not implemented, around half are likely to be either piloting, testing or planning to implement smart initiatives.
For smart cities, proven security with multi-layer protection and continuous monitoring is absolutely crucial for half of respondents, while industry-wide open standards (45%) and seamless integration between devices and applications (40%) are also crucial.
For smart utilities, proven security (44%) is considered absolutely crucial, followed by industry-wide open standards (43%) and speed and latency (40%).
For organisations who have an IoT strategy at some level, 76% will likely or definitely roll out security and surveillance, 72% water and gas metering, 64% electric vehicle charging, 57% street lights, 56% smart parking and 63% advanced meter infrastructure in the next 12 to 18 months.
The USA is ahead of the other three countries when it comes to having a fully implemented IoT strategy – USA (65%), UK (47%), Sweden (44%) and Denmark (24%). The USA is also ahead of the other countries when prioritising IoT enablement – USA (73%), UK (64%), Sweden (62%) and Denmark (58%).
Also in the USA, 15% of respondents with an IoT strategy are finding it extremely difficult and struggling with some of the challenges when implementing IoT, followed by the UK (14%), Denmark (11%) and Sweden (4%).
Commissioned by the Wi-Sun Alliance, the research was carried out by Vanson Bourne, an independent specialist in market research for the technology sector, in October and early November 2017. Interviews were done online and via telephone among 350 people in the UK, USA, Sweden and Denmark. Respondents came from organisations that were at some stage of implementing at least one IoT initiative, specifically smart cities, smart utilities or industrial IoT. Respondents were IT decision makers within their organisations and have some level of involvement with their organisation’s IoT initiatives.