Companies that connect products to the network – Internet of Things (IoT) devices like digital signage, audio visual equipment, video surveillance and so on – often end up butting heads with their IT clients.
When connecting IoT devices to the network, the burden on IT revolves around several issues, each of which needs to be carefully considered, hopefully before the deployment of said devices takes place.
All IoT devices require some kind of connectivity, which typically means they need one or more IP address. The usual way that networks are set up – especially in many small business environments – doesn’t take into account managing IP addresses the way they should. Devices often end up conflicting with some other device that happens to have the same IP address.
This is common in environments where someone installs a video surveillance system or wireless IP cameras. All the IP addresses assigned to all the devices that are not managed correctly create bandwidth issues. There is a lot of data running through a network that is not designed to have that amount of data on it.
In many cases, IoT implementations come through the Line-of-Business (LOB) manager, who doesn’t coordinate with IT clients prior to deployment – especially in smaller organizations that may not have a sophisticated internal IT department or use a service provider that isn’t there all the time. A manager will make the decision to bring in that integrator to plug all the devices in without considering the capacity of the wiring in the walls.
If devices are designed to run at gigabit speed, it’s important to have the infrastructure and switching technology to support that, otherwise those devices won’t perform as well.
Once they are deployed and connect to the Internet, consider what that means for the Internet pipe. If a business has a T1 line or fairly limited bandwidth for Internet access, then a fraction of that Internet access is going to be taken up by bandwidth intensive services, so this will likely impact the organization’s Internet access — whether it’s browsing or accessing cloud-based services like email of hosted ERP. All these issues pop up when the bandwidth requirements of IoT deployments aren’t considered in the beginning.
You need to discuss what’s needed both inside the building as well as connectivity in terms of Internet access. When we have those conversations with our IT clients in advance of deployment, we can sometimes set up parallel Internet access for IoT devices.
Involving IT Clients
There’s a tendency for the IT department to try to avoid any involvement with projects that are not IT-related. They’ll say, “This is a digital signage system, so why should we care about it?” This resistance is usually why LOB decision makers don’t involve IT – they know they are going to get push back.
It’s important for IT clients and service providers to recognize that IoT devices are going to become more and more prevalent on networks; they have to embrace them and work with the LOB folks to make deployment happen in a more controlled manner.
In some cases, this may mean creating a parallel network that coexists with the IT network but doesn’t cross into it so you can create private IP addresses that don’t conflict with anything on your IT network. Creating a subnetwork is also an option – something we did with one of our clients that deployed a bunch of new smart copiers on their network. When the client ran out of IP addresses, we reengineered their network and created VLANs specifically for those devices and assigned them to a separate subnet.