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Digi International 2021 Predictions: A Different Approach to IoT Networks

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

A Different Approach to IoT Networks

By Randall Kerr, Director, Product Management, Digi International

In recent years, we've seen exponential growth in the number of industrial IoT devices. By 2024, Juniper Research expects IoT connections will reach 83 billion. Given this massive explosion of broadly distributed IoT deployments - and the surge of pandemic-related connectivity challenges - it's more important than ever that companies take steps to manage IoT deployments and maximize the value of these investments. In 2021, it's critical that organizations focus on two specific areas: remote network monitoring and next-generation connectivity.

The Year of Remote Monitoring

With connection numbers increasing around the world, remote device management and monitoring will become a top priority, whether organizations are planning new deployments or revisiting existing ones. Next year and beyond, leaders will not only focus on managing devices remotely, but also on harnessing the ability to do so at increasing scale.

Similarly, whether it's for long-term investment value or improved security, many organizations are transitioning from a focus on individual IoT devices to a broader, more strategic view of IoT networks, where there's added value. Through this updated mindset, organizations will have better insight into how and why their IoT deployments serve the entire business, versus just a single function. However, achieving this means companies must turn to the cloud and adopt a complete management system built on software and business intelligence - not truck rolls - to support and maximize the capabilities of their hardware at the edge.

Wider adoption of cloud-based interfaces will empower organizations to monitor, manage, and control networks on an unprecedented scale, regardless of device locations or where admins might be based. From this vantage point, IoT administrators will enjoy increased benefits as they scale, update, and remotely configure networks and devices for simplified maintenance, inventory review, bulk firmware updates, operation scheduling and, of course, security oversight.

Organizations will recognize and take the necessary steps to maintain contact with field hardware through remote monitoring, ensuring all components remain available and accessible. This will ultimately improve network reliability and productivity, reduce long-term costs, and optimize operations.

Is the next generation of connectivity ready?

In 2021, we'll see a real kickoff for 5G. Although industry hype started a few years ago, we're beginning to see results in the consumer space. Next year, organizations will begin building 5G into their roadmaps in earnest. The question remains: When and where will this next generation connectivity benefit them the most?

5G will be a change agent, but the technology is not ubiquitous enough as yet for exclusive use in any application or environment. Organizations must think of the mid- and long-term use-cases for 5G, determine whether those match the timeframes for 5G availability, and assess what new benefits 5G can offer. Cost will definitely be a key determinant in this decision, since the initial investments in 5G equipment and installation are extraordinarily high today.

Given the relative limit of applications requiring the ultra-low latencies or unprecedented cellular speeds of 5G, few businesses are opting to take full advantage of 5G in the short term - particularly in IoT. Although early adoption may create a first-mover advantage or future-proof key applications, but this will not be realized soon in the IoT sphere due to a lack of lower-bandwidth 5G cellular modules as yet.

Instead, we'll see deployments in major metro regions - where 5G networks already has more of a presence - for applications such as enterprise connectivity. The speed, latency, and bandwidth considerations of 5G can support both primary and backup connectivity for corporate or branch locations, warehouses, and data centers - all applications that can more fully leverage 5G better than IoT can at this juncture. For IoT-focused organizations, LTE will continue to meet existing needs, but in 2021, more companies will begin prepping for 5G upgrades and migration - via modular cellular connectivity upgrades, for example - to match the development cycle of IoT applications requiring 5G.

By understanding what remote monitoring can do for distributed networks and addressing the requirements of specific use cases with the right technology, 2021 will drive meaningful change in the IoT space.

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About the Author

Randall Kerr 

Randall Kerr has three decades of professional experience in education, IT management, infrastructure design and implementation, technical consulting, and sales engineering. At Digi International, he works with account teams to identify sales opportunities and design solutions that resolve customer business issues. Randall is fluent in Spanish and serves North and South American markets, bringing his consultative approach as the liaison between customers and Digi.

Published Tuesday, January 12, 2021 7:56 AM by David Marshall
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