Channel technologies

Gartner’s 10 IoT Technologies Partners Must Track


The Internet of Things isn't just a conversation about sensors, devices and data collection. Gartner has unveiled a top 10 IoT technology list that customers need to focus on for 2017 and 2018. ChannelE2E weighs in with its spin on each of the technology areas.

1. IoT Security

Gartner says: The IoT introduces a wide range of new security risks and challenges to the IoT devices themselves, their platforms and operating systems, their communications, and even the systems to which they're connected. Security technologies will be required to protect IoT devices and platforms from both information attacks and physical tampering, to encrypt their communications, and to address new challenges such as impersonating "things" or denial-of-sleep attacks that drain batteries. IoT security will be complicated by the fact that many "things" use simple processors and operating systems that may not support sophisticated security approaches.

ChannelE2E says: IoT security was a major theme at Cisco Partner Summit this week in San Diego. In fact, Channel Chief Wendy Bahr said security is the number one market opportunity for partners in 2016 and beyond. Meanwhile, LogicNow -- the MSP-friendly software company -- recently acquired a risk assessment security company. Over time, in theory, MSPs will be able to examine customer networks and IoT edge devices to quantify the financial risks associated with poor security.

2. IoT Analytics

Gartner Says: IoT business models will exploit the information collected by "things" in many ways — for example, to understand customer behavior, to deliver services, to improve products, and to identify and intercept business moments. However, IoT demands new analytic approaches. New analytic tools and algorithms are needed now, but as data volumes increase through 2021, the needs of the IoT may diverge further from traditional analytics.

ChannelE2E Says: Many IoT analytics systems are already in place, and partners don't even realize it. For instance, OpenDNS essentially leverages IoT analytics and big data learning in the background to help partners proactively address and mitigate security issues. Similarly, Webroot is built on a big data system that improves overall IT security.

3. IoT Device (Thing) Management

Gartner Says: Long-lived nontrivial "things" will require management and monitoring. This includes device monitoring, firmware and software updates, diagnostics, crash analysis and reporting, physical management, and security management. The IoT also brings new problems of scale to the management task. Tools must be capable of managing and monitoring thousands and perhaps even millions of devices.

ChannelE2E Says: Generally speaking, RMM (remote monitoring and management) software vendors remain heavily focused on traditional endpoints (servers, desktops, notebooks) rather than IoT monitoring. Most of the current RMM priorities involve a shift to monitoring cloud workloads, but watch for IoT monitoring to become more central for RMM players in 2017 or so.

4. Low-Power, Short-Range IoT Networks

Gartner Says: Selecting a wireless network for an IoT device involves balancing many conflicting requirements, such as range, battery life, bandwidth, density, endpoint cost and operational cost. Low-power, short-range networks will dominate wireless IoT connectivity through 2025, far outnumbering connections using wide-area IoT networks. However, commercial and technical trade-offs mean that many solutions will coexist, with no single dominant winner and clusters emerging around certain technologies, applications and vendor ecosystems.

ChannelE2E Says: Pay attention to edge-type network devices that have built-in intelligence. Those devices will decide which sensor data to keep, delete and ship back to corporate data centers, data warehouses and data lakes.

5. Low-Power, Wide-Area Networks

Gartner Says: Traditional cellular networks don't deliver a good combination of technical features and operational cost for those IoT applications that need wide-area coverage combined with relatively low bandwidth, good battery life, low hardware and operating cost, and high connection density. The long-term goal of a wide-area IoT network is to deliver data rates from hundreds of bits per second (bps) to tens of kilobits per second (kbps) with nationwide coverage, a battery life of up to 10 years, an endpoint hardware cost of around $5, and support for hundreds of thousands of devices connected to a base station or its equivalent. The first low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) were based on proprietary technologies, but in the long term emerging standards such as Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) will likely dominate this space.

ChannelE2E Says: Here, it could be particularly important for channel partners to work with large service providers, telecos and other Quality of Service (QoS) experts that master low-power WAN connections.

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6. IoT Processors

Gartner Says: The processors and architectures used by IoT devices define many of their capabilities, such as whether they are capable of strong security and encryption, power consumption, whether they are sophisticated enough to support an operating system, updatable firmware, and embedded device management agents. As with all hardware design, there are complex trade-offs between features, hardware cost, software cost, software upgradability and so on. As a result, understanding the implications of processor choices will demand deep technical skills.

ChannelE2E Says: Technology giants will build or acquire their way into this market. Cisco, for instance, was rumored to be buying a chip company in March 2016 to address this very need.

7. IoT Operating Systems

Gartner Says: Traditional operating systems (OSs) such as Windows and iOS were not designed for IoT applications. They consume too much power, need fast processors, and in some cases, lack features such as guaranteed real-time response. They also have too large a memory footprint for small devices and may not support the chips that IoT developers use. Consequently, a wide range of IoT-specific operating systems has been developed to suit many different hardware footprints and feature needs.

ChannelE2E Says: Keep an eye on the open source market for new or evolved operating system kernels to emerge for IoT applications.

8. Event Stream Processing

Gartner Says: Some IoT applications will generate extremely high data rates that must be analyzed in real time. Systems creating tens of thousands of events per second are common, and millions of events per second can occur in some telecom and telemetry situations. To address such requirements, distributed stream computing platforms (DSCPs) have emerged. They typically use parallel architectures to process very high-rate data streams to perform tasks such as real-time analytics and pattern identification.

ChannelE2E Says: Check out emerging streaming technologies from Hadoop and big data vendors.

9. IoT Platforms

Gartner Says: IoT platforms bundle many of the infrastructure components of an IoT system into a single product. The services provided by such platforms fall into three main categories: (1) low-level device control and operations such as communications, device monitoring and management, security, and firmware updates; (2) IoT data acquisition, transformation and management; and (3) IoT application development, including event-driven logic, application programming, visualization, analytics and adapters to connect to enterprise systems.

ChannelE2E Says: Be careful here. Some vendors will attempt to bundle or rebrand existing technologies with "IoT" labels on them.

10. IoT Standards and Ecosystems

Although ecosystems and standards aren't precisely technologies, most eventually materialize as application programming interfaces (APIs). Standards and their associated APIs will be essential because IoT devices will need to interoperate and communicate, and many IoT business models will rely on sharing data between multiple devices and organizations.

Many IoT ecosystems will emerge, and commercial and technical battles between these ecosystems will dominate areas such as the smart home, the smart city and healthcare. Organizations creating products may have to develop variants to support multiple standards or ecosystems and be prepared to update products during their life span as the standards evolve and new standards and related APIs emerge.

ChannelE2E Says: Every emerging market works its way through specifications, proposals, standards wars, consolidation and more. Avoid vendor lock in by leaning heavily on open APIs, and watch market share reports closely to see if a particular vendor seems to be setting a de facto standard.

Got feedback? I'm all ears.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.