How to address IoT’s two biggest challenges: data and security

The internet of things generates colossal amounts of data from typically unsecure devices. Left as is, either problem could lead to catastrophe

You don’t even need to Google “data growth and IoT” to see the trend for the internet of things; all research shows a steep curve up and to the right. The reason is pretty simple: We’re collectively trying to capture fine-grained, ongoing, machine-generated data from a fast-growing universe of devices because the more data, the better the analyses are possible from that data.

At the same time, it’s clear that security for IoT mostly takes a backseat to everything else. Indeed, half the IoT systems I’ve seen in the last few years have little security to no security at all, cloud-based or not.

So there are two major challenges with IoT in the cloud: The rapid growth of data, and the lack of IoT data security.

The data issue is easy to solve in that it’s just a matter of tossing money in the form of more cloud storage to accommodate the data growth. However, with some IoT systems storing as much as a gigabyte a minute, and thus running up thousands of dollars a month of storage costs in the cloud, perhaps it’s time to think more about what data is stored or to move to something more coarse grained.

In other words, maybe we’re generating and capturing more data than we need just because we can. Maybe we don’t have to capture data at the capacity of the device’s ability to generate it, but instead just capture enough data to be meaningful. In most cases, you can reduce the data storage by 50 percent with no difference in the quality of analytics you can do. For example, you don’t need to poll for engine temperature every second, when 15-second increments will do just fine.

Security is another story. You can’t toss money at the problem. Instead, what’s needed is a systemic view of security from the device to the data storage. This means identity management, encryption in flight and at rest, and, most of all, proactive security monitoring of the IoT devices and back-end storage.

I live in fear that IoT devices will be exploited by hackers given the poor or nonexistent security so many have. You need to consider security before you purchase IoT devices, and you need to be willing to pay for that security. Opt for $50 low-power Bluetooth sensors over the $10 ones if the $50 ones support good security. Although such a decision this may add thousands to the cost of an IoT project (a thousand sensors at $40 more each is real money), consider the cost of hacked IoT sensors. It’ll usually be much larger.