Date published 30/08/2018. Written by Rachel @ DataKom

Is your wireless network prepared for new digital technologies?

Adopting a digital transformation strategy to your business can improve operations, customer experience and ultimately increase profitability.

Cloud computing, the internet of things and artificial intelligence are all transforming the way businesses operate.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the unity of smart devices with many requiring an internet or data connection to transmit data such as mobiles, watches, computers, smart-home devices, cars, and even toasters. It is expected that 30 billion IoT devices will be ready to connect to a wireless network by 2020.

Unfortunately, these devices can overwhelm wireless networks, causing security issues, and consuming IT resources. As you adopt new technology, the question is, “is your network ready?”

Types of new digital technologies

Many companies are already continuously investing in digital transformation resources.

This includes cloud computing, faster and more powerful internet connectivity, virtual telecoms support, VOIP and collaboration software. As well as integrated mobile communications and software support.

Areas changing the digital telecoms industry include:

  • Hyper-connectivity – the ability to communicate anytime and anywhere across multi-platforms (e.g. smartphones, VOIP, laptops). The Internet of Things (IoT) is also part of this
  • Unlimited computing power available via multiple and diverse platforms
  • Secure cybersecurity that minimises external and internal vulnerability
  • Cloud-based phone systems and call management software

Digital technology requirements

The network requirements for new technology devices are quite different from traditional wireless LANs. Traditional WiFi access points were designed for laptops and other mobile, user-operated devices and not for an extremely large number of independent IoT devices. As you prepare your wireless network to support IoT, the three critical characteristics to consider for WiFi management are simplicity, security, and scalability.

Simplicity

Wired communications have become inflexible and aren’t always suitable for many new devices.

Cloud-based WiFi management tools provide easy configuration, deployment, and management from anywhere and any authorised device.

When evaluating WiFi management solutions, consider platforms that use profiling to automatically recognise and classify devices. Creating and managing individual configurations for the wide range of IoT devices needs to be extremely simple or WiFi management will quickly overwhelm the workload of any IT department.

Security

Delivering effective security for wireless networks is critical. While you need to make it easy for new devices to connect, you also need to ensure only authorised devices are permitted to connect. Depending on the sensitivity of the data, traffic may need to be encrypted. In certain cases, traffic from devices may also need to be directed onto a separate network. When selecting WiFi management solutions, consider WiFi access points that have the ability to automatically recognise programmed devices and divert traffic away from the regular enterprise data network.

The best device security enforces policies at the source. Most device sensors typically communicate with a single application service such as lighting sensors which connect directly with a lighting control server. It is important to implement end-to-end traffic segmentation to lock down the communication between an IoT device class and its application service.

Scalability

Wireless networks for new technology usually require much greater scalability than user-access WiFi to support multiple 100s of IoT devices per access point.

WiFi is a shared network and the greater the number of devices connecting to an access point, the worse the performance gets. To support the performance needs of IoT, consider WiFi access points with more than two channels for supporting wireless clients.

Software-defined networks can instantly boost the capacity of the WiFi networks and provide you with the flexibility of configuring your WiFi access points to the specific needs of your network. If you need more capacity within a specific WiFi band (2.4GHz or 5GHz), all it takes is a simple click of a button in the WiFi management system to boost capacity without having to add additional hardware.

Keys to successful IoT deployment

30 billion connected IoT devices are expected by 2020, placing tremendous pressure on WiFi networks.

After identifying the appropriate use case, outcomes, and desired business impact, your team can translate that into the necessary technical requirements. Among other things, it is important to evaluate your current wireless LANs. Do you have enough high-density, multi-channel access points to handle the proposed number of devices? Can your architecture, whether centralised or distributed, grow with and support the expected business needs over the next 5 to 8 years?

Automated WiFi management and wireless access solutions can easily adapt to the dynamic demands of wireless IoT communications.

These systems provide the necessary business performance, security, and flexibility, while significantly reducing IT workloads. IoT devices have distinct behaviour and support characteristics, yet they are all connecting over the same wireless network as laptops and phones. Each device type requires its own profile, access controls, network segmentation details, and security constraints.

IoT devices are far more than just another application crossing the wireless LAN, and they require careful planning and support for a successful deployment.