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DATA INSIDER

What Is IoT Monitoring?

IoT monitoring is the process of discovering, monitoring and managing the connected devices that make up the Internet of Things. It lets organizations oversee their IoT applications and assets through data collection and analysis, providing insights into device functionality. Monitoring these connected devices keeps teams informed about any performance gaps impacting the business and enables effective troubleshooting.

In addition to wearables or smart home products, the IoT category also includes “things” such as supply-chain monitoring systems, inventory management applications and data security systems that are used by retail, IoT medical and healthcare devices and manufacturing organizations. Businesses in every industry are steadily integrating IoT devices like these into their IT strategies, and the global number of IoT-connected devices is expected to grow to 43 billion by 2023.

IoT devices aka (smart devices) require monitoring software to ensure they adhere to performance metrics, don’t exceed their performance thresholds or become compromised by cybercriminals. Businesses typically have various fleets of IoT devices spread across multiple locations thousands of miles apart. To understand the health of their IoT infrastructure and be able to troubleshoot individual devices, organizations must gather and analyze huge volumes of data. But this data is often generated by a variety of hardware and software platforms, making it difficult to analyze and act on.

IoT monitoring systems use automation to collect, normalize and process these vast amounts of data in intuitive graphs and visualizations so organizations can more effectively troubleshoot and identify the root cause of problems with their IoT devices — as well as optimize their performance and remediate issues to ensure they provide maximum value to the business and its customers.

In this guide, we’ll look at why IoT monitoring is important, outline the benefits and challenges of the process and compare some of the more popular IoT monitoring tools.

What Is IoT Monitoring? | Contents

The Basics of IoT Monitoring

Why is IoT monitoring important?

IoT monitoring is important because every IoT device added to an organization’s IT environment consumes resources, generates data and interacts with its other devices and services. Many of these devices may interfere with each other, or may outgrow their planned capacity.

Through IoT monitoring, businesses understand the state of their IoT infrastructure and have the tools to manage and troubleshoot IoT devices. Continuous monitoring of IoT device health and functionality, along with the collection and analysis of relevant performance data, gives organizations the insights they need to keep the entire IoT ecosystem secure and performing optimally.

What are some of the security risks around IoT devices?

According to OWASP, the top 10 IoT security vulnerabilities include:

  1. Weak, guessable or hardcoded passwords: Poor passwords and insufficient password management are the biggest security risks for IoT technology. Many users either don’t change the device’s default password or create weak passwords. Developers often hardcode passwords to simplify device setup at scale, but this also creates a significant IoT vulnerability because a hacker can gain access to multiple devices if they obtain just one password. In the near future, however, this will likely be less of a problem thanks to a recent California law banning easily guessable, default passwords — a move that enterprises are also adopting.

  2. Insecure network services: Open ports, unnecessary services and other insecure connectivity features increase an IoT device’s attack surface, leaving it vulnerable to data leaks or unauthorized remote control.

  3. Insecure ecosystem interfaces: Security flaws in the web, mobile, back-end API or the cloud interfaces an IoT device interacts with can compromise the device. If hacked, these interfaces offer cybercriminals access to information about a device’s software, functions and data. Common security issues include a lack of authentication/authorization, lacking or weak encryption, and a lack of input and output filtering.

  4. Lack of secure update mechanism: Updates are essential for closing security gaps on IoT devices. However, the updates themselves can be compromised at their source or in transit. To prevent this, updates should be digitally signed, verified and delivered over secure channels. Mechanisms to prevent hackers from rolling back updates should also be included and users should be notified of critical security updates.

  5. Use of insecure or outdated components: Legacy software components that can’t be updated pose another IoT security threat. These often contain security flaws that hackers can target to gain access to the host device and sometimes any device connected to it.

  6. Insufficient privacy protection: Users’ personal information stored on an IoT device or in the IoT ecosystem can be a security vulnerability if it isn’t stored securely or is collected without the user’s authorization.

  7. Insecure data transfer and storage: A lack of data encryption or authentication mechanisms can expose data at rest, in transit or during processing and leave it vulnerable to theft.

  8. Lack of device management: Once IoT devices are deployed in production, they must be tracked to ensure security support including asset management, update management, secure decommissioning, systems monitoring and response capabilities. A lack of device management makes it impossible to effectively monitor the IoT ecosystem and manage defenses against threat actors.

  9. Insecure default settings: IoT devices often ship with insecure default settings, such as hardcoded passwords or services running with root permissions, which can introduce security vulnerabilities — particularly if users aren’t given the ability to modify these configurations.

  10.  Lack of physical hardening: A lack of physical hardening measures — storing sensitive information on a removable memory card, for example — makes it easier for attackers to get a hold of user data or to gain control of the device.

iot-security-risks

Some of the top IoT security vulnerabilities include insecure default settings, insecure network services and lack of device management.

What IoT data should organizations monitor?

IoT devices primarily collect and share real-time data so organizations can solve business problems and increase efficiency. But IoT devices also continuously produce data. This data can be used to maintain an overview of the condition of an organization’s IoT devices and help drill down into problems with individual devices that can prevent downtime, security risks and disruptions. Generally, organizations should monitor data around the following:

  • Resources: As with other types of devices, it’s important to monitor IoT device resources such as RAM, CPU and disk usage (where these various components exist) to ensure every device runs efficiently and with optimal performance. Exceeding usage thresholds can cause problems with individual devices that may impact the entire infrastructure.

    An effective IoT monitoring tool will be able to deliver alerts on the state of the IoT infrastructure and individual device resources in real time. This will enable teams to proactively manage IoT devices and resolve any issues before they impact customers.

  • Applications: Just like laptops and phones, IoT device hardware won’t run optimally if the software installed on it isn’t running efficiently. It’s critical, then, to monitor the applications and processes running on IoT devices.

    An IoT monitoring tool should be able to collect real-time application performance data and send alerts when issues arise so teams can take action to prevent device failures. The tool should also be able to monitor databases and applications written in a variety of programming languages, including Python, Java and JavaScript.

  • Application data: IoT devices must be able to send data, such as sensor measurements, back to a central server or IoT gateway. They also need to be able to receive data, such as a configuration update or an instruction to execute a command. Disruptions in this bidirectional data flow can potentially lead to failures in the device or the IoT network.

    Monitoring real-time and historical application data can help organizations track device activity and discover any interruptions in the flow of data between the device and the data sources. This allows teams to debug problems early, increasing efficiency and preserving an optimal customer experience.

Benefits and Challenges

What are the benefits of IoT monitoring?

An effective IoT monitoring tool can benefit an organization in the following ways:

  • Reduced costs: IoT monitoring allows organizations to remotely monitor and manage their IoT infrastructure and proactively fix issues, eliminating costly maintenance down the road. It ensures that IoT devices always have the latest software and security updates installed, that software bugs are fixed and that vulnerabilities are patched. This both optimizes device performance and reduces the likelihood of failures. The net result is optimized pricing on manpower and expenses to sort out problems.
  • Easier scalability: IoT monitoring allows IoT infrastructure to grow along with the company as it makes deploying and managing IoT devices more manageable and provides complete visibility over an entire fleet of devices no matter where they’re located.
  • Greater efficiency: Because remote monitoring and management tools simplify IoT maintenance, teams have the time to focus on more business-critical tasks and improve workflows. Developers, for example, can devote their attention to innovating and developing new features for the company’s products.
  • Happier customers: IoT monitoring lets organizations proactively manage their IoT devices on-demand. That means performance and security issues can be resolved before they impact customers. As mentioned, IoT monitoring also helps teams focus more on core business initiatives, such as implementing new product features, which in turn leads to higher customer satisfaction.
benefits-of-iot-monitoring

IoT monitoring offers many benefits, including reduced costs, easier scalability, greater efficiency and happier customers.

What are the challenges of IoT monitoring?

Monitoring IoT devices do present several challenges, such as:

  • Scope: A typical enterprise may have a large fleet of IoT devices deployed across multiple locations thousands of miles apart. That makes it exceedingly complicated to monitor and manage these devices manually.
  • Visibility: With a large number of distributed devices, organizations often lack a complete view of their IoT ecosystem. That makes it hard to understand the state of the ecosystem as well as the status of individual devices.
  • Speed: Speed is critical when resolving performance or security issues to prevent them from impacting customers and the user experience. It’s especially challenging to accomplish this with large-scale IoT deployments.
  • Integration: Each time a new device is added to an IoT ecosystem, there’s a risk it might require reconfiguration to integrate it successfully.
  • Security: Every new IoT device or software application potentially introduces new security vulnerabilities to the IoT infrastructure that could compromise the business and its customers.

Getting Started

How do you get started with IoT monitoring?

To get started with IoT monitoring, you need an IoT monitoring solution. Many IoT device manufacturers distribute free monitoring tools, but they are generally restricted to the respective manufacturer’s products. To address anticipated blindspots, you’ll need a central solution that will give you visibility into your entire IoT landscape in one window.

When considering an IoT monitoring tool, look for these features:

  • An auto discovery feature to find all IoT devices on a network
  • Remote device monitoring for centralized management
  • Device status monitoring
  • IoT device security
  • Connection security
  • Alerting
  • A user-friendly interface

Most reputable IoT monitoring service providers will offer a free trial or a demo system so you can assess their tool with no risk.

How does AWS IoT monitoring compare to Azure IoT monitoring?

Both AWS and Azure IoT platforms enable IoT device, application and data management. Azure IoT includes eight IoT services. The most widely used by enterprises is IoT Hub, a device management product that is the core service for ingesting data from IoT devices into the cloud.

AWS IoT Core is similar to Azure IoT Hub. It’s a data ingestion service that provides secure communication for IoT devices. But while Azure IoT Hub includes device management capabilities as a standard feature, AWS IoT Core users need to add the AWS IoT Device Management service on top to remotely manage and monitor IoT devices at scale.

How does Azure IoT monitoring compare to Google IoT monitoring?

While Azure IoT includes multiple products and services, Google offers a single managed IoT service in Google Cloud IoT Core. It’s similar to Azure IoT Hub and can be combined with other Google Cloud services to build an end-to-end IoT solution. Google can also integrate data analytics and machine learning systems such as Cloud Dataflow and BigQuery for data insights.

How does IBM IoT monitoring compare to Cisco IoT monitoring?

Both IBM and Cisco offer IoT platforms specifically for IIoT. The IBM Watson IoT Platform serves as a hub for IoT devices and leverages AI and machine learning in a variety of IoT products tailored to specific industrial use cases such as logistics and transportation and energy and asset usage.

Cisco IoT Control Center is a cellular connectivity platform designed for enterprise-grade companies, servicing more than 160 million mobile devices, including 60 million connected cars. Using machine learning, it analyzes events to improve connectivity management, identify anomalies and proactively respond to issues.

The Future of IoT Monitoring

IT infrastructures have become more complex with the addition of microservice, serverless and container technologies. IoT and edge computing devices have only added to the intricacy and complexity of these environments. Agent-based monitoring techniques, which were designed for simpler IT systems, struggle to provide the necessary visibility into these distributed architectures.

The most effective way to adapt performance monitoring to these evolving environments is through observability. Observability is a mindset and practice that enables you to answer any question about your entire business through the collection and analysis of data. It allows you to understand the internal states of a system based on knowledge of its external outputs by leveraging monitoring data and insights to provide a deeper, more holistic view of modern IT systems and their health and performance.

Instead of having to predict every potential error and failure in your system to determine what to monitor, you can decide what’s important by watching how the system performs over time and asking relevant questions about it as issues arise, such as, “What is causing latency right now?” or, “Is this issue impacting all mobile users right now or just some of them?” It’s an exploratory approach to monitoring that will become essential as IT systems continue to grow in complexity.

The Bottom Line: Ensure optimal IoT device performance with IoT monitoring

IoT ecosystems are complex, with a multitude of devices generating huge volumes of data. A single software bug or device failure can cause a cascade of issues throughout the system, and by the time the issue has been identified and resolved, the damage has already been done.

IoT monitoring can prevent these catastrophic scenarios by keeping you up to date on the state of your IoT ecosystem and alerting you to performance issues before they impact your business and your customers.

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