Quantum Computing Series, Part 1: IoT Challenges

In this series, I explore strategic opportunities in quantum computing and how it can give IoT a leap like never seen before. I will expound on the possibilities, current limitations, and breakthroughs needed to reach a state practical for the industry at large. I will also present implications to business models, computing, security, communication, networking, and more.

IoT Challenges

There are pervasive obstacles and challenges in the Internet of Things that’s hampering broad-based adoption across industries.

According to the World Economic Forum, some of these obstacles include:

  • Security
  • Integration with legacy infrastructure
  • Privacy
  • Cost of investment
  • Perception of risks from the unknown

In addition, there is widespread disagreement and fragmentation regarding IoT standards and protocols among device manufacturers. This, in turn, prevents seamless interoperability between IoT devices. Further,  managing IP addressing to identify devices  and the need for higher computational power to handle the volume of data exacerbates the problems. Finally, complexity of optimization problems adds even more challenges.

I next present each of these challenges hampering the growth of Internet of Things in greater detail.


Security is the undoubtedly the number one challenge for IoT. The recent spate of DDoS attacks are not taking advantage of amplification techniques, which have been the most prevalent types of DDoS attacks in recent years. Instead, the attacks are flooding links with traffic generated from the sources, largely comprised of Internet of Things devices.

IoT manufacturers are not financially motivated to invest in highly secure IoT devices due to the costly R&D and manufacturing process involved. That means that most of the IoT devices and gadgets, whether enterprise or consumer, are highly vulnerable.

Every single device and sensor in the IoT represents a potential risk. How confident can an organization be that each device has the necessary controls to ensure confidentiality and integrity of data?

Researchers at the French technology institute, Eurecom, downloaded around 32,000 firmware images from potential IoT device manufacturers. The study revealed 38 vulnerabilities across 123 products, including poor encryption and backdoors that could allow unauthorized access. One weak link could compromise security of the entire network.

Corporate systems are bound to be bombarded with data through connected sensors in the IoT world. But how sure can an organization be that the data has not been compromised or interfered with?

Consider the case of utility companies automatically collecting readings from smart meters. These meters, used widely in Spain, for example, can be hacked to under-report energy use. They were able to send spoof messages from the meter to the utility company and use false data for that.

Consumers can buy an anti-virus software off the shelf or download it. In the IoT, however, that security capability doesn’t exist in many of the devices that will suddenly become connected. These devices and systems must have built-in security to create trust in both the hardware and data integrity.

Privacy Concerns

IoT aims to make our everyday lives easier while boosting the efficiency and productivity of businesses and individuals. The data collected will help us make smarter decisions. But, this will also have an impact on privacy expectations. If data collected by connected devices is compromised, it will undermine trust in the IoT. We are already seeing consumers place higher expectations on businesses and governments to safeguard their personal information.

With IoT, things go much beyond this. What about the security that protects the critical national infrastructure (CNI), such as oil fields and air traffic control? With everything connected, the IoT smashes the separation between the CNI and the consumer world. Cybercriminals can potentially exploit everyday household items to gain access to the connected CNI.

Businesses need to start now to identify their current and future risk levels for exposure to the IoT. They must also consider the privacy and security implications associated with the volume and type of IoT data.

Trust is the foundation of the IoT and that needs to be underpinned by security and privacy. And it’s a conversation we all must start having now to reap the benefits of the connected world.

Read more on IoT Practitioner.

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