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For Pete’s Sake, Just Work! Achieving Always-On IoT Device Connectivity

As an avid smart device enthusiast, this Christmas I have but one request to all the product managers out there, please, just please, make them reliable. 

I know it’s a tall order. Perhaps I’m demanding too much, but really what value is there for me, for anyone, when the connected device that was slated to offer so much, only works intermittently, or not at all?

A friend of mine, also fond of her technology gadgets told me that a short while back, three of her devices just suddenly stopped working. The first, a smart lamp, blinked back on after a few days, as suddenly as it had initially blinked off. The second, her smart tv finally reconnected after some significant struggle, and the third, a home automation virtual assistant, eventually switched back on but only in a highly obtrusive version of itself, so that she was forced to banish it to the storage room.

I know that our malfunctioning IoT problems aren’t unique. We all have these problems. Sure, connected devices are complex pieces of technology that comprise layers of software and hardware and cloud(ware) that all have to work in unison with one another. But at the same time, these reliability issues are really holding back the potential for IoT. While my dumb devices can’t communicate with each other, they all do what they’re supposed to do with down-right boring reliability.

No Device is Immune

Unfortunately, it’s not just smart home devices that are susceptible to poor user experiences. Every industry that has raced to reap the value that IoT has to offer, has also had to scramble to fix up the resulting fallout.

Smart factories, for example, have transformed their control valves into smart devices that can be remotely controlled. If a smart valve that is used for a boiler operating in a chemical production process stops working, lost production would be a best-case scenario, an explosion, arguably the worst.

Imagine the risk of a faulty smart device used in healthcare. Oh yes, we’re going there.  In healthcare smart devices are used for monitoring vital signs like blood pressure and heart rates. Imagine if malware in a connected pacemaker causes it to stimulate the heart too frequently, or not at all. In either case, ‘death by malware’ is really not the way you want poor uncle Tom to go.  

Devices are deployed with bugs embedded

Without wanting to allocate blame (developers, we’re looking at you) bugs are an unavoidable part of smart technology, like mushy peas with steak, it’s the bad that comes with the good. Despite best efforts, devices are still deployed with bugs that remain in the code and with security vulnerabilities. In the development of any device model, there are 120 bugs per 1,000 lines of code, and of that, about 5% will persist and remain in the deployed product. Once again, perfection rears its unattainably beautiful head as the enemy of progress, with the impossibility of eliminating bugs and vulnerabilities entirely from your product.

So, what do you do? For better or for worse, brands rely on their users to report bugs and vulnerabilities, but this isn’t a great business model, nor is it highly scalable when reports tend to be vague and not helpful for detecting and solving the problem. A better solution is to proactively and dynamically monitor the connected products to improve their reliability and ensure they stay on.  

The buck stops at security

Perhaps the singular most important thing you can do preemptively to ensure your device stays on is to invest in a solid cybersecurity solution. A security solution for IoT devices is able to identify vulnerabilities or misconfigurations and patch them. It then continues to keep a vigilant watch over the device, to block attacks that may jeopardize its performance, that you’ve worked to make resilient. 

Research continues to show that buyers are nervous about purchasing smart devices because of security and privacy concerns, and for good reason. Your device might have a great set of features, state-of-the-art interoperability, and performance capabilities, but what good are these features, if the device is brought down because of one successful malware attack? 

Take for example, Mirai or the recent BotenaGo malware, that between them pulled literally millions of devices into a global botnet. Speak to the developers whose devices got chewed up and spat out and they’ll tell you how painful it can be, especially when for the life of you, you can’t figure out what’s gone wrong. Until it’s too late.

Lord knows it hurts when the work you’ve been putting in to make sure your device stays-on, is hopelessly undermined by just one stealthy cyber attack. That, if for no other reason, justifies why a cybersecurity solution like Firedome, needs to be part of your offering. 

Don’t wait for your ongoing patching efforts to be undermined. Your customers, like me, will be thanking you later.

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