What exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT) and how might it impact network engineering?

5 mins

What exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT) and how might it impact network engineering?Des...

What exactly is the Internet of Things (IoT) and how might it impact network engineering?

Despite the buzz that seems to follow the Internet of Things (IoT), many are unaware of what it is, how it works, and why it is set to revolutionise the way we live and work.

As with other emerging technologies, whilst it offers a realm of new possibilities when it comes to growth and improving efficiency, it also requires an accompanying infrastructure that will help to reach its full potential but also keep it secure.

As the concept grows, it will require a varied workforce of data analysts, cloud engineers, security and privacy experts, and software designers, as well as mechanical and electrical engineers. In short, the IoT is likely to be responsible for an explosion in demand for these careers for years to come.

So, what is it exactly?

The IoT is a giant network of connected ‘things’ which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them. This is done via in-built sensors in devices and objects which are connected to an IoT platform. Integrated data from the different devices is analysed and the platform shares the most valuable information with applications built to address specific needs.

These powerful IoT platforms can identify exactly which information is useful and what can safely be ignored, to identify patterns, make recommendations, and detect possible problems before they occur.

The information that sensors are collecting will depend on the individual device and its task. For example, in the consumer world, a bank could detect a customer’s presence in a branch, tailoring their experience or interaction with staff according to banking habits.

The term ‘the IoT’ is used across a whole spectrum of applications, from domestic smart home appliances to large-scale platforms. And it is this ability to interact with a whole range of devices which gives it the capability to fundamentally change society and business processes across multiple sectors. With predictions showing that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025, it’s no wonder that is often considered a disruptive innovation.

Unsurprisingly, along with its impressive potential, the IoT has brought with it substantial concerns around privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability, safety and security for the systems that are created, whether these are small, connected sensors or industry-wide platforms deployed in physical infrastructure. These issues will have different consequences depending on the sector and/or application and will require adaptive responses.


No matter what the IoT is capable of, it will require extensive infrastructure in order to function. The extensive nature of the IoT and the billions of devices being added to the Internet space will present the greatest challenges; huge scalability in the network space will be necessary to handle the surge of devices.

As a result, the role of network engineers is likely to fall into the comprehensive preparations and planning needed to scale but also to ensure that the IoT connectivity needs are fully satisfied in all network types.


The IoT is new and growing fast which is generally a recipe for a regulation lag, whereby the technology is evolving more quickly than guidelines can. As a result, network vulnerabilities are no doubt already an issue. The massive volumes of data generated by the IoT will require robust data management, to ensure that the source of data, its quality and integrity are understood, and that privacy is preserved.

It is the fact that IoT devices are closely connected that will make it all the more appealing to cybercriminals and make regular updates crucial. To ensure end-to-end security across different domains and applications, formal standards that address security considerations in the design of IoT architectures are needed.

The current standards landscape for IoT security is fragmented with clashing guidelines, with specifications and certification schemes for IoT security being proposed by numerous industry associations and standards organisations. A standardised approach is vital, and cybersecurity expertise will be in greater demand than ever.

Industry and governmental moves to address these concerns have begun, including the development of international and local standards, guidelines, and regulatory frameworks. And when regulations update, it goes without saying that systems will need changing to fit them, a task which will no doubt fall to network engineers.

It is developments like this that make careers in network engineering and cybersecurity exciting and rewarding. For innovation in the network space to continue pushing boundaries, sourcing the best talent will be essential.

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