IoT Gateways Power Connected-Device Networks, Study Finds
A new Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) research report reveals 72 percent of network professionals involved in Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives use IoT gateways to connect machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to wide-area networks (WANs), Network Computing reports. EMA also found that network pros deploying these devices are 2.5 times more likely to achieve success when evaluating their network initiatives — suggesting that this emerging technology will become key to future connected device networks.
According to Network Computing, these gateways are largely conceived as connectors to WANs or LTE base stations. They’re also translators, enabling communications between ZigBee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and other device protocols. Their top network use is to enable edge computing, with 57 percent of network pros surveyed using them to process data and analyze it at the edge.
Better IoT Communications
Connected devices not only operate as sensors but also as operational controllers. They can sense anything from temperature to air quality to human presence. They can also turn systems on and off and make other incremental adjustments according to what they sense.
While working, they generate copious amounts of data, not all of which is useful. Also, not every device has the same security model or sufficient energy to connect to the internet directly. The gateway is the Grand Central Station of IoT networks; it filters and processes data, enables intercommunication, ensures connectivity, provides device management and adds a security layer. It can alleviate wider network congestion with edge data processing and maintain functionality for data-driven processes, even during a WAN outage.
As TechTarget points out, sending every bit of routine M2M data to a centralized cloud processing center would quickly overwhelm the headquarters system by consuming unnecessary resources and bandwidth — particularly when data comes from networks that cover millions of square feet of facilities space in multiple geographic locations. Gateways can process data and then send only important alerts to headquarters. They can also take simple actions based on edge data analysis, such as powering down an overheated piece of equipment, without requiring a WAN connection.
Gateways add a layer of security within a network by ensuring connected devices don’t communicate directly with the cloud, an insurance policy that could prevent connected devices from becoming bots in distributed-denial-of-service attacks. In late 2016, the Mirai exploit scanned the public internet for IoT devices with weak security protocols and used them to launch an attack against Dyn, a domain name system provider for many major businesses. The attack rendered major sites, from top businesses to social networks, temporarily unavailable.
Gateways also add security by making communications unreadable to attackers. Half of EMA survey respondents said they used gateways to encrypt or decrypt device data. Because connected devices have limited memory and computing power, they often can’t handle complex cryptographic algorithms on their own. At the same time, it’s important to secure the gateways themselves by protecting them against unauthorized servers that issue malicious commands and cybercriminals who might attempt to intercept sensitive data. Failing to do so can turn the gateway into an unwitting attack vector.