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Roadblocks for IoT Implementation

By Contributing Author | 02/09/2018 | 6:40 AM

By, Kristi Montgomery, VP of Innovation, Kenco Logistics.

Part II of III 

The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is disrupting all industries – from retail to healthcare and even the supply chain, but for all the benefits outlined in the first blog post, “The Future of IoT in the Supply Chain: It’s Complicated,” there are many roadblocks keeping IoT implementation in the supply chain from happening today.

These roadblocks are far reaching and very real – and they hinder the ability for IoT technologies to become widely and successfully adopted within the supply chain. However, by recognizing what these limitations are today, it will give us, supply chain leaders, an opportunity to set plans in place to overcome these challenges for IoT implementation in the future.

Roadblocks of IoT Implementation:

Standardization: One of the biggest challenges of implementing IoT devices within the supply chain is having a unified way for this technology to be integrated. Currently, there are no technology standards defined for how IoT devices will communicate – this includes network protocols, communication protocols, and data-aggregation. Without defined standards, we’re unable to figure out how data will be collected, processed, handled, stored, and summarized, leaving the industry wondering how these devices will handle unstructured data. And, once that data is collected, the next question will be: how will it deliver the data to tools that can analyze and store it? While nothing has emerged yet, it should be noted that there are several companies actively working on a regulatory standard. As we look at new IoT devices to implement, we should also consider how the standards and protocols may change in the future.

Security: Security continues to be a main concern for integrating and implementing emerging technologies. The fear around the ability to hack an IoT device is real, particularly because there is such a rush to bring emerging technology to the market that vendors often favor functionality over security. In addition to preventing access to the device itself, there are concerns about the security around the data being transmitted from the device. Questions we need to consider ensuring data is secure includes: Is it encrypted – if so, is the encryption strong enough? And, are industry standard best practices already built into the device around access control, authentication, and confidentiality? Of course, these aren’t the only questions to ask, but can set the basis for how we think about security and what steps we’re taking to protect our IoT devices as well as the data we obtain.

Privacy: Often, the promise of IoT is the ability for a single device to communicate with other internet-enabled devices, combining data and transmitting information to various parties. However, the collection of this information can also reveal data that may be sensitive to employees – like a truck driver’s location. While an employer may see it as a way to know exactly when deliveries will be made, but an employee may see it as an invasion of his privacy. In fact, beyond the data combination and transmission issue, there are legal requirements around such issues such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that require careful consideration before implementation. Some of these devices can be so small that an individual may not know that they are being tracked or assessed – a violation of privacy. And consider if the device is manufactured internationally – how can you be sure your company’s data is not being transmitted to the cloud and retrieved in an unfriendly country? The moral concerns around who is collecting data and for what purpose must be resolved before the widespread adoption of the technology.

Connectivity/Interoperability: With the overwhelming amount of data to be generated and transmitted through IoT devices as they gain popularity, the current communication infrastructure is another concern. Many devices are managed today through a centralized server-based network. But, when the number of IoT devices online reach the hundreds of billions, this will become a bottleneck and could cause entire systems to shut down for extended periods of time. Interoperability is another common roadblock the industry is facing. Device manufacturers are creating proprietary devices to limit the ability to connect these devices to brands other than their own; And with that, the data is inaccessible except through the closed system developed by the manufacturer. This creates an issue for companies to invest in IoT devices as they’re forced to work with one vendor, with no option to switch vendors or to seek enhancements to the existing functionality. Without the standards in place, devices can be designed poorly, even behave badly when exposed to the open network in an organization.

Compatibility: Many of today’s IoT devices communicate through a Web API, a much newer technology that is not available or compatible with legacy systems running on mainframes or industry-specific environments. Without the protocols for machine-to-machine communications in place, organizations are forced to spend on additional hardware or software to create channels between different IoT devices that have been manufactured by different vendors. The inability to directly communicate ultimately complicates the network’s capacity, speed and will increase downtime issues. Ensuring widespread capability of all IoT devices with the organization’s older technologies and systems will require an intermediary system that can help translate transmissions from devices to legacy systems.

Longevity: IoT, smart devices, and the like are today’s buzzword, but how long will these technologies actually stand the test of time? Given there are no standards in place for implementing emerging technologies, how much of the IoT infrastructure created will be rendered obsolete? Moreover, many device manufacturers are creating their own proprietary devices that only connect within its brand, but what if the manufacturer no longer exists? How will that affect your business? These questions are important to think through as your organization makes decisions about implementing devices as well as changing devices. There must be a secure way to decommission the devices and ensure that your data is not exposed nor are your networks compromised by devices that become obsolete. 

Data Usage: In larger enterprises, the amount of data collected and stored is already staggering, but IoT may increase that problem by a thousand-fold. With the nature of always-on devices collecting data in real-time and transmitting that data to another system, the issue of storing that data and the capacity required will quickly get out of hand. The investment in storage, whether internal or on the cloud can be prohibitive – the more devices that are online, the amount of data grows exponentially. Most organizations are not prepared for the glut of data that will result and are not considering the impact on existing infrastructure, system operations, and speed to operate – but they need to begin thinking about this for their IoT adoption to be successful.

Risk – Outages/Equipment Failures: Organizations today are mainly concerned with implementing and deploying IoT devices, but many have not considered the impact the need for internet connectivity will bring once devices are deployed. Unlike internal systems that can operate in a silo of your organization, these devices will require persistent internet connection to deliver on the promise of the real-time data analytics that drive decision making. But, what happens when the internet connection to your organization goes down?  Would your organization be able to function without those devices? If you are relying on them for mission critical business delivery, then the answer is likely no, requiring significant investment in backup systems and connections to ensure limitation of failure.


With any new, innovative technology or device, organizations will always be interested in ways to implement and leverage the time savings or improved communication opportunities those devices may bring. However, there are many concerns to address and roadblocks to overcome to ensure these emerging technologies are more than just a trend. Instead, it’s identifying standards or industry-wide best practices that everyone follows so it goes beyond a trend and into the mainstream business routine.



Kristi Montgomery, Vice President of Innovation, Kenco Logistics

Promoting transformational change in supply chain through delivery of innovation for customer-centric solutions

Like you, Kristi knows that innovation cannot just be a buzzword.  She is a dynamic explorer of strategic innovation that drives revolutionary change.  With 27 years of logistics and supply chain experience, she leads a dedicated team of specialists in Kenco Innovation Labs who identify, research, and prototype creative ideas with the potential to impact the supply chain. Collaborating with customers, entrepreneurs, and vendors from multiple industries enables Kenco to think “inside” the supply chain box and create unique, customer-driven solutions.  As the senior innovation officer, recognizing that no single approach works for every customer, Kristi leads research and development utilizing design thinking and open innovation to deliver business value for the 200+ customers that Kenco serves in North America.  Kristi is passionate about the relentless pursuit of innovation as an enabler of business growth and driver of strategic advantage. Executing on the innovation promise compels her to be a transformational agent of change.

Kristi received her BS in Organizational Management from Covenant College She is a certified Specialist in Design Thinking and Innovation as awarded by the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.  She also received her Certified Information Executive designation from the Institute of CIO Excellence at the University of South Carolina.

Kristi serves on the Board of Directors for ChaTech, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of technology and STEM education, is the Co-Chairman of the International Warehouse and Logistics Association Education Committee, and serves the industry speaking, participating as a panelist, and publishing articles promoting supply chain innovation.



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Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.


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