Beyond Shiny and New: Why Legacy Devices Are Key to a Successful IoT Strategy

The future of networking hinges on the ability to seamlessly interact with cutting-edge and legacy solutions without compromising security or performance.

Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which allows computers to talk to each other and data sharing among “things,” can benefit your clients in numerous ways. IoT systems can connect, for example, mobile and wearable devices, sensors attached to retail shelves or throughout smart buildings, manufacturing equipment, and other operational technology (OT).

Linking the digital and physical worlds gives your clients the advantages of:

1New insights

IoT devices’ data can reveal patterns and anomalies that operators may have overlooked. Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), companies can analyze IoT data to gain new insights into vital areas of operations, such as machine or systems performance, customer behaviors, and supply chain activity.

2Informed decision-making

With IoT, data is available immediately. This gives decision-makers the advantage of using real-time information when, for example, purchasing stock, assigning employees to various tasks, or accounting for personnel or assets during an emergency.

3Less downtime

IoT devices in industrial plants can collect data that helps to predict when machine maintenance or repair is required. Using data for predictive maintenance, operations can minimize downtime, optimize machine performance, and extend their lifespans.

4Enhanced customer experiences

Retail customers can also benefit from connected systems. A shelf sensor can trigger interactive digital signage to display marketing messaging or a QR code the customer can scan for a discount to influence a purchase. IoT systems can also alert employees when a shelf or rack is nearly empty so they can restock or reorder and ensure that customers always find the items they want.

5Automation

Because IoT networks share data among systems and other devices, they can facilitate automation. If a sensor detects smoke or extremely high temperatures, it can trigger alarms, door locks, and a call to the fire department. In a warehouse, a system can stop a vehicle if it detects an employee’s wearable device in its path. An IoT system can also keep an assembly line moving, triggering parts replenishment, bin movement during WIP, and logging completed products before storage in the warehouse.

6Sustainability

Efficiency and energy savings from IoT allow businesses to operate more sustainably, making the best use of resources and reducing emissions.

Connecting Legacy Devices in the Era of “Smart” Things

Businesses must deploy machines, devices, and other things capable of communicating with the network to benefit from IoT. However, legacy devices were not designed for the IoT. Fortunately, companies have options that allow these devices to communicate with the network. USB device servers, for example, can connect with legacy equipment, capture operational data, and share it with the IoT system. The benefits of this approach include leveraging solutions with open standards rather than limiting connections to devices with certain operating systems and connecting machines and devices quickly. USB device servers are basically plug-and-play in contrast to moving forward with an integration with the machine’s proprietary operating system. This approach also allows businesses to monitor and manage devices from a centralized system.

Whether a business connects a new “smart” device or a legacy device via a USB device server, it’s necessary to ensure security. Research for SonicWall’s 2024 Cyber Threat Report found that IoT attacks have increased by 15% over the past year as cyberattack actors found vulnerabilities. Any device connected to the IoT network must be designed with a security-first approach, and its firmware must always be up to date.

Businesses also need a network capable of reliably supporting more devices and transferring data. According to Ericsson, the number of IoT connections is expected to increase from 1 billion in 2018 to 5.5 billion in 2028. As 5G coverage expands, companies will have more options for faster data speeds, lower latency, and reliability.

Another approach is using data close to the source rather than sending all data to the cloud. Edge computing can limit data traffic on the network and lower latency. This can help control cloud costs and enable immediate action for mission-critical tasks.

Prepare for the Future of Networking

IoT technology offers a range of advantages. However, businesses will only maximize those benefits if they connect essential machines and devices to the network. The future of networking hinges on the ability to seamlessly interact with cutting-edge and legacy solutions without compromising security or performance. Finding the balance will lead to greater efficiency, insights, and competitiveness in an increasingly digital world.