Navigating the Cellular Labyrinth: IoT Asset Management in Private LTE/5G Networks

Dave Mor
By Dave Mor, OneLayer CEO

In today’s digitally transformed landscape, IoT (Internet of Things) asset management plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing how organizations oversee and optimize their physical resources. At its core, IoT asset management involves the integration of sensors and connectivity into everyday objects, machines and devices, enabling them to collect and transmit valuable data in real-time. This data empowers organizations to gain deep insights into the health, location, and performance of their assets.

Whether it’s monitoring industrial machinery, tracking the fleet of a logistics company or ensuring the efficient use of office equipment, IoT asset management provides the tools and analytics necessary to make informed decisions, implement Zero Trust and Purdue Model security, reduce operational costs, enhance productivity and ensure that every asset operates at its peak potential. It’s a game-changer for businesses seeking to thrive in the age of smart, connected technology.

 

Challenges in IoT asset management within private LTE/5G networks

While IoT asset management promises to usher in a new era of efficiency and control, it’s essential to acknowledge the unique challenges posed by cellular devices within the context of private LTE/5G networks. These challenges can significantly impact an organization’s ability to maximize the benefits of IoT asset management. Let’s take a look at these challenges and what is needed to surmount them.

  1. Lack of Network Visibility:

    Traditional cellular networks are often SIM card-focused rather than device-focused. This lack of device-centric visibility can make it challenging to monitor individual assets and their performance. IoT asset management solutions need to bridge this gap by providing device-level insights, allowing organizations to track and optimize each device’s connectivity and behavior.

  2. Cross-Network Visibility:

    Cellular devices often communicate with multiple servers in both the IT and OT domains. However, once data leaves the cellular network, it becomes masked, making it difficult to efficiently manage IT assets. Overcoming this challenge involves implementing robust data management and analytics tools that can integrate and provide insights across multiple network domains.

  3. Non-cellular Devices Leveraging the Cellular Network:

    Some IoT devices are non-cellular but rely on cellular devices for connectivity (via Ethernet/USB dongle/serial/ WiFi/hot spots). This phenomenon is common today due to the lack of pure cellular devices on the market. This adds complexity to managing asset inventory and network connectivity since the network is only aware of the cellular device – not the non-cellular devices connected to it. Visibility of the individual devices behind the cellular device is essential for appropriate inventory management.

  4. Device Network Changes:

    Cellular devices may dynamically switch between cellular, Wi-Fi, or public roaming networks based on signal strength. This constant network hopping can make it challenging to determine when a device is disconnected or experiencing a failure. Effective IoT asset management should provide real-time notifications and insights into these network transitions, ensuring uninterrupted operations. Managing these devices efficiently requires adaptive solutions that can seamlessly transition between different network types while maintaining visibility and control.

  5. Device Mobility:

    More so than Wi-Fi, cellular networks often allow devices to maintain connectivity while on the move, offering operational advantages such as continuous data transmission and access to real-time information. However, this mobility introduces an advanced challenge: tracking and managing the inventory of these devices accurately. With devices seamlessly transitioning between cell towers and coverage areas, it becomes imperative to have a robust IoT asset management system that can not only monitor the real-time location of each device but also provide insights into their usage patterns and network handovers. This level of visibility is essential not only for ensuring uninterrupted operations but also for optimizing network resources and minimizing potential connectivity disruptions. Balancing the benefits of mobility with effective asset management is the key to harnessing the full potential of IoT in cellular domains.

  6. Root Cause Analysis:

    Identifying the root cause of issues within a cellular network can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. IoT asset management should offer advanced diagnostics and monitoring capabilities, enabling organizations to pinpoint the source of problems quickly and take corrective action.

  7. Connected Workers:

    When you have a remote workforce, it is critical to ensure that remote workers’ devices are consistently tracked across any network they connect to private cellular, failover to public cellular, Wi-Fi transitions, and more. For such cases, IoT asset management should consistently enforce and maintain security policies on the devices, regardless of which network the device is connected to. This enables a secure transition between networks without security disrupting operations. In addition, organizations need the ability to set policies based on location, ensuring the remote worker can only connect to the network while in the relevant geo-fence.

  8. Enhance Operational Efficiency:

    When organizations adopt private cellular networks, they should ideally be working to maximize the operational efficiency of these networks. To do so, they need to see the full picture of all their different devices’ connectivity, performance, and quality of service. They need a solution that will highlight areas of inefficiency and potential for optimization and even aid in comparing and evaluating the relative efficiency of different devices or vendors.

Asset management should also offer automatically applied policy rules to prioritize QoS based on use, for example, increasing the priority of service given to use of business applications or devices versus private use such as browsing specified websites or using personal social media accounts.

Enhancing Efficiency: IoT Asset Management in Private 5G Networks

Asset management has become a basic practice in IT/OT. With the rise of private cellular networks, IoT asset management plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing how organizations oversee and optimize their physical resources. It provides insights to make informed decisions and reduce operational costs. Organizations adopting private cellular networks should be familiar with the challenges that come with these networks and look for the right solutions to overcome these challenges, ultimately maximizing the benefits of their private cellular network assets.

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