Protecting the Network Edge in an Internet of Things Environment

December 3, 2015 Stephen Mooney

In my last post I wrote about the need to supply backup power to various elements that make up an Internet of Things (IoT) environment, and how the IoT should prompt a fresh look at your backup strategy. In this post, I’ll dive deeper into one aspect to consider: protecting the network edge.

Lots of elements of various kinds make up an IoT environment, including all manner of sensors, instruments, cameras and such, all collecting data and feeding it to some sort of computer that makes sense of it. But along the way are various collection points where data gets aggregated and maybe massaged a bit before it’s sent along to a central server. For our purposes, it’s these collection points that define the network edge.

The exact configuration of network edge components will vary considerably depending on the environment in question. Take a look again at the image I used in my last post (below) and you’ll see how the scenario varies with different vertical industries.


Let’s examine a couple of them to illustrate the point, starting with buildings. Many commercial buildings today have building management systems (BMSs) that control elements including the HVAC system, lighting, power, fire alarms and security systems. This is a classic IoT environment because it relies on a small army of sensors and instruments to make it all work.

They include sensors in various rooms to turn lights on and off and adjust the temperature depending on whether the room is occupied. The fire systems include more sensors that detect heat or smoke and monitor CO2 levels. Security systems include cameras that constantly take video of key areas. You get the idea.

In this example, the network edge may include wiring closets on each building floor that house network switches and perhaps servers that collect data from all of these sensors and other devices, and feed them up the chain to a central location. In a campus environment comprising a number of buildings, the edge may also include a small server room in each building where data is collected and sent to a central aggregation point serving the entire campus.

Retail establishments, whether a restaurant chain or store, will have a network edge component in each location, collecting data from point-of-sale devices to feed to inventory systems, for example. For energy companies such as an electric utility, the edge may be the various substations from where electricity is distributed to end points on the grid. A city will need various network edge locations for subsystems that control everything from street lights to public safety networks for police and fire departments.

In each case, all the networking equipment and servers in these edge locations need to be protected with a UPS. The UPS should be sized such that, in the event of a power outage, crucial systems stay up and running long enough to protect whatever data they’ve collected (meaning gracefully shut down or pass it up the chain). Other systems, such as lighting in a commercial building, may need to stay up to ensure some minimum number of emergency lights are available.

It takes a comprehensive review of the specific environment to not only identify all these edge locations, but come up with a plan to protect them. In many instances, you’ll find that a single strategically located UPS can protect a number of edge locations. Others will need their own.

But the IoT is too important to leave such power protection decisions to chance or to just hope for the best. If you’re not sure how to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment on your own, we’ve got experts who can help – click here get in touch.

The post Protecting the Network Edge in an Internet of Things Environment appeared first on Schneider Electric Blog.


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