We are surrounded by IoT every day: whether it’s in our home, with wireless security systems, smart lighting systems, or AI-enabled smart devices.  In our cars, over-the-air updates to infotainment systems keep us from having to go to the dealer just for a software update.

According to Cisco’s Annual Internet Report, by 2023, there will be nearly 30 billion network connected devices and connections, up from 18.4 billion in 2018.  Of those, IoT devices will account for 50% (14.7B) of all networked devices by 2023, compared to 33% (6.1B) in 2018.

Different Needs for Different IoT Applications

These aren’t just consumer devices. We’re surrounded at our workplaces too, but different categories of IOT devices are deployed. Some devices have constrained resources and low network bandwidth requirements (e.g. temperature sensor), while others require high computing resources and are bandwidth hungry (e.g. 4K/8K video camera with edge intelligence).  These different categories are well described in  RFC 7228, which defines the different classes of IoT devices.

When you enter an office, a warehouse or distribution center, or a parking lot, you likely use a key card for access. Inside, air conditioning devices can be managed with intelligence based on the entrance and exit times of workers.  Security cameras and motion detectors are two examples of IOT devices powering geofencing applications. If you’re not familiar, geofencing is a virtual boundary for a physical location.  When a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a geofence, it triggers a pre-programmed action determined by an app or software. You may be familiar with this when a promotion pops up on your phone as you enter your favorite store.  In the workplace, imagine using your key card to enter your office, then the RFID triggers the lights to turn on in the room in which you’re working.

Workplace robots are examples of IoT devices that often have high bandwidth and low latency requirements. Cisco uses such robots to test how 5G and Wi-Fi 6 networks work together to deliver the required wireless connectivity, leveraging Fetch Robotics autonomous mobile robot (AMR) platform. These robots need to connect to reliable, scalable and high data rate networks. That’s why Wi-Fi and 5G are expected to play a key role in enabling many IoT use cases like these.


With improvements in speed, latency and higher density of connected devices, Wi-Fi 6 is ideal for indoor enterprise networks.
The benefits of Wi-Fi 6 for indoor IoT deployments

Why combine 5G and Wi-Fi 6 for IoT?

Network administrators are now tasked with maintaining connectivity in the “Extended Enterprise”, meaning not just in carpeted office environments, but in warehouses, distribution centers, and also outside of buildings, parking lots, temporary locations and even extreme environments (such as cold storage)–not to mention the number of  growing use cases for remote workers. This increases the requirements for more flexibility in new deployments without making compromises on traffic throughput, an important promise of combining Wi-Fi 6 and 5G for indoor and outdoor coverage.


5G is the preferred method for outdoor networks. Some use cases are fixed wireless (broadband backhaul), connected cars and drones, and smart city applications
The benefits of 5G for outdoor networks

Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G offer higher throughput for scalable and reliable IoT deployment. Attaching multiple high-definition (4K/8K) or thermal (social distancing) video cameras on a parking lot or other locations of the extended enterprise will benefit from Wi-Fi 6, while 5G backhauling of IOT gateways would help the deployment of remote and mobile assets with higher capacity needs.


Addressing the Threat of the Unknown and Unclassified

Within a short period of time, increasing numbers of undefined and unclassified devices will also demand network connectivity. This adds another high-risk dimension to IT’s already challenging threat landscape. In 2019, Cisco’s Talos Security Research Team published 87 advisories about IoT; 23% more advisories than the next largest category, desktop computing.  Using intent-based networking, IT can safely extend the corporate environment to non-industrial IoT environments, by automating and controlling the network segmentation of wireless IoT devices. By extending Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) to these environments and using AI-enabled analytics IT can identify, classify and put otherwise unclassified devices into groups and apply policy that minimizes the security risk of connecting any new devices.  You can read more about how intent-based networking can make the network faster and smarter in this blog post by Prashanth Shenoy.


Why Policy Matters

The ability to classify, apply policy, and control the rapid changes and growth of IOT devices is key in a couple of different ways.

  • If you use AI-driven classification before applying IoT too broadly, you’ll save money: AI can identify which devices need protection of costly security solutions, as opposed to devices that are more inexpensive (like sensors, monitors and other devices).
  • Automated device classification and policy-based automation allows IoT segments and microsegments to be efficiently created and managed by device and by application groups.
  • Policy-based automation allows segments and microsegments to be created dynamically, and managed based on user and application groups. This allows networks to form a zero-trust barrier to attacks and threats.

Are you struggling with implementing IoT in your corporate environment?  Read more about IoT and the extended enterprise.

Are you interested in more about the future of IoT?  Take a look at our 2020 Global Networking Trends report for more on what the future of networking looks like for your peers.

Get the 2020 Global Networking Trends report 



Patrick Grossetete

Distinguished Engineer, Technical Marketing

Industrial IOT Networking