IoT is rapidly becoming a transformative force, delivering a digital lifestyle to billions of people. Integrating an amazing array of smart devices with internet connectivity, the IoT market will reach $3 trillion annually by 2026. There are already more than 25 billion such devices in use and their volume is rapidly accelerating.

But as industries, governments and individual consumers acquire and implement more interconnected IoT devices, the number of malfunctions will grow in tandem. That’s inevitable. If only 1% of devices suffer a malfunction annually, that’s already 250 million failures this year! But 1% is way too low: Almost two-thirds of IoT-technology consumers already report having experienced failures. 34% require setup assistance. On average, consumers experience 1.5 digital-performance problems every day! That is an overpowering message to tech support organizations – you are going to be very, very busy!

Malfunctions galore

After intensive study, we have identified nine distinct factors that contribute to device malfunctions, all of which can be considered catastrophic by companies and individuals.

Malfunctions wear many disguises

When devices were simple, it was easy to address malfunctions. If a music speaker failed to deliver sound, the problem was usually with the speaker. Fix it or get a new one. However, in the era of integrated smart-device systems, the actual cause of a malfunction can be difficult to discern. Just like in many human medical cases, the symptom might disguise the underlying cause.

For example, your smart garage door opener is not responding to a remote “close” command from your mobile phone while you are at work. The fault could be a mechanical problem with the door mechanism. Or perhaps there is an electrical problem in the motor. Or even a general electrical issue like a blown circuit breaker in your fuse box. Maybe your mobile phone app has a bug or has been infiltrated by a cyberattack. Maybe the signal to the opener is blocked because of a RF bandwidth overload or due to a transient environment condition. The cause could be in the garage door itself—maybe last night’s ice storm is preventing the door from freeing itself from the ground. You looked at all those conditions and none seem to fix the problem? How about your internet router or your in-house hub? This is getting quite complicated.

Multiply this simple garage door opener example by the tens of other connected devices you have in your home. It’s easy to understand how confusing it can be to properly diagnose, let alone fix, a malfunction.

Service and support will determine success

In the face of so many inevitable malfunctions, the ability to quickly detect, analyze and repair problems will determine success for device manufacturers, integrators and service teams. Device manufacturers will need to provide warranties and software updates along with a helpful support center. ISPs and integrators will have to take on responsibility for the performance of a very wide and growing variety of complex devices. Company IT departments will be inundated with hundreds of new devices to support. Most of all, billions of individual consumers will turn to efficient service desks 24/7 when the inevitable problem occurs.

Explaining each of the malfunction factors

In this series of blogs, we will describe the nine malfunction factors and show how each can affect device performance in the connected home.