IoT Connectivity: Challenges and Strategies
Written By: Steve Lim
5/10/2023 Read Time : 8 min

What is IoT connectivity? Why is it important?

IoT or the Internet of things refers to an interconnected system of devices, enabling new capabilities, opportunities to enterprise that embrace them. IoT connectivity is a fundamental part of IoT and one that is often overlooked in industrial applications.  


References: G. Schuh, R. Anderl, J. Gausemeier, M. ten Hompel, W. Wahlster (Eds.), Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index: Managing the Digital Transformation of Companies, Acatech Studie, Utz, Munchen (2017)

S. Jaskó, A. Skrop, T. Holczinger, T. Chován, J. Abonyi, Development of manufacturing execution systems in accordance with Industry 4.0 requirements: A review of standard- and ontology-based methodologies and tools, ScienceDirect Article, (2020)

The manufacturing shop floor is often segregated into layers (ISA 95) with fieldbuses and serial communications for real-time controls and monitoring. Ethernet and wireless connectivity are made available commonly at the higher-level software due to a lower throughput and response requirement. Today, with the emergence of new IoT connectivity options such as NB-IoT, 5G, LoRAWAN, it will be worthwhile to relook to align the data, connectivity, and latency requirement with the enterprise IoT architecture as a foundation for future digital technologies.

Operational technology (OT) networks

Operational networks are designed for the movement of operational data. Control requirement, safety and determinism are some of the key design considerations in OT network. These networks are used to connect to machines for cell to cell or M2M communication and depending on the type of manufacturing, often isolated within its manufacturing line or cell as a stand-alone system.

Field buses are commonly found for real-time applications between the field controllers and the sensors, transducers, and remote modules (IO) they connect to. You will often see a mix of various protocols interoperating through PLCs or Gateways because of the harsh environment they operate and perhaps due to the brand of hardware that is procured.

Traditionally, OT networks were not built with Internet connectivity in mind. As such, the biggest concern in any OT connectivity boils down to the security aspect, impact on existing system and often require retrofitting to provide the proper security controls and measures.

Information technology (IT) networks

Information technology networks are used to connect enterprise systems, computers, and telecommunication system. IP and Ethernet based infrastructure are common in these environments. They are often well standardized in enterprise and provide higher bandwidth for media rich data that they carry. The TCP/IP stack is one of the most common protocols in IT networks, providing standardization for protocols that are Internet friendly such as MQTT and HTTPS.

As OT begin to adopt industrial Ethernet buses with backward compatibility with Ethernet based networks, we begin to see on an infrastructure and hardware level where the convergence is happening. However, having a common infrastructure is only part of the story as the protocols at the application layer must meet as well.

Data and the importance of IoT connectivity

Having a strategy around your IoT connectivity for reliable data is important. Without considering how the data can be collected, the breadth of connectivity required, reliability of the platform, the formation of a strong digital foundation may never happen.

As an example, the topic and concept of a unified namespace has increasingly surfaced in our day-to-day conversations with our customers. In general, the namespace is a standardized system for identifying and naming an organizations’ asset such that all data is easily consumed and shared across any application within the organization. An effective implementation allows organizations to adopt a “best of breed” system on these platforms or namespaces by simply decoupling the software when it is no longer relevant, thereby becoming more agile overall.

4 common IoT connectivity challenges and solutions

Bandwidth and data throughput

Operational technology infrastructure to support IoT connectivity differs based on the industry, environment as well as the physical constraint of the locality. This often is the first IoT connectivity challenge that enterprise runs into. For example, in Power Utilities and Offshore platforms, long range communication technologies such as Radio, Satcom and dedicated leased lines are deployed to bring the data from the RTUs (Remote Terminal Unit) back to the control room.

Bandwidth becomes an important consideration. Careful considerations on the volume of data required andrate at which the data is consumed is important so as not to clog up the bandwidth hindering time sensitive alarm messages which can be a life and death situation for the operators in the field. The requirement to schedule and throttle the data sending is one that engineers look out for in situations such as this.

For a comprehensive view of factors that affect communication speed, refer to Kepware’s Technical note: Optimizing KEPServerEX v6 Projects.


The next IoT connectivity challenge once the infrastructure is in place are the heterogeneous nature of protocols in the field. In a worksite or factory, multiple protocols and proprietary technology can be found depending on the use case, preference, and machine makers they outsource to. Multiple industry bodies, protocols and devices also partly contributed to an unstandardized connectivity environment. As an example, a manufacturing floor may be using Modbus devices to monitor its power consumption through power meters, BACNET/IP to manage its climate control or even supply of gases, PLCs for its factory or process automation to move the parts across the factory.

To further complicate this, machines may be contracted and imported by various vendors. This brings about isolated silos of data that may be leveraged for IoT. Compatibility thus remains a high priority in what enterprises look out for when considering an enterprise connectivity option.


In the context of IoT connectivity scalability, we refer to the ability to scale its connectivity performance from hundreds to thousands of devices. As increased devices are added, how does the software withstand the increased demand for data, support various network architecture are some of the important considerations. Enterprise that deploys these solutions must have a way to monitor, scale and manage them as more devices are onboarded to environment.

With a myriad of emerging and competing protocols evolving to meet the need IoT applications, futureproofing can also be considered as part of the solutions’ scalability. PLCs as an example are increasingly adopting technologies such as OPC (Open Platform Communications) Unified Architecture and MQTT within their hardware. As newer technologies and standards emerge in the market, the IoT connectivity must be market-driven and scale with future hardware to work seamlessly for IoT.


Security should be the first step in evaluation of any IoT application especially in industrial applications. IoT Connectivity solutions deployed should be tested, proven, and consistently maintained and patched to provide the best security posture possible. Security disclosure process in place by the vendor, response to zero-day flaws, availability of patches and consistent maintenance of the software should be some of the top questions for enterprise who are concerned and serious about their security posture.

With the recent Microsoft hardening on remote procedure calls (RPC), Enterprise must take care when introducing any changes into their operational environment. Failure to do so can result in a breakage of connectivity and dreaded downtime. In manufacturing, enterprise face the IoT connectivity challenge of ensuring their software and firmware without impacting efficiency. While the desire to ensure compliance and security is strong, many at times, devices and operational technology are left without proper patches due to a lack of visibility of the equipment, software development cycle or simply because there are no patches available.

What is low latency in IoT?

Network latency is the delay in network communication. It is often defined as the time it takes for data to transfer across the network. As the definition goes, we need to consider the infrastructure (Physical layer for the data to transmit) as well as the performance of the software to be able to ingest and scale hand in hand.


With the promise of low latency networks such as 5G, TSN (Time sensitive network), industrial Ethernet technologies by vendors, low latency in IoT is becoming a reality. At the software layer, the IoT connectivity solution needs to be high performance to keep up and leverage these new infrastructure capabilities.


Multi-threading, industrial Ethernet support, protocol optimization capabilities will allow for maximum performance to leverage the low latency infrastructure. When both infrastructure and software are coupled together, Enterprise will be able to deliver fast, reliable, and accurate data, to use for example within a digital twin for IoT.

Kepware hardware partners

With modern IoT Architecture, Kepware has partnered with various hardware vendors to test Kepware Edge on certain hardware models. This test will give users the confidence that our two products together can solve the edge connectivity challenge. Find out more about our tested and proven hardware partners here.

IoT Connectivity Strategies


Kepware’s solution offers a software with over 150+ drivers that enables connectivity to thousands of field devices. The solution is a single software user interface that reduces cognitive load for engineers to quickly onboard legacy and modern devices. Our platform is based on a code base with over 20 years of development experience. Patches are rolled out quarterly and actively maintained. Through the iterative improvement from bug fixes as well as customer feedback, Kepware maintains a visibility of industry requirement and trends to build out solutions to meet the IoT Connectivity Challenge many organizations face today. For a complete look at our patches and fixes, visit our release notes.

Performance and scalability

Our multi-threaded architecture allows for high performance, low latency connectivity for real-time decision making. From a standard standalone SCADA deployment to an enterprise wide IoT connectivity deployment, Kepware’s trusted reliability offers organizations the ability to standardize, organize and aggregate their OT data collection in a single platform. Built within the software are troubleshooting tools including application reports to work hand in hand with our post-sales support team and partners to ensure our platform is optimized for maximum performance.

Bandwidth control

For networks with limited bandwidth, Kepware offer the Scheduler plugin that allows users to dictate the time and data point to connect and read device data without overloading the network. Our on-demand scan mode allows for higher level software to have granular control on when the devices needed to be polled. Find out more about how Rowan Companies leveraged Kepware to increase their efficiency.

Security and availability

Kepware can be deployed into common virtualization technologies to ensure availability. We are horizontally scalable with redundancy built into Kepware’s device layer to meet an ever-expanding connectivity need. The product is consistently maintained as a commercial off the shelf solution with new releases, delivering critical bug and security fixes, new features, enhancements, and new drivers to meet the requirement of an ever-changing landscape.

As security focused architecture such as the ISA 99 are making their way into their OT environment. Data diodes, firewalls, proper IP reassignment, and network segmentation are increasingly adopted in OT. Kepware offers the Shared Responsibility Guide, Secure Deployment Guide, our EGD diode and other custom solutions as a guidance for customers that is going through an architecture change.

KEPServerEX IoT Gateway

Kepware’s IoT Gateway supports common IT protocols such as MQTT and HTTPS. Organizations that standardize with Kepware can quickly add in a REST based API across the systems and leverage the same OT data used in OT Technologies to quickly build up new IoT applications.


Here are two customers who standardized, scaled, and leverage the IoT gateway to bring about actionable insights quickly and rapidly by blending the best of OT and IT in a platform.


Faurecia has a long track record of providing its customers with exemplary products, the increasing need to provide customers traceability for the parts it was producing motivated the company to further support these efforts. The large automotive OEMs expected Faurecia to be able to both track the process of operations and production and to make that information available on demand. For example, customers wanted to know which airbags were added to which cars, as well as detailed data characteristics about how each airbag was installed, including torque and angle of installation.

By implementing the IoT Gateway as the communications medium between PLCs on the plant floor and IJ Core, Faurecia is able to provide customers with the product traceability they require. With new visibility into the manufacturing data of parts provided by Faurecia are able to satisfy regulatory requirements and improve overall product quality for consumers.

Teel Plastics

For more than six decades, Teel Plastics, Inc. has specialized in custom extruded plastic tubing and profiles. With highly-skilled employees and unique extrusion manufacturing techniques, Teel has earned a reputation for excellence in their field. Trusted by some of the world’s largest companies, Teel Plastics products are used in geothermal pipes, solar film cores, coextruding products, healthcare tubing, film cores, converting cores, filtration components, industrial tubing, and more.

Leveraging Kepware’s software solutions, a Teel Plastics line operator can send a pre-saved recipe with more than 20 parameters from a web interface to the IoT Gateway, which then distributes the instructions to the machines on the line. This is a much more efficient and effective method than the previous manual process, and by providing device connectivity to multiple PLCs including Allen-Bradley and Siemens, Teel drastically reduces risk of human error. With these new processes, Teel reduced its set-up times by 30 percent.

Other Use Cases

Here are five other use cases from our day-to-day consulting work:

  1. Interfacing autonomous robots with lift Systems to allow robots to move between floors
  2. Chatbot integration with OT systems
  3. Establishing a common enterprise data bus for sharing across various department
  4. Leveraging web-based weather information for climate control
  5. Use of Smart CCTVs to provide additional safety controls for operators


IoT connectivity can be complicated. Both the infrastructure and software need to work hand in hand to deliver the low-latency connectivity for effective digitization. Kepware’s products facilitate the connection needs of OT and IT, while ensuring that the software is continuously maintained, supported and future proofed.

Our multi-threaded architecture allows for high performance throughput delivering low latency industrial communications to where they are needed. With over 20 years of iterative improvement and upcoming enterprise solutions, Kepware is well poised to ensure your IoT Connectivity needs today and tomorrow.

Consult an Industrial Connectivity Expert Contact Us
Tags: Connected Devices Industrial Connectivity Industrial Internet of Things Kepware IT/OT Convergence
About the Author Steve Lim

Steve Lim is a member of PTC’s Kepware Solutions Consultants team, a global team of industrial connectivity experts who help users create connectivity solutions for industrial data acquisition, industrial automation and enterprise digital transformation. Steve has spent several years working and in the areas of industrial networking, data acquisition, IT-OT integration and industrial cybersecurity. Steve holds a BEng (Electrical Engineering) from the National University of Singapore, Specialist Diploma in OT Cybersecurity from Singapore Polytechnic and a v6 certified Splunk Architect.