Scalability – what does it mean in IoT?

Scalability in IoT

Scalability in IoT shortly

The IoT landscape is rapidly expanding, demanding robust scalability solutions. The pressing need for accommodating growing device networks is underscored, and key strategies for addressing scalability challenges are highlighted.

  1. Security: IoT security is multi-faceted, encompassing physical protection, control issues, and privacy concerns. Robust security protocols, regular audits, and compliance with regulations like GDPR are essential.
  2. Device Management: Efficiently managing a multitude of devices involves activation, monitoring, maintenance, updates, and decommissioning. Robust device management systems with features like over-the-air updates are crucial.
  3. Connectivity: Reliable connectivity is paramount for IoT success. Addressing cellular coverage, satellite connections, and ensuring global support are critical considerations.
  4. Elasticity: Fluctuations in data load require elasticity—both expanding and reducing capacity as needed. Systems must be designed to handle varying demands efficiently.
  5. Deployment and Global Scaling: Easy deployment, especially in global settings, is pivotal. Simplifying installation, ensuring automatic connections, and strategic planning support mass scalability.

In essence, proactive planning, robust security measures, efficient device management, reliable connectivity, and adaptable systems lay the groundwork for overcoming IoT scalability challenges. Success hinges on anticipating and addressing these aspects, enabling seamless growth and performance optimization in the dynamic IoT landscape.

Table of contents

How is scalability an issue in IoT?

Nowadays it’s impossible to discuss IoT without discussing scalability. According to Vernon Turner, senior vice president of enterprise systems at IDC. 152 000 smart devices will be connected to the internet every minute in 2025. To support this vast number of connected devices, IoT solutions need to scale massively. In other words, scalability is an important criterion when choosing an IoT solution provider. The ability to scale ensures your deployment is viable and futureproof as your business grows.  

All IoT solutions have three elements: hardware, software, and connectivity. Making sure that your infrastructure, cloud, and connectivity scale with your solution is essential in building a successful implementation. This process usually involves many stakeholders, so ensuring a smooth operation can get tricky if the different stakeholders fail to communicate or if one operation goes down. This article introduces the most common scalability issues in IoT and how they can be solved.

There are a few common challenges in scaling IoT solutions. Not only do you need to make sure you can grow your IoT solution without issues, but you also need to consider security, device management, connectivity, certifications required, and the supply of the IoT devices. Next, we will take a closer look at all these possible issues, and how to solve them.

1. Physical protection and security 

IoT devices are meant to be installed and left in the same location for years unguarded. This can become an easy opportunity for intruders to physically access the devices and reflash them with their different firmware. Poorly implemented security could also allow the addition of rogue devices to an IoT system. These devices could ‘blend in’ with the crowd and remain unnoticed for a long time. Physical protection of sensors can be challenging as devices are often scattered in several places.

Regarding IoT security, access to the network is not the only concern. Devices could be stolen or replaced with crafted malicious’ devices. Even if they do not connect to the actual IoT system, they might appear normal to the human eye and go unnoticed. For example, a rogue sensor could be disguised as a legitimate device but could include a microphone, camera, etc. for malicious use.

2. Long-running sessions 

During POCs and pilots, the devices and the system are under close supervision and have short running times. In these cases, due to POC characteristics, security issues often do not surface or do not have an impact on the evaluation of the solution. The same is not true for mass-scale solutions. When installed in a commercial deployment, the IoT sensors will always be on, online, and in continuous active service for lengthy periods. These so-called long-running sessions will increase the likelihood of attacks, putting more pressure on IoT security and its stability.

3. Control issues 

The larger the scale of the IoT solution, the bigger the challenge. Mass-scale commercial deployments have an impact on the control of the devices and infrastructure. Good management, maintenance, continuous firmware updates, and centralized administration of the IoT ecosystem are imperative for safe, secure, and prompt reactions to stop attempts to breach security. In other words, security must be built into the solution and implemented as layered, considering all attack vectors. This enables effective monitoring with event and audit logging to detect and distinguish normal vs. abnormal/malicious activity. Hence it is important to understand the ‘normal operation’ of the IoT system and have the capability to identify ‘delta’ per indications of exceptional activity that could also be malicious.

Haltian Thingsee PRESENCE IoT sensor under a desk
Security must be built into the IoT solution. Image: Haltian Thingsee PRESENCE sensor

4. Low processing power 

As devices get smaller and smaller there is less space and processing power to run anti-malware applications, resource-demanding security protocols such as SSL and TLS, and certificate management procedures. An algorithm to encrypt data is no longer viable in long-running sessions. A hacker will easily decipher it. This challenge requires more ingenuity from the community and enterprises. A robust and secure system requires adding randomness to how data is transmitted and changing how data is protected over time. Not to mention to have in place the other 3 subcategories mentioned above.

5. Privacy

Data is the raw material for modern power. There is a lot of potential in data, but it will only become valuable when combined and treated. Likewise, information from a single device may not be that beneficial but combining information from many IoT sensors and other sources can result in a leak of significant information. This can be in the form of patterns, trends, or personal information that can be used in malicious and harmful ways. Encryption might not be enough as it doesn’t offer full protection if we consider, for example, finding patterns. Then, it is needed to spoof and cloak your data traffic. Having regular audits, being certified in ISO/IEC 27001 – information security management, and being compliant with GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation is a good start.

Device management

Device management is a big part of any IoT system, and it impacts the scalability of the IoT solution massively. IoT devices need to be activated, monitored, maintained, updated, configured and, if necessary, decommissioned. When discussing IoT scalability, you need a system that can manage a huge number of devices efficiently. The IoT device management system must be capable of handling routers but also each sensor or controller locally. Firmware over the air (FOTA) is a must-have feature when you want to update one or a group of sensors remotely.

Every IoT device management system needs some human support as well. While the systems can be highly automated still manpower is needed to keep the system up and running, as well as handle possible issues.

Read our customer story on how IoT systems are scaled all around the world

Cellular coverage

Connectivity enables communication between the physical and digital worlds. It connects physical devices such as sensors, routers, and controllers to the cloud applications that interact with them. Connectivity allows applications to interact with devices and monitor, control, and manage them as well as the subscriptions. An IoT-based service is dependent on the reliability and quality of connectivity. Therefore, connectivity is an important building block of an IoT infrastructure and scalability.

There are approximately 750 operators in the world, but it’s good to understand that no one can provide completely global coverage for connectivity. At least not so that every square kilometer of the world is covered. When looking at IoT connectivity coverage by country, the best operators reach 180-200 country coverage.

If the IoT system is intended to operate in a built environment, then a connection is likely to be available. If the IoT system is to operate far from the built environment, then the cellular network range may not be sufficient. A satellite connection can be a solution when an IoT system needs to operate in the middle of nowhere or, for example, at sea.

Remote industrial location in the mountains
IoT network coverage needs extra consideration in very remote locations

The data connection must be reliable and provide a high-quality service globally to serve the devices and applications in the IoT system.

Watch video: What is the right network for your IoT solution? Haltian videos with Wirepas 

For local installations, there are usually several connectivity providers, but when looking for a more scalable and global solution, choosing the right connectivity partner becomes more crucial as managing multiple SIM vendors in a global deployment is challenging. Using multiple SIM vendors at the same time means more SIM components which means more product variants. Multiple product variants make product lifecycle management challenging.


The amount of data being transferred in an IoT solution is not constant. This fluctuation in the amount of data handled is particularly familiar in larger-scale IoT deployments and can cause problems if the IoT solution is not created to handle such peaks and troughs.

Creating an elastic IoT solution means having the capability to deal with expansion and decreasing amounts of data, according to the business’s current needs. Sometimes elasticity is used in synonym with scalability, however, scalability is more of a description of the solutions’ capability to successfully cope with an expanding workload, whereas elasticity includes the lowering of capacity.

The fluctuation in the need for capacity in the system can be either short-term or long-term, depending on how dynamic the environment is. So, creating an elastic IoT solution means creating a solution that can handle a varying amount of data load.


The deployment (or rather the easiness of the deployment) of the IoT solution has a nig impact on the scalability of the entire solution. A poorly managed and planned deployment will mean that the solution is very difficult to scale into massive IoT. 

When it comes to IoT, easy deployment means that the devices are quick and easy to install, but also that they are readily configured so that they start receiving and sending data right away. A local IoT system is naturally much easier to set up and manage. The necessary IoT devices can be installed cost-effectively and, if necessary, the devices can be manually configured to work in that system.  

Installation and configuration of devices become an issue when deploying an IoT system globally. Global scaling in a cost-effective way requires that installation is so easy that people without any special know-how can do the installation. Devices must be connected to the system automatically with zero configuration work.  

Global scale

Scaling IoT globally requires a multifaceted approach that considers several factors, including country legislation, and global support.

IoT devices must comply with country-specific regulations and legislation, such as data privacy laws, safety regulations, and environmental standards. IoT manufacturers need to understand these regulations and design their devices accordingly. Global organizations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provide guidance on compliance with country-specific regulations.

Our solutions: Haltian Inventory Tracking Solution (HITS) scales like no other

IoT devices must also be supported globally, and manufacturers must ensure their devices work across different networks and regions. This requires close collaboration with network providers and other industry stakeholders to ensure that IoT devices are interoperable and can function seamlessly in different environments.

How are scalability issues solved in IoT?

Now, we have covered the most common scalability issues in IoT, and the next step is to go through how they are solved. With a few good strategies and good preparation, IoT scalability issues can be solved and avoided altogether.

Planning is everything

Scaling IoT efficiently requires some expertise, experience, and good planning. As with most solutions, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in IoT. When it comes to scalability, good planning will help to find the correct partners and often you’ll need 2 to even 5 years of planning ahead to make sure your solution is flexible enough for your future needs as well. Planning will also reduce the risks you take when investing in an IoT solution: Scalability is something IoT solutions providers can and should prepare for. When drawing up plans for future scalability, some of the things to consider are the network capacity, solution architecture, software infrastructure, automated bootstrapping, and controlling the data pipeline.

Check out our white paper: Creating IoT solution on a massive scale – A real-world story of success

Network capacity & Network planning

As the number of IoT devices increases, network capacity and planning become crucial factors in scaling IoT. IoT devices generate massive amounts of data that need to be transmitted and processed in real-time, which requires a robust and scalable network infrastructure.

Bandwidth optimization

IoT devices must transmit data efficiently to avoid overloading the network. This can be achieved by optimizing the bandwidth used by IoT devices, for example, by compressing data, using adaptive bitrate streaming, or prioritizing traffic.

Distributed networks

Distributed networks involve distributing data processing across multiple nodes in the network. This can increase network capacity and reduce latency by allowing data to be processed closer to the source of the data. Additionally, distributed networks can be more resilient to failures, as the failure of one node does not necessarily affect the entire network.

Scalable network infrastructure

A scalable network infrastructure can support the growth of IoT devices over time. This can be achieved by using cloud computing, which allows for elastic scaling of computing resources, or by using software-defined networking (SDN), which allows for the dynamic allocation of network resources.

Network monitoring

Network monitoring is essential for identifying network bottlenecks and ensuring that the network is performing optimally. This can be achieved using network monitoring tools that can identify areas of the network that are experiencing high levels of traffic or latency.

Interoperable architecture

In IoT, interoperable architecture means that there are integration possibilities in needed points of the IoT solution. This way you can bring new players into the system in the future as well.

Large-scale IoT solutions are complex and consist of many components and technologies that need to work together seamlessly. When it comes to scaling, interoperability and flexibility are key so that the entire solution does not rely on a system or provider that might not keep up with the technology or goes under.

Designing an interoperable architecture from the very start will futureproof your solution, meaning that even if you start small, you can rely on your ability to scale your solution in the future.

IoT software infrastructure scalability

Compared to many SaaS services IoT always has the physical element that needs to be handled one way or another. Even if the devices are available, the platform data architecture scales well and the apps run on real-time data with immediate global access – there are multiple details in scaling a solution that needs to be taken care of.

Cloud or on-premise IoT solution?

One of the key decisions in creating a scalable IoT solution is to decide whether the solution resides in the cloud or must be installed on the premises. The cloud offers speed and flexibility when the solution can wirelessly connect to the backend from wherever. With on-premises installation, the added security and firewalls also create obstacles and the need for added maintenance. Whereas a cloud solution can be kept up to date with the latest fixes, features, and performance improvements – an on-premises solution needs a more manual approach to updates.

The cloud solution also scales better. Resources are always available compared to an on-premises solution where scaling up can require adding physical equipment or upgrades to sites.

Our recommendation is to use cloud solutions where possible.

Go wireless when scaling IoT

Some of our customers have thousands of sites to connect. Goes without saying that in these kinds of volumes, the ROI of an IoT solution depends heavily on the ease and flexibility of installation of the infrastructure. There is a big difference in ensuring wired connectivity and the right network configurations for all devices vs. connecting a wireless infrastructure to the cloud. It can save the customer 10x the money if the solution is easy and quick to install. 

Read more: Battery-powered vs. mains-powered IoT devices

Many of our customers have decided to go fully wireless. Low-power IoT devices can live for years with battery power connecting to the Gateway with a reliable mesh network. Plug & play cellular gateway devices provide the needed bandwidth for the data to the cloud. Installing a new site can mean simply powering up the sensors or devices and connecting the Gateway to the mains power where handily available. 

Plan for Scalability 

A key aspect of scaling a solution is good planning. After piloting the solution and getting needed approvals it is time to scale. Leading scaling plans are very detailed, ranging from accurate installation documentation and training materials to site-specific plans which are created together with the IoT solution provider. In the current component shortage, it is advised to prepare for large-scale installations well in advance. A long-term joint plan ensures the sites are supplied and installed smoothly.

Scalable IoT backend design

Scalable IoT backend solution consists of various services and databases. The site, asset, and device database keeps track of all installations and makes sure the data flows from the right device to the right data analysis and visualization service. Device management service makes sure all devices are working as desired and that they are up to date with the latest updates.

Data backends make sure the valuable data is kept safe for further use. In database design one needs to make sure there are just the right number of resources available so that the solution works reliably.

Scalable data

Once a solution begins to roll out to thousands of locations it is also essential that the data amounts are optimized. The solution should be smart and efficient to provide just the right amount of data to provide the value but be considerate of data consumption. Always think in advance what is the core value you are looking for and work with the solution provider to ensure the lifetime data cost is optimized. As an example, in an asset tracking solution, one is always interested if the assets are moved, but not so much when they are sitting still in a warehouse.

IoT Scalability with smart firmware and over-the-air-updates

One of the most important aspects of a scalable IoT solution is the ability to efficiently manage all devices in the field. Over time one might come up with an important new feature or configuration that needs to be taken into use Worldwide. In this case, the solution must be able to identify all different devices and update them en masse.

Haltian Thingsee IoT devices
Haltian Thingsee Iot devices

Scalable installation processes and tools

Installation tools are important. The efficient scaling of a solution means everyone can do the installation with limited training. Tools need to be easily distributed. A smartphone application is a good solution for small to mid-sized locations. In large locations, it is better to have specific applications and readers for the installation. Typical installation provisions the device to a specific site and to a location within the site. Also, it is quite common for the sensor device to get paired with a company asset.

Controlling the IoT data pipeline

Controlling the IoT data pipeline is crucial for ensuring the efficient and reliable transmission of data between IoT devices and the cloud. A well-designed data pipeline must have a high-throughput, low-latency connection that allows for ease of control.


Performance, security, and user experience, as well as the capability to manage, monitor, and maintain devices, are super important in any successful IoT solution.

As device functionality evolves and networks mature, businesses must enhance the scalability of their IoT applications to accommodate future growth and changing technology requirements.

A well-engineered IoT platform can help businesses create a flexible architecture for developing elastic IoT applications that can support the ever-increasing number of devices, users, and data volumes.

At Haltian, we’ve designed our Thingsee IoT solution to scale effectively right from the start. To illustrate how companies can build IoT solutions on an exceptionally large scale, we’ve created a white paper featuring a real-world story of a leading logistics and warehouse company. The white paper provides insights into how they successfully implemented our solution to meet their massive-scale IoT needs.

Haltian white paper: IoT solution in massive scale