Cybersecurity is something that can honestly be called both boring and terrifying. The technical details of threats and prevention strategies could put anyone to sleep, but reports that cybercrime will cost businesses more than $2 trillion by 2019 could keep anyone up at night.
With so much at stake and so little urgency or engagement to go around, it’s crucial for companies to devote their cybersecurity resources toward the most immediate threats. Currently, the emphasis tends to be on servers, clients and data.
But with internet of things technology continuing to spread throughout the industrial world, it’s time to shift our focus toward securing the sensors and devices that connect the “things” around us.
In most IoT networks, every sensor is assigned its own IP address. From a security standpoint, this makes them highly vulnerable. If a hacker gains access to your network through one of these devices, he could easily pull off a data breach — something that, on average, costs companies $4 million to resolve. The hacker could also disable a device or shut down the entire network, and the fallout from that could be catastrophic. Lost revenue, consumer confidence and operational strength only scratch the surface.
If you think your IoT devices are the ironclad exceptions to the rule, don’t be so sure. An alarming 85% of developers admit that IoT products are rushed to market before security issues are resolved. Even worse, 90% of developers believe the IoT market has underperformed in terms of consumer protection.
The question is not whether your IoT devices are vulnerable; the question is whether they offer any level of threat protection.
Build your defenses quickly and aggressively
It’s important to provide adequate security for each part of an IoT network, from the device to the gateway to the software. No single point of failure should exist.
Businesses must treat their IoT devices in a manner similar to how they treat any other asset, such as inventory or property. Here are four steps they can take to boost their defenses:
- Follow security standards. User engagement is essential if you’re going to secure IoT devices. And in order to get end users on board, they need to understand exactly what kind of security measures are in place. Following security standards builds transparency and familiarity into the process. And the more users understand security, the more they’ll respect threats. Implement standards like FIPS or NIST, and make sure end users are properly educated about them.
- Practice security by design. The evolving concept of security by design is an approach to engineering that assumes every device is under attack by hackers. Rather than let bad actors find vulnerabilities, products are designed to identify and eliminate them in advance. Seventy percent of IoT devices were manufactured with vulnerabilities. Practicing security by design could drastically reduce that figure for the next generation of devices.
- Encrypt all messages. An alarming number of IoT devices fails to rely on encryption to scramble messages sent across the network. Ensuring message confidentiality is considered standard practice in other corners of cybersecurity, but it hasn’t yet become commonplace in the internet of things. You may not be able to keep all hackers out of your network, but you can ensure the messages they hijack are meaningless jumbles of text.
- Make provisions for the future. Effective cybersecurity requires agility. Make sure the protections you put in place today can be updated and revised tomorrow. Even if a connectivity provider offers field firmware upgrades, those upgrades need to be authenticated to further protect against malicious access.
The internet of things is too promising a technology to pass up. But in an era when hacking has become commonplace, it’s also one that requires a robust security strategy.
Don’t invite the invaders inside. Get serious about IoT security before your business becomes yet another statistic.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.
Tired of hearing about IoT? Me too. I am also tired of AI and the constant specter of intelligent robots and computers that are smarter than us, and that for some reason want to harm us. I prefer the movie Her because I believe that is more likely to represent the future of an AI. They wouldn’t want to compete with us and rule the world. Instead, it seems more likely that they would find us to be a curiosity. And they would probably eventually just lose interest in us and leave. We (and the Earth) would not be able to evolve as fast as they could, so it seems likely that they would just go find something more interesting, like other robots.
However, that is a scenario for the future. In today’s world, we probably shouldn’t be as concerned about the smart robots as we should be about the dumb ones.
Computers already control a great many things that can hurt people, including trains, pipeline controls, automobiles, manufacturing robots, oil drilling equipment and even autopilot systems on commercial airliners. SCADA systems were the first IoT. They still run most modern drilling platforms, ship navigation and automation, and the drilling equipment that drills wells in ultra-deep water. The risk associated with computer-controlled systems has also been prevalent for a long time. In 1982, a well-placed bug hidden in the systems control bus of a series of pumps caused the Trans-Siberian pipeline to explode.
An expensive cybersecurity lesson
I wasn’t always a cuddly cybersecurity expert. Seven years ago, I was on an oil exploration and drilling rig running communications and networking for an ultra-deep water drilling project. Cybersecurity on the platform was an afterthought because it was 200 miles from the nearest land.
I had been invited for a helicopter trip out to the rig because it kept floating out of place while the team was attempting to drill a well two miles down in the ocean.
When companies drill in ultra-deep water, the “drill string,” which is the pipe that goes down to the bottom of the ocean, can be over a mile long. If the rig floats too far off-center, the subsea systems at the bottom of the drill string will literally break loose and create an explosion at the bottom of the ocean (think Deepwater Horizon.)
This is bad.
Because I had very little visibility into the network, it took me 72 sleepless hours to find the issue (since it costs $1-2 million a day to run/operate a drilling rig, the urgency was high.) It turns out that an oil rig worker had brought his mother’s old laptop on board. He had installed a wireless card into it and tried getting onto the web through the rig’s Wi-Fi connection to the satellite.
You can probably guess the rest of this story.
The computer, which hadn’t been patched in ages, had been infected with a worm that was so old that the new detection systems didn’t see it. The worm attacked the navigation computer, causing it to reboot over and over. And every time it rebooted, the rig would float out of place a bit before manual control could be taken. I managed to find the offending traffic with a sniffer and pull the laptop off the network.
The drilling company ended up installing a switch-like internal segmentation firewall that only allowed special applications, computers and users to talk to the navigation systems. Which, as it turns out, is a critical building block for developing the 20/20 network visibility necessary for establishing an intent-based network security posture.
A new security model
Intent-based network security is a whole new paradigm for protecting networks. It is the merging of the security products directly into the network rather than bolting them on. This provides deep visibility and control into the network and enables security to automatically adapt to the way the network is being used. Networks are a tool. The classic model was that the network was mostly a hammer and every communications, application or information delivery method was a nail.
The advent of software-defined networking (SDN) is the first step towards evolving the way networks are used. Application routing and controls, the use of a deep packet engine in the delivery and categorization of traffic and the programmability of systems through APIs and automation has changed networking forever. But that is just the start. SDN is only version 1.0 of intent-based networking and security.
The next iteration will maintain a historical and baseline perspective of the network, take into account or even anticipate both behavior and known or metamorphic exploits, and then adapt automatically to changes.
This will allow a network to do things like automatically identify an IoT or RIoT (robust IoT, which is a mix of commercial devices like badge readers and industrial IoT like robot controls) device on the network, classify it, impose policies, track its behavior and normative values over time, and intervene should it begin to exhibit unexpected behavior.
For example, when someone installs a digital camera on their network, the network will automatically identify the device, apply appropriate policies for that device (for example, a digital camera should only transmit and receive data, but never request it), recognize when it starts doing something “uncamera-like” and then automate a response to alleviate the wrong behavior.
The proactive network
While we can certainly insist that IoT vendors do a better job at building security into their devices, legislating that camera manufacturers change the way they create devices will only produce the barest minimum of security measures. As with most attempts to legislate security, it will simply create a low bar that determined cybercriminals would still be able to jump over.
So, instead of complaining about bad manufacturers and the security of IoT, modern network admins should let the smart devices on their networks find those things that represent risk to the network and take appropriate measures. That way, only cybercriminals need to fear the robots.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.
The internet of things is all about the software that runs smart devices and the back-end databases that receive sensory input, sort that input, analyze it and then deliver relevant data through business services to the end user. In order to develop IoT software successfully, companies need to understand the full range of the software stack.
One might argue that the user interface is the most critical component of software development. Why? Because your end user interacts with the front-end design. It’s their first impression. Perhaps their only impression. It’s valid to say that if your user is presented with an unappealing and complicated screen, there’s a chance you will lose them before the application has a chance to show what it can do. So from that perspective, interface design makes a major contribution to the user experience.
IoT software has an obligation to perform perfectly and equally well on various operating systems and across all screen sizes available to the users. In the not so distant past, designated operating systems determined how desktop software was built. IoT and cloud computing has completely changed this paradigm. Another challenge is assuring your software will work on mobile platforms. True cross-platform mobile development ensures that the native application operates consistently across Android, iOS and other mobile operating systems, while still meeting the unique experience demands of each platform. Comprehensive testing is critical.
A scalable communication interface connects systems across a room or across the globe. This is how software does its job — through the design of the application’s information flow.
New digital innovations in communications are born nearly every week. Available options far exceed the desirable ones. You need an expert on your software team who can stay abreast of this ever-changing world. With this, the ideal solution for your IoT product can be extracted through precise vetting system.
Enterprise frameworks and distributed systems are built with cutting-edge technologies. Traditionally known as full-stack development, expertise in the server portion of the software stack requires skills in both front-end and back-end technologies.
Even if it isn’t obvious, most applications are connecting to a back-end server in one form or another, and many use IoT technology. Whether you are interacting with a web-based GUI, or you’re using a mobile app that syncs its data across all of your devices, the server infrastructure is a critical component of the overall experience.
Building with the future in mind entails thinking through how the system will scale when your solution requires 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 endpoints. It requires not only robust modular coding, but also IT infrastructure and failover expertise. Above all, your quality assurance disciplines must be top-notch to ensure that your solution is ready to handle the broad spectrum of failure scenarios generated by your global user base.
As a foundational element to any connected solution, the underlying data models and storage technology must be built to last. This absolute requirement is well understood in the industry. But in today’s fast-paced agile world with emerging IoT opportunities, the key is to start small, leaving room to grow.
As with each stack component, database development is a discipline that requires a specific area of expertise. Cloud storage addresses the ever-growing need for data. Robust architecture, such as SQL server, MongoDB and PostgreSQL can supply secure and widely available data storage to all your connected client devices. Meanwhile, mature micro-infrastructures like Realm and SQLite power your mobile application to cache data for fast retrieval in the palm of the user’s hand. Whichever solution is determined for your software program, be sure that security is the vanguard of its data system.
In many cases, your database will live on for the life of your solution, even while mobile and front-end technologies are changed out. Be sure that interoperability and scalability are set goals during the architecture stage.
For successful IoT software development in a time-limited world, your team needs to slice vertically through the various parts of the stack in order bring the highest value to the connected system. It is important that the final software delivers the set goals of each stack component and that those mini-goals culminate in the broader vision of the software solution — otherwise it won’t meet your user’s needs. Make sure the IoT software development efforts stay focused on the user throughout the process, and across the software stack.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.
Who cares about UX design in the internet of things? In all likelihood, it’s your product lead. In reality, UX development for connected products and services must be a cross-functional effort spanning everyone from strategy to sales to support and beyond…
Design is no longer a job left to creatives or engineers. As the digital age transforms analog products to connected devices, product companies in every industry are racing to outfit their products with sensors, mobile apps and a host of emerging software capabilities. But to effectively design any connected product or experience is to design the coordination of a whole system — not just a product. This requires product leaders and executives rethink product programs.
Research finds that although product teams typically lead the user experience design process, effective connected product and service design now requires deep collaboration across several disciplines. Product executives, leaders and chief design officers must orchestrate product programs that reach far beyond products themselves. The need for collaboration is rooted in three realities any business pursuing IoT initiatives must consider.
As business models shift from product to ecosystem, UX in IoT must become synonymous with strategy
Building effective IoT products is about designing products as interfaces that can be built upon by the ecosystem. It is about developing hubs of appreciating value through which both users and other companies in can achieve greater services, insights, efficiencies and security over time through integrations, open development and software updates. This requires companies shift mindsets and business models away from analog, product-centric business models to data-driven service-centric business models.
Such business models require UX design be foundational to strategy development for a number of reasons. First, design is no longer purely aesthetic or fixed. Instead, user experience design should evolve as user objectives are identified and refined. Through software updates and integrations, connected products can appreciate over time, into new use cases, potential user segments or business partnerships. Second, user experiences in the digital age must span multiple devices; to remain competitive, businesses must (re-)envision the role of user interface as inextricably linked to any and all interactions a brand and user will ever have, not just “right now” interactions. Third, to design an effective IoT product is to build an ecosystem, to enable other products to use your product interface to provide greater value than they are able to deliver alone.
Learn about how Adheretech, a connected pill bottle, combines design with strategy by crafting interface and workflows based on each user type: patient, doctor and pharmacist. The common theme here is that both digital strategies and UX have a shared objective: to design an ecosystem of integrated context. This requires product leaders and executives rethink the very composition of product development and collaboration.
IoT product design requires multiple business units come together
Smart connected business opportunities cannot and will not come to fruition in silos or even single organizations. Alignment across functions becomes critical when the product itself becomes less of an endpoint and more of a vehicle through which services are offered. As such, it involves:
- Strategy: Aligns objectives, proposition, audience, functionality, partner strategy
- IT and security: Coordinates and safeguards hardware, software, systems and security across all components, data and technology landscape
- R&D: Leverages product data for product optimization, also identifies opportunities for service innovation bridges current designs with new capabilities
- Marketing: Contextualizes and communicates value proposition unique to function, persona, platform, phase in customer journey, etc.
- Support: Ensures continuity of service, repairs, communications, satisfaction, training across internal and external support structures
- Sales: Identifies pain points product/service [data] actually solves and facilitates automation of appropriate replenishment
- Partnerships: Offer external context, relationships, support for user-centric improvement
Given the role of data in connected product business models, product leaders must ensure structures are in place to leverage other functions’ inputs, integrations and actions. If a product goes down or malfunctions, such an event might require support, IT intervention, partnerships responsible for maintenance and potentially security. Collaboration across these groups is critical to:
- Deliver continuity of user experience across channels
- React with speed, personalization and safety when issues arise
- Offer “preemptive” services like upgrades, replenishment, proactive repairs
- Ensure products do and say what the user wants them to do
- Support ongoing product optimization
- Identify areas of inefficiency, risk or new opportunity
Such coordination doesn’t just benefit user experience. Insights gathered and knowledge shared across teams can be vital for identifying blind spots, risks, inefficiencies and opportunities to improve operations, supply chain, training, security, etc. Again, design informs strategy.
Design disciplines themselves must come together
It’s not just an array of different lines of business that must come together, coordination within and across various design disciplines is the only way to account for the diversity in skillsets needed. After all, different design disciplines contribute different design skillsets to product development.
- Graphic/visual/UI designers: Develop screen, look and feel of graphical user interfaces
- Interaction designers: Develop architecture and behaviors for devices and associated services
- Product and industrial designers: Develop physical form factor, capabilities, hardware, use
- Services designers: Coordinate integration of touchpoints and services across customer lifecycle
- Systems designers: Define and develop interusability across multiple devices, services, networks, etc.
The components of product design in an IoT context — hardware, firmware, software, security, systems, services, graphics, content, etc. — transcend traditional disciplines such as industrial design or human-machine interaction. Designers of graphical interfaces typically have different training and priorities than those responsible for systems interoperability and architectural ontologies. Service designers are accountable for perspectives and business requirements broader than the product itself, yet essential for products to effectively function within systems.
Our research also finds connected product design requires collaboration across multiple diverse disciplines in areas like copywriting, APIs, connectivity protocol selection, power/energy source, ergonomy and particularly when introducing anthropomorphic features.
As products themselves become increasingly differentiated not by hardware and aesthetics, but by software and ongoing invisible services, integrations and updates, products and user experience design require a fundamentally new approach.
Developers today face similar challenges with the internet of things that they did at the peak of the dot-com boom. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a variety of solutions had been introduced to facilitate machine-to-machine networking. They had names like CellNet, Hexagram and Whisper; and today they are all long gone. Although these companies delivered some minimum level of functionality, they failed in important ways. Specifically, they were entirely proprietary and too limited in capacity to support a wide range of applications. Had they survived until 2016, they would be ridiculed for their insufficient security, bandwidth capacity and a lack of open standards.
Many of today’s IoT solutions, though, aren’t much better. Take specialty network providers for example. Often referred to as LPWAs, they exhibit certain attributes suited for IoT, such as low cost, low energy consumption, extended range and scalability; however, Adarsh Krishnan, senior analyst at ABI Research, summed up the situation succinctly in a press release the firm issued: “While network operators typically favor non-cellular [LPWAN] technologies for their low deployment and maintenance costs, the lack of standards among proprietary vendors is a drawback to wider adoption of these technologies. The closed ecosystem is limiting market innovation and suppressing year-on-year growth.”
These providers are making the same exact arguments for their proprietary technologies that already lost out years ago in other sectors. With more demand for high-scale connected devices, if these networks cannot sustain data-intensive devices, developers will be discouraged to create and go to market with new solutions. They fear that if connectivity isn’t reliable, and if the industry is lacking in widely accepting open standards and properly supporting security, then their products will swiftly turn obsolete.
IoT developers can unlock economic and social value
Technological advancements are making the IoT product adoption and go-to-market cycles quicker and easier, rapidly driving the need for more developers and new solutions. By 2017, Gartner predicts that 50% of IoT solutions will originate in startups that are less than three years old. Developers can more readily leverage a secure, scalable open standards-based IoT network to develop new IoT devices and services such as smart city, smart energy, resource conservation and other applications for public and commercial use. The marriage of IoT and big data also opens up a myriad of applications, new opportunities and potential uses of these two disruptive technologies. Developers can also further innovate and improve current systems and devices for cities and local businesses when leveraging meaningful data harvested on public IoT networks.
Flexible, open standard networks are the future of IoT
If you look at history, you’ll remember that we did not create separate networks for PCs and for Macs. Well, actually we did … and those proprietary networks all ultimately failed. IoT will be no different. According to Machina Research, adopting standardized solutions for IoT costs 30% of the non-standardized total, a savings of $341 billion worldwide by 2025. Users need to invest in a public IoT network that can serve current and future demands, and standardization creates a larger community of interoperable solution providers delivering more competition, more choice and avoids vendor lock in for developers and end users.
The following are three key criteria for IoT users and developers to keep in mind:
- Open Standards and IP — A handful of technology companies have emerged in recent years advocating for widespread adoption of open standards and Internet Protocol (IP) within their respective industries. Many vendors have since followed their lead, particularly in the smart grid space with the adoption of open standards-based IP networking, expressing a shared point of view on the importance of standards. However, not all standards are suitable for IoT. Simply appropriating technologies and standards from other environments, such as the enterprise or consumer spaces, cannot address the unique requirements of IoT to connect critical infrastructure. The standards and specifications need to include support for massive scale, geographic reach across diverse topology, high reliability and long lifecycles. Remember the fate of Wi-Max and others?
- Security should not be an afterthought — Multiple layers of security and discreet division of systems and access roles is important to secure IoT infrastructure, so that even if a hacker compromises a device, they will not be able to control entire systems or access other parts of the network (take the recent Dyn DDoS attack for example). Proprietary security solutions are essentially closed systems that depend on keeping certain aspects secret, that when discovered lead to a complete collapse of the security system. Many rely on a “security by obscurity” approach by betting that a limited footprint makes them a less attractive target to hackers and malware, while others assume that 128-bit AES encryption provides plenty of protection. None offer a complete security architecture for critical applications.
- “Good enough for now” is not good enough at all — Adopting technology that is “good enough for now” can lead to a siloed environment that lacks the many benefits provided by a common user interface and platform to address all use cases. Some users may question why they need that much bandwidth or performance for their applications. In the early years of smart grid, for example, the industry had the same conversations with clients that noted they might never need speeds faster than 100 Kbps. Today, many are asking for as much as 2.4 Mbps as they scale up to connect millions of devices. Just like with the internet, bandwidth creates its own virtuous growth and innovation cycle.
IoT is showing ROI for many sectors, both private and public
The internet of things is fueling operations in many sectors by increasing productivity, reducing costs and offering companies a more competitive edge. McKinsey Research shows that IoT applications could generate up to $11.1 trillion a year in economic value with as much as $1.7 trillion per year in cities by 2025. There are also greater expectations by enterprises, consumers and citizens for connected entities to be more responsive, efficient and aware, and to do more with the assets they already have. IoT facilitates this by bringing digitalization to some previously “technology resistant” sectors.
As the number of devices with cross-connectivity needs increasingly rise, the demand for more resilient IoT networks to support them will be extremely high. By adopting a public IoT network, municipalities and businesses can benefit from reliable connectivity while gaining a platform for economic growth that will transform infrastructure and improve quality of life. This has already demonstrated the ability to dramatically reduce water and energy consumption, thereby reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Implementing a public IoT network in cities or states can create new lines of revenue for players in IoT, including developers, device makers, and connectivity and software providers alike.
With IoT delivering dramatically improved outcomes such as cost, energy, water and other resource usage reductions across a variety of industries, developers now have the opportunity to not only say they created another new product — they can say they changed the world for the better.
The U.S. healthcare industry is undergoing seismic changes brought on in large part by a growing greying population. Home-based care and connected aging with smart environments for seniors are gaining traction as pivotal solutions, with the number of skilled nursing homes in the country stagnating for more than a decade. Fortunately many seniors — 90% — prefer to age in place in their own homes.
Seniors who are aging in place still need support from a caregiver, which is most often a circle of family members or close friends — according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are about 34 million Americans providing caregiver support. Home health monitoring will evolve further to connect directly to professional evaluation to lessen the need for caregivers. But before that becomes mainstream, more families are considering a smart home to support their caregiving plan. A smart home system for those aging in place has applications beyond security monitoring and environmental comfort. The smart home can now convey wellness through insight of coordination of the sensors, schedule and sensors, schedule and other automation data.
Activity and inactivity metrics
Wearable fitness trackers have made daily physical activity easily quantifiable, yet steps are not always an adequate estimation of health for seniors. Many seniors use a mobility aid, but for chronic conditions that about 80% of seniors have, such as diabetes, arthritis or COPD, mobility tracking cannot represent health or daily wellness. Counting the number of times a senior leaves home is slightly more useful, but is also limited for drawing actionable conclusions.
For caregivers, noticing a lack of activity is often more indicative of a health emergency or other need for assistance. For example, if a loved one habitually wakes between 8 or 9:00 a.m. and by 9:30 a.m. uses the bathroom door, a coffee pot or opens a window, this timing can become meaningful for estimating their wellness from afar. If no regular activities are reported from the smart home system after the routine time, then this could be an indication for the caregivers or healthcare professionals to contact their loved one or take action. Not using the bathroom door could indicate that they have not risen from bed and could indicate the need for assistance, such as illness or an acute health event such as a stroke or diabetic episode. An alert coordinated with daily activity markers is unobtrusive to the smart home occupant and can be crucial for their safety and health.
Patterns are as important as status
When assessing wellness, physicians consider the patient’s four vital signs: respiration, temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. In some cases a fifth quasi-vital sign is added to track the patient’s level of pain. These readings are taken in real time, but show little trend about general health or wellness. Measurements from wearable devices can provide additional insight through data taken over longer periods of time.
Fitness wearables may have gained traction for tracking exercise, but health and safety wearables have the ability to monitor vital signs over time. Unfortunately, mobile personal emergency response devices have not enjoyed sustained success among seniors — more than a third of users abandon their wearable within three to six months of acquisition.
The smart home, however, does have the potential to be a monitoring tool for senior safety and caregiver support. Two immediate advantages stand out: no need for direct occupant use, and greater insight into the user’s wellness though a broader scope of activities. A simple smart light switch in the bathroom, a discreet motion detector in the kitchen or a water sensor near the shower can tell a caregiver whether there have been changes in activities for daily living and track trends over time. Declines in activity over the course of weeks or months could indicate of a growing condition, which can incite caregivers to proactively act.
Using data over time
While historical activity patterns are critical to gauging senior wellness, short-term deviations are of key interest as well. Inconsistent episodes of significant non-activity around the home or an upswing bath or bed activity may reflect nothing more than a tired day or a late snack. But when seen habitually, these changes can indicate an onset of a potential medical condition or acute health event worthy of medical attention.
In either case, the caregiver needs this information to effectively adapt the care that they’re giving to their loved one. Patterns are extremely useful for caregivers and physicians in identifying conditions that might otherwise be subtle, such as depression, which is not uncommon in the elderly. Unfortunately, many seniors may not notice patterns or signs for alarm, whether unknowingly or through denial. Taken individually, each might have little medical meaning. Observed over time, however, the number and frequency of infractions becomes a pattern. Here again, smart home monitoring can help play a proactive role in home health care.
The healthcare industry recognizes that this application of smart home data will become increasingly critical in assessing wellness and delivering care. The smart home is in the early stages of data harvesting for the caregiving application; however, the sensor technologies and control systems are already available through the smart product ecosystem, Z-Wave. Families can set up a custom smart home in their loved one’s house to provide data that can be used to provide better, more proactive care. Other smart home conveniences such as lighting, temperature control and security can also provide peace of mind to the family, and provide additional benefit.
The power of the internet of things comes from extracting and mining process, business and customer data that are locked inside devices, machines and infrastructure. The results can boost productivity, lower costs and uncover new business opportunities.
IoT data repositories in most enterprises are siloed, depriving the enterprise of valuable insights that can be gleaned by mining broader data pools of contextual IoT data, such as location, users, devices and applications. However, with proper lifecycle cycle governance, this data can be safely and securely shared and that’s when the real benefits of IoT can be reaped.
From among the many types of available contextual data, location data are particularly valuable. That’s because location-based services enable us to answer three key questions that are applicable across a broad range of applications:
- Where am I?
- Where are they?
- Where is it?
The answers enable us to find and to be found. They let us navigate sites to reach machines and destinations, and let first responders find mustering points and occupants. Location-based services also let us find capital assets and inventory.
Figure 2 shows the many types of IoT location solutions, and the most applicable one(s) will vary by application. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all location solution.
Where am I?
Sports arenas, shopping malls, airports, campuses, logistics yards, hospitals and industrial sites are often very large and difficult to navigate. If someone is delayed or lost traversing the facility, the consequences can range in severity from lost revenue or time to loss of life.
Employees, guests, contractors, public safety officers and visitors can all benefit when a self-navigation solution — commonly called “wayfinding” — delivers them to their destinations quickly and unassisted. Contextual data generated along the way — presence, frequency of travel, recency of a visit, dwell time — contain meaningful, business-relevant information. For example, these data can identify areas in need of maintenance due to wear and tear, optimize rent based on traffic levels, and adjust HVAC systems based on occupancy. The more extensively a wayfinding system is deployed, the wider and deeper the insights that can be mined.
An IoT wayfinding platform typically provides self-guided maps, geofencing to indicate when an area is entered or exited, and push messaging services. The services are enabled by three types of components:
- Wayfinding application
- Cloud service
Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to trigger an app when the device comes within range. Beacon range is typically adjustable. The Wayfinding application updates its location with help from the beacons and the cloud service, which can push messages back to the app for marketing and safety purposes. Beacons can typically be managed via the cloud service, through which battery levels can be read and beacon range adjusted.
Wayfinding enables contractors, auditors, visitors and guests to navigate sites without assistance, conserving operational and administrative resources. Upon arriving at the target destination, additional information can be recalled/displayed about machines or points of interest: user’s guides, nearby hazardous materials even local services like restaurants.
Where are they?
“Buddy systems” enable a pair or team of individuals to find one another’s location. Typically deployed to improve safety and productivity, buddy systems identify one’s location to authorized users without any manual intervention on the part of person being observed. That characteristic makes buddy systems ideal for monitoring staff in areas without direct line-of-sight visibility — hospitals, big box retailers, logistics yards, transportation facilities and manufacturing plants. The systems can also be used by first responders to identify occupied areas without searching the site, a time-saving feature in the event of a fire or siege.
Buddy systems use the same components as wayfinding systems, and are active so long as cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity is available. To preserve privacy and site security, location data are shared only for a specific site among those who have mutually opted into the system. Users are shown on a digital map together with directions to their exact locations. The systems work underground, in buildings, and in and around industrial plants — all locations in which GPS would typically be unavailable to support traditional mapping applications.
Another way to track people is via presence detection. Presence is determined by trilaterating the x/y location of a Wi-Fi-enabled device like a smartphone, tablet or Wi-Fi tag. Location can be calculated from service requests that Wi-Fi devices periodically broadcast and from periodic pings broadcast by Wi-Fi tags.
Presence can show when a room or area is occupied, how many people are walking by versus thru an area, dwell times and the recency, frequency and timing of visits.
Where is it?
Trilateration can also be applied to tracking capital assets like forklifts, pallets, chemical reactor vessels and wheelchairs. Machines that use Wi-Fi as a secure backhaul for data communications — barcode scanners, mobile point-of-sale tablets, heart rate monitors, mobile voice over IP phones — can all be tracked using trilateration.
Pallets, wheelchairs and other assets that lack built-in Wi-Fi can be fitted with Wi-Fi location tags. Widely used in healthcare, manufacturing and safety applications, tags are available in many different forms including with intrinsically safe packaging for use in explosive environments. Tags are very adaptable: they can be strapped to newborn infants, worn on a belt loop by contractors and even embedded inside other devices. Tags provide a simple and easily deployed means of locating things across a broad range of use cases.
Unlocking siloed contextual IoT data helps businesses transform data into actions that improve efficiency, productivity and customer/employee experiences. Location data in particular are rich with insights that can be fed to analytics, machine learning and business intelligence applications.
By boosting the productivity of human and capital assets, IoT location-based services can drive new business opportunities. In doing so, these services help unlock the true potential of the internet of things.
It’s somewhat misleading to say technology advancements are enabling more and more internet-connected smart devices — or “things” — to get to market. Few of these connected devices are truly smart in the sense that your mobile phone or tablet could be called smart. Those tools are indeed mini-computers containing a processor and storage, embedded software and internet connectivity.
By far the majority of IoT devices are, and will be, “dumb.” They will connect to the internet, but their intelligence is in the cloud. The device will permit a measure of interactivity, and then transmit that prompt to a data center, which will respond with the appropriate task and feature.
Consider a home automation gadget like a “smart” light bulb. The bulb records your voice command or reads the command from its companion app, sends that command to the cloud and waits for its instruction to turn on or off. Since this happens near-instantly, the route is somewhat obscured. Even Amazon’s Echo is a dumb listening device that sends signals to the cloud and then streams the music or weather report you requested, combined with Alexa’s simple machine learning or AI technology to perform new capabilities.
It is simply not cost-effective nor practical to build these things with their own intelligence, and consumers will not bear the high price. (If each of those light bulbs cost the equivalent of an iPhone, few could afford to install them in each chandelier.)
As IoT becomes ubiquitous — here’s the aha — we must recognize that devices by and large are not gaining intelligence; rather, it is cloud data centers that are being tasked with delivering more and more intelligence. The devices themselves stay fairly dumb.
The number of internet-connected devices is projected to surpass 20 billion by 2020, with some analysts saying we will reach that number this year alone. This enormous explosion in internet-connected things will need to be matched by a corresponding explosion of processing power and storage in worldwide data centers. This is simply not sustainable.
If there are currently 10 billion internet-connected devices, even doubling that to get to a conservative estimate of 20 billion will require a significantly increased data center infrastructure. The capital costs of that infrastructure, the expanding real estate footprint and not to mention twice the electricity and resources to power it is frankly alarming. Last year, the world’s data centers consumed more energy in a year than the entire United Kingdom, and this consumption already doubles every four years, despite a smattering of hardware improvements that permit greater capacity and performance.
Supporting a mushrooming landscape of IoT devices will require radical improvements in data center efficiency. Piecemeal advances won’t do, particularly considering power consumption and costs of infrastructure proliferation. We need 10 – 20x improvements in processing power and densities.
Those of you in Europe are encouraged to join me at GLOBSEC Future 2017 Forum, May 26 – 28 in Bratislava, Slovakia, to discuss sustainable approaches to solving the problems we face in global data centers. I look forward to bringing home more information on IoT trends and innovations impacting not only the business environment, but the way economies and societies work.
In my opinion, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Internet of Things (IoT) Business Index 2017 is the most credible research produced so far charting global industry progress in IoT. It follows the EIU’s inaugural IoT Index that ARM sponsored in 2013, and the latest findings show a steady maturing of IoT over the last three years, with companies moving from research and planning into early deployments. It also tells us that more than half of company executives now see IoT as a key enabler of their company’s long term success.
While we know that we are relatively early on the IoT journey, the report suggests one in five companies are now moving out of planning and into rolling out IoT services and products. One in 12 are so advanced it already regards IoT as integral to its operations.
The IoT report
This 2017 EIU IoT report was co-sponsored by ARM and IBM as we wanted independent confirmation of the state of the market. The researchers surveyed 825 global company leaders from a range of sectors from banking to health and energy to infrastructure. More than half of the respondents were C-suite executives with a significant proportion working for firms with annual turnovers of more than $500 million.
The findings tell us there is continuing strong investment in a smarter future, with more than half of the companies surveyed (55%) expecting to make cost savings or generate revenues from IoT products or services by 2020. This is backed up by the boardroom barometer which indicates a positive outlook: two-thirds of respondents reported that their IoT strategy was discussed at board level at least once a month.
IoT is driving business
Confidence in IoT as a business driver now extends to sectors such as construction and agriculture where smart, connected technologies are still in the research phase. And, at the most advanced end, in areas such as IT, technology and retail, the survey highlights a focus on data management and analysis as a key driver of IoT plans by more than one in three companies (38%).
While progress is good, it’s worth acknowledging there are challenges. By comparing the findings from the first EIU report carried out in 2013, the survey tells us that most respondents feel their companies would have been further down the path to significant IoT rollouts by now. The survey gives us a clue as to why that is; emphasizing concerns over security and privacy, and the perception that IoT infrastructure is expensive to deploy and manage.
Addressing the challenges of IoT
These concerns of IoT are real. Taking the issue of security, we have seen recent examples of how hackers can take advantage of unprotected device networks (Mirai Botnet attack, 2016). For that reason, the applications processor — the heart of the chip — must be architected for safety with secure and non-secure world separation that keeps valuable assets such as encryption keys and network credentials fully protected. There are also software requirements that give rise to a trusted environment. The general conclusion is that the historic, and in some cases current, attitude of “deploy and forget” is not acceptable in the IoT world. All devices must be protected by robust and flexible security and be tied into a service enabling lifetime management of updates whether they are dealing with threats or capability improvements.
Learn more about the future of IoT
The EIU’s conclusions underline what we see in the market: that IoT is highly strategic to the future of nearly all enterprises and it is progressing steadily in key areas of the business and consumer worlds. It is a ubiquitous technology trend with the potential to transform how millions of companies operate and the survey findings show us confidence is high, investment is continuing and bigger deployments are starting. The time is now to architect a world with a trillion connected devices seamlessly unified in a smart and secure way. This will be a world where anything and everything is possible.
Gartner Research predicted that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use globally this year, a 31% increase from 2016. And it expects this number will grow to 20.4 billion by 2020. Indeed, the firm expects total spending on endpoints and services to reach almost $2 trillion in 2017 alone. As organizations look to capture this quickly growing market, understanding the nuances of IoT wireless design is critically important.
I’ve helped design hundreds of wireless modules for every application imaginable — from bike computers to golf course watering sensors. And I can say with certainty that low-power IoT wireless design is more times than not the area of greatest challenge for IoT product design. The reason? The very concept of where a connected product begins and ends often gets stretched across hardware, firmware, local mesh and device operations in the cloud. Once you fold in details like unit size, cost and power, it is quickly clear that you must very carefully think through your wireless design.
To that end, there are typically four stages in the engineering timeline for IoT devices: design, implementation, certification and launch. While that in and of itself is not too dissimilar from the process for other products, if you aren’t careful, the IoT process can really bog down in the certification phase. Let me explain. When you design your own radio, the FCC considers you to be an “intentional radiator.” Although it defines it simply as any device that is deliberately designed to produce radio waves, the implications are not simple at all. In fact, as an intentional radiator, the FCC requires that you comply with CFR 15.249 and successfully pass hundreds of tests.
It is my experience, however, that many companies do not get their design right the first time. The result is that they need to make a change or two. Perhaps they need to alter their antennae, ground plane, RF firmware or board layout. Regardless of the change, any modification requires a new round of testing. This testing ensures that the change did not alter CFR 15.249 compliance. Not only do these tests and retests take months to pass, they can also be quite costly.
The answer to spending months in design and certification work is a predesigned module. Using a pre-certified module changes your classification to that of an “unintentional radiator.” This classification decreases the time and intensity of the certification phase of the IoT engineering timeline. This is because module providers invest in the certification process for you, often shaving four to six months of development timeline.
As you might expect, modules can carry a higher price per unit than a chip-down solution. Despite this, I find that teams that go this route often quickly make up the price difference. Indeed, they start reaping a return on their investment quickly as they aren’t making up for lost opportunity costs. Wireless modules can make the difference between achieving first-mover status or being seen as a “me too.” This is an important point for organizations in the race to bring their IoT product to market as fast as possible at the lowest possible cost.
Future-proof your IoT solutions
The argument I often hear made against time to market comes from engineers who are concerned about developing a category-killer. They want a product that will dominate the market today yet can evolve and dominate over the product’s lifetime. They think their best route is to wait and make sure they have bet on the right technologies and standards. To address that concern, I recommend that organizations look into dual-mode designs, e.g., Bluetooth Low Energy and Thread. Even if you don’t use both modes today, it gives teams room to grow. And it provides a sound foundation from which an engineering team can make a family of products.
Settle on a standard set of technologies and this will allow your team to create a platform from which they can create a family of connected products. This in turn enables you to bring future-proof products to market even faster. Moreover, it makes it easier to address build of material costs and inventory management. Last, I recommend that product design engineers make sure they plan for:
- Adequate RAM
- I/O for future apps
- International, country-specific requirements
Wireless design is challenging and important to get right. While speed to market is critical, a strong technical foundation is also vital to developing a category-killing, future-proof product. Avoid underestimating the time and effort required to build a robust, certified wireless infrastructure, and consider the use of pre-certified modules. They will help you reduce risk and begin winning business for your new IoT device today.