IoT Agenda


May 23, 2019  1:50 PM

Stop worrying and learn to love narrow AI

Robert Schmid Profile: Robert Schmid
ai, AI and IoT, Automation, enterprise ai, general AI, Internet of Things, iot, IoT data, IoT tools, narrow AI

Elon Musk is no fan of artificial intelligence — a couple years ago, he tweeted an ominous warning it could cause World War III. The late Stephen Hawking was in the same camp. In one BBC interview, he predicted AI could spell the end of the human race because it would ultimately take off on its own, redesigning itself at an ever-increasing rate that we slow-evolvers couldn’t compete with.

And that beat has gone on: A Fast Company article about robots learning languages we can’t understand. Forbes warning of AI risks like autonomous weapons, social manipulation, invasion of privacy, social grading and discrimination. In each piece, we’re encouraged to fear AI’s misuse — the stuff of dystopian nightmares. But should we?

As a technologist who helps enterprises find value by adopting IoT tools, connectivity and technology — including AI — I’m often asked: Are these nightmares grounded in reality? My answer: A little, yes. But mostly no. There’s little to fear and much to gain.

Here’s what I mean.

First, we should be clear about what we mean when talking about AI. At a high level, artificial intelligence can be divided between general AI and narrow AI. General AI is an attempt to create the kind of adaptable intelligence that we see in the movies — think HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This kind of AI doesn’t really exist yet; in fact, there’s vigorous debate in the scientific community as to whether it will ever become reality. And this kind of AI is what most dystopian scenarios are built on. I’m personally not concerned about it.

Narrow AI is what we work with today: intelligent systems that have been taught — or have learned — how to carry out specific tasks without being explicitly programmed to do so. This includes narrowly defined tasks, like driving autonomous vehicles, responding to simple customer service queries or flagging fraudulent credit card transactions. When narrow AI coordinates with other narrow AI, it can do things like book hotels or flag inappropriate content online.

This kind of AI is crucial to IoT — in fact, the two are inextricably linked. If you think of an IoT network as a body, then data is its blood and AI is the organ that brings in the data, processes it — boiling billions of data points down to identify patterns — and then recirculates it to start the cycle again. In IoT-enabled industries, these data do things like power predictive maintenance or track assets. You can’t have one part of the cycle without the others.

I do think data security is a legitimate concern for narrow AI, and that appropriate privacy and security protocols are critically important. But data is what AI processes, not AI itself. And while no one can guarantee there will never be data breaches within an AI system, there are excellent guidelines for password protection and how data is encrypted, transmitted and stored.

So no, the AI we use today isn’t the bogeyman these articles would have you believe. As an industry professional, I think alarmism about new technologies simply makes for good clickbait. Emerging technologies do sometimes have unintended, adverse effects, but using AI to improve industrial performance, asset tracking and safety is just the next step in a well-understood, decades-long movement towards automation.

And looking ahead to the step after that, 5G will profoundly affect narrow AI by increasing the capacity of the internet as it expands to accommodate the 20.4 billion connected devices that Gartner predicts in the world by 2020 — with a latency of a mere 1 millisecond! This new wireless network expects to see a 90% reduction in network energy usage, extending the battery life for low-power IoT devices as much as 10 years.

In the end, AI is a tool. It’s a tool that’s helping improve industrial value and enhance consumer experiences. And, like most tech people I know, I really love having the best tools for the job. Don’t you?

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.

May 23, 2019  11:44 AM

Should connected devices carry an IoT security-star rating?

Svein-Egil Nielsen Profile: Svein-Egil Nielsen
Internet of Things, iot, IoT devices, IoT legislation, IoT regulations, IoT risks, iot security, IoT threats

According to a recent report from the Internet Society and Consumers International, 28% of people who do not own a smart device won’t buy one due to security concerns. And eight in 10 consumers surveyed think privacy and security should be assured by either regulators, manufacturers or retailers.

In parallel, manufacturers complain that it’s expensive and time-consuming to ensure products sufficiently address all possible security concerns. And that it doesn’t necessarily pay off in terms of increased sales and market share either. Consumers who are comfortable with taking the risk will buy anyway, and consumers who aren’t — like those above — will still remain unconvinced.

This isn’t a healthy state for any market to be in. And it makes me wonder if all smart devices should be made to carry a security-star rating. Just like those used to show energy efficiency, for example Energy Star in the U.S., or crash safety in the automotive industry, such as Euro NCAP in Europe.

Why were early smart devices so insecure?

The problem is that the security of smart devices has, until now, been an afterthought. And neither the end user nor the device maker was willing to pay for it. And the industry, somewhat naively, completely underestimated how big a deal security would become. (Why would anyone want to hack my smart baby monitor?)

Although things are improving, we’re a long way from having a level of security that’s trusted by end users as much as, say, HTTPS and SSL certificates are for websites. And this situation is unlikely to change, in my opinion, without the creation of some kind of independent regulator. The issue is just too big to be left to manufacturers and retailers to resolve on their own.

A good place to start would be to address the security issues revealed by the most well-publicized hacks to date. And this needs to happen fast, before demand for smart devices starts to evaporate. And by fast, I mean something in place during next year; it can’t be five years from now.

What would this security look like?

Something very similar is underway in the chip industry. Arm, for example, is developing a Platform Security Architecture (PSA) that recognizes that an Arm-based smart device is only as strong as its weakest link. A single vulnerability could compromise the entire device.

To combat this, Arm PSA aims to layer in security from the silicon level upwards. It targets four broad sources of insecurity: communications, physical (silicon), product lifecycle and software — the most common vulnerability of all.

Public Knowledge, a U.S. consumer rights organization, has also produced a white paper urging the U.S. government to mandate some kind of cybersecurity shield mark to denote that a connected device is secure. The paper details what such a program would look like and how it should be implemented, assessed and adopted.

Why it must be a star rating

What I love about star ratings is how simple and effective they are. Nobody would buy a car with a 1 out of 5 safety rating, which is why car manufacturers don’t build cars that unsafe. With stars, you get a pull from the end user and a push from the manufacturer to ensure a minimum standard is reached.

You also give the consumer the opportunity to pay more for products with higher ratings and the extra piece of mind this gives. And IoT device manufacturers will then struggle to sell devices that are unfit for purpose — those which have little or no security — no matter how low the retail cost.

That said, products that have been hacked to date were not necessarily the cheapest or inherently insecure. The problem is when you develop a smart device or system you need to think about thousands of things, and you only need to overlook one to leave a vulnerability that a hacker can later exploit.

There’s nothing smart about an insecure smart device

Security must be built into a smart device from the design phase, through component procurement, and all the way to the end of life for that product. Just because a smart device is old doesn’t mean it should become insecure.

And in the real world, a device manufacturer should also be able to update or patch any security loopholes that may appear in the field. That means support for over-the-air firmware updates and software patches, too.

Consumers’ lack of trust in smart devices won’t be reversed until their security is given a total overhaul. And the future growth of the smart device industry will be severely hampered. A security-star rating is desperately required. And soon.

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.


May 23, 2019  10:26 AM

Investing in IoT applications: All you need to know

Mehul Rajput Mehul Rajput Profile: Mehul Rajput
Internet of Things, iot, IoT applications, IoT apps, IoT verticals, mobile app development

The technology world has witnessed the penetration of IoT in recent years, and it has been a game changer in many industries. Backed by capabilities like mobility, IoT has set new benchmarks in business performance, innovation and user acceptance. Forward-thinking companies are integrating IoT-backed apps that can refine overall business performance.

A survey estimated that presently 26.66 billion IoT devices are active in 2019. People spend a lot of time on mobile apps; integrating IoT technology into these apps makes them powerful.

Besides, sensor-enabled bridges, buildings, pavements, appliances, smart vehicles and wearables are already in the market. As a business leader, you surely want to know how investing in IoT can benefit your organization.

Why are companies using IoT-enabled technologies?

IoT consists of a network of devices, connected through the internet. It is capable of sharing data between the nodes. This indicates that all the utilities and devices would remain connected to each other. Users can enjoy constant communication in the digitized environment. Business firms can gain incredible benefits from this advanced technology.

Maintaining the security of data is a concern for every organization. IoT has already bolstered data security, and many companies are presently collaborating with IoT app developers to integrate the sophisticated technology.

IoT applications you might integrate into your business

Here are some IoT applications that you might consider integrating into your business:

Supply chain
The success of a business firm largely relies on an efficient supply chain. You can get the supply chain optimized using IoT. Experts are working on technologies that will enable companies to install sensors in goods that are being shipped. This will help you know the condition of the products and intercept any dented product before it reaches the customers or the shelf.

IoT can also help enhance brand loyalty. Presently, the free-range movement trend reveals that a large number of customers is interested to know where the products they are using come from. When they are able to track these items through the supply chain, it enhances the transparency in business. This brings companies better branding opportunities to benefit from.

IoT in insurance
Insurance companies can immensely benefit from IoT. Customers making safe choices are rewarded by insurance providers in most instances. For instance, the insurance provider may cut rates in case a customer is unlikely to file a claim. Integrating IoT apps and technology will streamline this process to a substantial extent.

This concept is applicable to the auto insurance sector as well as homeowners’ insurance. You can also use IoT programming to connect multiple devices over a network. Homeowners can now install security systems, locks and other safety features through automation.

Insurance providers can see all the relevant data through their IoT device management system. This will lower premiums to a substantial extent. Reputed insurance companies are already collaborating with IoT developers to build such applications.

Adding security
One of the most important advantages of using IoT in business is its ability to enhance security features. Today, threats from cybercriminals remain a concern for businesses. App developers are coming up with IoT-backed mechanisms that combat these cybersecurity issues. This process can keep your business secure, particularly if you are dealing with finances.

Presently, companies need IoT-backed apps that are safe and ensure the privacy of their users. Business firms from various segments of the industry are exploring the security benefits of IoT.

These applications can add an extra security layer and keep data private and secure from cyberattacks.

How IoT affects mobile app development

The mobile app development industry has witnessed a new scale of innovation with IoT. These systems are now capable of handling any mobile gadget or device where the end users remain at any given location. Other affects include:

Connected communication efforts
IoT is powerful and helps in embedding apps and devices into a single system. For example, people can now check security cameras, track cabs or switch on lights using IoT functionality on mobile devices.

Life has become easier for users as well as app developers. Users are able to manage multiple systems using IoT from a single device. At the same time, developers can put in a lower amount of effort during the app development process. Developers can now create multiple apps in the timeframe previously used to develop a single app.

Shift in focus
Previously, the objective of mobile app developers was to build a system that was user-friendly. However, with the inception of IoT, the focus now lies in crafting feature-rich apps. These IoT features help businesses stay ahead of the competition and fulfill customer expectations.

You need to prioritize the needs of users and the trends of current market while developing apps. The usability of IoT-backed apps and the features they provide simplify life for customers. It is for this reason business firms are focusing on building customized apps for specific purposes.

Centralized apps
Since the commencement of IoT in the market, it has welcomed several possibilities and opportunities. The focus presently lies in providing users with a centralized platform where they can manage multiple devices. As a result, one can enjoy more cost-effective systems and, at the same time, businesses can manage end-user needs seamlessly.

Beacon technology is a major technology in this. These IoT-embedded devices are fixed to certain locations. Many companies dealing with mobile app development are integrating beacon technology that involves the emission of a signal from the beacon. Information is conveyed by the signal in the form of a notification alert on mobile devices. Here, centralized applications can manage other devices from a particular location from a single device.

Why is IoT growing?

IoT has made its mark evident in almost all fields related to technology. With technologies evolving, it is likely that the emerging trends of IoT will have a substantial effect on personal lives as well as every industry.

For marketers and businesses, IoT can make operations easier and more efficient. Considering the potential that IoT offers business firms, it is wise to invest in these systems.

IoT programming trends are still evolving, and a lot is yet to come. According to experts, applications based on IoT will bring several sophisticated products in the coming years. While smart homes have been translated into reality, other opportunities still remain a business resource. Data from IoT devices can be used to explore the habits of customers and analyze the same.

It is advisable to partner with an IoT developer capable of creating products and systems that will streamline your business. In the process, you can offer better value to your customer base and gain an edge over your competitors and prove your brand loyalty. This makes investing in IoT applications a wise decision.

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.


May 22, 2019  4:28 PM

Is R&D a cure or poison for the skeptical IoT market?

Francisco Maroto Francisco Maroto Profile: Francisco Maroto
Digital strategy, Industrial IoT, Internet of Things, iot, IoT strategy, R/D

Considering IoT is in its infancy — and due to past years of wasted in predictions that have not been fulfilled, as well as disappointing statistics of successful projects and the fact that most companies don’t have clear strategies — it’s normal to think that R&D is necessary to boost and accelerate the increasingly skeptical IoT market.

R&D should be an essential part of bringing innovation to any company via IoT projects. And though we can all agree how important R&D is, it requires a great deal of experience, senior experts and specific tool sets — resources that not every company has handy.

However, there is a risk when deriving strategic decisions that executive directors consider to be technological toward R&D departments. Many times, oblivious to the reality of the markets, those responsible for R&D develop products and technologies for problems that do not exist just to obtain recognition or continue living without pressure from top management. Many subsidies are granted by unqualified administrations that don’t understand the utility, the business model, the business case and the commercialization of innovations R&D wants to develop.

Now, if we ask sellers of IoT technology, products and services, they may not be happy with the idea of having to talk with R&D areas instead of with other areas of the company more likely to buy. Most times, R&D departments decide to do it themselves. Vendors know that with great probability they will not close deals due to lack of budget or low visibility by the rest of the departments in the company.

The importance of R&D for IoT

Innovation in IoT is a major competitive differentiator:

  • IoT-focused companies need to invest in R&D to keep up with the rapidly changing and expanding market. It is important that an organization’s R&D iteration turnaround times are quick, otherwise the company is not going to be able to keep pace with market growth. However, it’s not enough to simply speed up R&D — innovative IoT firms, both startups and established companies, must also make sure their R&D processes are extremely reliable.
  • You can’t solve R&D speed issues just by increasing budget.
  • Executives must maintain strong, steady communication with R&D regarding the department’s priorities over a particular timeframe and how progress will be measured.
  • Guidelines are invaluable. The more structured and streamlined R&D procedures are, the better IoT companies will be able to move from conception to delivery.
  • Design innovative IoT products, but accelerate time to market.
  • Encourage internal collaboration. R&D team should share real-time data across internal departments to spur intelligent product design.
  • Also encourage external collaboration. Connect with customers and partners to ensure success.
  • Drive overall business value with IoT through differentiation.

IoT project R&D: To outsource or not to outsource?

Just like any other technology, IoT products require thorough research and development, and it better be done by professionals. Despite the noise generated by analysts and companies around IoT, the reality is that there have not been many IoT projects, and therefore it is not easy to find good professionals with proven experience in IoT to hire.

When I think of outsourcing IoT projects, eastern European and Indian companies immediately come to mind, no doubt because the R&D talent seems to be cheaper there. Spain could also be a country to outsource IoT, but at the moment I do not see it.

The benefits of outsourcing R&D for IoT projects include:

  • Expertise and an eye for innovation;
  • Bringing an IoT project to market faster;
  • Optimizing costs; and
  • Controlling and managing risks.

I am not sure about the quality of R&D companies or the experience of their staff, but there is no doubt that there are benefits to outsourcing R&D for IoT. Select an R&D company only after careful evaluation.

Spain is not different in R&D for IoT

I have not believed in R&D in Spain for years. There are exceptions without a doubt, but it seems evident that the prosperity and welfare of Spain is not due to its R&D.

With the entry into the EU, I thought Spain had great markets open to it. I was also optimistic that it would have great opportunities in the Latin American markets thanks to the fact that its R&D capacity could have been consolidated effectively in the country’s companies and universities because it would be profitable and worldwide recognized.

But it has not been that way. The technology developed in Spain, and more specifically that relating to IoT, has little chance of being commercialized in France, Germany and the UK. Add the development gap of South American countries and the fact that local markets are averse to technological risk and it is difficult to for IoT R&D to flourish in Spain.

That does not mean that we do not have public R&D budgets for these areas. The same thing that happened during the last 30 years has happened again: The incentives and aids are few, and for the most part used to finance large companies with little return to society. There is no rigorous control of the aid granted and, above all, there is no plan to encourage local and global marketing of products developed with the talent of Spain’s scientists and researchers.

I have stopped believing and trusting in governments to achieve change in R&D, but there are exceptions that are worthwhile to follow and work with them. For this reason, I continue help them demonstrate that Spain can be different.

Key takeaways

After years of unfulfilled expectations, companies are skeptical of the potential growth of the IoT market or the benefits of their business. R&D department can be a cure to boost IoT initiatives, but also a poison to kill IoT initiatives.

IoT may have started in R&D, but its benefits don’t have to end there. To drive overall business value, it’s important to share IoT data — both internally and externally. Facilitating open collaboration, discovering new ways to innovate products and accelerating time to market, you can differentiate R&D and your business.

As fast turnaround times and reliability become a focal part of companies’ R&D processes, these companies will be well-positioned to thrive within the IoT market.

Thanks for your likes and comments.

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.


May 22, 2019  12:14 PM

What is an IoT system? A 3-point checklist

Alex Bassi Profile: Alex Bassi
digital twin, Enterprise IoT, Internet of Things, iot, IoT analytics, IoT sensors, IoT software

Reading the large amount of news on connected technologies, I often wonder what the writer actually means by IoT. I do not want to open the Pandora vase holding the discussion on the definition of IoT; there is already a huge corpus for this and any reader animated by a scientific approach — even a slight one — should look into it and find the definition that suits him best. It is actually interesting that while I was writing this piece, on the IoT Agenda site there is yet another definition. As in the standards world, where too many standards mean no standard, here too many definitions are heading toward no definition. I have the feeling, though, that there is a strong interest in leaving a certain amount of fuzziness on the topic. As it’s possible to play on the vagueness of the concept, everything that has a sensor can be labeled “IoT.” I’ve heard of standard HVAC systems that suddenly became IoT; even better, a switch and a lightbulb are now IoT as they are connected.

“Smart” is likely the most used word in this era, trespassing the boundaries of technology and entering the real life. We live in smart cities, where we can find a smart parking using smartphones connected to smartwatches. Everything now that has a nanogram of silicon is smart. In the past, I’ve often made the remark that smart is a synonym to intelligent. Intelligent comes from the Latin “inter legere,” which means to read between the lines, to go beyond the surface. This definition implies a certain amount of nondeterminism as there is an interpretation of reality, and not a mere action-reaction, we enter the world of subjectivity. It’s very easy to see it when two very intelligent people debate on a topic, having opposite opinions. Therefore, literally at least, a smart device is a nondeterministic device. Now that there is huge excitement on AI, maybe we’ll be entering the realm of really smart objects.

But my focus here is a bit different. What I’m interested in debating is what the components of an IoT system are, and when a system can be labeled IoT. In the internet, the discussion is very easy. Internet is a global network of computers that use the IP protocol — and more in general, the TCP/IP protocol suite. If we add small objects to this definition, using a lightweight approach, we could just be extending network connectivity to objects that don’t use the IP protocol. My Bluetooth mouse would then belong to the IoT universe. Back in 2008, I defined IoT as “a worldwide network of interconnected objects uniquely addressable, based on standard communication protocols” — simply extending the definition of internet. I’m not sure, 11 years later, if this would be the best definition of the phenomenon.

IoT in most cases is perceived in a different way. IoT is when atoms and bits meet. It implies that there is a real word and a digital representation of it, often called the digital twin. The transmission, or network, mean is irrelevant in this vision, and if IPSO had its way, there the IP protocol will be everywhere. This enlightens two facts: First, that the I in IoT just means connectivity; second, given then that there is a necessity to provide an interaction between the digital and the real world, the presence of sensors and actuators is a necessity. So far, I am discovering the hot water, as this is basically the definition from ITU-T dating back to 2005. But do all sensors belong to the IoT domain? In other words, I read recently about something labeled “IoT sensor” which implies the fact that there are sensors that are not IoT. Does it make sense? Not really in my opinion. Every sensor that is instrumental to create a digital twin is belonging to the IoT domain, no matter how simple or complex. My understanding is that an IoT sensor is used as a synonym to smart sensor. This implies that there is a clear class distinction between dummy sensors and smart ones; supposedly, the second class is operating some sort of processing before sending the data. I guess a temperature sensor that transmits only when the temperature changes, so it has a byte of memory to store the information of the previous temperature and a circuitry to see if the data corresponds to the new measurement, may not be smart as it does not process the information. But how much processing is needed to classify a sensor as smart — forgetting for a minute that smart means nondeterministic? If a sensor is able to send the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, and to switch between the two upon reception of an input, would that be enough?

Closing this digression, and saying that it seems logical that any sensor can be part of an IoT system, we get to the point if an IoT system itself must be smart, or the processing capability is something that is common but not necessary. If it’s not necessary, then connecting sensors and actuators would be enough to make an IoT system. A light switch and a bulb would then be indeed an IoT system — maybe not a traditional one, but we just need to connect the bulb and the switch with a wireless bridge so that the switch uniquely identifies the bulb and sends a command using a communication protocol. Or a wireless temperature sensor with a screen. In my opinion, this sounds indeed too little to be considered an IoT system; we need some processing in order to separate purely electromechanical appliances from the IoT world.

Summarizing, I came to the conclusion that that an IoT system is a system that:

  1. Instantiates a digital representation of a physical entity — a digital twin;
  2. Uses of sensors of any kind and is able to modify the environment using actuators; and
  3. Is able to perform — at least some — information processing.

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.


May 22, 2019  10:56 AM

4 ways to assess which enterprise IoT safety platforms make sense

Matt Johnson Profile: Matt Johnson
Internet of Things, iot, IoT hardware, IoT platforms, iot security, IoT software, safety, safety platform, Smart Building, smart buildings

Enterprises are facing a host of security risks, from active shooter and lone wolf attacks that threaten innocent employees to natural disasters that decimate buildings and supply chains. Expanding into new markets can also be a risky proposition, especially in areas where political and social upheavals are happening. Fortunately, in spite of all the hazards, IoT technology is emerging as a powerful way to mitigate risk and protect personnel.

Remember the key fobs of days gone by that were designed to limit access to buildings and required a constantly changing code? Today, smart cameras can recognize people who are authorized to enter a building and keep out those who aren’t. Security cameras that run 24/7 can also automatically flag suspicious activity, meaning a security guard no longer has to constantly monitor multiple video streams in hopes of catching a culprit. Guarding against outside threats is only the beginning, though.

Inside your building, IoT smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can send notifications to personnel in the building in addition to conventional alarms. That way, they know where the threat is occurring and can avoid it on the way out.

IoT devices are revolutionizing safety. But before you rush out and buy an armful of them, follow these steps to get the most value for your money and ensure your people are as protected as possible from the threats that matter most:

1. Complete a threat assessment

Even the biggest enterprises lack unlimited budgets. To make the most of every dollar, start by preparing for the events that are most likely to occur on your campus. Use these assessments periodically, but be sure to comply with regulations locally and in your industry. Then, prioritize the threats that would have the biggest impact. For example, if you’re located on or near an active fault line, an earthquake might be one of your most pressing concerns. Start here, and then prepare for other less immediate threats as the resources become available to you.

2. Map threats to potential solutions

Prioritize systems by ranking their value. First, determine how effectively each one solves the problem at hand. Then, look at the time and money required to implement them. Start with the platform that provides the most value in the least amount of time because it will let you minimize exposure while you pursue other more time-consuming risk mitigation strategies.

3. Look for platforms that are tailored to the enterprise environment

Just because IoT devices and apps offer peace of mind for certain places and circumstances, it doesn’t mean they’re legitimate for an enterprise. For instance, devices in a home might not necessarily operate smoothly or effectively for a campus. Notifying lots of employees in a large building takes enterprise-grade devices, so think about and research which platforms are best for your needs.

4. Ensure IoT systems meld with your existing security

Implementing IoT platforms can be complicated, so plan ahead to find a system that’s compatible with the security measures you already rely on. Great IoT products that you can’t integrate with other security features aren’t useful in the long run, so limit your search to products offering a high degree of interoperability.

IoT devices have come a long way, and they’re bringing extra layers of safety and security to enterprise campuses around the world. Legacy systems can’t compete with the constant connectivity offered by IoT, which can revolutionize areas like access control or perimeter surveillance. For almost any threat, rely on IoT to create a safer and more secure workplace for you and your employees.

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.


May 21, 2019  2:05 PM

The future of IoT requires a cybersecurity standard

Sameer Dixit Profile: Sameer Dixit
cybersecurity standards, Internet of Things, iot, IoT cybersecurity, IoT devices, IoT regulations, iot security, IoT standards, securing IoT, security standards

The IoT revolution is in full swing. Smart watches, smart speakers, connected refrigerators and AI thermostats and doorbells are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of IoT, though. Legacy infrastructure in industries, such as transportation, manufacturing, utilities and logistics, is also being upgraded with internet connectivity. As the entire world around us gets swallowed up by the IoT ecosystem, there’s a critical need for cybersecurity standards to ensure the devices we rely on are secure and our privacy is protected.

Explosion of IoT

Gartner estimated that we will have 21 billion IoT devices by 2020. Some estimates suggest it could be more than double that at 50 billion IoT devices. Regardless of which estimate is more accurate — or if you just split the difference and assume the number is around 35 billion — it’s a staggering number of devices. That’s about five connected IoT devices for every single one of the 7 billion-plus people on planet Earth.

IoT devices will continue to skyrocket exponentially in terms of both volume and diversity — especially as 5G networks become mainstream. Wireless network speeds 50 to 100 times faster than 4G LTE networks will result in 5G networks becoming a primary network that competes with or replaces Wi-Fi networks for many businesses and consumers.

Every one of those devices expands the overall attack surface and provides an opportunity for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities, compromise network resources, or steal or expose sensitive information. Unfortunately, the vast majority of devices that are created will focus on performance and/or cost at the expense of security — or simply ignore the issue of cybersecurity altogether.

Challenges of IoT security

By definition, each IoT device is connected to a network in some way. It runs some sort of operating system — no matter how rudimentary — and most contain some sort of sensor and an ability to collect and transmit data. The fact that these devices are capable of executing code means they are also capable of being hacked and compromised.

It is crucial to encourage those designing and developing IoT devices to shift security left. Cybersecurity should be woven into the supply chain and development process rather than tacked on as a post-deployment afterthought.

The need for IoT cybersecurity standards

The proliferation of IoT devices — particularly low-cost IoT devices — lowers the bar for deploying IoT anywhere and everywhere, but organizations need to consider security implications as well. The overwhelming volume of devices make it virtually impossible for a company or consumer to be able to effectively assess the security controls on their own to make an informed purchasing decision.

Businesses and consumers need to be able to easily identify IoT devices that meet minimum acceptable security standards. A standard for certifying the cybersecurity of IoT devices accomplishes both goals — providing an incentive for developers and manufacturers to strive for and providing customers with a simple way to determine which devices are secure.

Establishing IoT cybersecurity standards

Thankfully, there are IoT cybersecurity standards being developed, such as the CTIA Cybersecurity Certification Program for Cellular Connected Internet of Things Devices. CTIA represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and its members include a cross-section of wireless providers, equipment manufacturers, app developers and content creators.

The CTIA IoT cybersecurity standard strives to raise the bar on the minimum acceptable security design for IoT devices. CTIA is implementing the standard using a tiered approach, with a set of minimum criteria defined to achieve each level. At a minimum, IoT devices must have password management, access controls, an ability to install software updates and a patch management process to achieve Level 1 certification. For Level 2 certification, devices must also include things like multifactor authentication, remote deactivation and the ability to uniquely identify itself. Level 3 — the highest level defined for the IoT cybersecurity standard — adds encryption of data at rest and evidence of tampering, among other things.

Giving the IoT cybersecurity standard some teeth

Creating an IoT cybersecurity standard is a great start, but standards only have value if they are adopted and enforced. With broad enough consensus, a standard becomes self-perpetuating. As businesses and consumers accept and expect devices to pass a given standard, companies must adhere to the standard or their products will not be purchased.

It takes time to achieve momentum like that, though. In the meantime, there must be some means of enforcing the standard on a smaller scale or placing some consequences on organizations that ignore the standard. The wireless industry is an excellent starting point because many IoT devices are designed to connect to wireless carrier networks. As 5G networks roll out and become mainstream, it will essentially be a requirement.

In order for a device to attach to a carrier network, it must pass PTCRB certification — a framework established in 1997 by leading wireless operators to ensure compliance with global industry standards for wireless cellular devices. The CTIA Cybersecurity Certification Program for Cellular Connected Internet of Things Devices is offered as an additional voluntary certification. A few carriers require CTIA certification for devices connecting to their networks, which will hopefully drive broader adoption and enforcement eventually throughout the industry.

The future of IoT cybersecurity

Developing and enforcing an IoT cybersecurity standard will not magically make everything secure overnight. There are millions of devices already on the market and already connected to networks around the world that did not have to meet any IoT cybersecurity standards and there are no plans to just disable them all or kick them all off of the internet.

Better security will come through continued efforts. Influencing developers and device manufacturers to move security left in the process and implement secure design and cybersecurity best practices by default is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, though, security is a moving target and ensuring better security for IoT devices will be an ongoing mission that will require focus and cooperation.

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.


May 21, 2019  12:00 PM

Four more tips for a successful IoT product development partnership

Mitch Maimam Profile: Mitch Maimam
Internet of Things, iot, IoT devices, IoT partners, IoT partnerships, iot security, IoT strategy, IoT wireless, product development, Service providers

In a 2017 article, I offered seven tips to ensure a successful IoT product development partnership. Nearly two years have transpired, and while the old tips are still relevant, here are four more insights on the topic gained from our years of experience designing IoT products.

Security concerns are crucial

IoT products are often deployed at the network edge. Because these are often purpose-driven devices, some product companies pay little heed to security-related concerns. In the hands of end customers, these devices can become points of entry for hackers and other unauthorized users. There are many strategies to address these security concerns — or to at least set up reasonable barriers to entry. For companies that are working with a product development service provider, it is crucial that they include security in their statement of work. Also ensure that the service provider is fully conversant in the issues and has the expertise to implement remedial actions in order to mitigate security-related risks. If uncertain of the security strategies to apply, companies should engage with their development partner in the first phase of the project to help define an effective, tactical implementation plan.

Wireless standards are in a state of rapid flux

Not everyone is aware of all the wireless communications technologies and strategies available both now and on the horizon. Likewise, there are important tradeoffs to be made in selection of the right strategy for the IoT product. The most common ones in recent years have been Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular modems. However, there are now many spinoffs muddying the waters. Among the more recent or evolving technologies are Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy, LoRa, Cat-M and Wi-Fi 6. An IoT product firm needs to find a supplier apprised of current and emerging technologies that has deep knowledge of the tradeoffs between risk, data and connectivity costs, power consumption and bandwidth. Selecting the wrong platform can result in excessive costs, quick charge depletion or inappropriate bandwidth, as well as obsolescence issues.

Identify a clear end-customer value proposition

There are so many opportunities to convert passive devices to become smart and connected IoT products. Before engaging a product development partner, make sure there is a solid business case. The IoT product company needs to ensure when the product is created that is serves a need or satisfies a desire for the end customer at a price he is willing to pay. This is the essence of value. Sometimes IoT product companies fall so in love with the product concept that they have an unrealistic sense of its market value. As with any new product, there has to be a known or unmet need for the consumer.

Be realistic about schedules

Too often, an IoT development client does not realize how long it will take to create a finished product. There are lots of developer kits out there along with single-board computers. On occasion, a “quick and dirty” proof of concept can be created. It may work — or possibly even look convincing. However, there can be a big difference between an engineer-created demo that is built in quantities of one or two, and a full product that has been designed to be reliable, tested and ready for scalable production. Also, it is typical that IoT devices have to go through one or more regulatory approval processes. Depending on the hardware and communications strategy, that could invoke processes such as CE, UL and those with the FCC.

If cellular is involved, carrier certification will be needed. Using a pre-certified cellular modem cuts down but does not eliminate the process. If the IoT product is highly size-constrained and requires design around a cellular chipset, the carrier certification process can take months. In working with a product development partner, creating a production-ready product or even a minimum viable product that can be deployed without concern for field failures or warranty issues takes time.

Summary

It is fundamental to ensure that the expectations of an IoT development client and their product development services partner are clear and explicit. When there are disconnects between the two parties, problems invariably arise at the end of a project when the partner believes it has satisfied expressed customer needs when the client’s understanding is that the deliverables do not align with their expectations. Putting these best practices to work will go a long way to establishing clarity around client satisfaction and the creation of an IoT product that provides clear and worthwhile value to the end-purchasing customer.

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.


May 21, 2019  10:44 AM

Let’s do the time warp: Look back at wireless predictions

Cees Links Profile: Cees Links
802.11, 802.11ax, BLE, Bluetooth, distributed Wi-Fi, Internet of Things, iot, IoT wireless, smart home, Wi-Fi

It’s astounding. Time is fleeting. Look back just 15 years or so and my, how things have changed. What were the hot tech gadgets and trends in the first few years of the 21st century? The Nokia 6610 was the best-selling cellphone in 2002; it featured text messaging — its memory could store up to 75 texts! — but didn’t have a camera or email or internet browsing. Desktop computers far outnumbered laptops. Netflix was still DVDs-by-mail only. There was no Facebook or Twitter. Remember Myspace?

This was also the time in history when Cees Links, now considered a Wi-Fi pioneer, made some bold predictions about the future in his 160-page e-book, The Spirit of Wi-Fi, along with an explanation of how the first wireless LANs were created and how an interesting, 1998 meeting with Steve Jobs changed the face of wireless communications.

Since we are now living in a new wireless world, let’s take a look at how Links’ vision compares to reality as we know it now — and get a sneak peek into what’s coming next.

Prediction #1: Smart everything

Links predicted that business people would have four gadgets to help them in their day: a computer notebook with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a palmtop with Bluetooth, a cell phone with GPRS and Bluetooth, and a wireless headset with Bluetooth.

The results: Pretty darn close. Said Links, “I was pretty close, if you replace the palmtop with a tablet. Now you have a laptop to do real work, a tablet for convenient reading and checking the internet on the road, and a smartphone when really nonstationary.” What amazes Links the most is the demise of phone communication — more specifically, how much phone communication has been largely replaced by text messaging, successor apps like WhatsApp and group chats.

“The other remarkable thing was that in those years, we spoke a lot about videophone conversations becoming commonplace — and our concern about the amount of bandwidth they would require,” Links said. Today, videophone is (almost) free with chat communications, but selfies and Instagram posts are way more popular. It seems that some two-way conversations have been replaced with a series of one-way lobs of status communications.

Prediction #2: Cell phones and palmtops would merge

Links predicted that the number of devices would be reduced by merging the functionalities of a cell phone and palmtop.

The results: Yes, but… The palmtop and the phone did indeed integrate, and the tablet emerged. Though, as Links points out, many people may not know that the tablet, an Apple Newton, originally launched in the mid-1990s. But it never really caught on. “It was too early,” Links said, “and the proper data-communication standards and infrastructure didn’t exist yet. Also, the MCUs — the brains of the computer — weren’t powerful enough.” This required essentially another decade of development.

But Links said what he really missed was the need for a tablet: “Frankly, I was initially skeptical when tablets came out. Now I see the tablet slowly starting to take over from the laptop, in the same way that chatting is taking over from emailing. So, who knows? The days of the laptop may be numbered.”

Prediction #3: Smart watches

The results: Bingo. “Let’s not forget the watch,” Links said back in 2002, questioning if it could play a larger role in the world of technological devices beyond mere accessory or jewelry. Clearly, smart watches, like the Apple Watch, Samsung watches and Fitbit devices, have brought this reality to life.

“Honestly, I’m surprised I mentioned that a watch could be more than jewelry,” Links said today. “But indeed, the thought of making the watch more useful than for merely tracking date and time has always lingered, and it still does. I think the watch industry so far has successfully kept the electronic watch at bay for two reasons: First, a watch is still a piece of jewelry, and second, the battery life is still short.”

Fitness trackers are in a similar market position. They’re encroaching on the watch industry, but Links’ expectation is that they won’t be successful in destabilizing it, much like smart watches. “I wear a Fitbit,” Links said, “but one that is purely sensing, as a simple bracelet. I love my jewelry watch, but wearing two watches is a little pathetic. Plus, I would get totally annoyed if they weren’t indicating exactly the same time!”

New predictions: The future of Wi-Fi

Now it’s time to look forward and hear what Links thinks is in store for the future. After all, Wi-Fi was in the early stages of adoption when he wrote his book. At the time, Links described it as “a rich standard that would be with us for the coming decades and provide a solid basis for newer capabilities.”

Given that Wi Fi 6 (802.11ax) is expected this year, what do you think will come next, and what challenges will have to be solved in the future?

Links: Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) is indeed still with us and going strong — no end of life in sight! From 802.11b to a, g, n, ac, ad and now Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), high-performance wireless technologies have been evolving from the beginning of this century. Essentially, there have always been two major drivers: good coverage in your whole house or office, and faster speed. There have been other underlying drivers, like reducing heat consumption — to avoid your smartphone from melting — and integrating functions while reducing size and price. At this moment, the need for higher data rates, bandwidth and capacity will continue, without compromising the coverage. This is in line with the fact that video continues to be more and more important. Why should it take hours to download the latest series before going on a trip?

I recently wrote a white paper, “Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax): What’s It All About?,” that discusses why higher speed, capacity and bandwidth are the key ingredients to success today. Everybody is connected on the same channel at the same time, and we always want more speed. There will be no rest for service providers!

Let’s talk about the smart home. There are multiple use cases that could be created to make the home smarter, like smart lighting, home security or lifestyle monitoring. You mentioned in your book that household applications will grow quickly once the infrastructure is in place. Is this the case today?

Links: Interestingly, the idea of low-power Wi-Fi was floating around a lot, and what we see today is that both Zigbee — which is essentially low-power Wi Fi — and Bluetooth Low Energy have established themselves; although frankly, it took longer than I expected. I think it took longer because the value proposition of Zigbee and BLE is more difficult to grasp because its value is its close connection to data management and processing, that requires a complete different way of thinking.

Normally, a company begins with the business case for a product, which drives the application space. But with the smart home, it’s the other way around — the application is driving the business case. This means it has taken longer to establish the value of the smart home, but it’s getting there, slowly but surely.

The challenge is still the infrastructure. Each application almost needs its own gateway connected to the router to have lights, sensors or smart meters connected to the internet, making implementation unnecessarily expensive. One of the larger steps forward are routers and set-top boxes with Zigbee and Bluetooth Low Energy integrated, and that’s what the industry is working on now.

I think the future of the smart home is distributed Wi-Fi, with a pod in every room serving as an access point. With Wi-Fi 6 and distributed Wi-Fi, consumers will have Wi-Fi everywhere in their home or office. Each pod can also carry wireless communication technologies, like Zigbee or Bluetooth. It will also allow command through voice activation and enable talking to the internet as a common feature in every room. This new infrastructure will help develop multiple use cases in the smart home — all using the same infrastructure.

Finally, how about some new predictions with regard to the evolution of Wi-Fi. Where do you think we’ll stand in another 15 years?

Links: There’s no shortage of demand for both higher data rates and longer battery life, so developments in this area will continue. Nowadays, I have to charge my laptop and my phone every day, which is a nuisance that I grudgingly accept. Data rates continue to be a bottleneck, but that probably needs to be extended toward system-level performance. My Wi-Fi is way faster than the cable internet link to my house, and sometimes sitting behind a very fast connection, imagining an instant reaction on mouse clicks and no waiting, makes it clear that the industry still needs to improve a lot in basic needs.

But even more exciting is the interaction between wireless connectivity and artificial intelligence. Being able to exchange data all the time — from sensors to work data to exploring thoughts and ideas for leisure or finding opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment — when it’s connected to proper guidance based from someone who “knows you” and can help, wouldn’t that be a dream we wish could come true?

Breakthroughs in human life have always come from technology inventions beyond imagination — cranes to help us lift things, wheels to move us faster than we can walk, writing to help us remember more than we can keep in our head, printing to share ideas wider and faster than we could imagine. And today, connectivity allows us to live in a healthier, more comfortable and more eco-friendly way — and to make better decisions, faster.

A connected world is a better world. Here’s to the next 15 years of Wi-Fi — no doubt it’s a future of great possibility!

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.


May 20, 2019  2:48 PM

Do we all have to be up in the cloud? Enter edge computing

Joseph Dureau Profile: Joseph Dureau
Consumer IoT, edge, Edge computing, Enterprise IoT, Internet of Things, iot, IoT devices, IoT edge, IoT edge computing, IoT latency, iot privacy, IoT reliability

Although it’s hardly a secret, a steep rise in the number of connected devices around us is set to change the way we live, work and interact with technology. By 2025, forecasts indicate that there will be as many as 75 billion smart devices globally, introducing us to a new era of hyper-connectivity. These devices will not only collect data, but also produce and process information directly on the products closest to their users on the edge. Increased functionality and computing available on the edge is already changing the way companies design and build products, from intelligent construction site video surveillance to oil rig maintenance. In the following article, I will unpack how taking data processing out of the cloud and to the edge can positively impact reliability, privacy and latency.

What exactly is the edge?

Edge computing refers to applications, services and processing performed outside of a central data center and closer to end users. The definition of “closer” falls along a spectrum and depends highly on networking technologies used, the application characteristics and the desired end-user experience.

While edge applications do not need to communicate with the cloud, they may still interact with servers and internet-based applications. Many of the most common edge devices feature physical sensors, such as temperature, lights and speakers, and moving computing power closer to these sensors in the physical world makes sense. Do you really need to rely on a cloud server when asking your lamp to dim the lights? With collection and processing power now available on the edge, companies can significantly reduce the volumes of data that must be moved and stored in the cloud, saving themselves time and money in the process.

The stakes are high

With edge computing set to change the way we live and work, it’s critical for businesses to understand what’s at stake for their business models, customer experiences and workforces. Edge computing impacts three dimensions: reliability, privacy and latency — each with profound implications for companies and consumers alike. Additionally, the convergence of edge computing and artificial intelligence is unlocking new opportunities for companies in 2020 and beyond.

Reliability
A primary motivator driving edge computing’s adoption is the need for robust and reliable technology in hard-to-reach environments. Many industrial and maintenance businesses simply cannot rely on internet connectivity for mission-critical applications. Wearables must also be resilient enough to perform without 4G. For these use cases and many more, offline reliability makes all the difference.

Privacy
Protecting privacy is both a potential asset and a risk for businesses in a world where data breaches occur regularly. Consumers have become wary that their smart speakers — or the people behind them — are always listening and, rightfully, companies largely reliant on cloud technology have been scrutinized for what they know about users and what they do with that information.

Edge computing helps alleviate some of these concerns by bringing processing and collection into the environment(s) where the data is produced. The leading voice assistants on the market today, for example, systematically centralize, store and learn from every interaction end users have with them. Their records include raw audio data and the outputs of all algorithms involved, attached to logs of all actions taken by the assistant. The latest research and innovations also suggest that interactions are set to become significantly smoother and more relevant based on additional information about end users’ tastes, contacts, habits and so forth.

This creates a paradox for voice companies and beyond that rely on the cloud. For AI-powered voice assistants to be relevant and useful they must know more personal information about their users. Moving processing power to edge is the only way to offer the same level of performance without compromising on privacy.

Latency
In the simplest terms, latency refers to the time difference between an action and a response. You may have experienced latency when using a smartphone if you notice a slight delay in the time it takes to open an app after touching the icon on your screen. However, for many industrial use cases, there is more at risk than a poor user experience and making users wait. For manufacturing companies, mission-critical systems cannot afford the delay of sending information to off-site cloud databases. Cutting power to a machine split-seconds too late is the difference between avoiding and incurring physical damage.

When the computing is on the edge, latency just isn’t an issue. Customers and workers won’t have to wait while data is sent to and from a cloud server. Their maintenance reports, shipping lists or error logs are recorded and tracked in real time.

Local computing power becomes the norm

We are living in a centralized world, whether we think about it that way or not. Every time you turn on your mobile phone or open a SaaS application, you are essentially engaging with an interface that represents what is occurring on a cloud server. In his 2016 talk, “The End of Cloud Computing,” Andreessen Horowitz’s Peter Levine outlined a vision for the future of edge computing. “Your car is basically a data center on wheels. A drone is a data center on wings,” Levine quipped. Nearly three years later, Levine’s words couldn’t be more prophetic. With more and more applications capable of functioning in local environments due to innovations in edge computing, decentralization is becoming far more than just a trendy buzzword and companies and consumer are benefiting from improved reliability, privacy and latency among their IoT devices.

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.


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