IoT Agenda

June 18, 2019  2:00 PM

Is your organization in IoT for the short or long haul?

Ken Figueredo Profile: Ken Figueredo
Enterprise IoT, horizontal platform, Internet of Things, iot, IoT platform, IoT strategy, IoT verticals, vertical platform

A senior executive from Ericsson recently started a discussion about horizontal IoT platforms. Horizontal IoT platforms are general-purpose platforms. They include reusable functions to support applications in many different industry verticals. Horizontal platforms look appealing in concept. However, a common criticism is that they are a distraction from immediate needs. They might also compromise on the specific needs for vertical use cases. Somehow, this implies a suboptimal solution.

The advice to solution providers from Ericsson’s Rob Tiffany was to start solving specific problems related to connected intelligence that are customer pain points. Customer pain points are an appealing way to tackle IoT applications: They capture management’s attention. They provide organizational focus. Their boundaries are cleaner, making for a straightforward business case. And, successful implementation yields immediate and visible results.

But should that be the end of the debate? No, not in a market where industrial organizations are still learning about IoT.

Keep in mind that IoT technologies cover topics that are outside the core competencies of many industrial organizations. Moreover, while near-term solutions are good, their knowledge deficit means that longer-term considerations are not even on the radar. Think of the typical IoT pilot project or the IoT solution team working on a well-defined use case. How many of them are planning ahead for second-generation requirements? How many are thinking about the need to scale up and support multiple applications? What about interoperability for cross-silo applications or opening solution stacks to partners in an extended value chain? And how about secondary uses and business models for IoT data?

Strategy is more important than IoT technology

A growing school of thought argues that organizations need to take a strategic approach to their IoT deployments, one that emphasizes horizontal capabilities. Rami Avidan, now of Deutsche Telekom’s T-Systems business unit, talked about strategy rather than technology as the critical challenge of enterprise IoT adoption. He explained the choices that businesses face. An organization will have fast results if it is selling a service that gains uptake rapidly. Conversely, if an organization is digitizing a factory, that’s not a quick fix. The work involved in deploying sensors, linking them, optimizing the data and changing the behavior of machines is a long-term process.

He also pointed out that partners, ecosystems and standardization are three critical elements in delivering viable solutions. Partners are essential because there are so many elements in delivering an IoT application; no single organization has mastery over all of the solution elements. Ecosystems represent environments where partners have laid the groundwork to collaborate. This eliminates many of the technical pitfalls. Ecosystems also provide workable commercial models and solution templates. Standardization addresses longer-term benefits by providing clear rules of engagement on technologies, notably in the area of security.

IoT standardization

There is a broader recognition about the value of IoT standardization. Here is a recent viewpoint from Enrico Scarrone, who works for Telecom Italia Mobile and is the Steering Committee Chair of the oneM2M standardization initiative. His observations describe the impact of fragmentation and integration costs on the viability of IoT solutions. This may not matter to some companies — they will focus on commercial imperatives and use a quick, off-the-shelf solution that meets their application needs. Others companies will decide that product sustainability is more important. In this case, they will opt for a standards-based system. As Scarrone observed, there is not a default decision that works for all companies and differing product timeframes.

The consequences for purely vertical thinking, however, are to build downstream switching or systems integration costs into IoT applications. With horizontal thinking, some of those costs are brought forward in time. That probably implies a financial and time-to-market penalty. On the flip side, it encourages designers, operators and mangers to consider sustainability issues. This covers the potential to extend their IoT applications and to look for expansion opportunities arising out of cross-silo possibilities.

For companies adopting IoT concepts into their business operations, the question is whether they are in it for the short of the long haul.

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.

June 18, 2019  10:16 AM

True IoT security in the energy industry requires continuous compliance

Reggie Best Profile: Reggie Best
critical infrastructure, cyber-situational awareness, energy industry, energy providers, Internet of Things, iot, IoT compliance, iot security, IT/OT convergence, NERC-CIP

In April, I wrote about the IoT-specific challenges in the government vertical. Today, I’d like to put a spotlight on the energy industry.

In the past, we didn’t really have to worry about attacks targeting our electric grids or utility plants because they weren’t connected to the internet and garden-variety cybercriminals had no way to infiltrate operations technology (OT) environments. OT networks and the devices deployed on them — industrial control systems (ICS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, programmable controllers, etc. — were isolated from IT networks and, thus, the associated array of cyber-risks. Today, however, the energy industry is operating in a very different environment.

The Industry 4.0 movement, combined with the increased adoption of IP-enabled infrastructure to overcome the North American electric power grid challenges, has resulted in the convergence of OT and IT networks. No matter the form — transmission and distribution, electric or water — the energy sector relies on a vast supply chain of IT and OT from third-party providers. ICS, SCADA, controllers and other OT devices are now part of the network ecosystem. This fact alone can undermine the security posture of any environment.

While digital technologies and other network modernization initiatives can have a positive impact on the business side of the house — increased efficiency, enhanced product quality, better decision-making and an improved bottom line — it also introduces new security and compliance risks.

For starters, the convergence of IT and OT networks has dramatically expanded the attack surfaces of energy organizations; each connected device now represents a potential entry point for cybercriminals. There’s also the challenge of securing OT devices and environments that weren’t designed to support conventional security technology — because, as mentioned earlier, cybersecurity never used to be an issue. And then there’s compliance with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) requirements.

In response to the 1965 blackout in which 30 million customers were impacted across the northeastern U.S. and southeastern portion of Ontario, NERC was formed to promote the reliability and adequacy of bulk power transmission in the electric utility systems of North America. NERC’s CIP plan includes standards and requirements to ensure the bulk electric system is protected from unwanted and destructive effects caused by cyberterrorism and other cyberattacks that could lead to instability or power failure.

Achieving continuous NERC-CIP compliance

The U.S. Department of Energy released an August 2017 report that found seven “capability gaps” in the power sector’s ability to respond to a cyberattack on the electric grid. One of the seven identified gaps was “cyber-situational awareness and incident impact analysis.” This is still an issue today, thanks to increased network complexity and the proliferation of connected OT endpoints.

OT and IT environments are now interconnected, and devices and systems must interoperate for full functionality and value creation. This means that an energy manufacturer may be more inclined to prioritize devices that enable a smart grid, for example, based on interoperability rather than their security profile. So, the process to achieve continuous compliance starts with conducting a gap analysis of compliance management to determine what IT and OT assets it needs to protect, and the likely impact(s) that could result from compromised compliance.

In short, successful security and compliance programs require complete cyber-situational awareness — which is why it’s not surprising that this was raised as a point of concern in the DOE’s report. Achieving cyber-situational awareness can seem like an impossible task with today’s dynamic, hybrid infrastructures. But, the time and energy — no pun intended — spent on making cyber-situational awareness a reality is well worth the effort. Especially when you consider penalties for noncompliance with NERC-CIP requirements can include fines up to $1 million per day.

Avoiding these fines through continuous NERC-CIP compliance requires four key capabilities:

  1. Comprehensive visibility into all endpoints, assets and connections across all environments — including on-premises, virtual, cloud, OT, ICS and so forth — for an accurate understanding of the state of network infrastructure.
  2. Continuous monitoring of security controls to pinpoint baseline deviations, ensure that system changes do not have a significant negative impact on security, that security plans remain effective following changes and that security controls continue to perform as intended.
  3. Identification of critical and sensitive infrastructure components.
  4. Detection of events or configurations linked to adversarial or anomalous conditions for faster threat detection and incident response.

These capabilities give energy companies the agility they need to keep pace with changing NERC-CIP requirements, not to mention the ever-changing threat landscape.

Consistency is key

The benefit of comprehensive cyber-situational awareness can be summarized in one word: consistency. Energy organizations can benefit from consistent real-time network visibility, consistent change monitoring, consistent intelligence on how changes affect security and compliance, and consistent policy controls across environments.

Consistency of this nature helps energy companies maintain continuous security and NERC-CIP compliance, regardless of how endpoints move and environments change. And with these results, energy organizations can move beyond operating with a metaphorical and tactical “keep the lights on” approach to security, to a truly strategic security approach that actually does keep the lights on for millions of customers!

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.

June 17, 2019  2:03 PM

IoT, cloud, security and the IT professional: Transforming traditional roles

Andreas Pettersson Profile: Andreas Pettersson
Cloud Computing, cybersecurity, Internet of Things, iot, IoT cloud, IoT communications, IoT professionals, iot security, IT teams, Physical security

Today’s IT professionals must have it all: knowledge of scripting, networks, application development, artificial intelligence, architecture and more. But it wasn’t always this way, as we’re seeing the role of IT shift significantly with the proliferation of the latest technological advancements, such as cloud computing, the integration of IoT, incorporation of physical security and an increased emphasis on cybersecurity and privacy.

Incorporating physical security

Though once seen as a siloed department within the enterprise, the IT team has now become a crucial component and resource when it comes to the implementation of physical security infrastructure. With the latest technology developments in this market, including networked devices and remote monitoring, they can also bring complex technical challenges that can be mitigated with the help of IT specialists. As such, the role of the IT pro must include a working knowledge of security best practices and how technology is used to protect people and assets.


IT comes into consideration when you think about the various devices and sensors that must be integrated through an organization’s single, unified platform. A wide array of knowledge is required of today’s IT professionals as they work to achieve this in a secure fashion. The role of IT has shifted to where this level of collaboration now focuses more on data integration, with the goal of extracting the most relevant information for intelligent decision-making. IT teams help identify the right methods for achieving this convergence in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Security and cybersecurity

Because today’s networked services are about more than just physical devices, they’ve become susceptible to cybervulnerabilities that can be best understood by the IT team. From the beginning to the end of implementation, IT personnel are tasked with identifying any holes or gaps that may leave a system open to vulnerabilities. IT leaders must ensure that the proper techniques are followed when it comes to strengthening cybersecurity, such as updating passwords, encrypting data to the cloud, automatically installing software patches and more.

Increased communication

Collaborating across departments requires a new level of communication for organizations, indicating a transformation in the requirement of certain soft skills. More specifically, communication skills are paramount to anyone in IT, as these individuals are required to not only work across many teams and groups, but also outside departments and contacts to integrate systems across an organization. Collaboration between physical security and IT, alongside additional outside contractors, requires strong leadership and communication skills.

Cloud computing

The introduction of the cloud into today’s modern organization has encouraged IT professionals to evolve their knowledge and skill set to incorporate cloud-based functionality. IT professionals benefit from cloud-based services, as they reduce overhead costs, as well as physical hardware they would otherwise have to maintain — this minimizes their security footprint. The IT department must be well-versed in the efficient implementation and use of cloud-based technologies to ensure an organization’s survival with respect to ever-reducing margins.

The inherent value of an IT team is that these professionals are well-versed in the ins and outs of their companies’ current computer and technology setup. The changing nature of their role within an organization requires them to understand emerging technology and tailor it to their duties and goals while remaining up to date in the latest innovations. As these advancements change the needs of organizations, so too should the knowledge base that IT professionals possess and implement across departments.

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.

June 17, 2019  11:35 AM

Unraveling the predictive maintenance conundrum in the IoT era

Rajesh Devnani Profile: Rajesh Devnani
ai, augmented reality, Enterprise IoT, Internet of Things, iot, IoT analytics, IoT data, IoT strategy, Predictive maintenance

One of the pioneering applications fueling the exponential growth of IoT in the digital era has been the rise of predictive maintenance as the poster child of IoT applications. Estimates from analysts vary widely, but the overall predictive maintenance market will grow at a rapid clip compared to any other IoT use case. With global assets under operation amounting to roughly 2.5 times the world GDP, the economic impact from effective maintenance practices can be truly transformative and extend to trillions of dollars.

In the past, maintenance was traditionally relegated the status of a support function within the realm of manufacturing and was treated as a pure-play cost center. Predictive maintenance flips this status over and elevates the maintenance function from a cost-centric role to a prime strategic role within the organization.

With the potential that predictive maintenance promises, there is an excessive hype surrounding the topic and enough content peddling the power of algorithms as a magic wand to realize maintenance nirvana.

The reality, unfortunately, is more nuanced. Predictive maintenance is not a pure-play technology gig. Predictive maintenance can be a distinct competitive differentiator — whether you are competing on cost, customer service or innovation — and can truly bring immense business value to your organization. It’s imperative, however, to peep under the hood to gain perspective on the practical application of predictive maintenance and resolve the conundrum:

  1. It’s all about the metrics.
  2. Busting the lone ranger attitude.
  3. There is no “one size fits all.”
  4. You may have a hammer, but everything is not a nail.
  5. The great horizontal versus vertical divide.
  6. It’s not just in the asset.
  7. Predictive is not the end-all.
  8. Measurement is key.
  9. Deployment and sustainability is the end game.
  10. The future beckons, so embrace it

1. It’s all about the metrics
The risk that the technology works just fine but fails to deliver the goods is quite high in the case of a predictive maintenance application. It’s easy to get enamored by a new shiny toy and dive straight in. Instead, it is imperative to begin with a clear understanding of the business goals. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of the specific KPIs that you wish to impact and more specifically by how much — for example, overall equipment effectiveness, mean time to repair, mean time between failures, on time in full, maintenance effectiveness and so forth. An overall maintenance function audit is a wise strategy in this startup phase.

2. Busting the Lone Ranger attitude
Functional maintenance specialists have a tendency to be enamored with the fruits of their toil and believe that they can alone deliver the results. This induces a siloed mentality that is counterproductive. It is imperative to bust the silos and have integrated thinking when considering a predictive maintenance initiative. Predictive maintenance is a team sport. Maintenance should work as an interdependent function and balance considerations related to other functions including production, inventory, human capital and customer service to optimize overall performance.

3. There is no “one size fits all”
Do not paint all your assets and asset classes with the same brush. Before diving deep, it is imperative to classify your assets into distinct classes, each with its own maintenance strategy suited to maximize business value. Some situations need reliability-centered maintenance for critical high-value assets, but a reactive approach may be sufficient for some simple noncritical assets. The segmentation should enable classifying assets into distinct classes, each with its own strategy but ultimately delivering the best business outcomes.

4. You may have a hammer but everything is not a nail
It is important to have an in-depth understanding of the physics of each asset and its potential failure modes and root causes. Vibration monitoring may be a great technique, but it may not be the right strategy for what you are trying to monitor, for example loose electrical connections. An effective understanding of failure modes and how to proactively preempt them through measuring what characteristics is essential. Knowing where to apply what sensing technique — thermal imaging, ultrasound, infrared, spectral analysis, vibration analysis and so forth — needs good domain expertise.

5. The great horizontal versus vertical divide
One school of thought contends that maintenance is a horizontal function and given enough historic data — hopefully labeled — smart algorithms can figure out all underlying patterns and correlations, delivering near-perfect insights without an iota of understanding on the vertical or asset class. The other school believes that an in-depth understanding of the asset, its constituent components and its functioning modes is essential to a good maintenance strategy. The reality lies somewhere in between. Having domain expertise on the pertinent asset classes and the contextual environment is definitely useful, but there is truly a bit of magic behind the data science algorithms. While they do uncover interesting and often counterintuitive insights that are humanly impossible in the end, the objective should be to balance the two perspectives to derive the most optimal value from your implementation.

6. It’s not just in the asset
Birds of the same feather may flock together, but assets of the same make and model don’t always perform similarly. An inordinate focus on just the asset data — based on sensors — can trip us up. The sensor data needs to blend with the context data — such as ambient conditions, operational environment, asset operation mode, general asset upkeep, etc. — to deliver the right insights. Context is really the king.

7. Predictive is not the end-all
According to Gartner, predictive maintenance is a strategy on a continuum from reactive to financially optimized. In that sense, predictive maintenance is a cog in the wheel that powers higher end objectives. The insights gleaned through predictive maintenance should be actionable in a sustainable way for translating them into real tangible value for the organization. The end goal is clearly either financial optimization or driving new innovative business models. Maintenance should work as an interdependent function and balance considerations related to other functions including production, inventory and human capital to optimize overall financial performance.

8. Measurement is key
Very often, strategic transformation initiatives like predictive maintenance get a bad rap for not delivering the goods. A major issue is often the lack of effective communications on the benefits achieved — e.g., by averting major breakdowns through predictive maintenance, avoiding truck-rolls, etc. — and quantifying the financial impacts. An effective baselining and measurement strategy is key to ensure that the benefits realized through predictive maintenance are adequately measured. Communicating the positive results to gain a wider traction within the organization and keep the momentum going is an imperative.

9. Deployment and sustainability is the end game
Creating standalone algorithmic models and proving their efficacy may get all the attention, but is not the end game. The real value is derived once those models have been deployed in a production context and are integrated into the business applications landscape. It is imperative to refresh models periodically to avoid model fatigue and ensure that the model incorporates new contextual information to sustain high levels of accuracy.

10. The future beckons so embrace it
Predictive maintenance is a fast-evolving function and greatly benefits from its confluence with technologies like AI and augmented reality. McKinsey forecasted productivity increases of up to 20% and reduction of maintenance costs greater than 10% through application of AI in predictive maintenance. Computer vision advancements will further enhance traditional predictive maintenance applications. Augmented reality applications will enhance maintenance worker productivity through wearables for applications like guided repairs. The era of self-healing machines is also not too distant. The field will continue to make rapid strides and it is imperative to stay plugged in and start piloting with new emerging technologies on an experimental basis.

Delivering true benefits from the implementation of a predictive maintenance program calls for a holistic perspective and requires the right blend of domain, consulting, technology and analytic skills. In summary, it’s the recipe that matters more than any one of the above single ingredients.

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.

June 14, 2019  10:58 AM

4 ways IoT innovation can transform the utilities industry

Mark Ingerman Profile: Mark Ingerman
electricity providers, Internet of Things, iot, IoT applications, IoT use cases, MQTT, outage response, Predictive maintenance, Smart meter, utilities, utility providers

IoT innovation is turning the utilities world on its head, augmenting smart meters with more advanced monitoring, alerting and data analytics capabilities than ever before. One of the most impactful innovations is a publisher-subscriber messaging protocol called MQTT. In the case of the utilities industry, electrical grids, gas pipelines and water suppliers can use MQTT to more quickly and accurately transmit data between their services and their customers and devices.

This article will provide four use cases that can transform the way utilities, especially electricity providers, can improve performance by cutting costs, improving billing and responding faster and more efficiently to service disruptions.

1. Smart metering

The industry has gone from having meters read regularly by an individual walking around town to reading the same meters by driving down the street with a remote device or cell phone. A real revolution is happening by equipping meters with a way to transmit their data over the power lines. Consider how powerful it will be to have power consumption not by the month, but by 15 minutes or any other interval. By using the MQTT protocol to transmit it, this data can be sent with guaranteed message delivery to provide accurate meter readings in real time.

For one thing, billing could be fairer and more accurate. Consider two households that consume the same power over the course of a month, but one household shifts much of its electricity use to overnight use, where the other does not. In the current system, the more energy-friendly house is subsidizing the other. With more granular energy reporting, utilities can charge more for peak energy and lower the charge for off-peak energy. In this case, the energy-savvy household would see a significant decrease in the monthly cost, while the household using more of the expensive energy will see a sharp increase. In addition to being able to lower the costs for many households and provide better data for peak energy analytics, the new model could encourage all households to reduce peak energy demands, or at least slow their growth.

2. Theft prevention

Industry experts estimate that $6 billion of electricity is stolen in the U.S. each year. By equipping transformers with the same technology as smart meters, transformers could send up their load data as well. By aggregating the load from all of the meters and comparing it to the transformer, a utility should easily be able to find places where there is theft or some other loss and respond quickly. Even with the theft occurring on the other side of the meter, the utility should be able to use analytics to determine where a spike in usage seems out of line from historic norms, including peak usage and outside influences, such as the need for increased cooling.

3. Fast outage response

Utilities no longer have to rely on customers reporting outages, as one feature of the MQTT technology is “last will” message alerting. If a device were to go offline unexpectedly, the MQTT broker would publish a predefined message down a predetermined path. This feature is often used to manage presence. In this case, it would manage the state of a household. If the power were to go out, the MQTT client in the smart meter would disconnect and the MQTT broker would notify the subscriber or utility team to let them know the power has been lost. At this point, the utility could dispatch a repair crew without waiting for a call. Imagine how pleasantly surprised a homeowner would be to come home and find a note that the power had gone out and the utility company has already repaired the damage — that is customer service at its finest.

4. Smarter outage response

Consider the above scenario, but this time all of the households on the same block, using the same transformer, all lose power together. Now, the problem could be the power line connecting the transformer to the power, the power line connecting the first house to the transformer or the transformer itself. If the smart transformer is still online and functioning correctly, it’s likely the problem is the line coming out of the transformer. But if the transformer is offline and messages beforehand have shown overload or overheating, then the loss of power is likely a blown transformer. Armed with this knowledge, the utility can dispatch a response crew that has the proper replacement transformer and equipment, eliminating duplicate efforts and wasted resources — for example, by sending one crew to bypass and another to replace the transformer.

Moreover, instead of waiting for the failure, the utility can be proactive. Analyzing the load on the transformer and its diagnostic information and taking into consideration the age of the transformer and its load rating, utility teams should be able to predict when a transformer is likely to go. If an external event, such as a heat wave, is approaching, the utility can proactively replace or prioritize any equipment likely to fail during the normal business operation — reducing inefficiencies by addressing potential issues ahead of a heat wave or storm, and reducing costs, such as having to pay overtime for teams to replace multiple devices on an urgent or emergency basis.

The above scenarios provide a brief glimpse of how MQTT and other IoT technologies can help transform a utility from an outdated, inefficient and unresponsive organization into a proactive, efficient, fair and customer-focused business. Of course, this is only the beginning. The smart grid opens the door for more sophisticated analytics and for even more sophisticated billing where customers can negotiate directly with energy providers for both standard and peak energy delivery. Here, energy providers can use smart grid analytics to target the appropriate customers for different pricing mechanisms. The more compelling cases are likely not even known today. The sky’s the limit on how this technology can be used moving forward.

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.

June 13, 2019  12:52 PM

3 IoT technologies primed to shape government asset management

Tom Amburgey Profile: Tom Amburgey
Asset management, Internet of Things, iot, IoT applications, IoT examples, IoT sensors, IoT use cases, smart city, smart city applications

Imagine the nightmare of receiving a utility bill for more than $25,000. I recently read an article about a couple getting such a bill for their modest 1950s home, and it reminded me of the true impact that IoT can have on citizen engagement.

When homeowner Chris Rose went online to check his water and sewage bill, he was stunned to find he owed $25,787.73. For the Roses, an unapparent leak turned into a life-altering bill that left them scrambling not only for answers, but also for the money to pay the staggering charges. I found myself wondering how different the situation could have been if this family lived in an area equipped with smart utility sensors. Had their home been in an area enabled with smart sensors, utility workers may have been able to identify and address the leak well before the family was hit with this unimaginably high bill and before nearly a million gallons of water were wasted.

The Roses’ situation shows just one of the many ways IoT can shift the government and citizen experience for the better. With the potential to accurately monitor consumption patterns, traffic flows, street and sidewalk conditions and much more, IoT is poised to redefine government operations by enabling proactive management protocols that can head off many problems before they develop.

With numerous IoT options available to government leaders, here are the three areas that I foresee having the greatest impact in the immediate future.

Benefits afforded by utility, infrastructure and traffic sensors

Utility sensors
IoT makes energy use more efficient — specifically electric, water, oil and gas utilities — and helps relieve some of the stress related to energy demand. If the Roses’ home had water sensors or water leak detectors, for instance, anomalies in consumption would have been detected before the leak racked up more than $25,000 in fees, particularly since the family’s bimonthly water and sewer bill averaged around $110.

Infrastructure sensors
Although infrastructure is designed to last many years, time takes its toll as roads eventually crumble, bridges start to crack and railway tracks fall into disrepair. However, governments across the globe are installing technology in hopes of improving infrastructure, saving money and improving citizens’ lives. Last year, for instance, the Colorado Department of Transportation teamed up with Integrated Roadways to test a half mile of the company’s smart pavement on a dangerous and accident-prone spot for drivers on U.S. Route 285. Once in place, the asphalt, brimming with safety sensors and the latest fiber optic and wireless technology, will be used to detect accidents and provide real-time services, such as road condition and traffic alerts to drivers.

Traffic sensors
We’ve all been caught in traffic jams or have found ourselves in the middle of hazardous road conditions that could have been avoided had technology alerted us. Traffic sensors are being used to identify traffic patterns to reduce congestion and allow for adjustments based on usage. Portland, Ore., is using 200 traffic sensors along three high-traffic corridors that account for more than 50% of the city’s road fatalities. Data from these sensors will be used to connect vehicles’ GPS systems with traffic cameras, providing city personnel the insight to help control traffic patterns and increase safety within these dangerous corridors.

IoT provides a world of possibilities

As IoT technologies continue to grow, so will their influence on our day-to-day lives. Thus, I encourage you to think about your current city operations and how they could benefit from IoT. If your community struggles with hard-to-manage, deteriorating roadways or citizen reports of skyrocketing utility bills, or constituents wish you could better enable them to avoid traffic congestion, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the benefits IoT can bring.

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.

June 13, 2019  11:00 AM

When developing IoT products, it’s not the cost, it’s the value

Mitch Maimam Profile: Mitch Maimam
Internet of Things, iot, IoT design, IoT developers, IoT development, IoT devices, IoT service providers, IoT services, product development

When engaging in a new IoT product strategy, it is important to evaluate the options for developing new products. This is especially challenging for companies that have not created smart connected products in the past, as they may need a mix of skills outside their normal core competencies. These required skills could include new expertise in wireless communications, cloud-based infrastructure, analytics or mobile device software. Even when the company has the necessary internal skills, often those internal resources are already committed to sustaining its current products.

So, what are the options for realizing the vision of a new IoT product?

Internal staff expansion

This is an option many companies will consider. However, in today’s job market, there are two big issues. First, there is extreme competition for talent in the current economy, with the engineering unemployment rate running between 1.5 and 2.0%. At this unemployment rate, it could take months — or longer — to find and recruit the needed experienced talent. This could severely delay the start of any new project. In addition, skill sets required for IoT product development are in uniquely short supply, such as hardware engineering, wireless and RF communications expertise.

Likewise, expansion of internal staff implies a longer-term commitment to employment. If you need to build a team rapidly, what happens to those direct staff members when the project ends? Will the company be overstaffed? Scaling back often involves a personally painful process and often, with the offering of severance, a tail-end expense to reducing team size.

Recruitment of temporary staff

It’s common for companies to engage temporary staff to satisfy bandwidth and skill needs. In more of a “buyer’s market” for temporary talent, there can be a large pool of technical staff available that can be hired by the hour to help supplement an internal team. When engaging temporary staff, internal staff will be needed to interview candidates, bring them up to speed, equip them with the tools of the trade and manage their activities. It is not just the hourly cost of such staff — by the way, hourly costs for experienced temporary help are quite inflated in the current job market. As such, bringing on even one temporary person will require some incremental managerial bandwidth from the client’s internal team. The company takes responsibility for the work and workmanship of the temporary team members’ work. And any mistakes along the way are simply paid for by the hour. Nobody stands behind their work.

Engagement with a product development firm

Many companies benefit from engaging with a highly skilled product development (PD) professional services firm. An engagement of this type offers significant benefit to the company:

  • A PD partner comes to the table fully staffed ready to start immediately. Of particular value, a PD partner expert in IoT products will have the unusual and diverse skills needed for end-to-end system development, including both hardware and software, as well as user interface and experience. It comes to the project ready to start rapidly.
  • A PD partner’s team is fully equipped with test equipment and more. There no need to go out and procure incremental things, like new computers and software; the PD partner’s team is already equipped. It may also have its own test lab and prototyping capabilities so as to not need to draw down the company’s capacity.
  • A PD partner takes responsibility. A well-chosen PD partner will assume the responsibility for the quality and workmanship of the team. While the company will need to provide oversight to the PD partner, it takes responsibility for its work and does not require daily supervision or onboarding.

Engaging with a product development professional services firm is a practical option that requires minimal ramp up, consolidation of responsibility and the ability to rapidly engage in realizing the new IoT product vision. There is a cost for such an engagement and is not inexpensive. The question is not the cost, but what is the value of achieving the goal?

Certainly, the cost of a PD firm, on an hourly basis, is likely higher than simply engaging temporary staff, though not always. However, when the overhead of finding and managing temporary staff is considered, the true costs are more than the hourly rate. It is tempting to compare hourly cost of an internal team versus a PD partner. The true cost of an employee is more than just their annual salary divided by 2080. When adding the direct additional costs, such as tools and health insurance, plus burdened indirect costs, including administrative and facilities, the cost of a PD firm may actually be lower than the company’s own cost.

When it comes to IoT product categories, focus on the value of the new product or service and not just the cost. While cost is important, what is the benefit to be garnered from the new product or service? A product development professional services partner may be the right answer to jumpstarting the realization of opportunities.

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.

June 10, 2019  11:10 AM

Why the marriage of 5G and IoT will change the world

Tom Canning Profile: Tom Canning
5G, 5G and IoT, 5G network, 5G security, 5G technology, Internet of Things, iot, iot security, IoT use cases, IoT wireless, Li-Fi

5G will become so central to how businesses and societies operate that the shift has been compared to moving from a typewriter to a computer! Alongside IoT, 5G is set to bring a new generation of value and innovation to a variety of markets, delivering what many are hailing as the fourth Industrial Revolution. The combination of the two technologies will see a huge number of futuristic applications brought to life.

We’ve been hearing about 5G’s promise for a while, but 2020 is seen as the year when 5G adoption starts to reach a tipping point. It’s the same year that the number of connected devices will exceed 30 billion. As the world enters a new age of hyperconnected IoT, there is a growing need for bandwidth. After all, smarter products use the network in new and demanding ways. Devices at the edge are no longer primitive sensors, but advanced computers in their own right — autonomous vehicles, industrial gateways, self-learning robots, drones and everything in between.

The ability to process vast amounts of data will require not just a faster connection, but a fundamental shift in how we approach all forms of technology.

More than a sprint: 5G is a pace-setter

We’ve moved beyond the simple notions of speed. To the average consumer, 4G allows us to do everything we want most of the time — sift through social media, stream shows and speak to friends and family over a cellular network. The strength of 5G lies in its increased capacity and reduced latency times. 5G will be the most reliable means of processing compute workloads and the benchmark for supporting more advanced technologies.

When it comes to IoT, 5G’s reliability opens up a seemingly infinite number of new use cases. Data collected at the edge can be understood and acted on in near real time. Multigigabit-per-second speeds and one-millisecond latency times will ensure more data than ever can be quickly and easily collected and analyzed, overlaying increased intelligence into every device at the edge.

IoT innovation: 5G the enabler

The combination of 5G and IoT will spawn a whole new generation of innovative applications.

Autonomous vehicles remain one of the most talked about examples, with data collected and fused from a vast array of sensors, including speed and rain gauges, GPS and external cameras. With the advent of 5G, this information will become indispensable as companies and cities overlay other technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, onto the real-time data outputs and revolutionize how we transport ourselves.

Improving traffic flows, identifying manufacturing defects automatically and supporting passenger safety can all be realized through the harmony of 5G and IoT.

Partnering robotics with 5G, meanwhile, could revolutionize healthcare and support more advanced techniques. Real-time rendering of virtual models will see telesurgery become a viable and commonly available option, ensuring that access to treatment is not hindered by geography. A human doctor could perform an operation on a 3D model, while a robot carries out the same procedure on a patient somewhere else in the world.

Cars and robots show the benefits of 5G intersecting with IoT, but both do raise questions around security. Previous generations of mobile networks were designed with consumers in mind, meaning security was a somewhat less critical consideration. As more companies take advantage of the increased speed, however, and migrate their operations to 5G infrastructures, the need to protect the network and edge device becomes increasingly imperative.

Take into account that 5G supports network slicing — the ability to create multiple virtual networks on top of one platform — and security will now have to drop its one-size-fits all mantra.

In the case of smarter vehicles, hackers have multiple access points to exploit and a failed network could have serious, if not deadly, repercussions. Connected robots will also need the strongest protections possible, as their ability to interact directly with the physical world makes them dangerous and attractive targets for creative criminals.

Solving security: 5G the protector

The good news is that 5G capabilities will enable new types of security services as well. Software can now support ongoing device health checks, especially when coupled with the increased bandwidth of 5G, allowing system and application updates and rollbacks to flow in a timely manner. That’s one way to help future-proof connected devices with a next-generation connection, but what about when the network itself becomes the security measure?

5G is expected to roll out over a radio frequency like previous iterations, but other mediums have been touted in order to bring an extra layer of security to the network.

Li-Fi is a disruptive technology with the power to unlock the potential of IoT in a safe manner. By transmitting data over light instead of radio waves, Li-Fi could ensure the validity of the connected home, with IoT devices only able to access the network when in direct contact with the light signal.

It’s an interesting use case for 5G and one that maximizes its speed and capacity without the added security risks. Smart homes and future offices could be almost unrecognizable with secure connected devices at their hearts — constantly evolving layouts and concept themes with their connected building application ecosystems all being controlled by real-time data.

As 2020 and the advent of significant 5G adoption near, the possibilities seem endlessly exciting.

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.

June 10, 2019  10:57 AM

Greater IoT connectivity and the future of work

Guy Courtin Profile: Guy Courtin
BYOD, Consumer IoT, Enterprise IoT, hyperconnectivity, Internet of Things, iot, IoT connectivity, IoT devices

The rise of IoT, RFID and other technologies has created a connective tissue that ties in aspects that were otherwise kept separate. Greater connectivity has touched numerous aspects of our lives, from smarter cars to connected homes to smart factories. One area of connectivity that has been impacted is the way we work. Humans have always had to work in some form, whether it was hunting for food or sitting behind a desk. Moreover, today’s working environment has drastically changed from those early days, let alone a generation ago.

Hyperconnectivity allows for greater freedoms, but does call for always-on access. We often overlook it, but our mobile phones are a great example of a personal IoT device. It was not too long ago that many work IT departments mandated company-issued BlackBerry devices to access email on the go. At that time, digital access was heavily regulated by IT groups. 2007 marked a tipping point, when Apple introduced the iPhone and suddenly every executive wanted the device and the flood gates opened. The BYOD practice became the norm. This new open connectivity truly changed the way we worked.

Since then, the idea of working remotely became truly viable. People could access email anywhere they had a connection, and soon were able to access shared files via these portable devices. Rather than having to commute to an office, the office was in your hands. This created greater freedom, but also changed how we viewed the work hours. The 9 to 5 quickly became 24/7 since employees were always connected. So, while this connectivity has given many of us greater flexibility, it has also changed the notion of when we are at work. Our devices mean people are always a click away from a colleague’s email, a bosses’ Slack message or a connected calendar telling them where to be.

Connectivity has meant our work parameters have been redefined, but what about the work itself? Smarter machines, smarter devices and smarter infrastructure all powered by greater connectivity has sparked a rising fear of jobs being lost out to these smarter machines. These connected robots will start showing us pink slips as they take our jobs. Or will they?

Machines have been intertwined with work since the wheel was invented. The great industrial revolution associated with the steam engine and mass production saw an outcry that these great machines would replace the human laborer. In some cases, it did. In other cases, it created new opportunities and opened new jobs. This has opened a world of debate. The future may include trucks driving down the highway without human drivers, conductor-less subways, supermarkets delivering groceries with zero human interaction whatsoever and the list goes on. Some people believe the future of work is just early retirement, thanks to our connected machine overlords.

Although it appears technology will be increasingly taking over more and more jobs, there will always be a need for working humans. The connected machines are merely helpful tools. Companies like GE are using these connected machines to do better maintenance in dangerous places such as rail yards, wind turbines or oil rigs. These robots can navigate these hazardous locations to assist the humans in charge of maintenance to do their job safer and more efficiently. Perhaps one day technology will significantly change the tasks required of most human jobs — but there will always be employment.

Therefore, how we work will continue to evolve. Connectivity is just another phase in this evolution. However, it is a helpful tool that humans can use in their work. Work is not going away, it is simply adapting to the connected world around us.

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.

June 7, 2019  1:25 PM

Delivering on the promise of the connected home with USP

John Blackford Profile: John Blackford
Broadband, Internet of Things, iot, IoT interoperability, IOT Network, IoT platform, IoT protocols, IoT standards, IoT wireless, smart home, smart home devices, User Services Platform, USP

With the advent of IoT, broadband service providers are feeling increasing pressure from consumers to integrate the concept of the smart home, new security challenges and new cloud-based business models into a superior broadband experience, as well as a compelling business strategy for themselves. As if this wasn’t a big enough challenge, at the same time they are engaged in a war for the heart and wallet of consumers with powerful new competitors — in many cases global consumer electronics firms — for control of the connected home.

Changing consumer expectations and requirements are key contributors to this aforementioned pressure. Service providers are striving to find a way to provide faster and better-quality broadband experiences to meet and exceed those expectations. However, it’s not all bad news for service providers — the emergence of the connected home lets us rethink how the broadband experience is delivered to the consumer and measured by the service provider.

This, in turn, presents a great opportunity for both differentiation and new revenue sources. To that end, service providers must find ways to provide services to and monetizing the connected home. Arming them for the battle is Broadband Forum’s User Services Platform (USP).

An evolving ecosystem

With the accelerating mass proliferation of broadband-ready IoT devices, how these devices can be managed, monitored and upgraded is the source of multiple headaches for service providers.

Service providers realized early on that managing the expectations of these devices would require proactive management of the home network, starting with the residential gateway, set-top-boxes and other devices and applications which are critical to the customers’ experience. Fast-forward to today and the broadband ecosystem has once again evolved; service providers are desperately looking for a way to not only support the IoT space, but to monetize it.

In doing so, service providers face many challenges. In light of the ever-changing ecosystem, consumers are increasingly turning to their broadband service providers for customer support on device-related issues when trying to set up or manage their smart home devices. Operators are being held responsible for poor device and application performance by their customers because they perceive the integration of devices, applications and internet service as part of their overall broadband experience. This comes down to the fact that consumers often do not differentiate between the Wi-Fi and the internet — despite the reality that many consumers buy their Wi-Fi equipment independently of their service provider.

While it may be hard to see beyond the wall of challenges that are built up against them, service providers are actually in a unique position to offer a unified smart home service.

Turning challenges into opportunities

As the broadband home router is standard equipment for any subscriber, it serves as a central point for connectivity and network security in the home. This means that service providers can act as a centralized service center that manages other services with a single point for billing and customer support, simplifying a complex environment for the end user which can, in turn, improve users’ experience.

Furthermore, service providers have the technical expertise for installation and troubleshooting — often more than consumer electronics manufacturers themselves — as they have a direct touchpoint to the consumer’s home network in addition to the consumer’s internet connection.

Though challenging, Wi-Fi connectivity and the promise of the smart home presents a great opportunity for service providers to offer premium services, such as network security monitoring, IoT onboarding and support, Wi-Fi quality management, or parental/content controls that are self-branded or facilitated by a third-party service.

Monetizing the connected home: The race is on

While the benefits of delivering a better experience to the consumer is clear, how service providers can do so cost-effectively while planning ahead is not so clear. The journey to the connected home requires service providers to take more than one path and involves the combination of using the right technologies, enabling the right broadband ecosystem and delivering the services with an agility that meets or exceeds customer expectations. And if this isn’t enough, they must also achieve this as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.

However, it’s not just service providers who are feeling the heat — consumer electronics manufacturers are building their own proprietary offerings — or even pre-standard versions of standardized systems — in a bid to capture ownership of the connected home. While this is understandable given the massive pressure generated by the promise of monetizing the connected home, adopting such systems has the potential to result in a stunted ecosystem. In this scenario, service providers will become dependent on a very limited, or even vertical, ecosystem.

The security of these technologies is an ongoing concern. Many smart devices, home gateways and Wi-Fi products on the market today have serious security flaws that are being targeted by malicious attackers and are leaving service providers exposed.

Without the basis of interoperability, these systems are often incompatible with service providers’ existing equipment. Service providers have made significant investments not only in their installed base of customer premises equipment, but also in their operations support systems and business support systems that manage the infrastructure and operation of their network and subscribers. If they are to capture the connected home market and do so without breaking the bank, it is crucial that they are able to seamlessly migrate — or evolve — these systems as transitions are made.

Furthermore, as the technologies behind Wi-Fi and whole-home connectivity, as well as the smart home and IoT, constantly evolve, more challenges and opportunities in monetizing the connected home are rising. That is why it is critical that when seeking systems, service providers think ahead and choose ones that meet the criteria for being future-proof.

One strategy — Broadband Forum’s USP — stands above the others in providing a comprehensive long-term option that balances the needs of the customer and the service provider. And with USP, created as the evolution of TR-069, it uses the investments service providers have made in the over 1 billion broadband installations that already exist.

On the cUSP of the connected home

Designed to tackle these problems head-on, service providers and managed device manufacturers have come together to develop USP, also known as Broadband Forum standard TR-369. As the natural evolution of TR-069, USP addresses the explosion of connected devices, providing a unified, common approach to deploying, controlling and managing Wi-Fi, application-enabled gateways, smart home and IoT devices and more.

Providing the flexibility, security and scalability service providers and consumer electronics manufacturers need to manage connected devices, carry out software upgrades, apply critical security patches and onboard new devices, USP meets the demands of the connected home both now and in the future.

Accelerating this journey, Broadband Forum has developed a new open source agent to facilitate faster time to market of connected home services. The Open Broadband USP Agent (OB-USP-Agent) gives vendors a code base that they can either integrate into their devices or use as a reference implementation. OB-USP-Agent facilitates USP deployment and enables faster time to market for USP-based technologies. Additionally, as a standards-based option, OB-USP-Agent gives service providers the confidence to carry out large-scale deployments, eliminating the risk of vendor lock-in.

By combining the best of standards-based deployments with the latest software developments, OB-USP-Agent opens up the possibilities of the connected home by providing a system which the entire broadband industry can utilize and benefit from. Furthermore, service providers will have the tools at their disposal to deliver a future-proof connected home experience that will not only enhance consumers’ day-to-day lives, but create additional revenue streams.

USP also gives providers the edge they need to compete against over-the-top services, opening the door to new use cases, such as Wi-Fi management, network security, parental control, home security, home automation and a host of other services, that can all be enabled with a system of USP agents and controllers. Service providers can also provide a better customer experience with the development of smartphone apps that act as USP controllers, allowing end users to troubleshoot their own networks to drastically reduce support calls, as well as provide a secondary channel for data collection.

Facing the future head on

Although other options exist right now for meeting the short-term needs of service providers, these technologies fall short of providing a future-proof system for realizing the promise of the connected home of tomorrow.

No matter the challenges that service providers face, such as reducing costs, improving customer support or differentiating themselves to consumers, USP was designed and developed specifically as the savior which could meet these difficult challenges and empower network service providers, application providers and consumer electronics manufacturers alike in the connected home age.

USP provides a platform for successfully mastering the connected home. In arming service providers by providing them the peace of mind to efficiently address the challenges of the future head on, they can meet the demands of the connected user today, and tomorrow.

For more information and videos about Broadband Forum’s views on the connected home and the role of USP, click here.

To get started using USP as a standardized protocol to manage, monitor, update and control connected devices, services, and home networks, visit here.

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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