According to Gartner, there are over 36 million IoT devices in the world, and soon many of them will be able to be wirelessly charged with the near field communication technology found in smartphones, tablets and any NFC-enabled device. Simply hold an IoT device, like a Bluetooth headset for example, near a smartphone and the headset can be recharged wirelessly. This innovation won’t replace device chargers, which charge more powerfully, but if you’re on the road, at the beach or anywhere you don’t have access to a charger, it is a great alternative.
This new spin on wireless charging for IoT devices is the result of the NFC Forum’s recently released Wireless Charging Candidate Specification (WLC). The WLC was published as a candidate specification, allowing the industry to review the document before this specification is officially adopted by the NFC Forum.
Simple, convenient way to recharge consumer devices on the go
The WLC specification allows the antenna in an NFC-enabled device, like a smartphone, to handle both communications and wireless charging. This makes it easier and more convenient to charge low-power IoT devices, such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, headsets and other consumer devices. In this case, the NFC antenna is used to exchange the pairing information and to transfer power to the IoT device.
For example, if your fitness tracker ran out of battery power during your workout, you could recharge it with your phone, tablet or other device. This ability puts an IoT charger in your pocket anywhere you go.
Once adopted, WLC could become the standard that does for IoT devices what the Qi wireless charging standard is doing in the handset space. WLC will let users simply and easily wirelessly charge NFC-enabled devices at a power transfer rate of up to one watt. The WLC will be a great solution for small IoT devices that can benefit from a smaller charge.
Why use NFC-enabled devices to recharge IoT devices
The benefits of using NFC technology for wireless charging of IoT devices are:
- A second option. Users now have another option for charging their IoT devices, either by specific chargers or NFC-enabled smartphones or tablets supporting the new NFC Forum standard for wireless charging.
- Shared antenna. With the ability to share the same antenna for communication and power charging, manufacturers can now design smaller and more affordable IoT devices.
Here’s how it works
Using existing NFC technology, the RF field (using a base frequency of 13.56 MHz) generated for NFC communication already provides enough energy to power NFC Forum tags without their own electrical supply. The WLC specification extends this power transfer ability of the RF field and uses the existing communication protocols for NFC Forum tags exchanging NFC Data Exchange Format messages to control the power transfer.
The NFC Forum Wireless Charging Candidate Specification supports two modes of operation:
- Static mode. The static mode targets IoT devices with a very small power budget able to operate with standard RF field strength used for NFC communication. In this static mode, the device receiving the power announces its wireless charging capabilities to the WLC charging device. The WLC charging device provides the RF field according to these capabilities.
- Negotiated mode. The negotiated mode allows power transfers of up to 1000 mW. There are four different defined power classes, including 250, 500, 750 and 1000 mW. For power transfer in negotiated mode, the RF field strength needs to be increased compared to the RF field strength used for NFC communication. To avoid damaging NFC cards or tags, as well as for safety reasons, different foreign object detection mechanisms are defined to stop the power transfer once an NFC card or tag or another metallic object is detected in the RF field. The negotiated mode allows the device receiving the power to request the optimum needed power level from the charging device.
For more information or to comment on the specification, click here.
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IoT is playing a pivotal role bridging the gap between the enterprise technologies of today and tomorrow. So much so that by 2020, more than half of all major business processes and systems will incorporate IoT elements to some degree.
However, that doesn’t mean businesses should expect IoT-driven applications in the next several years. Instead, these advanced devices will be used in limited aspects across a broad variety of use cases and scenarios to maximize existing enterprise workflows wherever possible.
That said, not every organization is ready to deploy IoT yet. Most companies need to overcome three primary challenges before they are ready to experience IoT implementation success.
Challenge #1: IoT integration
There’s a reason 40% of today’s enterprises are stuck in IoT’s initial planning and discussion stages — these connected devices and sensors have the potential to create difficulties where system integrations are concerned. Almost 30% of organizations currently introducing IoT into their mobility management ecosystems admit adoption efforts are being negatively impacted by information and operation technology integration efforts.
Despite the enterprise hurdles that come with integrating IoT and legacy technology, businesses that approach these potential pitfalls with careful planning and strategic decisions set themselves up for tremendous return on investment. In fact, more than two-thirds of today’s companies believe IoT project success will be mission-critical moving forward — which is why 79% expect most internal processes to include IoT sensors and controls within five years.
Challenge #2: Long-term projects
Today, Gartner estimates that three-quarters of global IoT initiatives take twice as long to complete as originally planned. Like most new technologies, most mobility management professionals point to a combination of employee resistance to change and the need for new business models and culture changes that require large-scale, long-term processes to ultimately uncover IoT’s enterprise value.
While this can be deflating — if not viewed as a failed investment altogether — it’s crucial that companies continue to invest whatever time and resources are required for successful IoT adoption regardless of how long the project takes to complete. Compromises made to meet deadlines at the cost of project scope significantly increase the probability of weaker device performance, security controls and existing system integration capabilities.
In worst-case situations, cutting corners and sacrificing capabilities for short-term success can even create the need for IoT to be recalled or redeployed. Considering the average organization invests years and up to $50 per IoT sensor to roll this technology out initially, few businesses can afford to attempt widespread adoption more than once. With million-dollar deployment budgets potentially at stake, executives that lack expertise and/or confidence need to understand successful IoT implementation takes time.
Challenge #3: Enterprise security
As IoT sensors proliferate inside the global enterprise environment, security for these endpoints will consume 20% or more of annual IT security budgets by 2020. IoT’s integration into an increasing number of processes will only cause this technology’s architecture, design and implementation to grow more complex going forward. This not only increases demand for IoT device and data security, it also presents increased risk for businesses and more potential entry points than ever for hackers.
An overly complex IoT initiative creates an environment that fails to identify exposed vulnerabilities, much less take steps to resolve them. At the same time, external IoT security threats are rapidly rising. Over the last year, IoT malware attacks have increased in frequency by more than 200%.
As global IoT investments increase, companies need to consider the myriad of strategy and security risks these technologies can create. A managed mobility software partner gives businesses the best chance to eliminate these challenges and increase the likelihood that IoT leaves a lasting, impactful enterprise footprint.
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The best lens through which to view emerging technologies and their intersections is often data. Where does the data come from? Where is it stored? How is the data turned into real-time actions? Or, alternatively, how is the data transformed into knowledge and insights, whether directly through algorithms or by combining it with other data and insights? Consider how IoT and blockchain intersect.
The IoT and blockchain example
For our purposes here, I’ll focus on how IoT provides a means for the digital world of computer systems and networks to interact with the physical world of food, trains, roads and other things that we see and touch. An interaction can be telling physical machinery to do something, like stop a train. Or it can mean providing computer programs with the data to understand what’s happening in the “real” world.
Blockchain can likewise be approached in a number of different ways. In the context of IoT, it’s most useful to focus on distributed ledger technology (DLT), which allows participants in a business network to record their transactions on a shared distributed ledger. While there are similarities to a distributed database, DLTs avoid a single point of control, enable smart contracts to take actions, such as transferring money in response to transactions, and use cryptography to ensure that any tampering with recorded transactions is obvious.
Outside of the financial industry — which has a great deal of interest in using blockchain to eliminate expensive or inefficient middlemen — there’s a lot of interest in blockchain for applications where it’s useful to have a shared source of truth when transactions pass through many hands. Think of goods being turned from raw materials to a final consumer product. Or food that begins life on a farm and eventually ends up in a restaurant or home kitchen. In the event of problems, such as contaminated food, you need to be able to quickly figure out where the contamination came from — whether a particular farm or some other link in the supply chain.
The map is not the territory
Blockchains are computer systems. But supply chains and provenance tracking inevitably involve the physical world. Indeed, IBM General Manager for Blockchain, Marie Wieck, described at Think 2019 the promise of blockchain as bringing together networks that, today, operate largely in silos. For example, physical goods are often not tightly coupled to either the data about those goods nor the financial transactions that need to take place as those goods move around.
Goods can’t be fully represented in digital form. The map is not the territory as the saying goes. This is perhaps especially true when we’re most concerned with goods that differ from the expected in some way. They’re spoiled. They’ve been dropped. They’re mislabeled.
Furthermore, goods may be deliberately misrepresented. The mislabeling may have been done on purpose. Or they’re marked as inspected when, in fact, they were passed right through without a glance.
We say that blockchain is a shared source of truth. But that’s not quite right. It’s a source of “truth” in so far as the physical world as represented to the blockchain is a reasonable facsimile of reality.
There’s no magic bullet to ensure that a blockchain accurately represents the state of the world. This is especially true when there are questions about the degree to which participants in the network can be trusted, a complicated topic by itself. However, the more resistant we can make the system to both accidental and deliberate errors or omissions, the better.
Which brings us back to IoT.
IoT sensors can provide detailed data about goods, for example, the temperature at which they’ve been transported. Such data could potentially be stored and added to a blockchain as part of a logistics system that provides accurate, current tracking that would be hard to game.
Frequency of data collection, aggregation and filtering of data, and transmission of data are just a few of the details that need to be considered for a specific situation. Nonetheless, sensors in concert with blockchain can represent the state of physical objects in ways that are more complete, more automatic, more timely and more resistant to deliberate falsification than is often the norm.
This would potentially enable more rapid response across an entire supply chain to actions or environmental variables that aren’t as expected. IoT may not be able to create a digital twin with perfect fidelity that can then be securely appended to a blockchain. But it can help us get closer.
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.
IoT is creeping closer to maturity, with technologies becoming increasingly robust and functional IoT implementations ramping up. IoT services and systems are entering the market on a daily basis with different architectures, feature sets and applications. There are many factors to consider when investing in IoT, but understanding the different protocol options available and which will fit the needs and scale of your business in both the short and long term is critical.
An IoT protocol is the network language that the nodes of an IoT system speak, dictating the range, format and complexity of the IoT system’s communications. Protocols also play a key role in determining cost and features. There are two primary considerations:
- How long will sensors need to stay in the field on battery power? How often will they need to report? What kind of devices being considered? Will replaceable or rechargeable batteries be used?
- What distance range must signals cover? How much data will they send in each message? Are you relying on cellular to maintain connectivity, or will you need to build your own IoT network?
The best protocol to use depends on these two factors, as well as the specific application at hand. The smallest and least-demanding IoT setups — connected homes or offices, for example — can run on simple Wi-Fi networks, with continuous power coming from the building’s electrical system. For areas such as a farm or a campus environment where small-volume data transmissions are required, self-contained low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) such as LoRaWAN and Sigfox are a good choice. For larger regional areas, a cellular protocol like Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) or Cat-M may be the best choice.
For networks that are larger than one small building, LPWANs usually make the most sense. These environments include such large-scale undertakings as construction projects, oil refineries or any type of operation where people, assets, such as equipment, and dangerous conditions need to be tracked across a large site. This also includes factories, warehouses, farms or ranches, and large school or government campuses.
Deploying an LPWAN like LoRaWAN in these types of scenarios means you will most likely pay the same or less as with cellular IoT, and you own more — all the devices, the network and the data that goes over the network. You’re responsible for monitoring, support, maintenance and repairs. Security is also your responsibility.
Another notable difference: unlike cellular data packets, LPWAN transmissions don’t always wait on reception confirmation. This can be a benefit and a liability — more traffic can be placed on the system without acknowledgements, but there are times data points will be lost due to network congestion.
The two most popular LPWAN protocols are LoRaWAN and Sigfox. Of the two, LoRaWAN and LoRa technology have experienced higher growth, as well as growth potential over the next five years. The simple case for LoRa and LoRaWAN is their widespread support, versatility and outlook. The LoRa Alliance is backed by more than 500 leading technology companies, and LoRa technologies are continuously evolving and improving to enable new use cases.
Cellular IoT is a good choice for larger environments, such as citywide or statewide hospitals, retailers or airports, or even environmental monitoring and disaster preparedness across a wide area — anywhere that needs a consistent, clear view of assets, shipments or conditions. No new network or gateways are required, as the cellular provider’s existing cell towers transport the IoT data. That also means, however, that the same dead spots in cellular coverage exist for IoT connectivity. If the network connection is interrupted, your IoT will also be impacted. Still, the costs and limitations of cellular IoT are often outweighed by the ease of deployment and size of coverage area.
Cellular protocols will lead the IoT discussion for those operating on a very wide scale, or in areas gateways can’t legally or logistically be erected. The two protocols with the most market share and mindshare are Cat-M and NB-IoT. Of the two, NB-IoT is more battery efficient and offers low-power communications and data size that match the LoRa profile more closely, making cross-sensor compatibility simpler for IoT providers that want to cover both LPWAN and cellular use cases.
Meanwhile, Cat-M allows for higher data rates and low-latency communications, critical if the organization needs to collect large files from its devices or push large updates to endpoints. Cat-M also allows for low-quality voice and is more appropriate for real-time applications such as smart vehicles.
Rollouts for NB-IoT and Cat-M are nascent but growing, and the availability of both will largely depend on cellular providers plans. Ultimately, it’s likely that NB-IoT will provide the right benefit at the right cost for most applications. However, LPWAN and LoRaWAN will find a sweet spot with companies that want to cover large areas or have private networks.
It’s possible that the future also holds a protocol-agnostic model where sensors support multiple protocols. In the interim, select an IoT protocol that best matches your scale, power and connectivity needs, with an eye keenly on your future requirements.
New technologies are not only being adopted as quickly as they are created, but they are also being woven together in ways that are disrupting even the latest networking strategies. Cloud computing has not only moved computing and applications out of the core network, but with the adoption of things like SD-WAN, the core network — including the data center — is being replaced with a widely distributed network of physical and virtual peer devices and nodes.
Likewise, the internet of things is now much more than new devices that do things like track inventory or monitor physical systems. Business Insider predicted that by 2020, there will be more than 24 billion installed IoT devices — several times more than the number of people on earth — and many of these devices are being designed and deployed to extend and expand our hyper-meshed networks, creating bridges between users, devices, applications, systems and clouds.
And the advent of 5G is set to completely revolutionize digital transformation yet again. High-speed availability of even the most latency-sensitive rich media content will push data centers, applications and a new generation of IoT devices out to the edge. This will distribute computing even more as more devices, users and services become connected, while further blurring traditional notions of the enterprise perimeter.
The need for more security professionals
There are two sides to this coin of astronomical growth. The first is the ability to provide critical data, information and solutions to the farthest reaches of the globe — enabling IoT manufacturers and service providers to flourish by continuing to push our digital society forward through new innovation. However, the other side of that coin is that keeping up with tracking, managing and securing all of these devices — especially those being deployed outside the traditional core network — is highly complex and overwhelming the resources of many organizations.
The world is becoming interconnected in unprecedented ways, and staying ahead of the expanding attack surface requires an unprecedented number of skilled employees. The fact is, security concerns are the primary gating factor for the adoption of new IoT systems, so having the right cybersecurity talent in place enables innovation and competitive advantage. They are essential to the growth of the IoT sector. Unfortunately, the industry is not producing new cybersecurity professionals fast enough, and the lack of these workers not only makes IoT devices progressively more risky to use, but also impedes our progress toward building a digital society. In an interconnected world in which IoT is no longer an option but a necessity, what can be done?
The skills gap is not being filled
Cybersecurity professionals are some of the most highly sought-after individuals across industries, but because demand for seasoned professionals has surpassed supply, they are increasingly difficult to hire.
This couldn’t happen at a more inopportune time. Networks are rapidly expanding, our reliance on the digital economy and marketplace is growing, threats are becoming more sophisticated and pervasive, and the stakes in terms of regulatory punishment and reputational damage have never been higher. In this new world, cybersecurity experts can essentially write their own tickets, as the cybersecurity field currently enjoys a zero percent unemployment rate. Of course, this also means that smaller organizations are often priced out of the market.
This is a problem of epic proportions that demands epic solutions. The answer will not come from one sector; it requires a multi-phase, multipronged approach that marshals all current available resources and uses private-public partnerships to create a kind of cybersecurity skills moonshot.
Best practices for a secure IoT environment
Providing secure IoT devices and services, and using them safely within organizations, needs to be a top concern for the IoT industry. Here are six best practices that we all need to promote:
- The IoT industry needs to adopt a security lifecycle development approach so that security is considered from the outset and not as an afterthought. Code needs to be sanitized, devices need to be hardened, operating systems need to be patchable and industry standards need to be established and adhered to.
- People currently working in IT need hands-on training. Organizations need to implement a system whereby interested IT personnel can receive cybersecurity training. This can include a mentoring or apprenticeship program within an organization, funding hands-on training in an accredited educational or industrial setting, or creating a consortium of organizations willing to work together to cross-train security professionals.
- Actively recruit military veterans who are transitioning to civilian life. Today’s modern military relies on technology, which means that transitioning military personnel already have exposure to many of the latest IT tools. In addition, they already have the proper cybersecurity mindset because they understand things like chain of command, establishing and monitoring a fluid perimeter, and following established protocols.
- The formal educational process needs a reboot. Students should be exposed to security issues at an early age and then continually throughout their education. Students should be encouraged to enter educational programs that emphasize science and technology, especially computer science, engineering and cybersecurity. Additionally, governments and organizations can sponsor technical labs for secondary education and university programs, provide mentors and fund scholarships.
- Greater candidate diversity must be encouraged. Special attention needs to be paid to encouraging women and minorities to participate in cybersecurity training programs as these groups are not only significantly underrepresented in the tech industry, but because they represent more than half of the population, they also represent a very real solution to closing the cyber-skills gap at scale. To accomplish this, educational institutions and corporations need to develop programs to identify and support women and minorities, fund diversity scholarships and create targeted cybersecurity internships.
- Organizations need to step up their adoption of machine learning and automation. Cybercriminals have been using new technologies to close the time interval between a successful attack through the compromise and exfiltration of data. The adversaries’ growing sophistication also means it more difficult than ever before to detect malicious activity. For example, advanced evasion techniques now allow infected botnets to remain undetected in networks for an average of nearly 12 days. Based on the current state of the cyber-skills shortage, we can no longer rely on humans to detect and respond to cyberthreats. We need to rely on automation and machine learning to help humans process the massive amount of data needed to detect and mitigate.
Further, as machine learning and automation enables security tools to take over many of an organization’s more mundane IoT security tasks, scarce security resources can be refocused on higher-order tasks.
Creating an environment for success
Gartner forecasted that worldwide spending on information security will grow to $124 billion this year. Part of that growth is being fueled by an ever-expanding threat landscape comprised of literally billions of IoT endpoints. Organizations cannot merely hope candidates with the right cybersecurity skills will show up on their doorstep. Instead, they must proactively promote and offer training, advocate for formal education systems to be overhauled, and work with existing employees and veterans to turn the corner on this looming crisis. Tools like automation and machine learning will also help organizations continue to grow and flourish in today’s IoT-dominated environment, rather than shrinking back in fear and risking obsolescence.
Equipment rental companies can increase profits and enhance customer service just by gaining critical real-time insights into their asset performance. We’ve seen equipment rental companies flip the switch on IoT data and quickly improve asset uptime, longevity and performance. But while it’s important to match IoT solutions with the problem that needs to be solved, real-time visibility is not an IoT end game.
What if you could track rental equipment and anticipate issues that have yet to occur? Connecting your assets with an IoT strategy will help you predict problems and determine outcomes, delivering greater asset reliability and customer satisfaction. Consider these three key checkpoints as part of your predictive maintenance strategy:
Putting rules and workflows on your data
Managing maintenance is stressful on anyone responsible for trucks and other equipment. Equipment downtime leads to lost productivity, which has a devastating effect on the construction industry. One breakdown can bring an entire project to a standstill. With IoT, equipment rental companies now have the ability to automate preventive maintenance schedules, inspections and work order processes. It’s the best way to keep your operations running at maximum efficiency, decreasing time spent on diagnosing mechanical defects and evaluating equipment after repairs, maintenance and safety checks.
GPS tracking and telematics for vehicles and heavy equipment can provide accurate asset location, diagnostics and utilization data in near real time. You can configure your IoT application to put rules and workflows on this streaming data, for example, to automate fault alerts or create work orders when engine hours reach a threshold for maintenance. The value added is that you decrease unplanned breakdowns and service calls, maximize worker productivity, perform timely maintenance and alleviate pressure on mechanics and customers to identify equipment issues.
Making data-driven decisions
Running day-to-day operations smoothly means meeting the demands of keeping equipment serviced and ready to rent. And while customer’s may be inclined to take your word for it, offering an accurate, digitized maintenance history will give customers more confidence in their rental decisions. So, the next step on your IoT journey brings you to data-driven decision-making.
For equipment rental companies, this means using IoT data to right-size your fleet and rental stock, forecast and budget for equipment purchases, and streamline equipment pickups and returns. For customers, this means using custom alerts and notifications to know when equipment needs to be serviced, is being under- or over-utilized, or is nearing its return date to avoid overages.
The U.S. equipment rental industry is experiencing sharp growth. This is partly because construction companies are shifting from buying to renting equipment. As competition increases, the new battlefield will be customer experience. Many construction projects take longer to finish than scheduled, and most run over budget. To win and keep customers, you’ll need efficient processes for helping keep their projects on time and on budget.
Learn from historical data to make predictions about real-time data
The idea is to start small by gaining increased visibility into your assets and scale as your data grows. But unfortunately, this is where many IoT deployments plateau. As streaming data becomes aggregated with historical data, you should figure out how to take action on that data.
The next step is to look for patterns and anomalies in existing data and make predictions about new IoT data coming in. In manufacturing, for example, digital twins are used to replicate physical assets in the real world. IoT data is gathered in real time, combined with historical data and used to spot patterns, predict how the asset will perform under certain conditions and adapt to optimize efficiency.
From the jumpstart, business leaders in the equipment industry should look for technology partners with deep industry expertise and with out-of-the-box systems, along with a flexible and scalable platform that supports integrations with your existing business systems. In a time when there are a variety of vertical packages to enable rapid IoT deployments, there’s no better time to start your project; just be sure to begin with the end in mind.
The concept of a physical wall for security has been the subject of much debate in recent months. While you may be sick of hearing about it (don’t worry, this is not a political post), one overlooked talking point is the use of a metaphorical wall for security circa 2019. For us in the tech sector, these sorts of electronic means aren’t exactly new — the idea of a firewall is something that has been in network security for decades; the firewall acts as a gate for data coming and going, ensuring that nothing sinister gets through.
That leads to a much bigger discussion. The biggest threat of our age is electronic. At a time when money transfers electronically, identities are confirmed electronically, crime occurs electronically, the idea of virtual security — a wall of the future, if you will — may be more important than physical security. Imagine a boundary, however you picture it. It could be a physical wall or just a line drawn in the dirt. But there are ground sensors, cameras, drones and other electronic means of monitoring it, because having the resources to keep physical eyes on all angles and views is simply impossible. How do you know that they are not being spoofed or compromised in some way?
With the decade-long rise in smart devices, a single smartphone or tablet can be the source of nefarious activity. Individuals can transmit false data, or even alter existing records, nullifying the purpose of that boundary.
The solution is a different kind of wall: an electronic wall made of ground sensors that detect the passage of vehicles, critter cams alerting security of movement of smaller things, and possibly even drones keeping watch from the sky. Although this type of wall can’t be overcome in the same ways as a physical wall, it is still vulnerable. We need a wall that cannot be hacked, cannot be altered and can constantly be checked for suspicious activity. A blockchain-hardened wall fits these criteria. Blockchain hardening of IoT devices represents a simple-but-powerful solution to a world of smart devices — secure data feeds and other transmissions, detecting hack attempts and allowing for instant alerts of other compromises.
With potentially any network-connected device as a threat, protecting the data communications and applications security of any border will be a critical requirement. The border — physical metaphorical wall — is going to require a platform for securing access by IoT devices, particularly the ability to create and protect unique identifiers.
It is not enough to simply believe a device that asserts a particular identity; in the case of the American border, U.S. border agents have already been dealing with compromised devices for years. Instead, this idea requires that chips in devices offer users the capability to securely identify themselves — and in doing, so create a unique identity for each device.
Blockchain technology represents a means to add robustness to the databases that store this information, thus enabling proof that the government officials themselves are not internally manipulating information. It naturally also demonstrates that the data is not being manipulated by outside individuals — a key concept pioneered by the Austin, Texas, software team Factom developed all the way back in 2016.
This concept moves beyond simply hashing snapshots of the database and posting it within a robust secondary distributed database. The idea takes advantage of the cryptography built within public blockchains that would allow devices to self-authenticate. Working much the same way as cryptocurrency transaction, you and I can exchange Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency without ever meeting in person by cryptographically signing the transaction; devices equipped with the appropriate chips and software can too.
In terms of border/boundary security, IoT devices used to protect need to be secure themselves, and blockchain technology can reinforce them. By cryptographically signing the messages the IoT devices send, each device will have its own unique identity and the authenticity of the messages can be verified. This allows authorities to know that each device is authentic — essentially akin to blocks in a blockchain. Each message could potentially have a hash of the previous message, which then provides proof that data feeds have not been compromised. An example of this is an image stream — if any data is missing or placed in the wrong order, the chaining of sequential data would flag this as an issue.
In addition, it is crucial that the signing of data is achieved at a hardware level, not a software level. The quality of message security increases the closer signatures execute to the hardware. The inherent flaw of this is that this model requires more device power, and sending out heavier messages may drain batteries for those in remote regions.
Those types of practicalities are important to consider when looking at the possibilities of supporting modern border security. However, when a boundary is established — be it a physical wall, a fence or a line on a map — there’s no denying the threat of electronic intrusion at these locations. To address that, emerging tech such as the blockchain can enable hard-working Customs and Border Protection agents to do their job in a safe and efficient manner. By creating a more secure and transparent data stream, security streams, transmissions and other critical information can immediately be authenticated. The result is a safer, more secure border that addresses true threats in the 21st century.
So far this year, the U.S. has experienced a polar vortex bringing wind chills of -55 degrees Fahrenheit, record snowfall and nor’easters that portend high winds and even more precipitation — and it’s only February. Disruptions from bad weather cost brick-and-mortar businesses billions each year. Businesses in Massachusetts alone lost up to $1 billion in last year’s storms. And bouts of extreme weather have slowed growth of the entire U.S. gross domestic product by 1% or more. There will always be bad weather, but businesses can take steps to mitigate the damage and reduce losses. Data from IoT devices now makes it easy to monitor and predict severe weather and automate processes that help keep your facilities up and running.
The modern facilities manager (FM) is already used to dealing with a steady stream of data from their buildings, machinery and other equipment. Collecting and analyzing real-time weather data adds another opportunity to increase efficiency, cost savings and uptime. Insights from weather services and monitoring equipment allow FMs to take action before problems arise, keeping stores, banks, hospitals and restaurants open longer.
Weather as a key data source
As FMs dealing with storms in the Northeast United States know, bad weather can cause facilities operations to grind to a halt. Stores may shut down due to inaccessibility or failures of equipment such as heating systems. Major parts of the facilities themselves, like the roof, may be compromised or significantly damaged.
The most data-driven facilities managers don’t just track the weather, they make contingency plans based on its predicted impact. Historical data reveals how much damage or downstream expense was caused by bad weather in the past, allowing managers to prepare better for the future. During weather events, real-time data shows businesses what is happening at other locations, allowing them to prepare for heavier traffic at their own facility, for instance.
With enough advance notice, facilities managers can order preventative maintenance services for HVACs and other business-critical systems. They can plan budgets accordingly, order critical parts that may need replacing and even notify service contractors to be on standby in the run-up to a big weather event.
The technology factor
The good news is that businesses now have technologies to help them keep ahead of weather-related issues. Radar-based weather tracking has been mainstream since the 1970s. Today, tracking is even more granular through IoT systems, such as those from AerisWeather, that aggregate local knowledge through a network of measurement devices that upload real-time weather conditions — like a Waze for weather.
Sensors can directly aid FMs. For example, a few well-placed sensors can mitigate the impact of snow on rooftops, alerting you if too much weight is piling up. AI and machine learning also allow analysis of video surveillance feeds to detect anomalies around the facility. With a network of inexpensive, internet-enabled cameras mounted to key points on a building, we can monitor snow accumulation and drift, estimate the stress from its weight, see when important choke points are blocked and even see if contractors or employees are clearing snow in a timely fashion.
All these data sources can be fed into a service automation platform to develop a comprehensive weather events plan. The plan informs FMs on the best courses of action and triggers specific actions and workflows as necessary, saving last-minutes costs and scrambles that might not have budgeted for otherwise. For extreme weather, like hurricanes and tornadoes, this type of prep can help mitigate damage and allow facilities to reopen sooner.
In the aftermath, similar checklists and processes can guide FMs and employees through safety checks, clean up, repairs and reporting on what can be fixed or improved before the next storm arrives.
Accumulating, analyzing and generating the proper insights from a broad range of data sources — such as, but not limited to, weather reports — should be an important part of best practices for facilities management. Whether these insights are based on historic or real-time data, operationalizing them properly can minimize the impact of severe weather, reduce overall costs and lessen downtime. Even more importantly, the insights can help facilities managers generate contingency action plans and ensure they are supported with the proper resources to achieve a state of programmed execution.
Consider it the most effective umbrella an FM professional can carry.
To describe securing an IoT network as “monumental” is a huge understatement. There are so many factors influencing IoT security, and as the volume of connected devices continues to increase, so does the complexity in managing and securing the network. One of the biggest concerns expressed to us by organizations looking to address the end-to-end security of their ecosystem is identity and access management (IAM). Here are a few key factors to consider when devising an IAM strategy for IoT networks.
IAM is not just for people
Identity and access management is a part of IT that is often viewed as a means to control human access to network and company resources. However, this need to control access to resources also includes devices and applications. Like with people, the legitimacy of their need to connect must be verified, along with to what resources they are requesting access.
The imperative to closely regulate IAM exponentially increases with devices out in the field or other remote locations, which could be exposed to potential tampering or may occasionally receive maintenance or monitoring on an infrequent basis. If hacked, these devices can be used to infiltrate a network and either corrupt data or steal it. The potential for damage that these devices can cause must be limited, which means controlling their access. Closing this vector for attack is particularly paramount for those operating industrial control systems and critical infrastructure.
Usernames and passwords
Botnets like Mirai thrust changing default usernames, passwords or other device configurations to the forefront of conversations. This is a simple but effective way of adding another layer of security to the IoT ecosystem and a mandatory best practice. Fortunately, manufacturers are starting to include prompts to change login credentials when a device or sensor first connects to a network during configuration.
Also, once reconfigured with new passwords, those login credentials will need to be stored in a secure enclave. There is little point in locking something up if you’re going to leave the keys out on the table.
One of the main challenges with IoT is the volume of unsecure devices getting connected. These often inexpensive, constrained devices can be used as entry points to the network, and it is critical to ensure their identities are correctly verified. We are coming to a stage where communications service providers are starting to require that only certified devices are allowed to be connected to their networks. One such initiative is the CTIA cybersecurity certification program launched in August 2018.
Not just for operating systems on the second Tuesday of the month, system managers must also make sure that devices are patched as software updates become available. A very popular method for cybercriminals to gain access to an organization is to exploit vulnerabilities in the software. When an update becomes available, it’s an announcement to hackers about a weak spot in a device. It then becomes a race against the clock to patch it before a criminal decides to use it as an entry point. It is important to make sure that software patches are sent securely (encrypted and data integrity checked) and to the correctly identified device.
Being secure also means being prepared
Enterprises and service providers have to accept a hard truth: no IoT network or service will ever be able to be completely secured. They are simply too big and complex, which equates to vulnerable. This does not mean that stakeholders aren’t accountable for ensuring they have made every effort to increase security end-to-end and follow the guidance of frameworks, like NIST, including its recommendations for IAM.
The best thing for an organization is to be prepared. Have a response plan in place. Don’t focus on building a network to be impenetrable, but rather one that is robust and resilient enough to withstand an attack and maintain some level of functionality, versus being taken down by an advanced and persistent threat. The ability to minimize the damage is what matters, and observing strong IAM practices will help.
It’s sometimes difficult to clearly recognize the exciting trends that are featured at Mobile World Congress (MWC), especially for attendees that are navigating the massive influx of companies and people expected to attend. Regardless of whether you’re in Barcelona or at your desk, however, there are four crucial trends concerning connected cars that will emerge during the event.
Trend 1: Focus on (better) connectivity
It is a no-brainer. Connectivity is critical to ensure that connected car services are performing and providing the right experience. Doing so, however, requires the intelligence to improve the user experience by providing the autonomous assistance needed to extend business and personal activities in a mobile environment without requiring extensive user engagement. As such, there are a number of technologies that will drive cost-effectiveness in the total system.
Virtualization and cloud will be used to optimize computing resources, and edge computing will enable better application performance, while using the CPU and GPU in a more cost-effective manner. DevOps will enable efficient and effective time to market, while cognitive-based operations will help predict and correct deficiencies in network performance.
Advanced operations services and systems will use natural language processing and bots to drive automation, while systems integrators manage the technology for the manufacturer, including negotiating for network services from carriers. Meanwhile, carriers will play a key role to ensure that their networks recognize the performance requirements of the advanced services, while also providing the bandwidth, latency and availability required for connected cars.
Trend 2: Focus on partnerships within the ecosystem
As the connected car space continues to mature, the different players involved in the ecosystem must partner and recognize the value provided by each other in the ecosystem. For instance, automobile manufacturers must create and develop the conceptual roadmaps of services for their various types of consumers, such as delineating between commercial, sport, luxury and other types of user and personas. These roadmaps will combine with business requirements to create a profitable and realistic launch of these services in respective markets.
Another focus for manufacturers is providing the advanced services that will drive connectivity requirements. These are critical for enabling connected car services independent of where the end user is located and provide all aspects of end-user touch points — from services and applications to billing and identity management. Meanwhile, carriers must provide the required network services and operations systems to recognize the individual application and service requirements while also translating them into cost-effective and performant network services over mobile networks. This includes all of the performance requirements for handoff of connectivity between carriers as the end user requires seamless mobile services.
Systems integrators must provide the aforementioned service enablement platform to set up and bill for the service, as well as providing a DevOps pipeline to push the application to the end computing systems in the consumer’s automobile. 5G and related technologies, including multi-access edge, 5G core and access network performance configurability, will accelerate these new services more cost-effectively. In their central role, integrators will enable both the carrier and the manufacturer to play their roles in providing better connectivity to the end consumer in line with the services they require or desire in their automobile.
Trend 3: Focus on OTT players
A large part of any modern software-based transformational initiative includes cloud-based development environments that are accessible to development firms and independent software vendors. Over-the-top (OTT) players will continue to play a key role in providing the platform and infrastructure required to deploy parts of next-generation applications. Carriers also have a role, as they provide a mobile edge ecosystem with the horsepower to enable the performance of the application in automotive use cases.
OTTs also can continue to host the parts of the application that are not real-time intensive and do not require specific network and compute performance requirements provided by mobile edge or 5G-based network slices.
It remains to be seen whether OTTs will move to the role of mobile virtual network operators for advanced connected car services, which they are quite capable of doing when given access to the subscriber and partnering with the automotive manufacturer.
Trend 4: Focus on the systems integrators
Next-generation automotive applications and the transformative services they provide to the consumer will create a highly competitive marketplace. Additionally, these applications and services will change how consumers assess an overall brand. Consumers will no longer solely base their car-buying decision upon the automobile, but also the ability for the automobile to provide next-generation services and experience.
As such, there is a need to create partnerships with automotive manufacturers to design next-gen services. Systems integrators will be key to this ecosystem of partnerships, enabling manufacturers to improve customer experience and provide higher-value automotive experiences to the consumer. An effective systems integrator will white label its services so the end consumer experiences the complete technology as a service provided by the automotive manufacturer.
Additionally, systems integrators should design services that ensure the experience is tailored to the direction and business requirements of the automotive manufacturer. Among their key roles are ensuring that the auto manufacturer’s services are differentiated from other connected car services and in line with the manufacturer’s brand positioning and end-user requirements. Systems integrators also need to provide communications-focused IT infrastructure that will identify the user, associate the user with the services purchased and control access to the multi-carrier networks.
While there will be many exciting announcements that come out of Barcelona next week, we believe connected cars will garner a great deal of this attention. Not only will these four trends underscore the connected car industry at this year’s MWC, but they will do so for years to come.