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By: Kelly McNelis

We have faced unprecedented disruption from the many challenges of COVID-19, and PTC’s LiveWorx was no exception. The definitive digital transformation event went virtual this year, and despite the transition from physical to digital, LiveWorx delivered.

Of the many insightful virtual keynotes, one that caught everyone’s attention was ‘Digital Transformation: The Technology & Support You Need to Succeed,’ presented by PTC’s Executive Vice President (EVP) of Products, Kevin Wrenn, and PTC’s EVP and Chief Customer Officer, Eduarda Camacho.

Their keynote focused on how companies should be prioritizing the use of best-in-class technology that will meet their changing needs during times of disruption and accelerated digital transformation. Wrenn and Camacho highlighted five of our customers through interactive case studies on how they are using PTC technology to capitalize on digital transformation to thrive in an era of disruption.

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Below is a summary of the five customers and their stories that were highlighted during the keynote.

1. Royal Enfield (Mass Customization)

Royal Enfield is an Indian motorcycle company that has been manufacturing motor bikes since 1901. They have British roots, and their main customer base is located in India and Europe. Riders of Royal Enfield wants their bikes to be particular to their brand, so they worked to better manage the complexities of mass customization and respond to market demands.

Royal Enfield is a long time PTC customer, but they were on old versions of PTC technology. They first upgraded Creo and Windchill to the latest releases so they could leverage the new capabilities. They then moved on to transform their processes for platform and variant designs, introduced simulation much earlier by using Creo Simulation Live, and leveraged generative design by bringing AI into engineering and applying it to engine and chassis complex custom forged components. Finally, they retrained and retooled their engineering staff to fully leverage the power of new processes and technologies.

The entire Royal Enfield team now has digital capabilities that accelerate new product designs, variants, and accessories for personalization; as a result, they are able to deliver a much-shortened design cycle. Royal Enfield is continuing their digital transformation trend, and will invest in new ways to create value while leveraging augmented reality with PTC's Vuforia suite.

2. VCST (Manufacturing Efficiency, Quality, and Innovation)

VCST is part of the BMT Group and are a world-class automotive supplier of precision-machined power train and brake components. Their problem was that they had high costs for their production facility in Belgium. They either needed to improve their cost efficiency in their plant or face the potential of needing to shut down the facility and relocate it to another region. VCST decided to implement ThingWorx so that anyone can have instant visibility to asset status and performance. VCST is also creating the ability to digitize maintenance requests and the ability to acquire about spare parts to improve the overall efficiency in support of their costs reduction goals.

Additionally, VCST has a goal to reach zero complaints for their customers and, if any quality problems appear to their customers, they can be required to do a 100% inspection until the problem is solved. Moreover, as cars have gotten quieter with electrification, the noise from the gears has become an issue, and puts pressure on VCST to innovate and reduce gear noise.

VCST has again relied on ThingWorx and Windchill to collect and share data for joint collaborative analysis to innovate and reduce gear noise. VCST also plans to use Vuforia Expert Capture and Vuforia Chalk to train maintenance workers to further improve their efficiency and cost effectiveness. The company is not done with their digital transformation, and they have plans to implement Creo and Windchill to enable end-to-end digital thread connectivity to the factory.

3. BID Group Holdings (Connected Product)

BID Group Holdings operates in the wood processing industry. It is one of the largest integrated suppliers and North American leader in the field. The purpose of BID Group is to deliver a complete range of innovative equipment, digital technologies, turnkey installations, and aftermarket services to their customers. BID Group decided to focus on their areas of expertise, an rely on PTC, Microsoft, and Rockwell Automation’s combined capabilities and scale to deliver SaaS type solutions to their own industry.

Leveraging this combined power, the BID Group developed a digital strategy for service to improve mill efficiency and profitability. The solution is named OPER8 and was built on the ThingWorx platform. This allowed BID Group to provide their customers an out of the box solution with efficient time-to-value and low costs of ownership. BID Group is continuing to work with PTC and Rockwell Automation, to develop additional solutions that will reduce downtime of OPER8 with a predictive analytics module by using ThingWorx Analytics and LogixAI.

4. Hitachi (Service Optimization)

Hitachi operates an extensive service decision that ensures its customers’ data systems remain up and running. Their challenge was not to only meet their customers uptime Service Level Agreements, but to do it without killing their cost structure. Hitachi decided to implement PTC’s Servigistics Service Parts Management software to ensure the right parts are available when and where they are needed for service. With Servigistics, Hitachi was able to accomplish their needs while staying cost effective and delighting their customers.

Hitachi runs on the cloud, which allows them to upgrade to current releases more often, take advantage of new functionality, and avoid unexpected costs.

PTC has driven engagement and support for Hitachi through the PTC Community, and encourages all customers to utilize this platform. The network of collaborative spaces in a gathering place for PTC customers and partners to showcase their work, inspire each other, and share ideas or best practices in order to expand the value of their PTC solutions and services.

5. COVID-19 Response 

COVID-19 has put significant strain on the world’s hospitals and healthcare infrastructure, and hospitalization rates for COVID brought into question the capacity of being able to handle cases. Many countries began thinking of the value field hospitals could bring to safely care for patients and ease the admissions numbers of ‘regular’ hospitals. However, the complication is that field hospitals have essentially no isolation or air filtration capability that is required for treating COVID patients or healthcare workers.

As a result, the US Army Corp of Engineers has put out specifications to create self-contained isolation units, which are fully functioning hospital rooms that can be transported or built onsite. But, the assembly needed to happen fast, and a group of companies (including PTC) led by The Innovation Machine rallied to help design and define the SCIU’s.

With buy-in from numerous companies, a common platform was needed for companies to collaborate. PTC felt compelled to react, and many PTC customers and partners joined in to help create a collaboration platform, with cloud-based Windchill as the foundation. But, PTC didn’t just provide software to this collaboration; PTC also contributed with digital thread and design advice to help the group solve some of the major challenges. This design is a result of the many companies coming together to create deployments across various US state governments, agencies, and FEMA.

Final Thoughts

All of the above customers approached digital transformation as a business imperative. They all had sizeable challenges that needed to be solved and took leadership positions to implement plans that leveraged digital transformation technologies combined with new processes.

PTC will continue to innovate across the digital transformation portfolio and is committed to ensuring that customer success offerings capture value faster and provide the best outcomes.

Original Post Link: https://www.ptc.com/en/product-lifecycle-report/liveworx-digital-transformation–technology-and-support-you-need-to-succeed

Author Bio: Kelly is a corporate communications specialist at PTC. Her responsibilities include drafting and approving content for PTC’s external and social media presence and supporting communications for the Chief Strategy Officer. Kelly has previous experience as a communications specialist working to create and implement materials for the Executive Vice President of the Products Organization and senior management team members.

 

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How to Ensure IoT Cybersecurity

Today, the IoT devices are largely used by industries and households, smart bulbs can adjust the intensity of light by themselves, doctors can check the patient data remotely, IoT sensors can help in warehousing, and more, the potential is seemingly endless. There are billions of IoT devices on the field and billions more are expected in the next few years. The data that IoT devices produce are stored on the cloud, for example, a health monitor collects all the information about our health and stores it on the cloud. This information is further analyzed to provide us better services, but on the other hand if someone manages to get the data they can violate our privacy. Thus it is important to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of IoT solutions while mitigating the cybersecurity risks. There are many ways attackers can make their way into your system.

Most common IoT cyber attacks are:

Botnets

A botnet is a network of systems combined to remotely take control of distributing malware, controlled by botnet operators via Command-and-Control-Servers (C&C servers). They are used by attackers on a large scale for many things such as stealing private information, exploiting online banking data or spam, and phishing emails.

Man-in-the-middle

The man-in-the-middle concept is where an attacker is looking to interrupt and breach communication between two separate systems. It can be a dangerous attack because it is one where the attacker secretly intercepts and transmits messages between two parties when they are under the belief that they are communicating directly with each other.

Identity Theft

The main strategy of identity theft is to amass data, and with a little bit of patience, a lot of information can be fetched out. Generally, data is available on the internet, combined with social media information and data from smartwatches, fitness trackers, smart meters, smart fridges, and more. These data give a great all-around idea of your identity.

Recent research indicates that 85% of customers lack confidence in IoT device security, it is important to ensure the security of IoT devices by eliminating the IoT cybersecurity risk. 

Here are some best practices to ensure IoT cybersecurity:

Secure Boot

The secure boot helps a system to stop attacks and infections from malware, it is a feature embedded with IoT devices to detect tampering with the system. It works like a security gate as it restricts unauthorized access by validating the digital signature, detections are blocked from running before they attack the system. Deploying secure boot in the IoT ecosystem is important to ensure cybersecurity.

Secured passwords with two-factor authentication

You can activate two-factor authentication on almost any IoT device, it is important because it ensures authorized access to devices and automates trust into the system. Having two-factor authentication enabled with unusual passwords keeps IoT devices secure from being vulnerable to cyber attacks, it restricts attackers from making their way into the system.

Disabling the UPnP feature

UPnP feature allows an IoT device to get connected with other IoT devices, for example, smart bulbs can be paired with Google Home to turn it off or on via voice command. It is a feature that is convenient for users but poses cybersecurity risks at the same time. If hackers manage to make their way in one device they will easily be able to find another device that is connected. We can easily disable the UPnP feature as most of the IoT devices allow you to disable the UPnP feature from their settings.

Secure data storage

Keeping data in a large enterprise system is secured but the flash storage of a particular embedded device holds some important data from time to time that is not immediately secured or encrypted which can open you up to cybersecurity risk. Thus it is important to have system-level encryption of data for storage of sensitive information. If we do not encrypt the flash storage on the embedded device, someone can easily have their peak at your data.

Bottom Line

Securing IoT devices from cyberattacks is important for households and it is equally important for industries to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of their IoT devices and data produced by IoT devices. Researchers find that data breaches linked to IoT devices have increased rapidly in the past few years, according to a study by Ponemon, the number of cyberattacks due to unsecured connected devices have increased from 15% to 25% in the last two years. Thus securing the IoT devices can never be downplayed.

Author Bio- 

Piyush Jain is the founder and CEO of Simpalm, an app development company in Virginia. Piyush founded Simpalm in 2009 and has grown it to be a leading mobile and web development company in the DMV area. With a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and a strong background in technology and entrepreneurship, he understands how to solve problems using technology. Under his leadership, Simpalm has delivered 300+ mobile apps and web solutions to clients in startups, enterprises and the federal sector.

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The tinyML Foundation is excited to be offering a new activity to our community: tinyML Talks webcast series. A strong line-up of speakers making 30-minute presentations will take place twice a month on Tuesdays at 8 am Pacific time to make sure that tinyML enthusiasts worldwide will have an opportunity to watch them live. Presentations and videos will be available online the day afterwards for those that were not able to join live.

View Schedule of Upcoming Talks

If you want to re-watch all talks starting March 31 or were unable to join us live, the slides and links to our YouTube Channel of the talks are posted at our tinyML Forums. Many questions were asked during the presentations but not all could be answered in the allotted time frame. The answers to some of those can be found on the tinyML Forums as well.

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IoT RTOS Overviews

IoT RTOS Overviews

Below you’ll find links to overviews for Amazon FreeRTOS, Azure ThreadX, MbedOS, and Zephyr. Pros and cons abound for each. We see an increase in demand from developers for the simplest and fastest development path –we’re not there yet. As an industry we are definitely still living in the land of fragmentation. Please keep checking back for updates from IoT Central and the IoT Central community.

Azure RTOS ThreadX is Microsoft's advanced industrial grade Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) designed specifically for deeply embedded, real-time, and IoT applications.

Amazon FreeRTOS is an open source, real-time operating system for microcontrollers that makes small, low-power edge devices easy to program, deploy, secure, connect, and manage.  

Arm Mbed OS is a free, open-source embedded operating system designed specifically for the "things" in the Internet of Things.

The Zephyr™ Project strives to deliver the best-in-class RTOS for connected resource-constrained devices, built be secure and safe.

We encourage all community members to share their views regarding what RTOS they’re using and what they’d like to see from these projects in the future.

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If I had to choose three reasons why the adoption of the IoT it´s delayed several years, one of the three would include would be the mistake in their strategy, faith, IoT employee sales skills and poor investment in key industries by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in this business.

When I wrote more than 5 years ago my post “How to select your M2M/IoT Service Provider” I referenced several annual reports from analysts like Gartner and vendors like Ericsson or Cisco. All of them presented very optimistic predictions that unfortunately have not been fulfilled.

During this time Mobile Network Operators have adapted to the market crude reality of the market with sometimes erratic strategies. Despite this fact has not discouraged new entrants that have energized a market with again high growth expectations. Today Tier 1 and Tier 2 Mobile Network Operators are competing with many IoT Connectivity providers in all industries and use cases. The good news for these new entrants is that the MNOs have not known captivate their customers.

What do I think the MNOS are thinking now?

1-    The Technological Battle of LPWAN networks

I do not want to open in this article a debate on which LPWAN connectivity technology (5G, NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRA, Sigfox, ….) is the best. Each of these technologies will likely play an important role in the IoT space depending on the use case, so understanding the features and differences of each is critical.

You must not forget other IoT connectivity technologies (Satellite, Mesh networks, WiFi, Zigbee,..). I have always championed the idea of multiple IoT network coexistence in which objects will connect to provide an IoT service or be part of an aggregated IoT service. And those services can be provided by both licensed and unlicensed cellular networks. Let's assume that we will not have a single protocol that regulates all of them in a long time. We are also not going to ask manufacturers of objects to incorporate the different connectivity possibilities in their designs for obvious reasons of cost and battery life. What would be very valuable is that all IoT devices could add a unique identifier that allow will be part of a SuperIoTNet that works like the current internet. But now is future fiction.

2-    The Connectivity Services Offering 

Ideally we should try to find in our IoT Connectivity Service Provider offering something like Telefonica, an end-to-end complete commercial IoT connectivity offer that allow design and build a tailored secure IoT solution. But this in not gold all that glitters. We must evaluate the ability of these IoT Connectivity Service Providers to make easy the adoption of IoT in Small and Medium Business (SMBs) with pre-integrated industry solutions based on a rich ecosystem.

Customers wants to receive specialised advice to solve any IoT need at a one-stop-shop, including full stack technology solutions from hardware selection to middleware, application development and SaaS operations. Not many IoT Connectivity Providers have the internal resources to provide these services, in that cases customers should involve either or a partner or better an independent consultant as myself.

For some customers an offering like “IoT connectivity as a Service” provided by Arkessa can be an advantage, for others “The 1NCE IoT Flat Rate”, an all-inclusive connectivity package that comprises all elements and features that IoT customer need while having their assets connected is more important. For experienced M2M customers, the portfolio Kore Wireless and industry specialization is attractive. Eseye for instances solve your IoT challenges from device to AWS cloud. In Europe SMBs must consider in the short list Wireless Logic with 4 million devices connected to its platforms globally. Special mention to module companies like Sierra Wireless that offers a Connectivity and Device Management service that connects to 600+ partner networks around the globe with multiple redundant routes in every country to eliminate local coverage gaps or Telit which  Connectivity Service allow companies Monitor, Manage & Monetize their assets.

I am expecting the unlimited opportunities with the Internet of Things after the announcement a few days ago by DT Deutsche Telekom to spin out IoT unit and launch a global open ‘hub.’  More info about new DT IoT offering here: “From vertical to horizontal and back to vertical: our way to the new horizon”

Sorry, I can not extend this paragraph with more companies, but in the picture there are many other companies with attractive services that must be considered for your unique Business case.

3-    eSIM: Threat or Opportunity

The SIM card has also been evolving since its creation in 1991. From the size of a credit card it went to mini-SIM or the classic SIM that began to reduce in size, first to microSIM and then to nanoSIM and finally the embedded SIM (also called eSIM or eUICC or MMF2 UICC).

Presented in the preludes of the Mobile World Congress 2016, the eSIM is still a SIM but it will be embedded in the devices, without the possibility of withdrawing it. eSIM is a global specification by the GSMA which enables remote SIM provisioning of any mobile device. The eSIM is designed to remotely ​manage multiple mobile network operator subscriptions and be compliant​ with GSMA's Remote SIM Provisioning specifications​.  Install one eSIM during manufacturing and change the carrier on the fly.

To date, 200 mobile carriers in more than 80 countries offer eSIM consumer services. The embedded UICC is expected to reach over 200 million shipments in 2019 (source: Eurosmart, November 2019).

GSMA promises not to rig the eSIM standard in favour of its members.

eSIM now allows consumers to store multiple operator profiles on a device simultaneously, and switch between them remotely, though only one can be used at a time. The specification now extends to a wider range of devices. Manufacturers and operators can now enable consumers to select the operator of their choice and then securely download that operator’s SIM application to any device.

At first glance, building or supporting a global eSIM solution presents a major challenge (integration with other service providers and guarantee customer experience is expensive) and not appear to benefit Communication Service Providers. Looks like stupid to invest in a solution that make easier for customers to leave them. That´s why they have not done much to extend its use.

Why is good for IoT?.  UICC and eSIM technology gives enterprises control of IoT connectivity, simplifies international deployments of IoT devices and the transition to mobility services. Large scale international deployments are possible using a single factory installed SIM. The user subscription can be updated when the device is in the field.

ARM white paper introduces 7 top  Innovative eSIM use cases: Automotive, Shipping and Logistics, Object tracking and site monitoring, Smart Energy, Wearables, Agriculture, Home Security.

Sources:

GSMA: https://www.gsma.com/esim/

Cisco Blog: “Manufacture there, connect anywhere: Cisco eSIM Flex enables global connectivity for enterprises and service providers”

Xataka: https://www.xatakamovil.com/conectividad/esim-que-que-ventajas-aporta-cuando-llegara-masivamente-todo-tipo-dispositivos

Thales: https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/markets/digital-identity-and-security/mobile/connectivity/esim/esim

Arkessa: https://www.arkessa.com/euicc/

ARM:  7 Top eSIM use cases

Choosing IoT Connectivity Service Providers

Choosing the right IoT Connectivity Service provider is not as easy as many can think. You can make a preselection using the lasts Gartner Magic Quadrant, also explore the local cellular Operators that have deployed a NB-IoT or LTE-M network and finally analyze other operators that maybe you never heard about them as I did.

The selection of the right IoT Connectivity Service Provider is a strategic decision for any Digital Transformation initiative, especially in enterprises adopting new resilient business models and optimizations of business processes. Some criteria you must consider selecting  your IoT CSP are:

  • Your internal capabilities
  • The offering: IoT Connectivity Services / IoT Managed Connectivity Services / IoT Connectivity Security Service / eSim Services
  • The cost of the IoT Connectivity Services and the flexibility of the tariffs
  • The type of IoT networks they have deployed and the coverage
  • The alliances with other IoT Connectivity Service Providers for global deployments
  • The types of M2M/IoT certified devices / modules and their applicability to your use cases.
  • The experience and references in your industry and vertical solution
  • The capabilities of their IoT Connectivity and Device Management Platforms
  • Open APIS for Integration with your Enterprise Systems
  • BSS/OSS systems and their applicability to your use
  • New business models eg IOTConnectivity as a Service
  • Levels of Support
  • Ecosystem of partners

Key Takeaways

It is not worth spending one minute more crying for the reasons that MNOs were unable to energize the IoT market earlier. We are where we are and the future is still bright, for those who really know how to see it.

The selection of the right IoT Connectivity Service Provider for your enterprise is a strategic decision. When my clients ask which is the best IoT Connectivity Service Provider? my first advice is: ". Let's define together your digital strategy, prioritize key uses cases, analyze new business model and your internal capabilities first and then work on the IoT Connectivity technology needed , which connectivity services comply with your requirements  and finally build a detailed business case that justify the value of your investment".

There is no best IoT connectivity Technology. It all depends on the use cases and the business model.

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We are living in a digital world, using apps to perform each and every daily task. Augmented reality has gained much popularity in recent years, Pokemon Go is one of the best illustrations of AR games, and you will not find a single person in this world who is not familiar with this game.

Augmented reality is a technology that overlays machine-generated pictures in the real world in the form of animation or making a purchase through smart devices or headsets. AR is a transformation of a normal camera; it offers an impressive, interactive, and reality-based environment to enhance the user experience.

As the future of Augmented reality apps are very bright because the customer's demand is increasing, and they want to try things before they make a purchase. So many SDKs and tools can be useful for a developer to create AR apps. A recent marketing survey shows that in the past 2-3 years, the demand for Augmented reality-based apps has increased by a handsome number.

 

# Vuforia

Vuforia is an advanced and modern AR building tool that offers an attractive platform for building augmented reality apps for iOS and Android platforms. It is a much popular platform in the developer community because it is broad and easily compatible with any other tool.

Vuforia offers an extensive range of products that improves user experience, Vuforia engine, studio, and chalk are some of the widely used tools. If you want to make your 3D project exclusive and want to launch in the market, this is the best ready-to-use tool.

As it is the most popular tool when it comes to developing AR VR apps, it costs $99 per month; it is not that expensive because it offers many functionalities and is very easy to integrate on any operating system. Vuforia uses computer vision technology as it is able to track scanned images and simple 3D objects, such as boxes. It is the ultimate choice for 3D and 2D projects.

 

# ARkit

If you love to work with the open-source platform, ARtoolkit would be a perfect choice to develop AR apps. A recent survey from Wikipedia revealed that it is a very popular tool with more than 160000 downloads every year, and this is the reason why we enjoy many augmented reality apps.

As a programmer, one of the most difficult tasks is to locate the user's location in real-time perfectly, and ARtoolkit solves this problem with ease and able to calculate the position and orientation of the real camera, it helps any AR app to reflect the digital content such as images or 3D models on the real world.

Not only Android, but Apple has also launched an ARKKit tutorial with every new version of iOS, that helps developers to integrate this tool in the app.

 

#Maxst 

As the name suggests, Maxst offers two kinds of different SDKs, one for image tracking and another for environment recognition. The first tool can only recognize 2D images, where the second tool is more powerful and can track 3D objects.

You can generate the data online via the tracking manager, and you can scan 3D objects with the upgraded version. It supports multiple platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows. Due to its easy integration, this tool is widely used among developers, and the website also offers easy documentation for freshers to understand.

The space mapping tool of Maxst can analyze the input, extract the data, and save it to a map file. If you want to fix the 3D objects in space, this tool is useful. These days, scan QR code and pay instantly, this technology has taken place, even human resource department is using this technology & have developed best human resouce management software, giving unique QR codes to employees, you can swiftly scan an employee's personal details, it saves time and efforts both.

 

#Wikitude

Wikitude is one of the best tools that focus on providing location-based AR experiences and presents real-time data via the Wikitube World Browser App. It has launched its recent version that supports localization and mapping.

The updated version of the Wikitude tool contains a lot of extensive AR features that allow you to create both marker and location-based AR applications. This tools currently provides some amazing features: 

  • Build apps for smart glasses
  • Image recognition and tracking
  • Easy loud recognition means it can target all the images hosted in the cloud
  • Accurate location-based services
  • Numerous external plugins, including Unity.

Wikitude offers a complete package studio to build smart AR apps. All you need to upload an image to the studio, add AR objects, add necessary effects, generate JS code, and directly paste it into the project.

 

# Google ARCore

ARCore is basically launched by Google and supports both the operating systems, respectively. Primarily, its three key technologies for "embedding" virtual content into the real world include motion tracking, lighting recognition, and environmental recognition.

It has the ability to build smart AR apps, and Google has been developing the basic technologies that support mobile AR over the last three years with Tango and based on that, ARCore is developed. 

Another plus point of ARCore is it works without installing any hardware that means it can work across all the Android ecosystems. It can run on millions of devices, and giant smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, and ASUS use this tool for quality and high performance. 

 

Winding Up!

Augmented reality and virtual reality have created a buzz in the techno world, and now every business owner wants to integrate these features in their applications to drive sales. We have already seen Augmented reality apps causing a different level of excitement in users; hence developers need to learn the above tools for better output. After reading this, developers have a wide choice of AR toolkits that helps them to develop market-based and location-based applications.

You need to pick the right augmented reality tool based on your project requirement. Before choosing any tool, it would be advisable to compare features such as 3D recognition, storage facility, Unity, etc. After comparing features now, you can quickly build outstanding AR apps. Ultimately, your main focus should be on providing fast delivery of the product with maximum customer satisfaction.

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In this IoT Central Video Feature, we present Jacob Sorber's video, "How to Get Started Learning Embedded Systems." Jacob is a computer scientist, researcher, teacher, and Internet of Things enthusiast. He teaches systems and networking courses at Clemson University and leads the PERSIST research lab. His “get started” videos are valuable for those early in their practice. 

From Jacob: I've been meaning to start making more embedded systems videos — that is, computer science videos oriented to things you don't normally think of as computers (toys, robots, machines, cars, appliances). I hope this video helps you take the first step.

 

 

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Helium Expands to Europe

Helium, the company behind one of the world’s first peer-to-peer wireless networks, is announcing the introduction of Helium Tabs, its first branded IoT tracking device that runs on The People’s Network. In addition, after launching its network in 1,000 cities in North America within one year, the company is expanding to Europe to address growing market demand with Helium Hotspots shipping to the region starting July 2020. 

Since its launch in June 2019, Helium quickly grew its footprint with Hotspots covering more than 700,000 square miles across North America. Helium is now expanding to Europe to allow for seamless use of connected devices across borders. Powered by entrepreneurs looking to own a piece of the people-powered network, Helium’s open-source blockchain technology incentivizes individuals to deploy Hotspots and earn Helium (HNT), a new cryptocurrency, for simultaneously building the network and enabling IoT devices to send data to the Internet. When connected with other nearby Hotspots, this acts as the backbone of the network. 

“We’re excited to launch Helium Tabs at a time where we’ve seen incredible growth of The People’s Network across North America,” said Amir Haleem, Helium’s CEO and co-founder. “We could not have accomplished what we have done, in such a short amount of time, without the support of our partners and our incredible community. We look forward to launching The People’s Network in Europe and eventually bringing Helium Tabs and other third-party IoT devices to consumers there.”  

Introducing Helium Tabs that Run on The People’s Network
Unlike other tracking devices,Tabs uses LongFi technology, which combines the LoRaWAN wireless protocol with the Helium blockchain, and provides network coverage up to 10 miles away from a single Hotspot. This is a game-changer compared to WiFi and Bluetooth enabled tracking devices which only work up to 100 feet from a network source. What’s more, due to Helium’s unique blockchain-based rewards system, Hotspot owners will be rewarded with Helium (HNT) each time a Tab connects to its network. 

In addition to its increased growth with partners and customers, Helium has also seen accelerated expansion of its Helium Patrons program, which was introduced in late 2019. All three combined have helped to strengthen its network. 

Patrons are entrepreneurial customers who purchase 15 or more Hotspots to help blanket their cities with coverage and enable customers, who use the network. In return, they receive discounts, priority shipping, network tools, and Helium support. Currently, the program has more than 70 Patrons throughout North America and is expanding to Europe. 

Key brands that use the Helium Network include: 

  • Nestle, ReadyRefresh, a beverage delivery service company
  • Agulus, an agricultural tech company
  • Conserv, a collections-focused environmental monitoring platform

Helium Tabs will initially be available to existing Hotspot owners for $49. The Helium Hotspot is now available for purchase online in Europe for €450.

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IoT security testing should comprise activities like checking for endpoints, authentication, encryption, firewalls, and compliance requirements. The testing helps the IoT ecosystem to function safely and prevent incidences of a data breach.

The Internet of Things or IoT has swept the realm of technology and become mainstream as far as automation is concerned. Its popularity is attributable to features such as communication between machines, easy usage, and the integration of various devices, enabling technologies, and protocols.

When one talks about smart cities, smart transport, smart healthcare, or smart homes, the role of IoT is paramount.  According to Gartner, the number of connected things courtesy IoT is projected to reach 20.8 billion by 2020. Since IoT is about connected products that communicate with each other and share a huge volume of data, it is vulnerable to security breaches. With greater digitization and a rush towards delivering smart devices to add more comfort to people’s lives, businesses may end up keeping their flanks uncovered. The threats related to cybersecurity, besides threatening the smooth functioning of the digital ecosystem, are putting a question mark on the implementation of the IoT ecosystem.

The future is likely to be driven by smart systems with IoT at their core. Since such systems will witness a huge exchange of data, their security needs to be ensured. Also, as the smooth functioning of such smart systems will hinge on the accuracy and integrity of data, enabling IoT security at every step of the way should be the norm. If statistics are to be believed then around 84% of companies adopting IoT have reported security breaches of some kind (Source: Stoodnt.com.) The resident vulnerabilities in such systems are exploited by cybercriminals to exhibit malicious behavior such as committing credit card theft, phishing and spamming, distributed denial of service attacks, and malware distribution, among others.

How to conduct IoT security testing effectively

The security implications of a vulnerable or broken IoT system can be catastrophic for individuals, businesses, and entities. The devices and the transfer of data within them should be monitored by the implementing agency to check for a data breach. The best ways to conduct IoT security is as follow:

  • Checking of endpoints: As more devices or endpoints are added to expand the network, more vulnerabilities are created. Since IoT systems are built using devices of different configurations, computing and storage power, and running on different versions and types of operating systems, every such device should be evaluated for safety. An inventory of such devices should be made and tracked.
  • Authentication: Care should be taken that the vendor-supplied default passwords for specific systems should be dealt with at the beginning. If not, these can be exploited by hackers to take control of the IoT ecosystem and wreak havoc. Moreover, every device in the IoT system should be authenticated before being plugged into the network. This should be made an integral part of the internet of things testing.
  • Firewalls: The firewall present in the network should be tested for its capability of filtering specific data range and controlling traffic. Also, data aimed at terminating the device to ensure its optimal performance should be tested.
  • Encryption: Since IoT systems transmit data among themselves they should be encrypted for safety. During testing IoT applications the encryption approach and nitty-gritty should be thoroughly checked and validated. If not, then while relaying the location of assets in the IoT system, the information can be easily read by a hacker.
  • Compliance: Mere testing of IoT devices is not complete unless compliance with standards like FCC and ETSI/CE is carried out. These regulations and standards have been instituted to validate the performance of the IoT devices based on certain parameters. So, any IoT testing approach should take into account compliance with such regulations.

Why IoT systems should undergo security testing?

The smart devices forming part of the IoT system need to undergo IoT testing (security) to:

  • Prevent data theft: The unsecured endpoints within the system can leave a trail for hackers to strike but for the IoT device testing solutions. The vulnerabilities can be used to break into the controlling mechanism of the system in order to launch more malicious forms of attacks.
  • Protect brand equity: When scores of companies are competing with each other to get a pie of the IoT market, a security breach or malware attack can put a brand in jeopardy. With IoT penetration testing, such attacks can be pre-empted with the elimination of vulnerabilities and glitches.

Conclusion

The IoT ecosystem is projected to grow at a humongous pace and scale. Technology companies having an integrated IoT security testing approach are likely to earn a huge chunk of the pie. The approach when executed at regular intervals should be able to help enterprises achieve growth across domains.

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A bountiful harvest: Smart Farming

When talking about advanced technology in general and Internet of Things (IoT) in particular the first aspects that come to mind are things such as gleaming manufacturing production lines, industrial IoT solutions, critical infrastructure facilities, and consumer products for the home or fitness. It is rare that agriculture or farming gets included. Yet IoT is already having an impact within the agricultural sector, helping to improve productivity and yields.

The need

While food shortages can often be more of a food distribution problem than an absolute shortage of production per se, increases in agricultural food production are going to be essential in the years ahead. The United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2019 predicts that global population will rise from an estimated 7.7 billion people in 2019 to c.8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion by the end of the century, increasing the demand for food. This is combined with likely increased levels of prosperity and reductions in poverty, which has been shown before to always lead to increases in per capita food consumption as well as, importantly, changes in the food stuffs consumed. As the UN report puts it, “continued rapid population growth presents challenges for sustainable development”.

The response

First off, it’s important to say that any predictions of a Malthusian population crunch are likely to be way off the mark. In recent history, the agricultural sector has shown itself able to substantially increase levels of production, for example through the Green Revolution in the 1950s and 1960s that witnessed the use of new disease resistance high-yield varieties of wheat, rice and other crops.

But to ensure that food production can keep up with demand, a range of responses will be needed. Some of will be knowledge-based, others practice-based: for example, with knowledge of new farming techniques being spread, notably in developing countries; with increased used of hardier and more resistance varieties of crops; and with increased access to tools that enable greater productivity.

In some cases, this access to tools can mean access to farming equipment such as tractors or irrigation equipment. On others, it can include what is being called ‘smart farming’, ‘precision farming’, or ‘smart agriculture’.

Smart farming

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization summarizes smart farming as: “a farming management concept using modern technology to increase the quantity and quality of agricultural products. Farmers in the 21st century have access to GPS, soil scanning, data management, and Internet of Things technologies. By precisely measuring variations within a field and adapting the strategy accordingly, farmers can greatly increase the effectiveness of pesticides and fertilizers, and use them more selectively. Similarly, using Smart Farming techniques, farmers can better monitor the needs of individual animals and adjust their nutrition correspondingly, thereby preventing disease and enhancing herd health”.

In essence, smart farming is the deployment of advanced technology and IoT in agriculture.

The benefits that can be gained from this are manifold. There are the afore mentioned increases in production and greater effectiveness of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer. But there are also major environmental benefits to be gained through the more sustainable use of water, energy, feed and the soil. The commercial and economic benefits are also significant. An Irish Government initiative that promotes smart farming states that, on participating farms, it averages EUR 6,300 in cost savings per farm and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10%.

Using IoT and technology in agriculture

Despite the images that many may have of agriculture being technologically limited, this could hardly be further from the truth. Advanced technology and IoT have been rolling out within the sector in line with the developments elsewhere. One of the first studies to look at IoT in agriculture by Beecham Research identified several aspects where in which these could be used:

  • Sensing (or observation) technologies,
  • Software applications,
  • Communication systems,
  • Telematics and positioning technologies,
  • Data analytics,
  • Hardware and software systems.

Specific areas where IoT and related technologies are being rolled out within include:

  • Livestock monitoring,
  • Storage monitoring, for example in water tanks, fuel tanks, waste tanks,
  • Indoor farming in greenhouses and stables,
  • Forestry,
  • Arable farming,
  • Fleet management,
  • Fish farming.

There are a wide range of uses within each of these areas. For examples, drones are being used for crop spraying as well as providing remote monitoring of crop growth. DroneFly, a US-based drone supplier, provides a multispectral imagery drone for agricultural use that is enabled for sunlight detection; it further estimates that fertilizer can be delivered approximately 40-60 times faster than through traditional methods. 

Larger equipment is also being outfitted with IoT technology. John Deere, the major agricultural and horticultural equipment company, provides a range of precision agricultural equipment that enables automated guidance for harvesting equipment and data collection to assist with input placement and land stewardship, amongst others.

Some of the most important IoT solutions and tools involve observation and diagnostics. Sensing IoT solutions can be used, for example, to record and monitor conditional data from crops, soil, meteorological conditions, or livestock. As with IoT solutions in other fields, this data can then be integrated and diagnosed in order for automated decisions to be taken or alerts raised. All of this reduces the workload on the farmer while improving reaction time.

Conclusion

Although public awareness of IoT solutions within smart agriculture is less than those provided for industrial IoT solutions or within the consumer environment, the range of IoT tools, systems and applications that are being deployed is rapidly growing and will make an important contribution to the future farming and food needs of us all.

 

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This blog is the final part of a series covering the insights I uncovered at the 2020 Embedded Online Conference.

In the previous blogs in this series, I discussed the opportunities we have in the embedded world to make the next-generation of small, low-power devices smarter and more capable. I also discussed the improved accessibility of embedded technologies, such as FPGAs, that are allowing more developers to participate, experiment, and drive innovation in our industry.

Today, I’d like to discuss another topic that is driving change in our industry and was heavily featured at the Embedded Online Conference – security. 

Security is still being under-prioritised in our industry. You only have to watch the first 12 minutes of Maria "Azeria" Markstedter’s ‘defending against Hackers’ talk to see the lack of security features in widely used IoT devices today. 

Security is often seen as a burden - but, it doesn’t need to be. In recent years, many passionate security researchers have helped to highlight some simple steps you can take to vastly improve the overall security of your system. In fact, by clearly identifying the threats and utilizing appropriate and well-defined mitigation techniques, systems become much harder to compromize. I’d recommend watching these talks to familiarize yourself with some of the different aspects of security you need to consider: 

  • Azeria is a security researcher and Arm Innovator, she is passionate about educating developers on how to defend their applications against malicious attacks. In this talk, Maria focusses on shedding the light on the most common exploit mitigations to consider for memory-corruption-based exploits, when writing code for Arm Cortex-A processors, such as Execute Never (XN), Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR) and stack canaries. What’s really interesting is that it becomes clear from listening to Azeria’s talk and from seeing the audience comments that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit that we, as developers, are not fully aware of. We should collectively, start to see exploit mitigations as great tools to increase the security of our systems, no matter what type of code we are writing.
  • In the same vein as Maria’s talk, Aljoscha Lautenbach discusses some of the most common vulnerabilities and security mechanisms for the IoT, but with a focus on cryptography. He focusses on how to use block cipher modes correctly, common insecure algorithms to watch out for and the importance of entropy and initialization vectors (IVs)
  • A different approach is taken by Colin O'Flynn in his talk, Hardware Hacking: Hands-On. I personally really appreciate the angle that Colin takes, as it is something that, as software engineers, we tend to forget. The IoT and embedded devices running our code can be physically tampered in order to extract our secrets. As Colin mentions protecting from these attacks is usually costly, but there are a lot of steps we can take to substantially mitigate the risk. The first step is to analyse the weaknesses of our system by performing a threat analysis to ensure we are covering all bases when architecting and implementing our code. A popular framework to address the issue of security is the Platform Security Architecture (PSA) that Jacob Beningo describes in detail during his talk. Colin then moves on to introduce practical tools and techniques that you can use to test the ability of your systems to resist physical attacks. 

The passion of the security community to educate embedded software developers on security system flaws is shown during the talks and the answers to the questions submitted.

With the growing number of news headlines depicting compromised IoT devices, it is clear that security is no longer optional. The collaboration between the security researchers and the software and hardware communities I have seen at this and at many other conferences and events reassures me that we really are on the verge of putting security first.  

It has been great to see so many talks at the Embedded Online Conference, highlighting the new opportunities for developers in the embedded world. If you missed the conference and would like to catch the talks mentioned above*, visit www.embeddedonlineconference.com

*This blog only features a small collection of all the amazing speakers and talks delivered at the Conference!

In case you missed the previous posts in this series, here they are:

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Abstract

Blockchain (BC) in the Internet of Things (IoT) is a novel technology that acts with decentralized, distributed, public and real-time ledger to store transactions among IoT nodes.  A blockchain is a series of blocks, each block is linked to its previous blocks. Every block has the cryptographic hash code, previous block hash, and its data. The transactions in BC are the basic units that are used to transfer data between IoT nodes. The IoT nodes are different kind of physical but smart devices with embedded sensors, actuators, programs and able to communicate with other IoT nodes. The role of BC in IoT is to provide a procedure to process secured records of data through IoT nodes. BC is a secured technology that can be used publicly and openly. IoT requires this kind of technology to allow secure communication among IoT nodes in heterogeneous environment. The transactions in BC could be traced and explored through anyone who are authenticated to communicate within the IoT. The BC in IoT may help to improve the communication security. In this paper, I explored this approach, its opportunities and challenges.

Keywords : Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Cryptography, Security, Communication.

INTRODUCTION

The IoT is growing exponentially year by year with its aim in 5G technologies, like Smart Homes and Cities, e-Health, distributed intelligence etc. but it has challenges in security and privacy. The IoT devices are connected in a decentralized approach. So, it is very complex to use the standard existing security techniques in the communication among IoT nodes. The BC is a technology the provide the security in transactions among the IoT devices. It provides a decentralize, distribute and publicly available shared ledger to store the data of the blocks that are processed and verified in an IoT network. The data stored in the public ledger is managed automatically by using the Peer-to-peer topology. The BC is a technology where transactions fired in the form of a block in the BC among IoT nodes. The blocks are linked with each other and every device has its previous device address. The blockchain and IoT together work in the framework of IoT and Cloud integration. In the future, the BC would revolutionize the IoT communication [1]. The goals of BC and IoT integration could be summarized as follows.

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Figure 1 : Blockchains and IoT

  1. i) Decentralized framework: This approach is similar in IoT and BC. It is removed the centralized system and provide the facility of a decentralized It improves the failure probability and performance of the overall system.
  2. ii) Security: In the BC, the transactions among nodes are secured. It is a very novel approach for secure communication. BC allows IoT devices to communicate with each other in a secure way.

iii) Identification: In IoT, all the connected devices are uniquely identified with a unique ID. Every block in BC is also uniquely identified. So, BC is a trusted technology that provides uniquely identified data stored in public ledger.

  1. iv) Reliability: IoT nodes in BC have the capabilities to authenticate the information passed in the network. The data is reliable because it is verified by the miners before entering in BC. Only verified blocks can enter in the BC.
  2. v) Autonomous: In BC, all IoT nodes are free to communicate with any node in the network without the centralized
  3. vi) Scalability: In BC, the IoT devices will communicate in high-available, a distributed intelligence network that connects with destination device in a real-time and exchange information.

The rest is summarized as follows: section 2 represents the literature survey, section 3 introduces the role of BC in IoT, section 4 represents the opportunities of the integrated approach, section 5 represents the challenges and section 6 represents the conclusion.

  1. LITERATURE SURVEY

The security and privacy in the communication among IoT devices paid too much attention in the year of 2017 and 2018. Several papers are published during the year 2017 and 2018. In the year of 1990, Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta were written an article [3] on exchanging a document with privacy without storing any information on the time-stamping service. The idea of blockchains comes from [3] but the first blockchains were presented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. He presented a paper where the blocks were added in a chain and form a blockchain [4].  In the article [5], the authors presented the “IoTChain” for authentication of information exchanged between two nodes in an IoT network. They have presented an algorithm to exchange the information in IoT and blockchains (fig 2) [5]. In this paper, authors are focused on the authorization part of the security in the IoTChain framework.

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Figure 2 : IoT Chain framework

 In the article [6], the authors explored the cloud and MANET framework to connect the smart devices in the internet of things and provide communication security. In the article [7], authors represent a very nice framework called internet-cloud framework, it is a good idea to provide secure communication to the IoT devices. In the article [8], the authors provide a middleware framework in the cloud-MANET architecture for accessing data among the IoT devices. Article [9,10] represents the reliability in the communication among IoT nodes. The articles [11,12,13,14,15] are providing the mobility models for communication in 5G networks. In the article [16], the fuzzy logic-based mobility framework is explained for communication security. In the article [17], a nice survey on blockchains and IoT done by the researchers. They present the idea of the security in the BC-IoT to develop the IoT apps with the power of BCs.

III.  THE ROLE OF BC IN IoT

The IoT enables the connected physical things to exchange their information in the heterogeneous network [18]. The IoT could be divided into the following sections.

  1. Physical Things: The IoT provide the unique id for each connected thing in the network. The physical things are able to exchange data with other IoT nodes.
  2. Gateways: The gateways are the devices work among physical things and the cloud to ensure that the connection is established and security provided to the network.
  3. Networking: it is used to control the flow of data and establish the shortest route among the IoT nodes.
  4. Cloud: It is used to store and compute the data.

The BC is a chain of verified and cryptographic blocks of transactions held by the device connected in a network. The blocks data are stored in the digital ledger that is publicly shared and distributed. The BC provides secure communication in IoT network. The blockchain can be a private, public or consortium with different properties. The following table represents the differentiation among all kind of blockchains.

Table 1 : Kinds of Blockchains and their properties

 

BC/ Properties

Efficiency

Decentralized

Accord growth

immovableness

Reading

Determining

Private BC

good

No

yes

Can be

Can be publicly

Only one industry

Public BC

worse

Yes

no

No

publicly

All miners

Consortium BC

good

Sometimes

yes

Can be

Can be publicly

IoT devices

The database in blockchains has the properties such as decentralized trust model, high security, highly publicly accessed, privacy is low to high and the transferable identities while in a centralized database, the properties are centralized trust model, low in security, low publicly accessed, privacy is high and non-transferable identities. From the above properties, the blockchain is more advanced than the centralized storage.

 

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Figure  3 : (a) Centralized (b) Decentralized (c) Distributed

The following platforms are used to develop IoT applications using blockchain technology.

  1. IOTA: The IOTA is the new platform for the blockchain and IoT called Next generation blockchains. This platform facilitates the high data integrity, high performance of transactions and high validity of blocks with using fewer resources. It resolves the limitations of blockchains [19].
  2. IOTIFY: It provides web-based internet of things solution to minimize the limitations of blockchains technology in the form of custom apps [20].
  3. iExec: It is an open source blockchain based tool. It facilitates your apps the decentralized cloud advantages [21].
  4. Xage: It is the secure blockchain platform for IoT to increase automation and secure information [22].
  5. SONM: It is a decentralized blockchain based fog computing platform to provide secure cloud services.

The IoT and blockchains are increasing the business opportunities and opening the new markets where everyone or everything can communicate in a real-time with authenticity, privacy and security in a decentralized approach. The integration of these novel technologies will change the current world where the devices will communicate without the humans in various stages. The objective of the framework is to get the secured data on the right location, on the right format, at real-time.  The BC could be used to track billions of IoT connected things, coordinate these things, enabling the processing of the transactions, resolving or eliminating the failures and making the flexible ecosystem for running the physical things on it. Hashing techniques are used in blocks of data by BC to create information privacy for the users.

  1. OPPORTUNITIES

The BC-IoT integration approach has a lot of remarkable opportunities. It opens the new doors for both together. Some of the opportunities are described as follows.

  1. Building the Trust between parties: The BC-IoT approach will build trust among the various connected devices because of its security features. Only verified devices can communicate in the network and every block of the transaction will first verify by the miners then they can enter in the BC.
  2. Reduce the Cost: This approach will reduce the cost because it communicates directly without the third party. It eliminates all the third-party nodes between the sender and the receiver. It provides direct communication.

 5837908273?profile=RESIZE_400x 

Figure  4 : Opportunities in BC-IoT

3: Reduce Time: This approach is reduced the time a lot. It reduces the time taken in transactions from days to second.

4: Security and Privacy: It provides security and privacy to the devices and information.

  1. Social Services: This approach provides public and social services to the connected devices. All connected devices can communicate and exchange information between them.
  2. financial Services: This approach transfer funds in a secure way without the third party. It provides fast, secure and private financial service. It reduced transfer cost and time.
  3. Risk management: This approach is played the important roles to analyze and reduce the risk of failing the resources and transactions.

 

  1. CHALLENGES

The IoT and BC could face a lot of challenges such as scale, store, skills, discover etc. The following are the challenges faced by the integration approach.

  1. Scalability: The BC can become hang because of its heavy load of the transaction. The Bitcoin storage is becoming more than 197 GB storage in 2019 [24]. Imagine if IoT integrates with BC then the load will be heavier than the current situation.
  2. Storage: The digital ledger will be stored on every IoT node. By the time, it will increase in its storage size that will be a challenging task and become a heavy load on each and every connected device.
  3. Lack of Skills: The BC is a new technology. It is known by very few people in the world. So, it is also a challenge to train the people about the technology.

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Figure 5 : Challenges in BC-IoT

  1. Discovery and Integration: Actually, BC is not designed for IoT. It is a very challenging task for the connected devices to discover another device in BC and IoT. So, IoT nodes can discover each other but they can be unable to discover and integrate the BC with another device.
  2. Privacy: The ledger is distributed publicly to every connected node. They can see the ledger transactions. So, privacy is also a challenging task in the integrated approach.
  3. Interoperability: The BC can be public or private. So, the interoperability between public and private blockchains is also a challenge in the BC-IoT approach.
  4. Rules and Regulation: The IoT-BC will act globally, so it faces many rules and regulations for implementing this approach globally.

 

  1. CONCLUSION

 The BC and IoT is a novel approach explored in this article. Many opportunities and challenges are described. Also, available platforms are listed in this article. This approach can be the future of the internet because it can overhaul the current internet system and change it with the new one where every smart device will connect to other devices using the peer-to-peer network in a real-time. It can reduce the current cost and time and provide the right information to the right device in a real-time. So, it can be very useful in the future. 

VIIIREFERENCES

  • Reyna, Ana, et al. "On blockchain and its integration with IoT. Challenges and opportunities." Future Generation Computer Systems (2018). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.future.2018.05.046
  • Zheng, Zibin, et al. "Blockchain challenges and opportunities: A survey." International Journal of Web and Grid Services 14.4 (2018): 352-375. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJWGS.2018.095647
  • Haber, Stuart, and W. Scott Stornetta. "How to time-stamp a digital document." Conference on the Theory and Application of Cryptography. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1990.
  • Nakamoto, Satoshi. "Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system." (2008).
  • Alphand, Olivier, et al. "IoTChain: A blockchain security architecture for the Internet of Things." Wireless Communications and Networking Conference (WCNC), 2018 IEEE. IEEE, 2018.
  • Alam T, Benaida M. The Role of Cloud-MANET Framework in the Internet of Things (IoT). International Journal of Online Engineering (iJOE). 2018;14(12):97-111. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3991/ijoe.v14i12.8338
  • Alam T, Benaida M. CICS: Cloud–Internet Communication Security Framework for the Internet of Smart Devices. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM). 2018 Nov 1;12(6):74-84. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3991/ijim.v12i6.6776
  • Alam, Tanweer. "Middleware Implementation in Cloud-MANET Mobility Model for Internet of Smart Devices", International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, 17(5), 2017. Pp. 86-94
  • Tanweer Alam, "A Reliable Communication Framework and Its Use in Internet of Things (IoT)", International Journal of Scientific Research in Computer Science, Engineering and Information Technology (IJSRCSEIT), Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.450-456, May-June.2018 URL: http://ijsrcseit.com/CSEIT1835111
  • Alam, Tanweer. (2018) "A reliable framework for communication in internet of smart devices using IEEE 802.15.4." ARPN Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences 13(10), 3378-3387
  • Alam, Tanweer, Arun Pratap Srivastava, Sandeep Gupta, and Raj Gaurang Tiwari. "Scanning the Node Using Modified Column Mobility Model." Computer Vision and Information Technology: Advances and Applications 455 (2010).
  • Alam, Tanweer, Parveen Kumar, and Prabhakar Singh. "SEARCHING MOBILE NODES USING MODIFIED COLUMN MOBILITY MODEL.", International Journal of Computer Science and Mobile Computing, (2014).
  • Alam, Tanweer, and B. K. Sharma. "A New Optimistic Mobility Model for Mobile Ad Hoc Networks." International Journal of Computer Applications 8.3 (2010): 1-4. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5120/1196-1687
  • Singh, Parbhakar, Parveen Kumar, and Tanweer Alam. "Generating Different Mobility Scenarios in Ad Hoc Networks.", International Journal of Electronics Communication and Computer Technology, 4(2), 2014
  • Sharma, Abhilash, Tanweer Alam, and Dimpi Srivastava. "Ad Hoc Network Architecture Based on Mobile Ipv6 Development." Advances in Computer Vision and Information Technology (2008): 224.
  • Alam, Tanweer. "Fuzzy control based mobility framework for evaluating mobility models in MANET of smart devices." ARPN Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences 12, no. 15 (2017): 4526-4538.
  • Conoscenti, Marco, Antonio Vetro, and Juan Carlos De Martin. "Blockchain for the Internet of Things: A systematic literature review." Computer Systems and Applications (AICCSA), 2016 IEEE/ACS 13th International Conference of. IEEE, 2016.
  • Gubbi, Jayavardhana, et al. "Internet of Things (IoT): A vision, architectural elements, and future directions." Future generation computer systems 29.7 (2013): 1645-1660. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.future.2013.01.010
  • https://www.iota.org
  • https://iotify.org
  • https://iex.ec/overview
  • https://xage.com
  • https://www.i-scoop.eu/blockchain-distributed-ledger-technology/blockchain-iot
  • https://www.statista.com/statistics/647523/worldwide-bitcoin-blockchain-size

 

Reference: 

Tanweer Alam. " Blockchain and its Role in the Internet of Things (IoT).", International Journal of Scientific Research in Computer Science, Engineering and Information Technology. Vol 5(1), 2019. DOI: 10.32628/CSEIT195137

 

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This blog is the second part of a series covering the insights I uncovered at the 2020 Embedded Online Conference. 

Last week, I wrote about the fascinating intersection of the embedded and IoT world with data science and machine learning, and the deeper co-operation I am experiencing between software and hardware developers. This intersection is driving a new wave of intelligence on small and cost-sensitive devices.

Today, I’d like to share with you my excitement around how far we have come in the FPGA world, what used to be something only a few individuals in the world used to be able to do, is at the verge of becoming more accessible.

I’m a hardware guy and I started my career writing in VHDL at university. I then started working on designing digital circuits with Verilog and C and used Python only as a way of automating some of the most tedious daily tasks. More recently, I have started to appreciate the power of abstraction and simplicity that is achievable through the use of higher-level languages, such as Python, Go, and Java. And I dream of a reality in which I’m able to use these languages to program even the most constrained embedded platforms.

At the Embedded Online Conference, Clive Maxfield talked about FPGAs, he mentions “in a world of 22 million software developers, there are only around a million core embedded programmers and even fewer FPGA engineers.” But, things are changing. As an industry, we are moving towards a world in which taking advantage of the capabilities of a reconfigurable hardware device, such as an FPGA, is becoming easier.

  • What the FAQ is an FPGA, by Max the Magnificent, starts with what an FPGA is and the beauties of parallelism in hardware – something that took me quite some time to grasp when I first started writing in HDL (hardware description languages). This is not only the case for an FPGA, but it also holds true in any digital circuit. The cool thing about an FPGA is the fact that at any point you can just reprogram the whole board to operate in a different hardware configuration, allowing you to accelerate a completely new set of software functions. What I find extremely interesting is the new tendency to abstract away even further, by creating HLS (high-level synthesis) representations that allow a wider set of software developers to start experimenting with programmable logic.
  • The concept of extending the way FPGAs can be programmed to an even wider audience is taken to the next level by Adam Taylor. He talks about PYNQ, an open-source project that allows you to program Xilinx boards in Python. This is extremely interesting as it opens up the world of FPGAs to even more software engineers. Adam demonstrates how you can program an FPGA to accelerate machine learning operations using the PYNQ framework, from creating and training a neural network model to running it on Arm-based Xilinx FPGA with custom hardware accelerator blocks in the FPGA fabric.

FPGAs always had the stigma of being hard and difficult to work on. The idea of programming an FPGA in Python, was something that no one had even imagined a few years ago. But, today, thanks to the many efforts all around our industry, embedded technologies, including FPGAs, are being made more accessible, allowing more developers to participate, experiment, and drive innovation.

I’m excited that more computing technologies are being put in the hands of more developers, improving development standards, driving innovation, and transforming our industry for the better.

If you missed the conference and would like to catch the talks mentioned above*, visit www.embeddedonlineconference.com

Part 3 of my review can be viewed by clicking here

In case you missed the previous post in this blog series, here it is:

*This blog only features a small collection of all the amazing speakers and talks delivered at the Conference! 

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5 Tips for Designing a Smart Watchdog

Recovering from a system failure or a software glitch can be no easy task.  The longer the fault occurs the harder it can be to identify and recover.  The use of an external watchdog is an important and critical tool in the embedded systems engineer toolbox.  There are five tips that should be taken into account when designing a watchdog system.

Tip #1 – Monitor a heartbeat

The simplest function that an external watchdog can have is to monitor a heartbeat that is produced by the primary application processor.  Monitoring of the heartbeat should serve two distinct purposes.  First, the microcontroller should only generate the heartbeat after functional checks have been performed on the software to ensure that it is functioning.  Second, the heartbeat should be able to reveal if the real-time response of the system has been jeopardized.

Monitoring the heartbeat for software functionality and real-time response can be done using a simple, “dumb” external watchdog.  The external watchdog should have the capability to assign a heartbeat period along with a window that the heartbeat must appear within.  The purpose of the heartbeat window is to allow the watchdog to detect that the real-time response of the system is compromised.  In the event that either functional or real-time checks fail the watchdog then attempts to recover the system through a reset of the application processor.

Tip #2 – Use a low capability MCU

External watchdogs that can be to monitor a heartbeat are relatively low cost but can severely limit the capabilities and recovery possibilities of the watchdog system.  A low capability microcontroller can cost nearly the same amount as an external watchdog timer so why not add some intelligence to the watchdog and use a microcontroller.  The microcontroller firmware can be developed to fulfill the windowed heartbeat monitoring with the addition of so much more.  A “smart” watchdog like this is sometimes referred to as a supervisor or safety watchdog and has actually been used for many years in different industries such as automotive.  Generally a microcontroller watchdog has been reserved for safety critical applications but given the development tools and the cost of hardware it can be cost effective in other applications as well.

Tip #3 – Supervise critical system functions

The decision to use a small microcontroller as a watchdog opens nearly endless possibilities of how the watchdog can be used.  One of the first roles of a smart watchdog is usually to supervise critical system functions such as a system current or sensor state.  One example of how a watchdog could supervise a current would be to take an independent measurement and then provide that value to the application processor.  The application processor could then compare its own reading to that of the watchdog.  If there were disagreement between the two then the system would execute a fault tree that was deemed to be appropriate for the application.

Tip #4 – Observe a communication channel

Sometimes an embedded system can appear to be operating as expected to the watchdog and the application processor but from an external observer be in a non-responsive state.  In such cases it can be useful to tie the smart watchdog to a communication channel such as a UART.  When the watchdog is connected to a communication channel it not only monitor channel traffic but even commands that are specific to the watchdog.  A great example of this is a watchdog designed for a small satellite that monitors radio communications between the flight computer and ground station.  If the flight computer becomes non-responsive to the radio, a command could be sent to the watchdog that is then executed and used to reset the flight computer.

Tip #5 – Consider an externally timed reset function

The question of who is watching the watchdog is undoubtedly on the minds of many engineers when using a microcontroller for a watchdog.  Using a microcontroller to implement extra features adds some complexity and a new software element to the system.  In the event that the watchdog goes off into the weeds how is the watchdog going to recover? One option would be to use an external watchdog timer that was discussed earlier.  The smart watchdog would generate a heartbeat to keep itself from being reset by the watchdog timer.  Another option would be to have the application processor act as the watchdog for the watchdog.  Careful thought needs to be given to the best way to ensure both processors remain functioning as intended.

Conclusion

The purpose of the smart watchdog is to monitor the system and the primary microcontroller to ensure that they operate as expected.  During the design of a system watchdog it can be very tempting to allow the number of features supported to creep.  Developers need to keep in mind that as the complexity of the smart watchdog increases so does the probability that the watchdog itself will contain potential failure modes and bugs.  Keeping the watchdog simple and to the minimum necessary feature set will ensure that it can be exhaustively tested and proven to work.

Originally Posted here

 

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I recently joined the Embedded Online Conference thinking I was going to gain new insights on embedded and IoT techniques. But I was pleasantly surprised to see a huge variety of sessions with a focus on modern software development practices. It is becoming more and more important to gain familiarity with a more modern software approach, even when you’re programming a constrained microcontroller or an FPGA.

Historically, there has been a large separation between application developers and those writing code for constrained embedded devices. But, things are now changing. The embedded world intersecting with the world of IoT, data science, and ML, and the deeper co-operation between software and hardware communities is driving innovation. The Embedded Online Conference, artfully organised by Jacob Beningo, represented exactly this cross-section, projecting light on some of the most interesting areas in the embedded world - machine learning on microcontrollers, using test-driven development to reduce bugs and programming an FPGA in Python are all things that a few years ago, had little to do with the IoT and embedded industry.

This blog is the first part of a series discussing these new and exciting changes in the embedded industry. In this article, we will focus on machine learning techniques for low-power and cost-sensitive IoT and embedded Arm-based devices.

Think like a machine learning developer

Considered for many year's an academic dead end of limited practical use, machine learning has gained a lot of renewed traction in recent years and it has now become one of the most interesting trends in the IoT space. TinyML is the buzzword of the moment. And this was a hot topic at the Embedded Online Conference. However, for embedded developers, this buzzword can sometimes add an element of uncertainty.

The thought of developing IoT applications with the addition of machine learning can seem quite daunting. During Pete Warden’s session about the past, present and future of embedded ML, he described the embedded and machine learning worlds to be very fragmented; there are so many hardware variants, RTOS’s, toolchains and sensors meaning the ability to compile and run a simple ‘hello world’ program can take developers a long time. In the new world of machine learning, there’s a constant churn of new models, which often use different types of mathematical operations. Plus, exporting ML models to a development board or other targets is often more difficult than it should be.

Despite some of these challenges, change is coming. Machine learning on constrained IoT and embedded devices is being made easier by new development platforms, models that work out-of-the-box with these platforms, plus the expertise and increased resources from organisations like Arm and communities like tinyML. Here are a few must-watch talks to help in your embedded ML development: 

  • New to the tinyML space is Edge Impulse, a start-up that provides a solution for collecting device data, building a model based around it and deploying it to make sense of the data directly on the device. CTO at Edge Impulse, Jan Jongboom talks about how to use a traditional signal processing pipeline to detect anomalies with a machine learning model to detect different gestures. All of this has now been made even easier by the announced collaboration with Arduino, which simplifies even further the journey to train a neural network and deploy it on your device.
  • Arm recently announced new machine learning IP that not only has the capabilities to deliver a huge uplift in performance for low-power ML applications, but will also help solve many issues developers are facing today in terms of fragmented toolchains. The new Cortex-M55 processor and Ethos-U55 microNPU will be supported by a unified development flow for DSP and ML workloads, integrating optimizations for machine learning frameworks. Watch this talk to learn how to get started writing optimized code for these new processors.
  • An early adopter implementing object detection with ML on a Cortex-M is the OpenMV camera - a low-cost module for machine vision algorithms. During the conference, embedded software engineer, Lorenzo Rizzello walks you through how to get started with ML models and deploying them to the OpenMV camera to detect objects and the environment around the device.

Putting these machine learning technologies in the hands of embedded developers opens up new opportunities. I’m excited to see and hear what will come of all this amazing work and how it will improve development standards and transform embedded devices of the future.

If you missed the conference and would like to catch the talks mentioned above*, visit www.embeddedonlineconference.com

*This blog only features a small collection of all the amazing speakers and talks delivered at the Conference!

Part 2 of my review can be viewed by clicking here

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It's Not All Linux

In the comments section of my 2020 embedded salary survey, quite a few respondents felt that much of the embedded world is being subsumed by canned solutions. Will OSes like Linux and cheap, powerful boards like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino replace traditional engineering? Has that already happened?

A number of people complained their colleagues no longer understand low-level embedded things like DMA, chip selects, diddling I/O registers, and the like. They feel these platforms isolate the engineer from those details.

Part of me says yeah! That's sort of what we want. Reuse and abstraction means the developer can focus on the application rather than bringing up a proprietary board. Customers want solutions and don't care about implementation details. We see these abstractions working brilliantly when we buy a TCP/IP stack, often the better part of 100K lines of complex code. Who wants to craft those drivers?

Another part of me says "save me from these sorts of products." It is fun to design a board. To write the BSP and toss bits at peripheral registers. Many of us got a rush the first time we made an LED blink or a motor spin. I still find that fulfilling.

So what's the truth? Is the future all Linux and Pis?

The answer is a resounding "no." A search for "MCU" on Digi-Key gets 89,149 part numbers. Sure, many of these are dups with varying packages and the like, but that's still a ton of controllers.

Limiting that search to 8 bitters nets 30,574 parts. I've yet to see Linux run on a PIC or other tiny device.

Or filter to Cortex-M devices only. You still get 16,265 chips. None of those run Linux, Windows, BSD, or any other general-purpose OS. These are all designed into proprietary boards. Those engineers are working on the bare metal... and having a ton of fun.

The bigger the embedded world gets the more applications are found. Consider machine learning. That's for big iron, for Amazon Web Services, right? Well, partly. Eta Compute and other companies are moving ML to the edge with smallish MCUs running at low clock rates with limited memory. Power consumption rules, and 2 GB of RAM at 1 GHz just doesn't cut it when harvesting tiny amounts of energy.

Then there's cost. If you can reduce the cost of a product made in the millions by just a buck the business prospers. Who wants a ten dollar CPU when a $0.50 microcontroller will do?

Though I relish low-level engineering our job is to get products to market as efficiently as possible. Writing drivers for a timer is sort of silly when you realize that thousands of engineers using the same part are doing the same thing. Sure, semi vendors often deliver code to handle all of this, but in my experience most of that is either crap or uses the peripherals in the most limited ways. A few exceptions exist, such as Renesas's Synergy. They go so far as to guarantee that code. My fiddling with it leaves me impressed, though the learning curve is steep. But that sort of abstraction surely must be a part of this industry going forward. Just as we don't write protocol stacks and RTOSes any more, canned code will become more common.

Linux and canned boards have important roles in this business. But an awful lot of us will still work on proprietary systems.

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