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The current political events in Barcelona provide us with a barely-needed reminder that we live in changing times.  I was in the city as part of the Trustonic team exhibiting at IoT Solutions World Congress last week and took some time to speak with fellow vendors. I soon saw some fantastic product demonstrations that drew my attention - I wanted to learn more. Frequently though, the response to: “This looks great - how is it secured? How do we know the data is trustworthy?” was a puzzled look and a “It uses our cloud and we secure that” or “It runs on a secure OS”.  Sometimes the response was worse: “It’s a closed network. You couldn’t attack it”.

It didn’t fill me with confidence. Everyone has a secure solution, it seems. But how do we know that it’s secure? Who has validated it? The questions and the perplexed looks continued. I slept uneasily.

I don’t want to criticise the IoT solutions that I saw – they were interesting and point to an exciting future for us all. Unfortunately, securing these solutions isn’t exciting and probably won’t draw a crowd to your stand. It’s rare to see ground-breaking security solutions making the news – consumers just expect it these days. Of course, you can expect a media frenzy if you’re breached. There have been some horrifying examples already and we are still in the early days of this industry. IoT solutions need to be secure by design – or, to put it another way, the components of the solution must already be secure when they are deployed. With the headache (and tedium) of security taken care of, the industry would be free to innovate and dream up even more exciting products.

I was showing an IoT security demo built on a Samsung ARTIK board, which already has Trustonic TEE technology embedded. It showed an IoT device connecting to Amazon Web Services (AWS), cryptographically proving itself to be secure and having a trusted identity, thus enabling it to become automatically registered on the system. Perhaps not as exciting as an IoT boat or sports bike sharing data in real time, but it demonstrated that, by embedding a truly secure OS (one that’s Common Criteria certified and FIPS-140-2 approved) combined with a Root of Trust installed in the factory (think of this like a digital birthmark), an IoT device can be trusted pretty much automatically. Once you have an inherently trusted device, you can be confident that data from its sensors is also trustworthy.

Shakespeare wrote “Love all, trust a few”. So, love all the cool and exciting IoT products – but only trust the few which are truly secure.

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Why have hardware do the task alone, when it can team up with software and services to do the job easier and better? Think of how cars have developed over the years — from diesel to unleaded gasoline to electricity, we’ve refined the fuel that goes in the car, not the car itself. A car still has four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel. A smartphone’s hardware is the car itself — you can’t reinvent the wheel, and you can’t realistically expand what a smartphone is either. Software is the destination, where you want to take the car. What we need to change is the fuel — in this case, the processing. Processing on the phone itself is diesel — cloud processing is nitro-boosted gasoline.
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The Internet of Things is slated to be one of the most disruptive technologies we’ve ever seen. It’s going to change a great deal - including how we look at and use the cloud.

Software-defined cars. Internet-connected ‘smart’ fridges, coffee machines, and televisions. Wearable technology like smartwatches and smartglasses. The Internet of Things is going to change everything from how we work to how we drive to how we live our lives. And as it does so, it’s also going to change the cloud.

It already is, actually.

Enter fog computing. It’s an extension of the cloud, born out of the fact that there are more Internet-connected devices in the world than ever before (by 2020, Gartner predicts that there will be 6.4 billion.)  Given this influx, the traditional, centralized model of the cloud is no longer viable.

“Today, there might be hundreds of connected devices in an office or data center,” writes Ahmed Banafa of Thoughts On Cloud. “In just a few years, that number could explode to thousands or tens of thousands, all connected and communicating. Most of the buzz around fog has a direct correlation with IoT. The fact that everything from cars to thermostats are gaining web intelligence means that direct user-end computing and communication may soon be more important than ever.”

It makes a lot more sense to move the real computing and processing closer to client devices. To carry out analysis at the network’s edge. See, the thing about the Internet of Things is that it depends on managing data over very short timeframes. Even a slight delay introduced as a result of bandwidth is unacceptable.

Consider the following examples:

  • A self-driving car is communicating with the vehicles and traffic infrastructure around it, and analyzing traffic and weather conditions. While it may communicate with a central server, it needs to be able to analyze and aggregate data immediately, lest it cause an accident.

  • Autonomous tunneling and boring machines at a mining site ensure workers don’t have to subject themselves to hazardous underground conditions. These machines must be capable of analyzing and storing terabytes of data, as network connectivity hundreds of feet underground is near-impossible. They also must be able to communicate with other mining infrastructure, as well as a central server, uploading processed data to the cloud when mining is finished.

  • Sensors at an oil well must connect to a cloud server to provide headquarters with a real-time vision of the facility. These sensors, however, must be capable of analyzing data on-site before it is uploaded.

In each of the examples above, distributed computing works together with a more traditional cloud model to better-enable connected equipment and sensors. And that’s where the cloud slots in with IoT. It’s still the cloud - but it’s changed in order to adapt to new workflows, business processes, and an entirely new world.

“With the increase in data and cloud services utilization, fog computing will play a key role in helping reduce latency and improve the user experience” writes Data Center Knowledge’s Bill Kleyman. “We are now truly distributing the data plane and pushing advanced services to the edge. By doing so, administrators are able to bring rich content to the user faster, more efficiently, and - very importantly - more economically.”

Photo credit: Mr. & Mrs. Gray

About the Author:

Tim Mullahy is the General Manager at Liberty Center One. Liberty Center One is a new breed of data center located in Royal Oak, MI. Liberty can host any customer solution regardless of space, power, or networking/bandwidth requirements.

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A Different Kind of IoT Competition

Two months ago, we made the claim that IoT needs a new programming language. That was not a light statement. It was backed by 3 years of heads-down innovation on a fundamental technology: TQL (Thing Query Language). Next month, we will see TQLers’ submitting IoT projects from all over the globe for the TQLOne Competition. Imagine learning a foreign language. Before you become proficient, you are invited to join a poetry contest, against the native speakers. What would happen? In fact, your poem would win for its creativity, albeit with a few spelling errors!!
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