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interviews (13)

Embedded Software is Eating the World

Software is eating the world wrote Marc Andreessen in The Wall Street Journal on August 20, 2011. Since that time every company in the world has beefed up their software teams and their digital transformation initiatives. Afterall, software is a key competitive advantage, and to survival. 

In the IoT space, we often think about the application software that power industrial systems and consumer connected devices. But what about the embedded software written to control machines or devices that are not typically thought of as computers? This is almost everything, from a small digital watch, e-bikes, electronic control units in cars, microwaves and missile guidance systems.

For insight we turned to Jeffrey Fortin, Head of Product Management, Vector Software. Vector provides automated test tools for embedded software applications in automotive, aerospace, medical devices, industrial controls, rail, and other business critical sectors.

Much of the discussion about software development has centered on mainstream brick-and-mortar companies becoming software companies. They need to be able to compete on software against FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google). But this often means competing with better consumer facing applications. Vector focuses on embedded software. What’s at stake for embedded organizations here?

With companies such as Facebook and Apple becoming such a part of our everyday lives, consumers have grown so accustomed to the ease-of-use that these types of companies bring to market in their products. As IoT grows and brick-and-mortar companies are also becoming software companies, this type of user experience has become top of mind, and something that’s now expected by consumers. However, the underlying embedded software within these devices can easily be lost sight of while putting such a big focus on the user experience aspect. 

If an organization was responsible for a safety-critical device that did not previously have software, but now does, organizations must remember that it still has to meet the same safety requirements as before. Just because software has just now been integrated in the product and the organization wants to improve the UX, that does not mean that the safety of the device can be compromised. The quality of the embedded software must be the fundamental focus to ensure consumers are not put at risk.

We all know now that software is eating the world. If you are a manufacturer of electronic devices, but software development is not your core, what do you say to them?

As IoT continues to grow and evolve, there will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving ecosystem. This essentially means that many electronic device manufacturers will also now be in the software business.

The problem is that many of these vendors will be new to building embedded software/robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly when safety- or performance-critical applications become increasingly dependent on products controlled by software. In these situations, where safety, security or human life is exposed to risk if software fails, I would reiterate to these manufacturers that quality has to be the central focus of software development efforts.

In the IoT ecosystem, a lot of “consumer-grade” software will also find its way onto critical paths in new safety- or performance-critical applications, in large part due to the re-use of legacy code bases. Legacy code often carries an enormous amount of technical debt. Without proper software quality methods in place to ensure the integrity of legacy code, the overall safety of the system could be compromised. 

In summary, quality cannot be installed at the end. Organizations will need to adopt development processes to verify the integrity level of the software is in line with the safety risks of the application.

When it comes to IIoT, what are the trends you are seeing in embedded software and is there a major transition happening in terms of development, testing and quality?

One of the trends I have observed with the growth of IIoT is that product delivery has been flipped. In a traditional model, a product was delivered and remained static. With IoT/IIoT, products are now continuously updated and re-purposed for new functionality or for new business models. With change comes risk, including loss of quality -- and that can put safety at stake, particularly within industrial applications.

Due to this change, there has been a major transition in the way that organizations approach development and testing. For example, many have adopted processes that dramatically improve quality, including software development methodologies such as Change-Based Testing, Continuous Integration and Regression Testing.

Furthermore, as the number of products becoming software-defined grows, software integrity directly relates to brand value. Likewise, as products migrate from consumer-grade use cases to be integrated into mission-critical applications, the quality of the software will determine the value delivered by the products. The chance that faulty software will cause a system failure is now a much greater risk and can result in devastating consequences that not only bring business processes to a halt, but may also harm a company’s reputation. 

As a result, software quality has become an increasingly critical concern in the IoT environment.

Which languages are leading IoT development and what do you recommend to clients?

IoT often leverages scripting languages such as JavaScript, Lua and Node.js. But these languages usually run in conjunction with system software that control the device. The system software is usually written in C or C++. System software forms the foundation for the device and is often required to meet regulatory standards for safety integrity. Our clients who develop this type of software often use C, C++ and also Ada.

The embedded design is key to addressing the need for more secure products in an IoT-enabled world. What are your thoughts on how we make IoT more secure?

With IoT applications, safety can become an issue when security is compromised because these applications power safety-critical products such as automobiles, manufacturing equipment, medical devices and more. Developing secure applications requires constant vigilance in all stages of development. To do so, tools that are capable of detecting possible vulnerabilities when writing code, integrating modules and testing compiled binaries on target hardware should be used.

A commonly used tool for testing software is static application security testing (SAST), which analyzes large amounts of code for common vulnerabilities that could lead to potential security risks. SAST does not execute code, but instead tries to understand what the code is doing behind the scenes to identify errors. However, SAST has been plagued by false-positives, where vulnerabilities are reported but they do not actually exist. Instead, dynamic testing methods can be used to expose security defects in software by confirming exploitability. In this approach, automated software testing methods are used to interrogate an application’s software code and identify possible weaknesses. Once this is complete, a test exploiting the identified issue is generated and executed. After execution, test tools can analyze the execution trace and decide if the potential weakness is actually a genuine threat.

What is your biggest concern when it comes to the Industrial Internet of Things?

The Industrial Internet of Things comprises applications in medical devices, automobiles, avionics, heavy machinery and more. In all of these examples, the quality of the embedded software is under tight scrutiny as safety, security or human life is exposed to risk if the software fails. 

Code correctness forms the basis of a trusted computing platform, and that’s what we at Vector Software are focused on. Every development team needs a comprehensive process in place to achieve application security goals and ensure code correctness before a product goes to market. Our VectorCAST platform provides automated software testing tools that enable the implementation of a complete and automated test infrastructure to ensure improved code quality.

Interoperability testing and protocols are a major part of ensuring that IoT products work. Beyond interoperability, what do you see as the next steps?

At Vector Software, rather than simply testing for interoperability, our focus really lies on integrity testing. In any IoT device, especially in IIoT where safety is a top priority, it is important that the device is not only interoperable with other devices, but it is even more so important to ensure that the software powering these devices is implemented correctly, without fail.

Integrity testing ensures that the code coverage and overall quality of the software itself meet the required safety standards in place. If the software in a car sends a canned message to turn the headlights on, do they actually turn on? Integrity testing ensures that the software is implemented correctly and without errors so that the IoT-enabled device works every time. By doing so, safety is not at risk, and the devices we use in our daily lives can be relied upon. 

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Interview: 5G, IoT and Hurricanes

Last week more than 21,000 visitors from 110 countries and territories attended the 2017 Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco. It was the first for MWC in the United States, having recently gone into a partnership with CTIA to up the appeal of the long-time wireless tradeshow. We were introduced to Advanced RF Technologies (ADRF) and discussed the the transition to 5G, IoT and hurricanes with ADRF Chief Operating Officer Arnold Kim. 

For our readers who are not familiar with your company, tell us about ADRF?

Advanced RF Technologies (ADRF) is a Top 5 Distributed Antenna System (DAS) provider. We've been operating for more than 18 years and provide in-building wireless connectivity solutions to improve cellular signal and data speeds when there is either a lot of people in one area, or the building infrastructure doesn't allow frequencies to enter unobstructed from the macro network. Our products include DAS, small cells, antennas and passive components.

What industries are adopting your technology?

Every industry needs better connectivity inside of their buildings, so we have clients from many different verticals. We work with all four major carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile) and our products are currently in most of the Fortune 100 company buildings, many high profile sports stadiums, commercial real estate, healthcare, and more. We also do plenty of Public Safety installations. 

Device types continue to proliferate - no longer is it a type of mobile phone. How do you advise customers on what types of frequencies and standards to implement?

Most companies have an understanding of what their connectivity needs are. However our approach is to offer flexible and future-proof solutions that will grow with our clients. We try to ensure that our clients will never need to do a full refresh on their investment.

From a connectivity perspective, what are some of the near term challenges for IoT?

The biggest challenges we see regarding the IoT has to do with the sheer volume of devices taking a bandwidth on a network. If you think about a sports stadium and trying to connect 50,000 people, network density quickly becomes a challenge. For large enterprises the number of devices connected and the challenges can be just as large. There's a wide range of devices that will be connected that don't necessarily need a 5G connection. For instance, a connected oil pipe simply needs to send signal that things are working correctly or not. This can be accomplished using a 3G signal, on a low frequency band (which travels more effectively that a 5G signal on a high band might). In areas where the is limited connectivity, this is an important thing to consider.

It’s still early days, but how are you tackling the transition from 4G to 5G?

While the definition of 5G has yet to be settled, we are prepared for it, and those who have our systems in place will be too. Our new ADX V series DAS is modular and works with every type of frequency. When 5G becomes standard, whatever frequency may be adopted by each carrier to run the signal will be compatible with our equipment. At MWC America, we are announcing new Head End and Remote Modules for ADX V to support 600 MHz, the frequency that T-mobile plans to use exclusively for 5G. Not many DAS solutions today support it.

Let’s turn our attention to current events. Hurricane Harvey and the floods it caused in Houston. What role does ADRF play in public safety and how do you support response teams when critical infrastructure comes down?

ADRF performs a lot of public safety installations and we were one of the first companies to be FirstNet compliant. As an example, we recently installed two public safety DAS in the new Atlanta Braves stadium. Dense areas and public venues are mostly required by law to have complete, uninterrupted connection at all times. We provide the systems that allow for that. We have also introduced a series of mobile repeaters that can be implemented in crisis situations as well as outdoor venues where concerts are taking place.

Another example is Hurricane Sandy, a Category 3 major hurricane which affected coastal Mid-Atlantic states in 2012.Verizon deployed CROW (Cellular Repeater on Wheels) help provide interim emergency communications. CROWs are low cost, portable, over the air (which doesn’t requires backhaul) and can be used to provide expanded cellular network coverage or capacity. 

What's the most interesting implementation you've done? Why?

We were selected to make the happiest place on earth one of the best connected. Around Disney World parks, we put in a series of repeaters to provide better coverage and let families share their adventures. One of the important parts of the installation, especially in crowded venues where aesthetic is of the utmost importance, is to make sure equipment is concealed and hidden. Locating those areas when thousands of people are walking the entirety of the park every single day was a challenge.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We announced a new high power outdoor modular repeater at Mobile World Congress Americas, and while it’s intended purpose is to improve cellular connection in outdoor areas, it will be beneficial for IoT connectivity as more people become reliant on having these connections everywhere. Our products support every frequency including those that will be used for 5G, and the 3G and 4G that powers IoT connections. The importance of having blanket coverage for IoT cannot be understated, especially as more important devices become connected in the future.

 

 

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Interview: The Rise of LoRa

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Vivek Mohan, director for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group. I originally inquired about a piece I was working on around IoT and agriculture. (I love stories about IoT and agriculture. We have several takes on it here, here and here.) Turns out they had an announcement with Chipsafer whereby cattle tags now allow ranchers to monitor vital signs and reduce cattle theft. While we discussed innovations in ranching, we also talked about the rapid growth of LoRA, a long range, low power wireless platform for building IoT networks.

LoRa has gone from inception in 2013 to over 500 members in the LoRa Alliance in 2017. What is driving so much interest in LoRa?

Clearly there was a market need for a disruptive technology, such as Semtech’s LoRa® devices and radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology), guided by a collaborative, open industry alliance which was not being addressed by existing solutions. LoRa Technology’s feature set allows for expansion and adoption at a price point that works for most consumers, be it a cattle rancher in Brazil or a shipping giant in the United States. LoRa Technology covers a wide area, requires little to no maintenance, costs less to deploy, and costs less to maintain in service.

Before LoRa, what options were there for companies and what are the other options today?

Before LoRa, the main options were Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular networks and many proprietary implementations. Those technologies don’t work best for the growth of IoT anymore and certainly don’t address LPWAN the way that LoRa does, given their network and cost limitations. LoRa Technology’s purpose is to drive the growth of IoT by making devices with a powerful feature set, making it easy to deploy and is financially viable to benefit consumers and manufacturers.

What sectors are best suited for LoRa?

LoRa Technology has many applications, including supply chain & logistics, smart cities, smart buildings and homes, agriculture, metering, environmental safety, and industrial. With its key three features – low-power, low-cost and an open interoperable standard – LoRa is desirable for any industry that want to develop an IoT solution.

You recently announced with Chipsafer that you’ve conducted three pilot programs for its cattle management solutions in Namibia, Kenya, and Luxembourg. What was that all about?

Chipsafer used LoRa-enabled devices to tag cattle to monitor their location and vital signs, and used LoRaWAN-based gateways to create a network for the ranchers. Chipsafer was able to bring IoT and valuable data to ranchers in remote locations. Chipsafer is now expanding its pilot program to Brazil and Uruguay, as well as other locations around the globe. This has a lot of practical benefits previously not available to cattle ranchers around the world and improves quality and safety for consumers.

What’s next for the LoRa standard?

The LoRa Alliance membership is growing and LoRaWAN networks are expanding constantly. Actility and LORIOT were part of LoRaWAN network expansions in China and Mexico, respectively. The LoRaWan standard gives users, developers and businesses freedom to use IoT in the ways that they need. 

What do you think the most pressing challenges are when it comes to IoT?

The most pressing challenges for IoT are: interoperability of various networks as the market is still fragmented with many technology platforms, security for billions of sensors and the data they produce, providing carrier grade quality, and reliability at consumer price points as these sensors will last for multiple years and in some cases may be hard to reach/replace. These challenges are tied together because adoption will slow down if IoT options are not available at accessible prices, and the devices will not be economically-feasible if there is little adoption. This is why the LoRa Alliance is so important; we are more than 500 members developing devices, technologies and applications under the same set of guidelines, with the same purpose of making the Internet of Things possible.

What excites you most about the future of IoT? Any examples you can give of applications LoRa will enable in the near future?

It is the seemingly endless number of applications people are finding for IoT. IoT is modernizing industries that were in dire need of an update, and promoting the importance of data intelligence across all sectors. More and more devices and applications come out every day it seems, and that is very exciting for Semtech to see. In the near future we will see more solutions leveraging artificial intelligence and Cloud computing to realize the full potential of IoT.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Our goal with LoRa is to make IoT accessible to everyone in every sector, and provide the highest quality products and service at a price that makes adoption possible. The LoRa Alliance continues to grow and we are committed to establishing a strong IoT network that our customers can leverage to build cutting-edge IoT applications.

 

*Semtech, the Semtech logo, and LoRa are registered trademarks or service marks, and LoRaWAN is a trademark or service mark, of Semtech Corporation or its affiliates.

 

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A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few hours at GE Digital’s headquarters in San Ramon, CA. It was a great overview by several executives of how GE is using their Predix platform to create software to design, build, operate, and manage the entire asset lifecycle for the Industrial IoT.  A big part of this transformation for GE involves hiring tons of software developers, acquisitions, and partnerships.

One of those partnerships is with Silicon Valley based FogHorn Systems (GE Ventures, Dell Ventures, March Capital and a few others are investors). FogHorn is a developer of “edge intelligence” software for industrial and commercial IoT applications. FogHorn and GE are working very closely on many IIoT customer use cases, across verticals, bolstered by the integration of FogHorn with Predix.

I turned to FogHorn Systems CEO David C. King to learn more about edge intelligence software for the Industrial IoT. David has been at the helm of FogHorn since 2015, a year after its founding. Prior to FogHorn, David co-founded AirTight Networks, Inc., a technology leader in secure cloud-managed Wi-Fi. Before AirTight, he served as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Proxim Inc., a pioneer in WLANs and the first publicly traded Wi-Fi company, from 1993-2002.

Lots of talk about the edge in IoT. It’s my smartphone and my doorbell, as well as the sensor on a traffic light or a wind turbine. What exactly is the edge of the network and how do you define it?

We define edge as the closest compute point that can process real time streaming data. So in your case, all three -- phone, doorbell, sensors -- are edges because you can bring compute to the data on any of these platforms. The question is what compute is possible? The single variable filtering that you can do on a sensor is very simple when compared to the complex Machine Learning models that can execute on your phone.   

Analytics is done in the data center or cloud. You claim to do this at the edge now.  Please describe your offering.  

FogHorn has developed a tiny footprint complex event processor (CEP) that provides advanced streaming analytics, and machine learning capabilities at the edge.  This powerful combination of being able to pre-process, cleanse the data and execute ML models, all in real-time, brings the power of big data analytics to the edge. The FogHorn software platform is highly flexible and can be easily scaled to optimize for footprint and/or feature needs.

Tell us about a customer you’re working with and how they are applying your technology.

FogHorn Lightning is an extensible platform currently used by customers from Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Power & Water, Renewable Energy, Mining, Transportation, Smart Buildings/Cities and other industrial verticals. The deployment patterns range across gateways, PLCs, to ruggedized servers in production, at Fortune 100 sites. A common implementation of FogHorn Lightning is product quality inspection, predictive maintenance, real time health monitoring. Customers are seeing immediate business value; e.g. identifying defects in the early stages of manufacturing reduces, scrap and increases yield. Additionally, there is a trend to FogHorn to generate new streams of revenue by providing real-time smart maintenance for their end customers.

When compared to software-defined IIoT smart gateways, there are still millions more hardware-defined M2M gateways out there. At what point do we cross the chasm to smarter gateways, and where are we now in this cycle?

We are still very early in adoption of IIoT technologies. Understandably, typical industrial sectors are conservative, and have much longer adoption curves. However, we are beginning to observe that it the ROI from edge intelligence is accelerating customer demand for FogHorn. We will cross the chasm once industries identify key use cases that generate new revenue streams, which is still about 3-5 years away.

You can’t talk about IoT without talking about security, and it’s even more important in the industrial sector. How do you address security concerns for your customers and what does the industry need to do to make IoT more secure?

Yes, you are right. When you think of IoT, especially IIoT, security is a top concern. Hacks such as “Devil’s Ivy” will become everyday events with increasingly connected devices. At FogHorn, our edge intelligence software runs very close to the data source, and is local to the asset. This implies that we are secure (like the assets) behind firewalls, and in a DMZ layer. And because most of our processing is done locally, we are less vulnerable to malicious hacks that occur when connected.

Because IIoT is still such a nascent set of technologies, we caution users to deploy solutions after thoroughly weighing the business value, and convenience versus security risk factors. My guiding question before any deployment: “Can I do this locally, without connecting to an external network?”. The answer is usually yes, and if otherwise, you should probably talk to us.

How can companies make their industrial processes better?

We understand that today’s industrial processes are highly complex and advanced, with many moving parts. While it may seem humanly impossible to optimize it any more without help from technology, we believe that a key asset is still untapped: your operator! Companies will start seeing incredible improvements once they translate the tribal knowledge on the plant floor into actionable insights. This can be further supplemented by techniques from machine learning, and artificial intelligence, to tease out the known unknowns, and also, the unknown unknowns.

Anything else you’d like to add?

FogHorn is redefining edge intelligence for IIoT. A year ago, we started our journey as a company that did analytics on tiny footprint devices. Today, we have accelerated the transition to Machine Learning at the edge, and are very are excited about the market validation. With our Operational Technology focus, we are looking forward to defining new business models, and delivering transformational value for our industrial customers.

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The IoT Central Interviews

Got a cool perspective on IoT? Writing code that streamlines IoT analytics? Analyzing killer data to drive business value? Leading a team of technologists and data scientists that is at the forefront of the industrial IoT? Then we want to talk to you. 

We are expanding our interviews series so I invite you to suggest names of inventors, analysts, thought-leaders, executives, and practitioners who are driving the Industrial IoT. It could be you. Tips and interest to: [email protected]

This edition of IoT Central Digest highlights some of our most popular interviews. Remember: get your friends and enemies to join IoT Central here.

Interview: Why is it so hard to monetize the Internet of Things?

From wind turbines to your washing machine, the IoT is all the rage, and everyone wants their piece of the pie. Monetization and creating business value, not to mention profits, is the holy grail for the IoT. But who is really making money on the IoT and where are the most lucrative opportunities?  For that we turned to Mike Fallon, Senior Advisor of the IoT Transformation Advisory Practice at PTC. Mike is responsible for delivering frameworks to companies that address the how of IoT monetization – specifically for CIOs and other C-suite executives.

Interview: How Connected Cars Can Learn from Fintech

With connectivity increasing and self-driving cars on the fore, how do we keep improving on the convenience while keeping it secure. For that we turned to Sam Shawki, the founder and chief executive officer of MagicCube, a digital mobile security start-up located in Silicon Valley. Prior to his current role, Sam was head of Visa’s Global Remote Payments business unit, where he drove the company’s global initiatives in mobile and remote payments.  Before Visa, Sam served as Chief Innovation Officer of VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world, with over 214 million customers in 18 countries. We asked him about connected cars, mobile security, and what’s in store for the future.

An Interview with Ken Finnegan, Chief Technology Officer, IDA Technology Ireland

Who's Your Buddy? An interview with Dave McLauchlan, CEO & Co-Founder, Buddy Platform

Last week at IoT World, I stopped by the Buddy Platform booth (namely because of their killer Lego set-up). Buddy provides data hosting and management solutions for manufacturers and vendors of connected ("IoT") devices. Prior to IoT World, I sent Buddy CEO and Co-Founder Dave McLauchlan a few questions. Here's what he had to say.

Are You Real? Bringing Authentication to IoT

Serial entrepreneur Chris Ciabarra is at it again. The co-founder and CTO of Revel Systems, an iPad point-of-sale (POS) disruptor which has a valuation of more than $500 million and landed a global contract to replace all of Shell Oil’s PoS terminals with Revel’s, has helped launch Authenticated Reality, an authenticated secure community that fosters real interactions, comments and online conversations from real people on the internet.

Chris is an anti-hacker and data security expert with a strong background in PCI compliance and P2PE. He has presented across the globe as well as in front of the 5th Annual United States Homeland Security Conference on various security topics including how the Internet needs to change.

While his current company is aimed at getting consumers and business to identify themselves as “real,” we couldn’t help but ask him about what his current endeavor might mean for IoT. 

Autodesk's Bryan Kester - Skills for the IoT pro, disagreement with Gartner, and what's next for IoT

In our latest installment of interviews with IoT practitioners, we interview Bryan Kester, Director of IoT, Autodesk, Inc. Bryan leads the Internet of Things (IoT) Product Group at Autodesk. We asked him questions about Gartner's prediction of IoT maturation, his take on the IoT platform wars, the skills sets needed in this rapidly emerging and changing field, and what's next for IoT. Bryan predicts, "There will be some continued hype and then a subtle, but significant shakeout among both pure play and "me too" vendors. Those that help simplify the systems integration nature of IoT will have a future."

Interview: 3M's Road to IoT

 

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In May, after nearly 10 years and a 147,000 miles, I sold my 2008 Mazda CX-9. It was a great car for me and my family. Our new car is a truck, the Ram 2500. It’s a beast, not just in size and towing power, but a beast of electronics and connectivity. Sure the 2008 Mazda had Bluetooth and a GPS, but cars today are so much more connected with onboard services like WiFi, custom car applications, and even consumer applications like Yelp! Mind you, this is a Ram Truck I’m talking about, not a Tesla or a Prius.

With connectivity increasing and self-driving cars on the fore, how do we keep improving on the convenience while keeping it secure. For that we turned to Sam Shawki, the founder and chief executive officer of MagicCube, a digital mobile security start-up located in Silicon Valley. Prior to his current role, Sam was head of Visa’s Global Remote Payments business unit, where he drove the company’s global initiatives in mobile and remote payments.  Before Visa, Sam served as Chief Innovation Officer of VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world, with over 214 million customers in 18 countries.

We asked him about connected cars, mobile security, and what’s in store for the future.

When people talk about connected cars and especially self-driving cars, many worry about the safety around driving, without immediately thinking about the security behind all of the connections that are required for the connected car’s infrastructure to thrive. How does mobile security play a part?

Whether the smartphone is at the heart of what makes cars connected, or an embedded system created by automotive manufacturers like your car’s dashboard or even a digital car key takes over the identity hub, many of the car systems and subsystems are getting smart which means such systems are now attackable.  

What are some of the challenges car companies are facing today that may require different thinking?

The right technologies to protect these systems cannot come from legacy ideas like inserting a secure chip in each system or relying on pure encryption like white box of multi-party computation alone. It needs to be designed specifically for scale and with security specific to mobile and IoT deployments. This is the different thinking that the connected cars ecosystem has no choice but to embrace, and quickly.  

What can car companies and governments learn from other industries when it comes to connected cars?

Security breaches in any industry should be viewed as a clarion call to the automotive industry. There are lessons to be learned there. For example, look the recent eATM breach from the financial sector. This is believed to be related to technology that used legacy ideas that adhered to minimal security requirements. The difference between security breaches on ATMs and on self-driving cars of course is that a security breach on a car going 70 mph is truly a matter of life and death.

Who’s doing connected cars well?

It’s too early to tell. Many are on the right track, yet security remains a huge concern.  I’m excited to see who figures this out first and our team is working hard to make sure MagicCube is empowering such success.

Your background is in payment technology. Does that throw people off when you talk to car companies about MagicCube?

Although I know a lot about it, my background is not on the financial side, but rather in innovating new technologies and business models across many industries. I was part of the initial teams at Netscape where we enabled the masses to experience being connected for the first time, Shoretel where VOIP for the enterprise was invented and at Siebel Systems where CRM and e-business were made mainstream. My experience at Obopay or Visa comes from my work in enabling the security and digitization, not the other way around. The beauty of such experience is that the financial industries historically pioneered other industries like aerospace and connected cars, and established standards that other industries adopt. This is helping us at MagicCube navigate industries where standards and protocols are just starting to take shape.

Explain how MagicCube came about and why it’s called MagicCube?

While running global remote payments for Visa, which was under the digital and innovation side of the business, Visa and MasterCard created tokenization and figured out how to secure those tokens by asking device makers like Apple to house the tokens in their hardware. In Apple’s case this became Apple Pay. The next logical step was to figure out how to secure the Visa and MasterCard tokens without having to depend on hardware. This when we discovered that no solution existed and I was told it is impossible to have the same level of security in pure software. Given my background, I was motivated to solve this problem properly. In talking to Nancy Zayed, a distinguished engineer in her field, she figured out how to solve the problem using her years of operating systems knowledge at Apple, Cisco and other companies. Just to be able to visualize something virtual, the “cube” is what we called the secure software container that replaces the need for a hardware chip. Since we seem to have achieved a technology that we were told was impossible, what came to our minds was Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s quote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  Hence MagicCube.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m excited by the evolution and the social impact potential of self-driving cars. When it comes to autonomous cars, we still have a fair way to go, mainly because car systems will need to process data without attackers gaining any form of control on the car or any of its systems. That is where the success, and even the viability of self-driving cars will be measured.

 

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Interview: 3M's Road to IoT

When you think of 3M you immediately think of Post-It Notes or Scotch tape. If you're old school or local, maybe you know that 3M was founded as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. But have you ever thought about this company, which has $30 billion in annual sales, employs 88,000 people worldwide and produces more than 55,000 products, as an IoT company? All that material science must have an opportunity in IoT. 

For that we turned to Dr. Jennifer F. Schumacher, the technical supervisor and co-founder of the Computational Intelligence group in the Corporate Research Laboratory at 3M Company. She manages a team and portfolio of 35 new technology Introduction programs which are mechanizing, electrifying, and digitizing 3M materials. Her current initiative is to drive technology platform development in computer vision, machine learning, and deep learning

When people talk about 3M, the first thing that usually comes to mind is Post-it® Notes, and they might not think about 3M at the ready for future advances. How is a materials science company playing in the IoT space?

They say you’re never more than ten feet from a 3M product – that is a lot of potential “things” we could integrate into the IoT space. In fact, we have already digitized the simple Post-it® Notes through the Post-it® Plus App, it integrates physical and digital notes and lets you connect with others to share, for example, outputs from brainstorming sessions.  

What have been some of the roadblocks you and your team have faced in convincing people that a materials science company is also a tech and data science company? How are you working to overcome this?

The data science/machine learning group at 3M is relatively new, and as such, many of the technologies we are developing are not ready for public disclosure yet. Therefore, it is difficult to communicate externally that 3M is actually working on these things, and difficult to recruit talent in this high-demand skillset space. We are addressing this by attending key conferences and interacting more with universities, for example we are sponsoring a seminar series at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

You have a PhD in neuroscience and an expertise in human vision. How does this apply to your work at 3M when it comes to data science and the IoT?

I initially leveraged my expertise in human vision to develop the 3M™ Display Quality Score – a metric that predicts how well a human will prefer a digital display based on its resolution, contrast, color saturation, etc. I then translated this skillset from understanding how people see, to teaching computers how to see, or ‘computer vision’. The opportunity to learn new things and adapt skillsets makes the job fun.

I believe that in a world full of data, it will be the ones that ask the right questions that have the advantage. Formal training in science has helped me hone my skills in asking the right questions so the most efficient and effective experiments can be carried out first. Much of my formal training has been multi-disciplinary, and I think this breadth of knowledge and cross pollination of ideas and concepts is the key to innovation. 3M’s approach to science is aligned to this approach of cross pollinating ideas and heavy collaboration.

Explain how machine learning can be applied to 3M products?

Machine learning thrives on data. 3M products are, or could be, producing data. We can then leverage the insights from the algorithms to enhance the product itself (for example, the Victory Series™ buccal tubes, which were optimized for fit) or to create an entirely new solution (we have several in the pipeline, so stay tuned!)

What can 3M do to adapt to the current digital economy and help your customers adapt?

There is a global trend of greater economic opportunity in service-based business models rather than product-based. I think 3M will need to start adapting some of these service-based models to adapt to the current digital economy, and we can do so by providing complete solutions (products + services) to our customers.

What do you think the most pressing challenges are when it comes to IoT? How is 3M working to solve these?

The most pressing challenge I see is finding the most impactful applications – there are plenty of ‘cool’ factor solutions or products, but what are the sustainable solutions, the ones that significantly improve the quality of life or enable new capabilities? 3M’s vision statement concludes with ‘3M Innovation Improving Every Life’, so I think we align our research goals with significant global technology trends and sustainability issues that would have this broad impact.

 What excites you most about the future of IoT?

The more trivial decisions that a smart system can take care of, the more time I can spend dreaming and implementing what the next technology to improve lives will be.

 

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From wind turbines to your washing machine, the IoT is all the rage, and everyone wants their piece of the pie. Monetization and creating business value, not to mention profits, is the holy grail for the IoT. But who is really making money on the IoT and where are the most lucrative opportunities?  For that we turned to Mike Fallon, Senior Advisor of the IoT Transformation Advisory Practice at PTC. Mike is responsible for delivering frameworks to companies that address the how of IoT monetization – specifically for CIOs and other C-suite executives.

How can organizations profit from the IoT? 

Today, we are seeing two primary areas of opportunity for monetizing the IoT: operational efficiencies and new revenue generation. Operational efficiencies are of interest because of how the IoT allows you to organize and use data. In manufacturing, for example, the IoT can help to prevent unplanned downtime, capture real-time insights regarding production and operation, and integrate data across an extended supply chain.

Of even greater interest, right now, is new revenue generation, particularly for hardware companies that see opportunities to introduce digital services into their product offerings. Since the economy has rebounded from the recession, C-level executives and shareholders are very focused on growth. With so many digital transformations happening right now, traditional manufacturers and hardware companies are looking to these digital services as a way to generate new revenue and bring value to those transformations that are underway.

Why is it so hard to monetize the Internet of Things? 

We see a handful of common challenges as we talk to companies about monetizing their IoT strategies. One of the main challenges is developing a strategy and achieving alignment across key stakeholders in the organization. This often carries over to another challenge that we see – companies taking an inside-out approach that prioritizes the provider’s goals over what the end customer needs. Many companies aren’t asking themselves important questions about their strategies, such as, “How do we ensure that the customer or user cares enough about our service to want to pay for it?” The most successful companies are the ones that prioritize the user’s needs and the user experience.

Further, this idea of forming the right strategy can extend to the company’s go-to-market execution. This can be particularly challenging for companies that traditionally sell hardware and are trying to introduce digital services to their customers as part of new offerings. Whenever new offerings or services are introduced, the challenge of how to best market them typically follows.


There is no neat one-size-fits-all monetization model for the IoT, not least because the needs of different companies vary hugely. What are some of the successful models that you have seen, both in consumer and industrial sectors of IoT?

If we look at new revenue monetization, the key question that a company needs to answer as it shapes its business model is, “What is my customer or user willing to pay and how would they like to buy?” Many companies get trapped in what we could describe as more traditional thinking, often asking themselves, “How do I want to bill the customer?” along with other internal-oriented perspectives. These factors won’t be ignored, but the best business models are the ones that customers adopt rapidly because it’s clear to the customer how the software or service helps them do their job easier, enables them to do more than they could previously, and helps them achieve their own goals and objectives.

If companies stick to an inside-out approach that prioritizes their own needs over those of the customer, they’re potentially setting themselves up for failure because they likely aren’t doing all that they can to achieve the customer adoption needed to be successful.

As our publication name suggests, we focus on the Internet of Things, specifically the Industrial IoT. How do you plan to roll your product out for IoT devices? Can you provide examples?  

Right now, the IoT space is being defined by the platform. More and more companies are adopting IoT platforms, like the ThingWorx Industrial IoT platform from PTC, for their IoT initiatives. The best platforms provide companies with the capabilities that they need to be successful with their IoT strategies, such as application enablement, machine learning, industrial connectivity, and, increasingly, augmented reality.

Platforms allow companies to rapidly iterate as they build new IoT applications and solutions. This is crucial right now, as the IoT space is still maturing and companies are determining what works and what is needed in the market. Platforms also help companies future-proof their IoT strategies, as the best platforms will continue to add new capabilities and features to match the evolution and maturity of the market.

PTC makes ThingWorx available to partner companies and solution builders, which, in turn, use the platform to develop new solutions and applications that they sell to end customers. These solution builders can be system integrators, hardware companies, or other software companies. PTC has developed a robust ThingWorx partner ecosystem that offers companies multiple ways to take advantage of the platform and its many benefits.

Additionally, PTC uses ThingWorx for its own internal development of new connected solutions that are sold through its well-known solutions business, focused primarily on computer-aided design (CAD) and product lifecycle management (PLM). An example is the Navigate application from PTC – a PLM-focused solution that has emerged as one of the best-selling solutions in PTC history.

Talk to us about pricing models. What are they, which are the most popular and which ones do you see has having the longest and greatest run?   

The IoT Transformation Advisory Practice at PTC spends a lot of time looking at pricing and business models. One of the things that we most often emphasize to our customers is, once the strategy around deciding what to connect and what data you can collect is set, do not try to copy and paste business models. There is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to IoT business models, primarily because each customer could have a different set of needs and/or objectives. At a higher level, this is where companies tend to struggle with generating new revenue through IoT. The pricing models that work start with understanding the needs and aspirations of the user of the service. The company needs to understand what the user is willing to pay for and the specifications that are included.

In today’s world, opting in and out of digital services is commonplace – it could be something as simple as cancelling a Spotify account or it could reach the level of an Industrial IoT service. The pricing models with the greatest and most sustained adoption will fit the evolving needs and expectations of the customer. Because the companies providing the new services will likely have insights into their customers’ operations, they’ll have the opportunity to have access to changing behaviors and shifts in their customers’ business.

As we’ve seen our customers’ journeys evolve, we’ve started to see innovation possibilities in the context of outcome-based design as well. Outcome-based design will continue to be important because it helps to align the design and engineering teams and more closely connects them to user insights that drive more targeted innovation and a faster time-to-market, all in the context of the customer experience.

Who in the organization plays the most important role creating an IoT monetization strategy?

It seems that there’s a common misconception that there’s one person who is most crucial to the development of an IoT monetization strategy. To be successful with a monetization strategy, it can’t fall solely on the shoulders of the CIO, CMO, CTO, etc. There needs to be a cross-functional team that provides input from each member’s respective discipline. IT, marketing, and finance can all play important roles in the development of the strategy, and it’s important that there’s a balance between these perspectives. When I work with customers, establishing a cross-functional view is a critical first step that I help them with.

If the CIO or another executive is in the lead role, he or she should reach across the hall and ensure that team members that spend all day thinking about customers and have direct engagement with customers are part of the team. This could be someone as high up as the CMO or it would be a more focused product marketing manager or director. Marketing will need to be a part of the solution to help guide the go-to-market strategy and execution.

So if a company wants to begin monetizing IoT, what’s the go-to-market approach they should take?

I work with companies that, for centuries, have been successful building their businesses with business models largely driven by the sale of physical products. While aftermarket services have also been a source of value (spare parts, component upgrades, warranty services, etc.), the strategy by the naming associated with “after” has been just that.

My background is working with companies that produce physical products. Now that I am in software, I have gained an appreciation for the importance of communicating in advance the availability of new services. This comes back to the critical role that marketing plays. Traditional and forward-thinking marketing efforts, along with the use of insights that you have from the customer and user are vital to connecting with your market.

As we think about how these new services will be sold, it’s important to consider that most sales executives could be used to getting paid in a certain way for selling a physical product. If the new service that is introduced requires a new selling strategy – perhaps one that requires more support from marketing, inside sales, or aftermarket services – both the learning curve and overall motivation for the sales executive needs to be considered.

If your strategy is to drive rapid adoption of the new service from your customers, at least at the initial launch of the offering, having a team that is dedicated to service with a focused understanding of the offering and a focused incentive or rewards system will typically drive adoption more rapidly and will have access to learnings that you may want to incorporate into the service as you iterate. Remember that your customer’s and user’s needs are in constant evolution and continuing to meet and anticipate those needs is critical to the overall strategy.

Anything else you’d like to add?

To summarize, there are six main components to think about when developing an IoT monetization strategy:

  • Strategy – Understand the objective in terms of a broad adoption strategy versus a more selective, premium offering for selective customers.
  • User-Centric – Approach the strategy from a user-focused perspective and build your design for revenue off of this.
  • What to Charge – Leverage learnings from user-engagement and feedback to understand pricing models.
  • How to Charge – Put a focus on making the service easy to adopt or test out.
  • Go-to-Market – Remember that this is a team game, driven by the cross-functional group that has developed the overall strategy. Tell a user-centric story and consider who sells and how to keep incentive and reward systems from being barriers.
  • Technology – Ideally, the technology that’s offered will have robust capabilities, allow for secure, rapid iteration and scaling, and allow for integration to other business and enterprise systems.
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Serial entrepreneur Chris Ciabarra is at it again. The co-founder and CTO of Revel Systems, an iPad point-of-sale (POS) disruptor which has a valuation of more than $500 million and landed a global contract to replace all of Shell Oil’s PoS terminals with Revel’s, has helped launch Authenticated Reality, an authenticated secure community that fosters real interactions, comments and online conversations from real people on the internet.

Chris is an anti-hacker and data security expert with a strong background in PCI compliance and P2PE. He has presented across the globe as well as in front of the 5th Annual United States Homeland Security Conference on various security topics including how the Internet needs to change.

While his current company is aimed at getting consumers and business to identify themselves as “real,” we couldn’t help but ask him about what his current endeavor might mean for IoT.

What is Authenticated Reality?

Authenticated Reality is a secure community of users and devices. In order to be accepted into the secure community you must authenticate yourself. With all users authenticated this will keep the online community safe from hackers that often hide behind anonymity .  

You talk a lot about this concept of “The New Internet”. What do you mean by it?  

The New Internet is a secure community of users that connect and see each other's real identity while interacting. The biggest problem we face on the internet today stems from a lack of identification. This problem is widespread across multiple verticals when you look at what is wrong with the current internet. For example, IMDB.com recently disabled their movie boards where fans would comment and engage with other movie fanatics. Why would IMDB.com disable something so popular that millions of their users were actively engaging in? Because they felt it was not longer fostering a positive environment for their millions of users. Too much hatred and spamming from online trolls that hide behind a pseudonym and a computer screen. On The New Internet this hatred and spamming would for the most part go away because once you remove the anonymity, users are going to be much more positive if their comments and interactions will reflect on their reputation that is attached to their real name and identity. On The New Internet you can comment on every single page of the old internet but with your reputation on the line, you will be less likely to post something fictitious or negative.

Tell us how your technology works.

Just download the browser and you will get a sidebar to comment and rate every page on old and New Internet. On The New Internet there will be domains that have never before existed on the old Internet and you will be able to comment and rate those pages as well. Users can purchase any domain name they would like even if it is not available on the old Internet.

As our publication name suggests, we focus on the Internet of Things, specifically the Industrial IoT. How do you plan to roll your product out for IoT devices? Can you provide examples?  

On The New Internet every device will be attached to an authenticated user. This is particularly useful for drones and identifying the owner of the device. We will be able to monitor all IoT devices and if it is acting suspicious we can turn it off the network for further investigation.  

We’ve written about Bruce Schneier and his calls for government regulation to address security issues in the IoT. A part of your offering includes a solution for governments. What’s your take on regulation and where do you see Authenticated Reality playing a role?  

We would like to authenticate all users, entities and devices to enable a safe internet experience.

Do you see any authentication solutions in IoT at this time?  And at what point in the future do you think an IoT solution from Authenticated Reality will be available?   

Yes we have patented a IOT security device that we will release in a few months time that will allow IOT devices to get secured. This IOT security device will have a WiFi access point on it that IOT devices attach and register to and the device will keep them secure.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The New Internet is here and if you had the vision back in 80’s to take advantage of the old internet  you would be rich, now is your chance to have the vision and join the new internet early on.  Join at http://thenewinternet.com

Photo of and credit: Chris Ciabarra

 

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In our latest installment of interviews with IoT practitioners, we interview Bryan Kester, Director of IoT, Autodesk, Inc. Bryan leads the Internet of Things (IoT) Product Group at Autodesk. He joined the company in September 2015 when SeeControl was acquired by Autodesk. At SeeControl, Bryan served as CEO where he was responsible for SeeControl strategy and operations. The company was founded to help manufacturers and systems integrators connect, analyze, control and manage remote products, things and assets, and create new service revenue opportunities.

We asked him questions about Gartner's prediction of IoT maturation, his take on the IoT platform wars, the skills sets needed in this rapidly emerging and changing field, and what's next for IoT. Bryan predicts, "There will be some continued hype and then a subtle, but significant shakeout among both pure play and "me too" vendors. Those that help simplify the systems integration nature of IoT will have a future."

Read on.

You mentioned that you disagree with Gartner’s assessment that IoT technology will take 5-10 years to mature. Do you think it will take longer, shorter, or has IoT maturity already arrived?

You can dream up and launch virtually any IoT solution you want today; all the technology is available and proven. However, it requires systems integration just like implementing an ERP or CRM application. What we're missing is more plug-and-play interconnections between these technologies. That will reduce the need for expensive technical resources or spending money on services. In the 90s, getting an ERP or CRM was a big investment and took lots of money and teams of people. Today, you can subscribe to Salesforce, Plex or Workday and configure it yourself, and plug the data into other web services pretty easily.

Prior to Autodesk, you were the CEO of enterprise IoT platform SeeControl. What is your role now at Autodesk, and what do you have in store for the company’s future and vision for IoT?

I am responsible for our IoT products and services, which are centered around SeeControl technology. Our IoT product has since been branded as Fusion Connect within our cloud suite for designing, making and using physical things. The vision Autodesk is executing on is putting all of our CAD, CAM, 3D Printing, PLM, Simulation, IoT and other capabilities used by millions of people into a single cloud service. That service enables product and facility makers to design sensors and IoT technologies into things from the first day they're conceived. And once out in the world, real-world data and analytics drives a better next version, as well as the ability to create business opportunities. The makers of things can create new service businesses as maintainers, brokers of thing data or even transforming their companies to models where products are no longer sold, they are rented or subscribed to. For Autodesk, we think this is not only a great business, but has a side benefit of making the world less wasteful.

Products and buildings consume resources like fuel, parts, lubricants, maintenance labor and more. IoT tells you what is actually being used now and with modern predictive analytics tells you how to optimize the future. IoT can also power models for sharing products and facilities, where idle time is reclaimed by other potential users—ridesharing services like Uber are a prime example of that.

SeeControl, now Fusion Connect, what is it and how is it being used today?

Fusion Connect is a no-coding IoT cloud service which enables manufacturers to connect, analyze, and manage their products, without a team of programmers. One half is a plug-n-play data collector for different IoT protocols and device technologies. The other half is a point-and-click rapid application builder that can handle extreme amounts of data. It's used mainly by mid-market industrial manufacturers to offer enhanced diagnostics-based customer support models as well as aftermarket services like predictive maintenance. Outside of Autodesk's core manufacturing customers, partners large and small have assembled their own vertical solutions off the platform for smart cities, smart buildings, connected vehicles, utilities, agriculture and more.

Every major tech vendor is gunning to be "The IoT Platform”. What’s your take on the platform race and where do you see Autodesk having a role?

Autodesk has a rich history of democratizing complex technologies such as CAD, performance simulation, 3D printing and more to make them both affordable and simple to use. We're doing the same thing for IoT, but only for the cloud portion of building a business application. Our customers still have to get a device, put some software or script on it, connect it to a network, and transmit data. The problem in the market today is that IoT covers most if not all of computing, including embedded systems, networking, big data, mobile and security. So any company selling practically any of these technologies can claim to have an IoT platform. It's a natural part of big tech waves for everyone to want to be in the game, and also to position themselves as all things to all people to get the first group of adopters. But if you think of a big tech vendor, their core business is really in something else besides the business of physical things.

At Autodesk, much of the physical world has been designed, simulated or made with Autodesk products. When I got here, I couldn't believe how dominant our software is in the design of products, buildings and factories. It's quite amazing. Many think of Autodesk as just a CAD company but we have almost 200 products, a good portion of which are specific to the Manufacturing industry. So our role as the top software provider for things themselves is mission-critical and it’s a natural fit for us to be in IoT. I think it's important for prospective IoT solution buyers to really think about what motivates a vendor to be in this market. IoT is not an easy business. And the technologies have a long life in the field once deployed—as long as the lifecycle of whatever the thing is. Make sure your vendor is committed. Autodesk is.  

What advice would you give an individual looking to get into IoT? Are there particularly skill sets that matter or are transferable?

The number one thing is you have to be a curious and flexible person, and be willing to jump into new domains. That is true of both technology and business IoT professionals, so most skill sets are transferrable as a starting point. On the business side, there are so many new application possibilities in IoT that you really have to be able to understand a wide array of new business ideas, digest them, and think critically about them. IoT used correctly will force a fundamental reinvention of the core business processes of most companies. On the technical side software, hardware, network, mechanical and civil engineers all think and solve problems in very different ways, and are all highly trained to do so. IoT forces them together to jointly solve problems. People that consider themselves a "Renaissance Person" is a great fit to be in IoT.

What’s next for the IoT?

There will be some continued hype and then a subtle, but significant shakeout among both pure play and "me too" vendors. Those that help simplify the systems integration nature of IoT will have a future. But there are just too many companies claiming IoT expertise that don't really have it, and too many hard-to-use technologies out there. And many vendors are looking for five and six figure sales from the market to stay in business. There aren't as many customers as the "billions of devices" prognostications lead many companies to believe. IoT is still an early adopter market. Statistically, only 3% - 5% of companies fit that profile, and not many of those have substantial budgets. Also, once you get a customer, they have to grapple with issues beyond technology such as how their sales and service and logistics departments are going to work together in new ways—potentially after years of being totally out of touch with each other. There are other related non-tech issues that slow the deployment of IoT within a company.

These are things no salesperson can control, so IoT revenue is unpredictable or may never come. Not many companies will want to weather that. For us, the current market works great since Fusion Connect helps customers discover their IoT opportunities with little cost and risk and our business still does great.

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Last week at IoT World, I stopped by the Buddy Platform booth (namely because of their killer Lego set-up). 

Buddy provides data hosting and management solutions for manufacturers and vendors of connected ("IoT") devices. With only a handful of lines of code added to any connected device, Buddy claims that they can host the telemetry data generated by these devices in various regions around the world, as well shape and query the data prior to pushing it into any business intelligence (BI) toolset desired. In addition to telemetry management, Buddy enables M2M scenarios by exposing query results on the telemetry stream via real-time RESTful APIs, as well as a messaging mechanism for external control of devices. 

Prior to IoT World, I sent Buddy CEO and Co-Founder Dave McLauchlan a few questions. Here's what he had to say. 

What is the Buddy Platform?

Buddy Platform is a highly secure, cloud-based platform that takes and processes raw data from hundreds of millions of connected devices, appliances and sensors, then makes it accessible in real-time for businesses. The platform has significant capabilities to manage billions of transactions across millions of devices in real time and at a global scale. 

Buddy’s enterprise-ready solution allows organizations to own the data without investing in data infrastructure. In many cases the companies that make devices with the most potential in their device data are not traditional data companies - they make appliances, vehicles, heavy equipment in farming, mining and manufacturing. These organizations are able to speed up their time to market and skip building out an internal data infrastructure team that can be expensive and resource heavy.

In preparation for massive IoT growth in the next decade, Buddy is focused on how internet connected devices can provide enormous amounts of valuable data to improve and enhance insights and actions across industries. From mining, manufacturing, energy and resources to connected cities, our technology can help businesses improve performance, safety, and functionality across operations. 

We are based in Seattle, WA and have an engineering office in Adelaide, South Australia. In December 2015 we listed on the Australian Securities Exchange under the ticker symbol BUD.

Tell us how mobile is the gateway and hub for IoT.

There is a very strong correlation in the consumer IoT space between mobile applications and IoT devices because mobile apps are the control point. You could say an IoT platform isn’t complete without good, strong mobile support. This approach is a main differentiator for Buddy, our system is a platform for Things and Apps, you can see data from both come through your Buddy account and have a more unified view. Given our heritage as a Mobile as a Backend service, and our capabilities now in IoT we are uniquely positioned against others in the space. 

What trends are you seeing in the silicon industry to address IoT?

More and more silicon organizations, companies and manufacturers are looking to get deeper integration with device management through data management, so that when they sell silicon, the data can be deployed and managed for the customer. Increasingly, customers of silicon vendors are looking for solutions that include a robust, scalable and secure cloud platform. We think this trend will continue, and that has already led to great partnerships between Buddy and companies like Marvell and Gimbal. 

Much of the attention in IoT is focused on consumer technologies, but the real action, often unrealized by the average person, is happening in the industrial sector. What are you most excited about in IoT and what can we expect from it? 

IoT is still managing it’s way through an enormous hype cycle and it’s true, things like wearables and home automation garner much of the attention. While these areas are certainly very exciting because they are the most tangible to people, what’s happening in industrial IOT is just as exciting in that it will also be powering great new experiences and services, but as an enabler rather than being front and center on store shelves. We are seeing great opportunity in the energy sector for IoT, and how that translates into business value for utilities, cities and buildings. Everything from solar panels, to automated meters are becoming connected which means governments, real estate managers and homeowners have a better view into how they are using and producing energy. That translates into cost savings, efficiency and increased awareness that can have real impact in the lives of people, and the health of our environment and planet. 

Photo courtesy of David Oro

 

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Just ahead of the Internet of Things World conference taking place May 10–12 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley, we were lucky enough to catch up with one of the conference speakers, Ken Finnegan, Chief Technology Officer, IDA Technology Ireland. He advises and provides strategic insights into technology trends both nationally and globally for the agency and client companies. He has worked in the software, telecommunications and big data industries for 15 years before joining the IDA in 2014. The IDA is Ireland's inward investment promotion agency, it is a non-commercial, semi-state body promoting Foreign Direct Investment into Ireland through a wide range of services.

We asked Mr. Finnegan about IoT and Smart Cities, IoT implementations in Dublin, and his thoughts on making cities smarter.  Here’s what we learned.

 

What are a few examples of IoT-based technologies that have been implemented throughout Dublin?

There are some really great projects happening in Ireland. The approach that Dublin has taken is a balanced top down - bottom up approach. What I mean by this is that the smart initiative is being driven by city leaders with support from government agencies (e.g. IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland) at the top, whilst at the same time engaging with the citizens and companies in order to identify and seek solutions to the real needs of the city. 

There are five pillars to the Smart Dublin strategy. These include:

  • Smart Government
  • Smart Mobility
  • Smart Environment
  • Smart Living 
  • Smart People

The principles followed: 

  • How to use smart technologies to improve city livability and competitiveness:
  • Taking a challenge based approach to procurement to deliver better quality outcomes for the city.
  • Positioning Dublin as the place to pilot and scale new smart city technology opportunities. 

Understanding the key areas of focus and the driving principles are vital to describing the challenges and demonstrating that top down bottom up approach. 

A recently completed Smart City challenge that is a fantastic demonstration of IoT in the city was “Keeping Our City Streets Clean.“

A critical role of the city council is that of street cleaning and managing waste across busy city center areas in particular. There is a network of over 3,500 street bins that are manually emptied on a regular basis - the timing of which varies depending on the profile of the street. This street cleaning service is critical to maintaining a clean and litter free city. There has been an increasing trend of successful deployment of smart bin technologies in cities that incorporate features such as:

  • Sensors that communicate back to the street cleaners when they are full
  • Use of accompanying software that allow for optimization of routes for cleaning schedules
  • Use of software applications that deliver real-time data information (through a web portal or smartphone) on each bin status, their inventory management and other efficiency related data

The result was self-compacting bins that send an email when they need to be emptied!

Smart Bins are solar-powered, Wi-Fi enabled bins that are being installed in towns, villages and residential areas across the country to replace traditional public litter bins.

There are currently 401 Smart Bins installed in the south county area. The project is managed by the County Council by the Environment Department with the purpose to improve the efficiency of waste management.

Other examples can be found here including this video of Croke Park Smart Stadium.

 

Since transitioning to a smart city, what benefits has the city of Dublin experienced? And what plans do you have to make Dublin even smarter?

Without a doubt the biggest benefit Dublin and Ireland’s other cities have seen is a demonstration of the power of collaboration to uncover value. 

IDA Ireland has been successful in attracting and supporting multinationals here for a long time. With the combination of engagement with our multinational companies, a vibrant small-to-medium enterprise and start-up community, an openness for business from the cities, the youngest, digitally savvy population in Europe, a highly connected research ecosystem that is easily accessed by industry and support from the government - there is a lot happening. 

For example, Dublin has what we call ‘Silicon Docks’. It’s a part of the city that has the European HQ’s for Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Twitter, LinkedIn, LogMeIn, Adroll, Accenture, Zalando, Tripadvisor and more.

Dublin City Corporation are planning to make this part of the city the most ‘densely sensored’ urban area in the world - producing lots of data that will be accessible by companies, government, academia and citizens. We anticipate that this is going to be a very powerful demonstration of Ireland’s capabilities to design and develop the sensors, connect them over multiple transmission types and finally with one of Europe’s largest data analytics research centers here, uncover, discover and predict value. 

Central to the smart city goals is also to ensure that the infrastructure in place, the LORA (Low Powered Radio) transmission standards are currently being rolled out across the entire island. This is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and coordinated by the CONNECT Research center and allows companies to conduct robust due diligence into what transmission standard works for them. Companies can also access and rent the live radio spectrum, access the Sigfox network and lots more infrastructure; the building blocks are in place for technical solutions.

Ireland seems to have a head start when it comes to the innovation in the area of IoT and smart cities. What other cities have you admired in their innovation, implementations and adoption to make their cities smarter?

A city I really respect for embracing and encouraging technology is Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam is my second home, I lived there after graduating university and it was where a young Ken Finnegan learned the power and beauty of innovation. That is a city that is not afraid to positively leverage emergent technologies. I have seen cities, companies, government and people look at innovation as a threat and to try and tame it. This never works, if there is a smarter way to do things, do it. When policy tries to limit adoption of innovation or when companies fail to recognize it, they are only delaying its ubiquitous arrival and ultimately lose opportunities for growth and success. Amsterdam has the right attitude. It may not know what it’s dealing with but they know there is value to be exploited somehow. I would love to see a twining of Amsterdam and Dublin. I think they are two European cities that are extremely likeminded in approach.

Ireland seems to be all in on smart cities - enlisting both the public and private sector, and educational institutions - towards creating smart cities. Whats your advice for other government entities and the many private vendors in this space?

Indeed governments, academia and the private sector all play an essential part and each entity has ideas about what value is and how it will be generated. Simply my advice is to start the conversation.

Government can facilitate conversation with all the entities. We have a strong appetite for change and growth and a characteristic in Ireland I come across every day is the idea of coopetition. The idea of cooperating together whilst possibly in competition. We all wear the green jersey in Ireland, we are very proud of this green island, but we also want to develop the industry ultimately making it stronger for all in order to grow and win. By not talking to each, you limit growth opportunities, when you sit with competitor and others you need to figure out the safe ground and see how you can work together to succeed. 

Next we have to realize that government and industries have to engage with the end-users. We see that the citizen or what I term pro-citizen (professional citizen – the skilled and informed people that live, work and play in the cities, know the fabric of the city – plumbers, binmen, clubber, doctors, civil servants, sports members, teachers, social workers, bar staff, etc.), as the consumers of smart city good and services. These citizens provide the suggested personalized solutions of the problems they encounter in day-to-day life. It’s the application of a User Design approach to Smart cities.

Finally we have being listening to the narrative about the power of big data for years now. In order to harness the power it essential that data is accessible to all. For example Dublinked is a regional data sharing initiative that has previously unreleased public operational data being made available online for others to research or reuse. With the initial data coming from Dublin City (4 boroughs), public and private organizations in Dublin are linking up with Dublinked to share their data and invite research collaborations. The information is curated by Maynooth University to ensure ideas can be commercialized as easily as possible and to minimize legal or technical barriers that can be impediments for small and medium businesses (SMEs) seeking to develop and prove business ideas.

Smart cities are predicated on the advancement of IoT technologies. Do you see IoT as an opportunity for economic development and job creation? If so, how?

Yes for both cases.

In our five-year strategy launched in 2015, Wining 2020, IoT is the number one strategic technological area we are focusing on. If we didn’t believe IoT would increase economic development or create jobs there is absolutely no way it would be there. We have done our homework, we have listened to our clients and we have mobilized the organization to ensure that each person know exactly why Ireland is the global location for the Internet of Things. In addition to this, we are working with other government agencies to ensure that the environment is right for our clients to be successful. For example our sister agency Science Foundation Ireland has funded multiple research centers of scale (€50m +) so that industry can leverage the quality research coming from the academic system. They have also funded the roll out of transmission network s across the entire land that can be leveraged by industry to research, test and develop innovations. Between IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, there are many tools we provide by which industry can leverage to test and trail their products and services before commercializing. Our client companies are trailing these, not in a confine test lab, but literally out in the field, in the cities, in our bays and on our highways because Ireland is connected.

Youll be speaking at IoT World. What should the audience expect to hear from you?

Three things:

1. Ireland is open for business. If you have a problem that needs to be solved, if you want to service the European, Middle East and African markets, if you need infrastructure for research and development, or simply looking for a location with accessible and available talent, we are ready for to have that conversation. 

2. IoT has gained a lot of talk time over the past 5 years, but the conversation for IoT have been developing in Ireland more than 30 years. We are home to 10 out of the top 10 born on the internet/content companies, 9 of the top 10 information communication technology, 15 of the top 20 pharmaceutical and life science companies, fintech, engineering, food etc. companies. Many of these companies are developing their IoT solutions by working together here. It’s truly an agile and collaborative hotspot to be. Take a look at the past two years and the companies that have decided to move here, there is a very convincing track record. 

3. The environment is right. With one of the youngest and tech savvy populations in Europe, the biggest names in Industry, proactive government agencies and an academic scene focused on impact for industry, IDA Ireland want to partner and support companies ready to grow and succeed in the Smart IoT arena.

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Will Javascript be the Language of IoT?

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JavaScript has proven itself worthy for web applications, both client and server side, but does it have potential to be the de-facto language of IoT?  

This is a topic I posed to Patrick Catanzariti, founder of DevDiner.com, a site for developers looking to get involved in emerging tech. Patrick is a regular contributor and curator of developer news and opinion pieces on new technology such as the Internet of Things, virtual/augmented reality and wearables. He is a SitePoint contributing editor, an instructor at SitePoint Premium and O'Reilly, a Meta Pioneer and freelance web developer who loves every opportunity to tinker with something new in a tech demo.

Why does IoT require a de facto language any more than any other system? Wouldn't that stifle future language evolution?

Honestly, I think it's a bit too much to ask for every single IoT device out there to run on JavaScript or any one de facto language. That's unbelievably tough to manage. Getting the entire world of developers to agree on anything is pretty difficult. Whatever solution the world of competing tech giants and startups come to (which is likely to be a rather fragmented one if current trends are anything to go by), the most important thing is that these devices need to be able to communicate effectively with each other and with as little barriers as possible. They need to work together. It's the "Internet of Things". The entire benefit of connecting anything to the Internet is allowing it to speak to other devices at a massive scale. I think we'd be able to achieve this goal even with a variety of languages powering the IoT. So from that standpoint, I think it's totally okay for various devices to run on whichever programming language suits them best.

On the other hand, we need to honestly look at the future of this industry from a developer adoption and consistency perspective. The world of connected devices is going to skyrocket. We aren't talking about a computer in every home, we're talking dozens of interconnected devices in every home. If each one of those devices is from a different company who each decided on a different programming language to use, things are going to get very tough to maintain. Are we going to expect developers to understand all programming languages like C, C++, JavaScript, Java, Go, Python, Swift and more to be able to develop solutions for the IoT? Whilst I'm not saying that's impossible to do and I'm sure there'll be programmers up to the task of that - I worry that will impact the quality of our solutions. Every language comes with its quirks and best practices, it'll be tough to ensure every developer knows how to create best practice software for every language. Managing the IoT ecosystem might become a costly and difficult endeavour if it is that fragmented.

I've no issue with language evolution, however if every company decides to start its own language to better meet the needs of the IoT, we're going to be in a world of trouble too. The industry needs to work together on the difficulties of the IoT, not separately. The efforts of the Open Interconnect Consortium, AllSeen Alliance and IoT Trust Framework are all positive signs towards a better approach.

C, C++ and Java always seem to be foundational languages that are used by all platforms, why do you think JavaScript will be the programming language of IoT?

My position is actually a bit more open than having JavaScript as the sole programming language of the IoT. I don't think that's feasible. JavaScript isn't great as a lower level language for memory management and the complexities of managing a device to that extent. That's okay. We are likely to have a programming language more suited to that purpose, like C or C++, as the de facto standard operational language. That would make perfect sense and has worked for plenty of devices so far. The issues I see are in connecting these devices together nicely and easily.

My ideal world would involve having devices running on C or C++ with the ability to also run JavaScript on top for the areas in which JavaScript is strongest. The ability to send out messages in JSON to other devices and web applications. That ability alone is golden when it comes to parsing messages easily and quickly. The Internet can speak JavaScript already, so for all those times when you need to speak to it, why not speak JavaScript? If you've got overall functionality which you can share between a Node server, front end web application and a dozen connected IoT devices, why not use that ability?

JavaScript works well with the event driven side of things too. When it comes to responding to and emitting events to a range of devices and client web applications at once, JavaScript does this pretty well these days.

JavaScript is also simpler to use, so for a lot of basic functionality like triggering a response on a hardware pin or retrieving data from a sensor, why overcomplicate it? If it's possible to write code that is clear and easy for many developers to understand and use without needing to worry about the lower level side of things - why not? We have a tonne of JavaScript developers out there already building for the web and having them on board to work with joining these devices to their ecosystem of web applications just makes sense.

Basically, I think we're looking at a world where devices run programming languages like C at their core but also can speak JavaScript for the benefits it brings. Very similar to what it looks like IoT.js and JerryScript will bring. I really like the Pebble Smartwatch's approach to this. Their watches run C but their apps use JavaScript for the web connectivity.

When it comes to solutions like IoT.js and JerryScript, they're written initially in C++. However they're providing an entire interface to work with the IoT device via JavaScript. One thing I really like about the IoT.js and JerryScript idea is that I've read that it works with npm - the Node Package Manager. This is a great way of providing access to a range of modules and solutions that already exist for the JavaScript and Node ecosystems. If IoT.js and JerryScript manage memory effectively and can provide a strong foundation for all the low level side of things, then it could be a brilliant way to help make developing for the IoT easier and more consistent with developing for the web with all the benefits I mentioned earlier. It would be especially good if the same functionality was ported to other programming languages too, that would be a fantastic way of getting each IoT device to some level of compatibility and consistency.

I'm hoping to try IoT.js and JerryScript out on a Raspberry Pi 2 soon, I'm intrigued to see how well it runs everything.

What do developers need to consider when building apps for IoT?

Security - If you are building an IoT device which is going to ship out to thousands of people, think security first. Make sure you have a way of updating all of those devices remotely (yet securely) with a security fix if something goes wrong. There will be bugs in your code. Security vulnerabilities will be found in even the most core technologies you are using. You need to be able to issue patches for them!

Battery life - If everyone needs to change your brand of connected light bulbs every two months because they run out of juice - that affects the convenience of the IoT. IoT devices need to last a long time. They need to be out of the way. Battery life is crucial. Avoid coding things in a way which drains battery power unnecessarily.

Compatibility - Work towards matching a standard like the Open Interconnect Consortium or AllSeen Alliance. Have your communication to other devices be simple and open so that your users can benefit from the device working with other IoT devices in new and surprising ways. Don't close it off to your own ecosystem!

What tools do you recommend for developing apps in IoT?

I'm a fan of the simple things. I still use Sublime Text for my coding most of the time as it's simple and out of the way, yet supports code highlighting for a range of languages and situations. It works well!

Having a portable 4G Wi-Fi dongle is also very very valuable for working on the go with IoT devices. It serves as a portable home network and saves a lot of time as you can bring it around as a development Wi-Fi network you turn on whenever you need it.

Heroku is great as a quick free platform to host your own personal IoT prototypes on too while you're testing them out. I often set up Node servers in Heroku to manage my communication between devices and it is the smoothest process I've found out of all of the hosting platforms so far.

For working locally - I've found a service called ngrok is perfect. It creates a tunnel to the web from your localhost, so you can host a server locally but access it online via a publicly accessible URL while testing. I've got a guide on this and other options like it on SitePoint.

Are you seeing an uptick in demand for IoT developers?

I've seen a demand slowly rising for IoT developers but not much of a developer base that is taking the time to get involved. I think partially it is because developers don't know where to start or don't realise how much of their existing knowledge already applies to the IoT space. It's actually one of the reasons I write at SitePoint as a contributing editor - my goal is to try and get more developers thinking about this space. The more developers out there who are getting involved, the higher the chances we hit those breakthrough ideas that can change the world. I really hope that having devices enabled with JavaScript helps spur on a whole community of developers who've spent their lives focused on the value of interconnected devices and shared information get involved in the IoT.

My latest big website endeavour called Dev Diner (http://www.devdiner.com) aims to try and make it easier for developers to get involved with all of this emerging tech too by providing guides on where to look for information, interviews and opinion pieces to get people thinking. The more developers we get into this space, the stronger we will all be as a community! If you are reading this and you're a developer who has an Arduino buried in their drawer or a Raspberry Pi 2 still in their online shopping cart - just do it. Give it a go. Think outside the box and build something. Use JavaScript if that is your strength. If you're stronger at working with C or C++, work to your strength but know that JavaScript might be a good option to help with the communication side of things too.

For more on Patrick’s thoughts on Javascript, read his blog post “Why JavaScript and the Internet of Things?” and catch his O’Reilly seminar here.

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