The world of the Internet of Things (IoT) is getting fierce with organizations across the globe jostling for a leading position to amass market share and profit from the many opportunities the IoT ecosystem creates. Many realize they can’t do it by themselves and have created alliances that fit their common goals.
This is all under the backdrop of “Industry 4.0” and the everyday consumers who are the intended audience in all of this. Take the smart home – today, consumers have been creating smart households with energy saving appliances such as LED lights and thermostats to control HVACs (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning). The missing link is that the IoT devices need to talk to each other – “orchestration”. In an ideal set up with robust, reliable orchestration, energy would be more efficient within a smart home. An air conditioner would be able to read the temperature within the house and know there’s no one there and there’s no activity. It would then go into “sleep mode” until around an hour before the first family member arrives home. Applying “geo-fence rules” to set virtual geographic boundaries in an IoT ecosystem, such as within a smart home, can define events that will turn off appliances or turn them on based on the context. So – if it’s the afternoon and no one is home, the lights aren’t on. Similarly, industrial IoT has far-reaching value in terms of it being advanced enough to break out of the standard closed loop system. Industrial IoT means devices are open to interact with entities outside of their governance control.
With all of this potential for inter-connectivity to help drive a better way of life, such as energy saving from more intelligent outcomes on IoT devices, the main challenge still remains – will today’s IoT standard stand the test of time? How can we create workable standards?
There are some good IoT standards out there. A selection of companies have gotten together to develop products and services through the IoT ecosystem. Some of the key ones are Alljoyn, Thread, AllSeen Alliance, Open Interconnect, Consortium, and Industrial Internet Consortium. Some of these alliances and consortiums have very specific agendas with a clear purpose and intent. However, it is not an all-inclusive model, which unfortunately creates a divergence among IoT standards. It does not include the voices of manufacturers, operators, business consumers and end users, for example.
Let us take the IEEE’s insightful Market Driven Architecture as a core example of workable standards for IoT. It focuses on improving the quality of life of the consumer in terms of power efficiency and security, amongst other function improvements. However, the industry is calling for a comprehensive security trust model for IoT. The horizontal nature of “things” that permeate the IoT landscape will need to break the closed systems to work in an open model.
The IEEE, Standards Association (SA) initiative ‘P2413’ is a standard for an Architectural Framework for IoT. The primary focus of the P2413 framework is to address networking and communication, compliance and dependability, and security. The working draft released in April 2016 has set goals to enable cross-domain interaction and platform unification. The IEEE recognizes the need to have a unified standard. It believes this is critical to address security and safety and to reduce industry fragmentation. Creating an all-inclusive model will significantly help the IoT agenda move forward. The approach is simple, as the IEEE has devised an architectural framework that covers key architecturally significant items pertaining to IoT in various vertical and application domains. It has been careful in creating an all-inclusive model by leveraging all the current work that has been done and is being done in the IoT marketplace. The IEEE has around 200+ participants that cover a vast array of industry sectors including healthcare, home and building, retail, energy, manufacturing, transportation, logistics and media. This is a healthy set of knowledgeable participants to help share concerns around IoT and address such industry issues.
Within this IEEE workable standard and framework, there are a couple of areas that are at high risk that the industry must come together to solve. The intent is to deepen the industry collaboration through workshops, roundtables and other forms of communication with IoT-engaged organizations. The IEEE framework can’t possibly address all the risk areas, but there are some parts that require more in-depth dialogue:
- Monetization of IoT applications must be front and center. Organizations must look at business models that will be new and complementary to the models they currently have. Data that’s harvested from IoT is complementary to your existing data. The newly acquired IoT data provides granular details to some of the existing transactional data that will open new monetization opportunities.
- There are too many complexities surrounding the technology of IoT. It must become invisible and simpler for consumers and businesses. Because various technologies and standards exist within the ecosystem, there is a greater mix of devices that require different bridges, gateways and hubs – these all need to be addressed under workable standards. The hardware and the software that manage these also require a higher degree of skill to set up and maintain in the long run.
- Digital experience must become invisible from an IoT perspective. The customer experience will have to be center stage regardless of whether it is consumer or industrial IoT. We’ve seen new products do better in the market when they focus on the consumer and the user experience. Other products become irrelevant to end users. Today, companies need to make digital experience seamless as the customer adds in new devices and services.
- The fear of the “thing” has to diminish. A number of factors, including security and seamlessness need to be ironed out within the IoT ecosystem. In fact, this is similar to when the Cloud entered the market. By adding sensors, actuators and other useful “things” that provide value, they can also add to the concern businesses and consumers have around IoT, as these extra features need to be connected to a hub, a gateway and a router. At the end of the day, users need to feel safe accessing their devices. They need to know their information is secure at all times.
- It is important to focus on security among “things”. A comprehensive security assurance model needs to be implemented and applied across all vertical sectors in a homogenous manner. The devices not only vary in use, but also vary in the protocols they use. Security standards, therefore, also vary per device. A security assurance model will help establish the ground rules between devices, users, service providers and integrators on how each party engages within the ecosystem to ensure security is effective.
Industry bodies like the IEEE are striving to drive industry conversations and best practice sharing to help businesses gain more of an IoT perspective in the digital economy. An open working model will prepare and enable organizations to build seamless experiences with ‘things’, which is essential for staying ahead in the highly-competitive, global digital economy.