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Where the fog meets the edge

As 2017 kicks into full gear and a particularly interesting 2016 fades into the rearview mirror, we at FreeWave took a look around the industrial IoT landscape to see what this year might potentially have in store.

It’s become increasingly difficult to ignore the importance of cybersecurity. From the role it played in the 2016 presidential election to the recent revelation that in 2013 more than one billion Yahoo accounts were breached, cybersecurity is no longer a problem unique to sci-fi thrillers. Of course, the two examples mentioned here are simply the most egregious of recent memory, but they pale in comparison to the threat of a cyberattack on actual infrastructure.

Cybersecurity for the industrial internet of things began as a minor headache and quickly grew into a full-blown migraine. Data is the perhaps the most important “currency” in the world today, and companies both public and private are scrambling to figure out the best way to protect that data while still ensuring real-time transport and analytics. With that in mind, our first prediction for the New Year centers on the deployment of new methods for data transport and protection:

2017 will see the emergence of true fog computing and programmable/intelligent edge devices with the strongest security measures to date.

According to analysts, organizations have become more comfortable hosting critical infrastructure and application in the cloud. In efforts to further optimize processes and shorten response times, organizations will explore ways to host applications at the device/sensor level (i.e., the edge or fog computing). A decentralized network architecture that brings computing power closer to where data is generated and acted upon, fog computing enables analysis, control and automation closer to the “things” in the industrial internet of things. Because fog computing reduces the amount of data being sent to the cloud, cybersecurity will be enhanced by reducing the threat and attack surfaces of IIoT networks. In industries where even milliseconds are vital, certain processes will move away from the cloud and closer to the edge.

The basis of this shift in intelligence deployment is simple: the cloud, while fairly secure, is still prone to security breaches, so rather than host all of the data and the analytics tools, move those processes closer to the edge to the sensors and devices with security already built in.

Now, while the concept is simple, the execution is more difficult. This shift requires a robust, high-speed network capable of real-time data transmission and, perhaps even more importantly, programmable devices at the edge. Rather than thinking about big data from the perspective of drinking from a fire hose, a programmable device at the edge allows the user to develop proprietary applications that filter out unnecessary data. Subsequently, the smaller data packets enable two things to happen: faster transmission to the analytics engines, and the ability to send that data via mesh networking technology, which has proven to provide greater security.

Simple, right?

As it stands, the greatest problem facing this shift in intelligence to the edge is that there are, at the moment, very few companies creating programmable devices for the edge. It’s a different way of approaching data transmission and security, and so far, the industry has been slow to catch on: rather than trying to build a wall in front of a massive door (the cloud), eliminate the door and create a series of constantly moving mouse holes (the edge). Which sounds easier to protect?

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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