We are entering the fourth industrial revolution. The emerging internet of things is fusing our physical and digital worlds in ways that are dramatically changing the landscape of business, industry and day-to-day living. The potential for the industrial IoT alone is staggering. Over the next 15 years, it could add as much as $14 trillion to 20 of the world’s major economies according to Accenture. However, embracing it does not come without its challenges.
The IoT landscape is complex, converging multiple ecosystems and technology realms. It has significant potential for telecom operators looking to extend connectivity from humans to machines; for governments working on smart city projects; for consumer electronics manufacturers (OEMs) building connected wearables; for banks trying to diversify payment services; and for enterprises looking to capitalize on the big data produced by billions of sensors. Such is the beauty of IoT — it unites many different industries and sectors.
Three key assets
With so many stakeholders originating from a multitude of industries, understanding how IoT operates — and trusting it — can be a complex challenge. Breaking it down into basic components provides insight and a path to clarity.
There are three key parts to building an IoT solution: the device (also known as an endpoint), the connectivity (network infrastructure) and the cloud. The endpoints come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from connected vehicles to smart meters to smartwatches. The true potential of the IoT ecosystem is achieved when multiple endpoints are working in collaboration, or within a cloud infrastructure. To illustrate this, imagine data from sensors in your vehicle’s tires being streamed to a cloud server, there it is processed by the automaker and the tire manufacturer and used to improve immediate driving performance as well as to gain insight that can be used to enhance future designs. All this information is exchanged and passed among stakeholders — the driver, the automaker and tire manufacturer — over a cellular network.
A deeper dive into these three parts reveals that each is a constituent of three core components — hardware, software and data. For instance, an endpoint, such as a smartwatch (hardware), would have some apps (software) on it, each producing some amount of data (calories, steps walked, call data, etc.). Connectivity infrastructure uses routers, modules (hardware) with some embedded operating system and applications (software), and data (routing tables, alerts etc.). The cloud too is built on hardware (servers), software (operating system, ERP applications etc.) and loads of data. To appreciate the nature and complexity of IoT, these components have to be understood for what they, and not lost in a sea of acronyms.
With so many stakeholders and technologies at play, enabling trust is critical for the entire ecosystem to thrive. There are three key enablers for building trust in IoT: Connectivity, security and monetization.
Connectivity is an inherent part of IoT. Assets and endpoints need to be connected to one another and reliability is pivotal. From simple streaming of songs in your car to mission-critical cases like emergency eCall, connectivity can make or break the behavior of a connected device. Industrial applications have very specific requirements compared to consumer applications. Often, devices are in the field unattended for many years and exposed to extreme environmental conditions. These devices need to be very reliable and scalable — and backed up by robust connectivity. Forward and backward device compatibility is essential for applications to adapt to changing environments, allowing for updates over their long lifecycle.
Selecting the right wireless technology for each application is critical to success. Cellular IoT applications need the right module, with the right features, at the right price point for each individual use case. For instance, a vast majority of industrial IoT solutions (meters, industrial monitoring) don’t need the speed and bandwidth of advanced LTE, but they do need the longevity that LTE networks promise, especially with the forthcoming sunset of 2G and 3G networks. Therefore, these use cases would be better served by M2M-optimized modules and machine-type communication solutions using lower bandwidth LTE such as LTE Cat-1, Cat-M and NB-IoT. These solutions provide connectivity on LTE networks while operating in a highly efficient manner using only a tiny portion of the network’s bandwidth.
Secure on-demand connectivity
Until recently, service provisioning created a bottleneck in IoT device deployment. In consumer devices, this process is easily accomplished by inserting a SIM card of the preferred network carrier in a smartphone or tablet. It’s not so easy when the communication component is embedded in a ruggedized, enclosed box and deployed deep inside a connected car’s head unit. Leading edge embedded SIMs and on-demand connectivity solutions are now simplifying connectivity deployment and providing a way to securely manage mobile subscriptions for the entire lifecycle of IoT devices.
Quality of service
Just like a car’s engine is constantly monitored to alert drivers when oil is needed or a service visit is due, so must IoT solutions be monitored to make sure the module is functioning properly. Quality of service solutions monitor smart objects in real time, ensuring both the device and the network is performing properly. They offer tools to proactively update and manage deployed applications and firmware when to maintain reliable connectivity.
It’s been said that data is the new currency in the digital age. Software and data have certainly become increasingly crucial to our everyday lives. The potential of billions of connected IoT endpoints also opens up new opportunities for cybercriminals. They will try to exploit the vulnerabilities in the different hardware, software and data assets, whether on the devices, in the cloud or over the network.
IoT security infrastructure needs to be planned in from the beginning of solution design and applied from end-to-end across the entire IoT ecosystems. Hardware solutions such as secure elements and MIMs along with strong encryption and authentication solutions can prevent sensors, endpoints and the cloud from becoming open doors for attackers. In addition, IoT requires a special focus on managing the lifecycle of security components. Just like your laptop requires over-the-air software updates, so does your IoT security infrastructure. Numerous IoT devices or endpoints like vehicles, watches, healthcare devices, etc. can be on the move or deployed in remote areas and therefore they cannot be easily serviced by a technical support person.
Whether it’s about managing endpoint identities, encryption keys, embedded software or data, a reliable and scalable security framework is pivotal to ensuring every stakeholder’s software, hardware and data assets are secured. If you’re interested in a more detailed discussion of IoT security, this ebook provides more information.
Mostly overlooked because of the hype, an agile monetization framework is crucial for the IoT to thrive. The global nature of IoT is such that the assets used to set up a connected infrastructure could come from many different parts of the world. The endpoint could be manufactured in Taiwan, its embedded software developed in Bangalore, the cloud infrastructure in Silicon Valley, and the service itself might eventually run in Germany.
How does each contributor ensure that its intellectual property (the IoT asset) is monetized? Where the IoT solution (the endpoint) is being sold as a service, how do these individual contributors enable their own monetization as a service strategy?
Consider a satellite navigation device running in Germany. The SatNav company may sell its device on a pay-per-month model. But how do all those stakeholders in Taiwan, Bangalore or Silicon Valley implement their own flexible monetization models? In order for the ecosystem to thrive, each stakeholder needs to trust that it can see return on its investment — and this can only be implemented with a proper licensing and entitlement capability that helps protect individual contributions. Another upshot is these technologies provide another layer of security and protection against cyberthreats.
IoT is a powerful engine driving the new industrial revolution. To realize its full benefits — increasing customer intimacy, improving operational excellence, optimizing convenience, comfort and safety, and generation new revenue streams — IoT stakeholders must rely on three critical components for success: reliable connectivity, trusted security and an agile monetization framework. These components serve as the foundation of trust allowing enterprise, industry and people to embrace the connected world of the future.
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