Tag: IoT

The IoT is a mess

Monday, 12 November, 2018

The problem with the IoT (Internet of Things) is the huge gulf between hardware and software. So proclaims the blog Digits to Dollars, which is a product of “a multi-purpose consulting firm” called D2D Advisory Inc. that helps companies “achieve their long-term financial and strategic objectives.” D2D was founded by Jonathan Goldberg, who can be found at the “intersection of Technology and Finance.”

What makes the IoT so complicated is that an oil company might want to collect data from thousands of different sensors over hundreds of miles of pipelines, while a shipping company might want to track thousands of pallets thousands of miles away.

Why is IoT such a mess? Snippet:

“IoT networks need two things, they need a network for communications, and then modules, attached to ‘things’, that communicates to those networks. But compare that to all the use cases possible. That oil company needs a long range network, cellular will not work because of the remote locations involved. The module can probably have power, but needs someone to go out and install them. By contrast, the cellular might work for a local delivery fleet, but then everyone fleet will need different sensors built into the module (e.g. temperature, location, activity, camera, whatever). Then remember that none of these companies actually build their own modules for anything, so they have to find someone capable of that. For those of in the technology business, the idea of finding a manufacturer in Asia to build a module is not too remote, for everyone else it is literally the other side of the world. Further complicating all this is the fact that there is no company on the planet capable of providing all the electronics needed — including four or five different flavors of radios and a dozen categories of sensors. The combinatorics behind this are one of those math problems with more answers than there are atoms in the universe.”

Bottom line: There will be no IoT platform. Instead, different solutions for different industries will emerge. “Time to stop dreaming and get building,” say the D2D writers.


“We’re building a world-size robot”

Monday, 20 March, 2017 0 Comments

So says Bruce Schneier, the cryptographer, security professional and privacy specialist. His robot alarm is expressed in a New York magazine piece with the very clickbait title “Click Here to Kill Everyone.” Schneier is worried about the Internet of Things (IoT)and says we should think twice about what we connect to the net and reverse the trend to connect everything to it. With the IoT, we’ve started building a world-size robot, he claims, but we haven’t stopped to think about how we might control it. Bottom line:

“The world-size robot we’re building can only be managed responsibly if we start making real choices about the interconnected world we live in. Yes, we need security systems as robust as the threat landscape. But we also need laws that effectively regulate these dangerous technologies. And, more generally, we need to make moral, ethical, and political decisions on how those systems should work. Until now, we’ve largely left the internet alone. We gave programmers a special right to code cyberspace as they saw fit. This was okay because cyberspace was separate and relatively unimportant: That is, it didn’t matter. Now that that’s changed, we can no longer give programmers and the companies they work for this power. Those moral, ethical, and political decisions need, somehow, to be made by everybody. We need to link people with the same zeal that we are currently linking machines. ‘Connect it all’ must be countered with ‘connect us all.'”

Some of these issues will be discussed this afternoon in Hannover by the CeBIT panel on The future of IoT and society/technology/policy. Participants include Kenichiro Yamanishi, Chairman, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Ammar Alkassar, CEO, Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity, and Henning Kagermann, Global Representative and Advisor Plattform Industrie 4.0.


Talkin’ Industry 4.0

Saturday, 5 November, 2016 0 Comments

Today, at the 29th IATEFL BESIG Annual Conference in Munich, I’ll be talking about the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its seven key components: Industry 4.0, IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, robotics, AI and cybersecurity.

As with the three preceding Industrial Revolutions, which were powered, respectively, by steam, electricity and transistors, the cyber-physical systems now driving this fourth upheaval will transform manufacturing and replace William Blake’s vision of dark Satanic sweatshops with that of a better, cleaner, cleverer place — the smart factory.

“And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?”

Jerusalem by William Blake (1757 — 1827)


The war of the Mirai and XiongMai

Saturday, 22 October, 2016 0 Comments

It sounds like something from Star Trek: The war of the Mirai and the XiongMai. But it’s neither Hollywood nor science fiction. It’s real. Yesterday, users of Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix experienced problems because Dyn, an internet infrastructure company that provides critical services to these sites, sustained a massive, malicious attack. Spearheading it was Mirai, malware that had hijacked digital video recorders and cameras made by XiongMai Technologies, a Chinese hi-tech company. Mirai trawls the web for cheap devices protected by just their factory-default usernames and passwords and then conscripts them for attacks that launch wave upon wave of junk traffic at targets until they can no longer serve legitimate users.

Only a week ago, US-CERT, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning titled “Heightened DDoS Threat Posed by Mirai and Other Botnets.” It pointed the finger at the vulnerability of the Internet of Things (IoT), “an emerging network of devices (e.g., printers, routers, video cameras, smart TVs) that connect to one another via the Internet, often automatically sending and receiving data.” According to US-CERT, “IoT devices have been used to create large-scale botnets — networks of devices infected with self-propagating malware — that can execute crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. IoT devices are particularly susceptible to malware, so protecting these devices and connected hardware is critical to protect systems and networks.”

The solution? Security expert Brian Krebs is calling for a major, global effort to recall and remove vulnerable systems from the internet. “In my humble opinion, this global cleanup effort should be funded mainly by the companies that are dumping these cheap, poorly-secured hardware devices onto the market in an apparent bid to own the market. Well, they should be made to own the cleanup efforts as well.”

Malware  code


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Sunday, 2 October, 2016 0 Comments

“The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully,” is the popular variant of a famous quote by Dr Johnson. And the prospect of making a presentation on the topic of the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in early November means this blog will be focusing on all things i4.0 in the coming weeks. So let’s get going with some basic terminology:

  • The First Industrial Revolution: The steam engine freed people from relying on their own muscular strength or that of animals for manufacturing and transport.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution: Electricity powered spectacular improvements in productivity, innovation, comfort and well-being.
  • The Third Industrial Revolution: The microprocessor, the computer and the internet led to dramatic developments in efficiency, commerce and creativity.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The smartphone, the Internet of Things, 5G, genetic engineering, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, robotics, nanotechnology, machine learning… will affect how we live and work for the remainder of this century.

“Our ancestors could believe that their achievements had a chance of bearing up against the flow of events. We know time to be a hurricane. Our buildings, our sense of style, our ideas, all of these will soon enough be anachronisms, and the machines in which we now take inordinate pride will seem no less bathetic than Yorick’s skull.” — Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work


Who secures the securers?

Tuesday, 27 September, 2016 0 Comments

Last week, the respected cyber-safety research site, Krebs on Security, was taken down by one of the most severe DDoS attack (distributed denial of service) assaults ever recorded. Worryingly, it was launched using a botnet of vast numbers of IoT devices — web cams, home routers, digital video recorders, door locks and so on.

Dan Goodin at Ars Technica pointed out that makers of these devices design them to be as inexpensive and easy-to-use as possible, but there’s a downside:

“As a result, the devices frequently come with bug-ridden firmware that never gets updated and easy-to-guess login credentials that never get changed. Their lax security and always-connected status makes the devices easy to remotely commandeer by people who turn them into digital cannons that spray the Internet with shrapnel.”

Goodin notes that IoT malware is creating a tipping point in the denial-of-service area that’s equipping relatively unsophisticated actors with capabilities that were once reserved only for the most elite of attackers. “And that, in turn, represents a threat to the Internet as we know it,” he adds.

The good news is that Krebs on Security is back online, but the take-down is alarming.


The Robolution federator

Tuesday, 2 August, 2016 0 Comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s upgrading of English vocabulary is a regular theme here and the prospect of public presentations on the subject in October and November is concentrating the mind, to paraphrase Dr Johnson. We’ve had some gems recently and more are to come. Central to the revolutionary stuff going on right now is robotics.

Definition: “Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots, as well as the computer systems for their control, feedback and data processing.”

If you create an €80 million private equity fund dedicated to robotics, you’re going to need a name for the venture; one that combines the essence of the business with its revolutionary role in 21st-century industry, ideally. Robolution The result is… Robolution. Or, more precisely, Robolution Capital. But there’s something slightly unmelodious about the word “Robolution,” with its hints of ablution and absolution. Sure, it’s an attempt to capture an element of “revolution,” but the “robo” bit at the front doesn’t quite make a harmonius unit, does it? Perhaps it sounds better in French because Robolution Capital is based in Paris.

Along with robotics, Robolution Capital is focussing on artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), two very hot areas right now, and this is why it defines itself as a facilitator, an accelerator and “a federator at the heart of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, corporates, public organizations, universities and research centers.” What’s a federator? The usually indefatigable Wiktionary does not have an entry for the word and Techopedia offers “Federation” from the world of enterprise architecture that allows interoperability. The word, however, is a version of fédérateur, the French noun that means “unifier.” And with its philosophy and its focus on robotics, AI and the IoT, Robolution is true federator.

News: 360 Capital Partners, an early-stage VC business based in Milan and Paris has just done a deal with Orkos Capital, also based in Paris, to manage Robolution Capital.


#IoTDay today and the glass is filling

Saturday, 9 April, 2016 0 Comments

It’s the fifth annual Internet of Things Day today. In a much-quoted report about the IoT issued in November last year, the Gartner research firm predicted that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.”

These are astonishing numbers and they reinforce the notion that the internet is ubiquitous. Blake Snow considers the implications of this in The Atlantic in a piece titled What Would a World Without Internet Look Like? He quotes the academic Clay Shirky, who thinks that it’s futile now to separate the net from everyday life: “the Internet has become our civilization,” says Shirky.

This is a philosophy that would be endorsed by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. Two years ago, in a post on Medium, he looked at innovation from the viewpoints of 1984 and 2044, and concluded: “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud.”

Glass There is, however, a different take on the IoT and it was expressed, also in 2014, by Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author, in “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.” This long-form composition was in the style of his 2005 book Shaping Things. For Sterling, the IoT is an ominous social transformation: omnipresent automation via digital surveillance enabled by wireless broadband. Snippet:

“So, let’s imagine that the reader has a smartphone in one hand, as most people in the Twenty-Teens most definitely tend to. In the other hand, the reader has some ‘Thing’. Let’s say it’s the handle of his old-fashioned domestic vacuum cleaner, which is a relic of yesterday’s standard consumer economy.

As he cheerfully vacuums his home carpet while also checking his Facebook prompts, because the chore of vacuuming is really boring, the reader naturally thinks: ‘Why are these two objects in my two hands living in such separate worlds? In my left hand I have my wonderfully advanced phone with Facebook — that’s the ‘internet’. But in my right hand I have this noisy, old-fashioned, ineffective, analogue ‘thing’! For my own convenience as a customer and consumer, why can’t the ‘internet’ and this ‘thing’ be combined?”

And then it turns pessimistic. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a Happy #IoTDay! 🙂


Boogio days and nights while running on sensors

Wednesday, 23 March, 2016 0 Comments

Wearables. What does the word conjure up? For a start, activity trackers that monitor our exercise and sleep and generate vast amounts of data as we move towards the quantified self. “The fitness tracker on your wrist may be the most evident sign of the Internet of Things,” wrote Thomas H. Davenport and John Lucker for the Deloitte Review Issue 16.

That report is dated 26 January 2015, which isn’t that long ago, but a year is a long time in the wearable world. Consider the following Davenport-Lucker sentence: “It’s not surprising that health activity tracking isn’t highly useful for serious health applications yet, because the first devices became available in 2006 (in the Nike+-shoe-based sensor).” A lot can change in a year. On Monday, Apple introduced its most ambitious health product yet, an open-source app development platform called CareKit, that will help people keep track of their medical treatment. And as regards that Nike+-shoe-based sensor, Boogio intends to give it a run for its money, so to speak.

Boogio is a pair of inserts for your running shoes that contain sensors. These provide real-time feedback on such biomechanics as foot strike zone, centre of balance, ground contact speed and gait symmetry, and communicate with Android, iOS and Windows apps over Bluetooth LE. Who needs smart shoes? Well, all the data from those sensors could be very useful for runner training, physical therapy and paediatric rehabilitation. Human quantification at this level will have a dramatic impact on how athletic performance is perfected and on how medicine is practiced. Soon, we’ll all be running on data, wrists and feet combined.


Apple, the FBI, terror and privacy

Tuesday, 23 February, 2016 0 Comments

“The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is.” So writes James Comey, the Director of the FBI, in a short opinion piece published in Lawfare.

Apple rebutted with an FAQ that addresses a variant of the “one-phone/one-time” question many people are asking: “Could Apple build this operating system just once, for this iPhone, and never use it again?” The answer:

“Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the FBI wins this case. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks. Of course, Apple would do our best to protect that key, but in a world where all of our data is under constant threat, it would be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals. As recent attacks on the IRS systems and countless other data breaches have shown, no one is immune to cyberattacks.”

Most Americans, however, don’t see it like that. They want to see this iPhone unlocked and their sympathy lies with the victims of the terrorists and not with Apple or those who are arguing the privacy case.

And this brings us to the bigger picture. As regular Rainy Day readers know, digital technology is expanding dramatically and the much-heralded Internet of Things (IoT) is on the way to making human-machine connectivity ubiquitous. Soon, every new home and apartment that’s built will come with embedded sensors, Bluetooth-enabled door locks and motion-activated security cameras. Family members will use their smartphones to manage domestic devices and appliances remotely; autonomous cars will be filled with digital technology, while wearable tech such as health trackers, augmented glasses and smart watches will record user activity. All of this will have a huge impact on privacy because these technologies could allow private and public agencies to monitor movement and interaction. That Samsung TV might be listening to family discussions, after all. Do people want governments, technology firms and insurance companies to have unlimited access to their homes, cars and personal life?

Seen from this perspective, the FBI is not just requesting a “back-door” into an iPhone; it’s establishing a precedent to capture and analyse a person’s data stream, regardless of the source. If the US concedes the human right to personal privacy, goes the argument, other nations will follow and Russia and China will use “security” to justify their authoritarian regimes. And the terrorists? They’ll continue to be early adopters, using the latest technologies to stay ahead of the law.

This just in: Bill Gates Is Backing the FBI in Its Case Against Apple


The IoT of farms, cities and 5G

Monday, 22 February, 2016 0 Comments

On Friday here, farming was mentioned in connection with everything being connected at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Now, Nokia is getting in on the act with the announcement of a $350 million fund for investments in IoT (Internet of Things) companies. The focus will be on connected cars, digital health, the enterprise, big data, analytics and farming. Presenting the fund to the press, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said:

“For example we have worked with KT in Korea on the application of real time analytics and automated action to increase farming productivity. We have conducted a market trial for connected bus terminals in New Zealand. Trying new business models for smart cities that go beyond advertising and that improve the overall transportation experience. We have worked on providing intelligent transportation on the highways of Germany with real-time hazard warnings and other safety information, enabling vehicle to vehicle and other infrastructure communication.”

Smart cities are found in smart nations and Ericsson, Nokia’s Nordic rival, is making an IoT move in Singapore in partnership with Singtel, a Singaporean telecommunications company, with a combined mobile subscriber base of 500 million customers. Snippet:

“IoT connectivity is an important part of Singapore’s enterprises and supports the Singapore Government’s Smart Nation initiative. We anticipate a growing demand to connect a multitude of sensors and devices in a cost-effective manner… With the early introduction of low-powered IoT devices, this brings us a step closer to 5G goals, where new device and sensor technologies can leverage network connectivity to power a variety of use cases, such as lighting and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity.”

The common factor in the Nokia and Ericsson moves is 5G — the next generation of cellular technology. After all, if you’re in the network business, you need to get customers to upgrade to 5G so you can make more money. The carrot and stick of the IoT is a clever way of persuading them to spend.