Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
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Gary Audin | November 20, 2015 |


Are You New to IoT?

Are You New to IoT? What is the Internet of Things really? Is this all new?

What is the Internet of Things really? Is this all new?

IoT is a new name for something we've already been doing. For years organizations have been supporting endpoint devices that are now included in IoT, such as building automation, security endpoints, and controls. IoT is adding these and a whole range of new devices to IP networks. These endpoints can be fixed in location or mobile such as cars and other transportation vehicles. IoT can connect to and service nearly any endpoint that produces information and/or controls endpoints. Most of these endpoints will be managed by data centers and/or cloud services, not directly by humans.

I recently came across a white paper "The Internet of Things (IoT) An Overview Whitepaper: Understanding the Issues and Challenges of a More Connected World" by Karen Rose, Scott Eldridge, and Lyman Chapin of the Internet Society. This 50 page paper provides a comprehensive overview of IoT that I think would be helpful for anyone starting to learn about IoT.

Defining the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of things, physical devices that can be embedded or stand alone with electronics that sense and/or control, most likely through software, with network connectivity, that enables them collect and exchange data. IoT allows devices to be sensed and controlled remotely across a network infrastructure such as the Internet.

IoT creates business and service opportunities for direct integration between the physical world and software systems. The end result is improved efficiency and accuracy, while producing an economic benefit. Each device (thing) is identified through its embedded computing system.

Have We Done This Before?

There been many forms of sensing and control devices within premises such as environmental controls, security devices, and video surveillance that we may have at home or the office. Sensing and control devices have been embedded in manufacturing systems for years. A modern aircraft may have 10,000+ sensors and control devices embedded in the aircraft frame and engines.

These examples are closed systems not connected to the Internet. Most cannot be connected to the Internet. They cannot support IP, and many have non-standard interfaces or interfaces that are supported by a particular industry or vendor. One of the advantages of these closed systems and networks is security: Privacy issues are minor or nonexistent with closed systems. A disadvantage is that they have to be managed locally. If they were connected to the Internet, it would allow for remote management.

This table from the white paper illustrates the extent of devices that are part of the Internet of Things:


This Will Not Be Easy

I have discovered 23 organizations that have some interest in IoT, and more will probably emerge as time goes on. This translates into cooperative and competitive standards and solutions. For example, will all cars, trucks, and buses use the same interface and be interoperable for vehicle-to -vehicle communications? Even if they do create a common set of standards, what about communicating with off-road construction equipment and military vehicles? They all can share the same road, but will they interoperate?

The white paper devotes most of its coverage to five areas deemed important for the success and utility of IoT:

  1. Security -- An example is that badly or improperly secured IoT devices can allow malicious individuals to use IoT entry points for cyberattacks.
  2. Privacy -- IoT data collection and its use produces privacy issues when the individuals who are observed by IoT devices have different privacy expectations. Compare privacy regulation as practiced in the U.S. and Europe.
  3. Interoperability and standards -- Full interoperability across every product is not always feasible, necessary, or desirable. Should we have government mandated standards which may hamper innovation?
  4. Legal, regulatory, and rights issues -- When data collected by IoT devices is sent across jurisdictional boundaries, whose regulations are in control? How are IOT devices used in legal actions?
  5. Emerging economies and development -- There are frequently unique challenges related to the deployment, growth, implementation, and use of technology in developing regions of the world. How are these economic challenges mitigated?

Another interested area is the government agencies of many countries that are struggling with policies and regulations that would apply to IoT. As we have seen in the past, the U.S. and Europe do not automatically agree. China could go off on its own, creating an internal IoT market that excludes most of the world. The global coordination effort will probably not be able to keep up with IoT technology advancements, which may produce some technical anarchy. The white paper provides links to various worldwide government organizations interested in IoT.

Where Does the Internet Society Fit?

The mission of the Internet Society is, "To promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world."

To help achieve that mission, the Internet Society:

  • Facilitates open development of standards, protocols, administration, and the technical infrastructure
  • Supports education
  • Promotes professional development
  • Provides reliable information about the Internet
  • Provides forums for discussion
  • Fosters an environment for international cooperation
  • Serves as a focal point for cooperative efforts
  • Provides management and coordination for on-strategy initiatives

The challenges presented by IoT support and deployment are heavily influenced by the rapid advances of technology. It is likely that many issue resolutions dealing with privacy, security, and regulation will come after the IoT devices are in common use. We will eventually solve most issues, but consider the state of cybersecurity on the Internet as a comparison. We are fixing it after we deployed the technologies.

I have posted several other blogs on No Jitter that you may find helpful to learn more about IoT: Successfully Managing IoT, Data Center IoT, IoT Security: An Avalanche of Problems, Developing Tools to Support IoT, Securing IoT -- Better Now Than Later, and IoT Standards: Many, Not One.


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