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IoT Will Change The Way Businesses Do Business

Abhishek Mutha of EFY got in touch with Wael Diab, an Inventor and Published Author, to discuss the evolution of IoT since 1999, the smart-devices-everywhere future, security aspects, some real world examples of IoT and much more. Read on...
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Q. According to you, which area has Internet of Things affected the most?
A. Fundamentally, it has become a lot more expansive. I think the concept of things being connected remains as the main6BF_Wael_Diabfocus, but now it’s actually hard to find any field that doesn’t touch IoT. One example I like to use, aside from the consumer devices that deal with IoT, is a big implication on data centers, clouds, and big data types of applications. All of this actually impacts how data centers and networking goes on behind the scenes as well, not just what you see in your hand. I think the other part is that we see the concept of Internet of Things in our every day lives. Even cars are getting more and more connected.                                                                                                                                   Wael Diab

Q. What elements are fueling the IoT?
IoT is really about the convergence of science fiction and science faction. The four underlying things that are fueling IoT are quite simple. One, our computational capabilities are going up such that we can do more and compute stuff at less space, energy and cost. Our communication capabilities as well as software capabilities have gone up too. And the last one is sensors. I think when you put all of this together, that’s the makeup of what you see for IoT.

Q. What could take the IoT to a higher level than what it is now?
A. I think that’s a really ripe area for standardization because what we have today is lots of different connectivity technologies. We also have lots of different applications and underneath that are requirements. A lot about the Internet of things is about automating things that we do. The challenge is things need to talk together.

Today, just think of getting on the network you have to go in, authenticate and so on. It’s cumbersome when you’re a human being and you need to do a lot of stuff to be able to make it work. Well, if devices are going to be connected, they’re going to go through the same thing. We absolutely need to have a language of some sort. Maybe it’s at a level above the physical layer, but some of these applications can define certain behaviors or how they can talk to each other. That’s exactly where the IEEE Standards Association or another standards body can come in and say this is very ripe for standardization. It’s almost like doing a rafter around everything that exists to allow the automation to happen.

Q. So are you saying new standards need to be defined for IoT, or that existing standards need to be re-worked?
A. You don’t have to go in and define a new Ethernet. You don’t have to go in and define a new Wi-Fi or a new Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA). What you need is some basic behaviour, commands and responses that need to happen across the different technologies and things that we do today. And frankly it doesn’t just benefit IoT, it benefits everything else. We need to be able to exchange certain information and do it in an automatic way. It sounds to me like we need an interoperability stance.

Q. The next generation of Internet applications could be using Internet Protocol Version 6 (Ipv6). Is IPv6 important for IoT?
What we’re talking about here is something that is in a massive scale. The last time we saw this, if you think of the parallel, was when people were getting cell phones or Wi-Fi, or when people were being connected. There is a massive influx now that changes the game. It goes from a few people being able to do something to a massive number. The minute that you start putting devices online, you’re going to put a massive burden on the communication systems. You need to be able to enhance it, amend it and upgrade it to be able to deal with the influx of volume.

Just think about it like this: I walk around with a laptop, an iPad and a smart phone. That’s three devices that I interact with, and for every one of me, there’s at least three things that are going on. If you have all of this stuff that’s connected, that multiplier is going to go from three to something like 10 or 30 because all of a sudden you can embed sensors everywhere. And as these things can communicate, well, you can do the math — it’s going to put a burden on the system. So things like IPV6 paves the way to allow for that influx of new connected devices. And whether the device happens to be something that I control where it’s automated by IoT, it doesn’t matter. It’s just that you’re going to have a huge volume of them.

Q. Talking about volume, the Internet of Things means more sensors and devices, and thus more data — how is security addressed? What security issues will be important for IoT and how can its safe and ethical use be ensured?
A. This is a challenge when we do anything that’s new. And this is not unique to IoT, in my opinion, but I think IoT is going to just test it one more time. Just think of if I was to cash a cheque today, I no longer have to. We went from taking the physical check with a bank check card, go to a teller and cash it to putting it in an ATM and now you can take a picture of it by your phone. I think the two areas actually are security and privacy. As we go forward like we do with anything else in fiscal communication, we absolutely need to be very cognizant of security. The prices are going to be no different than how we offer it today. There are certain applications where security is not a big issue or you don’t perceive it that way.

Q. Could you elaborate on your last statement regarding the perception of security?
A. For example, exchanging data for a game versus banking information. You could think of sensors that are extremely unique and may have very sensitive data that they’re sending and you have to address security. Regarding the privacy stuff, that’s something that we see all of the time, right? There’s a concern between privacy as well as being able to get more functionality. So by virtue, for example, getting on Facebook you compromise your privacy but you get something out of it. And I think there are some policy trade-offs that need to happen and I think it will be different for different aspects. I suspect there will be components that will influence standards as well as the application that people build for IoT.

Q. What kind of businesses, you think, will expand and, what kind of businesses will disappear with the advent of IoT?
A. I think you’re going to have the classic push pull. What you’re going to see first is there are certain applications of businesses that didn’t exist before or were in their embryonic phase. Think about it, how do people buy music today? You can download it a song at a time. So that business was not possible before because we didn’t have enabling infrastructure, backhaul connectivity, the data processing in the background, and mobile computing; none of this existed. So you have some businesses that are maybe embryonic which are going to get enabled the more of this that happens in IoT. There’re some things that we don’t anticipate but become reality once it happens. People are very creative in what they can do. It’s interesting that medical is one of the biggest applications for IoT and something that most technologists probably wouldn’t have thought about 10 or 20 years ago could be possible to achieve with IoT.

Q. Do you think the Internet of Things could set a new trend in the industrial settings?
A. I think the way factories, and industry and automation operate is going to get completely revolutionized. We’re going to have very intelligent or smart factories. That means the operational costs are going to be more optimized. You’re going to know more about what’s going on in your production facilities early on. You’re going to be able to adapt the new kind of products. I think it’s going to revolutionize a lot of how this works. I also think that in the vehicular side of the world, it’s not just automobiles but buses, trains, planes are going to benefit from IoT. And there’s going to be consumer applications we haven’t even thought about; everything from having more smart homes and having automatically being able to adapt to changes in a particular environment. Think of just the energy grid. You’re going to have a lot more visibility into what’s going on. Sensors are a very key part of this because if you think about what the human brain does, it connects a lot of sensors, processes a lot of information at the same time. Mobile sensors opens up a world of opportunities to look at. So I think whether it’s industrial, consumer, medical and frankly even enterprise buildings and infrastructure, you’re going to see a massive change. I think it’s all directly to do with those four components: computational, communication, software and sensing.

Q. Where do you see the Internet of Things and its technologies creating the most impact?
A. What we’ve talked about in the IEEE is, first of all, IoT is both revolutionary and evolutionary. I think it’s also going to change the way businesses do business. And the three areas we’re looking at currently are machine-to-machine communications, Internet of energy and medical. There’s only so much that you could look at one time and I think there might be a lot of overlap between the fundamentals. However, those I think are very key. The machine-to-machine communications cannot be understated. I think without that you’re going to start to slow the IoT revolution, simply because whether it’s on the consumer side or infrastructure and data centers, in order to automate you need to have devices talking to each other without active human intervention. I think in the medical world, whether you approach it from the health-care side or the ambient living side, it’s completely different. I think to me it’s the same as how we’ve evolved over time. Your hospital visits are going to be more efficient. There’s going to be a lot more care that can happen outside. As we support growing and aging populations, we’re going to be able to do it without straining the labor force. On the energy side, everyone talks about the infrastructure and the burden that happens on it. I believe this is going to be one of those things that’s going to help alleviate that and also add security and address some security issues as well with infrastructure. The energy part is not going to be limited to just standard infrastructure energy.

Q. How could IEEE contribute to push the IoT revolution?
A. Emphasize that IEEE is well positioned for something like this because we bring together our standards that track nicely with a very diverse portfolio of technical societies that we have in expertise. For example, we have deep expertise and standards in the four areas I mentioned as drivers and also some of the application areas like vehicular and medical. So I think IEEE is well positioned to do that. I think what you’re going to see is some of the technologies like, for example, 802 technologies are going to get expanded. While they are application agnostic, I think some of these new IoT applications will help evolve or make use of some of the new work that we’re doing today. You’re going to see new standards. For example, how different devices can talk to each other. Similar to what we did to the smart grid, I think we’re going to see the IEEE and the IEEE SA take a leading role in helping fuel the innovation by providing the standards on top of which people can innovate.

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