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Blog Posts: January-February 2015

Blog posts with a personal twist by Editor-in-Chief Maxine Bingham and Technology Editor Ron Bingham.

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Ron Bingham

ARM Sets it Sights on Dominating the Cloud
26 February 2015 - by Ron Bingham, Technology Editor & Sr. Analyst

ARM has been so successful at dominating the mobile market with 99% market share[1] it has forced Intel to lose $7 billion in its mobile division by paying its mobile customers subsidies to design in Intel’s Atom processor[2]. ARM now appears to have set its sights higher - dominance of the cloud with its introduction today of the Intelligent Flexible Cloud (IFC) framework. The nuances of the strategy are as follows. ARM will not try a frontal assault on the cloud server market. It will approach it from the network edge inward, thus leading from its strength. I think it is a brilliant strategy with a significant tailwind. Now, the test will be how well they execute it.

IoT Perspectives believes that there are both practical and technological forces that will move the burden of computing to the edge of the network. ARM recognizes this and just as it has dominated the mobile market, ARM is set to dominate the IoT market with its low-power, high- performance processors. Over time, this will drive a significant amount of computing power away from a centralized cloud server out to the edge of the network. With the tremendous amount of distributed computing power, it makes perfect sense both for latency and bandwidth constraints to do computing locally. By moving the processing burden away from the central server it will erode Intel’s core strength and expand ARM’s market.

ARM is thus defining the cloud to include not only the server but also what is now considered the edge or client side as well. The Flexible Cloud framework now gives them the ability to operate from client-side to server side and include non-ARM processors and a diversity of interconnects as well.

ARM IFC

The IFC framework embraces many open software standards such as Open Plane and Open Daylight and envisions a virtualization of many of the network functions based on the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV), a new open source project focused on accelerating the evolution of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).

ARM is doing what it does best building system architectures and an ecosystem of partners that will usher in the next generation of networking.  This will be fun to watch. I wish everyone well.


[1] http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-02-04/arm-chips-are-the-most-used-consumer-product-dot-where-s-the-money

[2] http://androidheadlines.com/2014/11/intel-drop-atom-subsidies-android-tablets-2015.html

Image Courtesy of ARM

(c) 2015 IoT Perspectives

 


Maxine Bingham photo

Should the US Government Legislate IoT Security?
7 February 2015 by Maxine Bingham

The recent hacking of Anthem, of Anthem Blue Cross fame, and one of the largest health insurers, reveals a worrisome fact of modern day life. Information is just not secure to determined, and sophisticated, evildoers, especially state-sponsored (China is suspected in this hacking of 80 million people’s data). How worrisome then, are the security concerns with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) that depends upon connectivity to the Internet and/or between humans and devices?

The likelihood, as security consultant Bill Bonney and I agree (see his recent posts on IoT security in IoT Perspectives) is that a major security breach in an IoT company is not an “if,” but a “when,” and, we think, this year, as IoT becomes more ubiquitous – whether it’s device to person, or machine to machine communications (M2M). In my view, the publicity alone could be an enticement to some nefarious hacker group.

Thus, at all the conferences I attend, I ask speakers and panelists – “what about IoT security?” “Why isn’t the industry coming together on this?” The answers I get are evasive in the extreme.

I don’t see security concerns as something that will inhibit the spread of IoT, since we all participate in giving our data freely as it is.  And, like closing the barn door after the horse has fled, I only expect companies to take IoT-specific security seriously after some incidents have occurred and consumers yell loud and hard.

Thus, in the midst of what appears to be a black hole of planning by industry, the US Government has stepped in (although the Industrial Internet Consortium has security as one of its working groups – we’ll see how well that progresses). In addition to planned Congressional hearings, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a January 2015 report on “The Internet of Things, Privacy & Security in a Connected World.” Report Link

Let me quote part of the Executive Summary about security and legislation:

“…the FTC hosted a workshop on November 19, 2013 titled The Internet of Things: Privacy and Security in a Connected World (who participated?). This report summarizes the workshop and provides staff’s recommendations in this area. Consistent with the FTC’s mission to protect consumers in the commercial sphere and the focus of the workshop, our discussion is limited to IoT devices that are sold to or used by consumers.

…There appeared to be widespread agreement that companies developing IoT products should implement reasonable security. Of course, what constitutes reasonable security for a given device will depend on a number of factors, including the amount and sensitivity of data collected and the costs of remedying the security vulnerabilities. Commission staff encourages companies to consider adopting the best practices highlighted by workshop participants, including those described below.

First, companies should build security into their devices at the outset, rather than as an after thought.

As part of the security by design process, companies should consider: (1) conducting a privacy or security risk assessment; (2) minimizing the data they collect and retain; and (3) testing their security measures before launching their products.

…When companies identify significant risks within their systems, they should implement a defense - in-depth approach, in which they consider implementing security measures at several levels…Finally, companies should continue to monitor products throughout the life cycle and, to the extent feasible, patch known vulnerabilities.”

Notice repetition of the words, “consider implementing,” and “reasonable.” What is the definition of “reasonable?” After the barn door has shut?

“Participants also discussed whether legislation over the IoT is appropriate, with some participants supporting legislation, and others opposing it (who were these participants?). Commission staff agrees with those commenters who stated that there is great potential for innovation in this area, and that IoT-specific legislation at this stage would be premature. Staff also agrees that development of self-regulatory programs designed for particular industries would be helpful as a means to encourage the adoption of …security-sensitive practices.

However in light of the ongoing threats to data security and the risk that emerging IoT technologies might amplify these threats, staff reiterates the Commission’s previous recommendation for Congress to enact strong, flexible, and technology-neutral federal legislation [emphasis added] to strengthen its existing data security enforcement tools and to provide notification to consumers when there is a security breach.

General data security legislation should protect against unauthorized access to both personal information and device functionality itself [emphasis added]. For example, if a pacemaker is not properly secured, the concern is not merely that health information could be compromised, but also that a person wearing it could be seriously harmed (former VP Dick Cheney wouldn’t have an IoT heart device as he was concerned about serious harm by hackers)."

So, it all depends on one’s point of view. Since agencies and legislators want to legislate as their raison d’etre, will this inhibit commercial growth by adding onerous, costly and possibly ineffective laws regarding our Nest thermostats, Fitbits and lighting automation, or, do we need the government to step in to try and protect us?

Considering the serious problems of the “Obamacare” web site that took years and over two billion dollars to develop, (Covered California’s web site made enrolling for 2015 virtually impossible as the deadline loomed), I am not sanguine about allowing the government, of all “people,” to drive technology regulation for IoT security. Who would they listen to? What would be those individuals’ and companies’ skin in the game? Who’s going to ensure technology “neutrality?” That doesn’t even happen with so-called industry standards.

Industry really has to step it up, and work with consumers and enterprise customers to ensure more than “reasonable” security for IoT solutions and devices.

There are many IoT standards bodies, primarily concerned with interoperability. Many companies feel that security should be handled by each company in its own way. However, with the US Government breathing down our necks, if industry – and investors who fund innovation – don’t make IoT security a major focus, then, the government will.

Considering the Obamacare technology debacle (which is still on-going), as well as foolish and unwarranted venture capital-type investments in alternative energy, I come down on the side of those who hope that the wheels of government will grind slower than industry’s.


Bill Bonney

IoT Security: Users Have a Duty, Too
Special to IoT Perspectives, by Bill Bonney
5 February 2015

We all know cyber crime is a large and growing problem. Cyber crime in the U.S. alone is estimated to have accounted for $24 billion to $120 billion in monetary losses during 2013, according to a report from McAfee, the security division of Intel. As of 2013, 26% of PCs in the U.S. and 24% worldwide, according to a Microsoft Study, do not run anti-virus software. Unprotected PCs are 5.5 times more likely to have a virus than protected PCs. And a 2013 study by Deloitte showed up to 90% of passwords are vulnerable to hacking. A 2013 study by Ofcom, the UK communications watchdog, showed 55% of users admit to reusing passwords, many for all their accounts. Even scarier is a 2014 Market Pulse survey sponsored by SailPoint that showed the reuse stat holding steady, that most users have only three passwords, that 14% would SELL their corporate password, some for as little as $150, and that 20% share their passwords with team members.

I do think that business and various local and state governments, as well as the federal government, can and should do more to design more secure products and services, create better security tools, drive down friction and frustration and develop a better approach to providing for the common defense. Some nice recent steps are the increased deployment of chip-based credit cards (as opposed to magnetic strips) and using increased analytics to detect criminal behavior. I do also believe that the user has a real role to play in securing their digital lives. Let's use an analogy we can all relate to: fighting infectious disease.

Though there are some on the fringe, most people agree to have their children vaccinated. Many believe they are acting in their own best interests or the interests of their child. But they are also acting in the best interest of their community. Witness the outbreak of measles at Disneyland in January 2015 for an example of what happens when too many unvaccinated children flock together. The CDC does its part, they fund research, act as a center of excellence for best practice and drive information sharing. The pharmaceutical companies do their part; they develop vaccines. Hospitals treat those who are sick, train medical personnel to respond to outbreaks, and often also administer the vaccines themselves. But for the whole program to work, the parents, the "users" if you will, must play their part. It takes 90-95% vaccination coverage to prevent outbreaks. As of 2013, according to the CDC, 90.8% to 94.1% of U.S. children have been vaccinated for the various legacy childhood diseases.

Just like infections spreading from unvaccinated to vaccinated children, hacked accounts and compromised PCs impact both the user and the greater community. Perhaps the greater community gets hit worse. A user who has their account hacked or credit card stolen has some limits to how much liability they will incur. The financial institution, retailer and insurance companies actually bear the cost. Compromised PCs often become unwilling participants in botnets, which are zombie armies of infected PCs that are used to spread SPAM and viruses, participate in Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and act as innocent relays for other even more dangerous attacks.

So what does the responsibility of the connected user look like? Here are the things I think every user should consider as their part for digital safety:
 

  • Strong passwords - yes, the industry is trying to move beyond passwords, and some promising options are being worked on, but passwords are going to be with us for a while. Souse strong, unique passwords, see this article for help,o not share them (between sites or with others), and change them regularly (quarterly for sensitive info, twice a year for others).Use a password manager so you can handle all the passwords, and consider availing yourself of two-factor options for your online bank accounts, email and social media accounts.
  • Protect your home network. Start by ensuring your WiFi has a password - it's not just about your freeloading neighbors anymore. Also, make sure you install, turn on and keep updated your anti-virus software. Don't have one, start here. And finally, turn on your Firewall, it comes with Macs and PCs.
  • Protect your devices, including PCs, phones, tablets and wearables. Routinely allow updates on you desktop, laptop, browser, phone, fitbit, apps, or whatever else - update regularly so you always have not the latest security patches. Consider complex pass codes for your iDevice and Android (choose password or pattern instead of PIN), and consider using thumb print for your iDevice so you don't have to type a complex password every time.
  • Don't sign up for what you don't need. Most shopping sites will allow you to shop and buy without setting up an account. Before you create another account you need to manage, ask yourself, what is the benefit, do I really want to have an account here?
  • Lobby businesses, banks and government to do more. Complain, nicely, respectfully, professionally, but forcefully. A good part of the problem is that companies spend far less on good security than they should and spend even less on making that security fit seamlessly into the user experience. Make your voice known, companies listen to their customers. Make them listen to you.

Every time a user takes stronger steps they shrink the attack surface just a little bit. Do your part and help make the digital world a more secure place, a place free of digital epidemics.

Bill Bonney has been engaged in connecting and securing systems and networks for over 25 years. His current focus is working with colleagues and industry experts to improve the information security posture of companies, individuals and devices (things) through security initiatives in threat intelligence, targeted asset protection, information security education and awareness and behavior modification. Bill spent a decade with Intuit, the leader in personal and small business financial services, developing game-changing programs in identity management, cloud security and risk management.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Bonney


Bill Bonney

Security and the Internet of Things
4 February 2015 - Special to IoT Perspectives by Bill Bonney

As part of IoT Perspectives' focus on Internet of Things security, I have been asked to blog about my impressions of the new risk frontiers we're opening and how we're addressing those risks.

I have attended six full-day or multiple-day Information Technology and Security conferences in the last five months, and, as you can imagine, the Internet of Things (IoT) is prominent on every agenda. Anyone who saw the news coverage of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from Las Vegas this past January was barraged with images of wearable gadgets, home automation, connected cars, and of course, lots of drones.

Strange and risky new world

We've been talking about the Internet of Things for several years, but, as evidenced by CES, the world we postulated is now materializing at a blistering rate. In their “Technology Media and Telecommunications” predictions report, Deloitte estimates that there will be 1 billion new IoT devices deployed in 2015, an increase of 60% from 2014, adding up to a total of 2.8 billion devices.  Where wearable and home automation devices sell in the thousands to hundreds of thousands of units, industrial devices, such as smart meters, sell in the tens of millions to hundreds of millions. Hewlett-Packard's security business unit, Fortify, studied the top 10 home IoT devices and found alarming problems - 70% are vulnerable to hacking and 80% put users at risk of having their personal details intercepted. A UK report published in 2013 shows security concerns for smart meters that differed for each constituent group:  the utilities industry worries about fraud, privacy advocates about information leaks, equipment suppliers about excessive regulation, and civil defense about remote switch off capabilities. The “World Economic Forum Global Risks 2015” report ranks "data fraud or theft" and "cyber attacks" as the number 9 and 10 (respectively) risks to the global economy in terms of likelihood. From page 22 of the report, the example cited relates to the Internet of Things: "There are more devices to secure against hackers, and bigger downsides from failure: hacking the location data on a car is merely an invasion of privacy, whereas hacking the control system of a car would be a threat to life."

A new way of thinking

We celebrate the hacker mentality, by which we mean the desire to test the limits of any technology and see what we can make it do that it wasn't intended to do. This is really just another name for innovation. More often than not new things are invented by starting with a current thing and "hacking" it. Hacking also has its downside. The sad reality is that for every new thing that's created, a nasty shadow can come along with it. The connected car creates rich new entertainment options, precise navigation, safety features such as remote unlock and collision avoidance and self-diagnosis of engine problems (along with automatic ordering of replacement parts – see IoTP’s profile of GM’s Connected Car vision). At the same time, if we don't learn how to anticipate not just what could wrong but also what could be tampered with or exploited, we can create security nightmares. Going back to the quote from the WEF, the ability to hack a car's control system has already been demonstrated in a paper presented at Black Hat, an annual security conference in Las Vegas.

This team did it before on a smaller scale, with physical possession of the car. But, according to Wired, "In contrast to their 2013 research, they didn’t do any hands-on hacking. In fact, their recent work consisted mostly of signing up for mechanics’ accounts on the websites of all the carmakers, downloading the cars’ technical manuals and wiring diagrams, and analyzing the computer networks those documents revealed."  As you might expect, there was a wide range of vulnerability, and this scary quote: "The Infiniti Q50 in particular was a model of insecure architecture, the two researchers say. The sports sedan’s wireless features included remote keyless entry, Bluetooth, a cellular connection, wireless tire pressure monitoring, and an Infiniti Connection system that interfaces with a “personal assistant” app on the driver’s smartphone. Miller and Valasek say that within the Q50’s network, those radio and telematic components were directly connected to engine and braking systems. And the sedan’s critical driving systems had computer-controlled features like adaptive cruise control and adaptive steering that a hacker could potentially hijack to physically manipulate the car."

Doom and Gloom?

Is there hope of a connected and safe world? I do think we will see an increase in major news stories over the next 12 to 18 months about IoT extortion. Extortion as a cyber reality has been with us for many years, and just looking at the rising incidents of ransomware, we know it's a favorite hobby for cyber thieves. In 2013, McAfee, the security arm of Intel, collected more than 250,000 unique samples of ransomware, which is software designed to lock the victims PC or encrypt his or her files until a ransom is paid. We all watched as "The Interview" debacle unfolded and $100M in damage was done to Sony. Cyber extortion of utilities dates back to at least 2008, according to Forbes and SANS, a security institute, and 25% of utility executives reported in 2011 they had been victims of network-related extortion according to Electric Light and Power. The fear and disruption that well publicized attacks can cause are too tempting a target to ignore.

How Will We Respond?

We have the methods and approaches to deal with this, but we need to recognize that whatever we bring to the connected world will be probed for weakness. Of the vulnerabilities mentioned above that HP found, 80% of the systems failed to require passwords of adequate length or complexity and 70% used unencrypted network services. We need manufacturers to make sure rigorous security testing is part of the release process.

Now back to the security conferences I attended...I went to several presentations from the industrial side of IoT. Two in particular, an HVAC manufacturer and a utility, presented details about their deployment that caught my attention. All indications are that the engineering teams did seem to test for existing, known vulnerabilities, at the protocol, logic, system and communications level. That's good. That helps avoid the problem of unencrypted networks cited above. However, I didn't get a strong sense that new threat models (sample) were developed that took into consideration what new attacks might be conceived of to get at the new source of data or manipulate the remote controls now deployed. I actually asked that question point blank to one of the presenters and let's just say the answer failed to inspire confidence.

Conclusion

There are four things necessary to ensure the IoT can reach its full potential as a safe platform that can enrich our lives in ways unimaginable. Constant diligence to test for and resolve before deployment any serious security vulnerabilities, the intellectual and engineering rigor to develop new threat models that fully explore the value of these new assets and attacks that could be attempted, the persistence of citizen hackers to test and probe for weakness, and the prudent skepticism of consumers and journalists along with their willingness to hold industry accountable.

Bill Bonney has been engaged in connecting and securing systems and networks for over 25 years. His current focus is working with colleagues and industry experts to improve the information security posture of companies, individuals and devices (things) through security initiatives in threat intelligence, targeted asset protection, information security education and awareness and behavior modification. Bill spent a decade with Intuit, the leader in personal and small business financial services, developing game-changing programs in identity management, cloud security and risk management.

Photo of Bill Bonney courtesy of Bill Bonney


Maxine Bingham IoT Perspectives

Why We Disagree with Ovum that “A lot of nonsense is being touted about IoT”
29 January 2015 - by Maxine Bingham

Gary Barnett, chief analyst, software, at Ovum, according to a 27 January 2015 article in Computerweekly (UK), was quoted as saying, “There is a lot of nonsense being touted about the Internet of Things (IoT),” and “that in the next six years there will be few IoT networks with more than just a few hundred connected devices,” and that “undoubtedly, there will be an increase in data production but there will not be any huge explosion of data. Ovum researchers believe the data growth will be gradual.”

Barnett also said that “The big networks are most likely to be associated with smart metering, healthcare, smart cars and smart cities, he said, while most will be localised (sic) networks not even connected to the Internet,” and, “sensor data from production line machines does not really need to be accessible outside the company and will not be interesting to anyone beyond the maintenance crew.”

He disagreed that there would be one trillion IoT devices by 2020, however, this number seems to come out of the air. Most analysts, as well as IoT Perspectives, believe there will be around 50-55 billion billion IoT devices by 2020. Cisco also predicts 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

Revenues, as promoted by Cisco for their “Internet of Everything,” will approach $17 trillion, which IoT (consumer, industrial and enterprise) revenues and revenue growth as of 2014/2015 bear out.

IoT Perspectives’ view is very different from Ovum's. Let’s take some of these statements one-by-one.

1.  “In the next six years there will be few IoT networks with more than just a few hundred connected devices.” The question to be asked, is, what kind of networks? Home IoT networks won’t have the number of devices that either the enterprise and/or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will have. As reported by ZDNet, “GE [said] that it will deliver more than $1 billion in incremental revenue from its roster of 40 industrial Internet services [in 2015]. GE currently monitors and analyzes 50 million data points from 10 million sensors on $1 trillion of managed assets daily.


2.  “The big networks are most likely to be associated with smart metering, healthcare, smart cars and smart cities, he said, while most will be localised (sic) networks not even connected to the Internet.” Cisco notes that “Initiatives and advances, such as Cisco’s Planetary Skin, HP’s central nervous system for the earth (CeNSE), and smart dust, have the potential to add millions even billions of sensors to the Internet. As cows, water pipes, people, and even shoes, trees, and animals become connected to IoT, the world has the potential to become a better place.”

Thus, the kind of applications that can be, and already are, being connected is practically unlimited.

3.  Another odd comment in my opinion is that “undoubtedly, there will be an increase in data production but there will not be any huge explosion of data. Ovum researchers believe the data growth will be gradual.” In fact, big data and analytics are an important topic in IoT because there is already so much data being generated enterprises are having a hard time making sense of it. Thus, a plethora of big data/analytics companies are specifically targeting the deluge of IoT information, including companies such as Ayla Networks, Treasure Data and Splunk, to name just a few.

According to a study by IDC and EMC, “The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things: “Like the physical universe, the digital universe is large – by 2020 containing nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe. It is doubling in size every two years, and by 2020 the digital universe – the data we create and copy annually – will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes.”

Lest we think this is a gradual process as stated by Ovum, successful companies are being aggressive in becoming data-driven. As the IDC/EMC report notes, “The phenomenon is this: enterprises are finding new sources of data, new ways to analyze data, new ways to apply the analysis to the business, and new revenues for themselves as a result. They are using new approaches, moving from descriptive to predictive and prescriptive analytics and doing data analysis in real-time. They are also increasingly adopting self-service business intelligence and analytics, giving executives and frontline workers easy-to-use software tools for data discovery and timely decision-making.”

The problem isn’t too little data, says the IDC/EMC report, it’s that, “… the digital universe may actually be an obstacle for companies trying to become data-driven. There is too much information, it is too diverse, and it is too effervescent.”

4.  It seems strange to me that Ovum asserts that “sensor data from production line machines does not really need to be accessible outside the company and will not be interesting to anyone beyond the maintenance crew.” In fact, one of the most significant results of the IoT, including IIoT and enterprise IT, is that companies are transforming their businesses, particularly from hardware to software and services – leading to new/increased revenue streams and the need to redefine how their business operates internally.

Sensor data from production line machines can be used for far more than what mechanics need to know. It can significantly increase efficiency, add in decision-making, and predict failure in advance in order to ensure uptime and increased customer satisfaction. It is another example of how the IoT is transforming not just culture, but businesses.

From IoT Perspective’s point of view, there is a dramatic convergence of technology and opportunity that has come together in a unique way that reflects historical paradigms such as the rise of the personal computer, the development of the Internet itself, and the rise of smartphones. From these analogies, although the Internet of Things has been gradual to date, in fact, about 20 years in the making, there is now such a confluence of factors, that an acceleration is in progress. One of the unique aspects of the rapid growth of the IoT, is that the very low barrier to entry invites even small teams to create the kind of IoT innovation such that billions of dollars of VC money is flowing in, as well as the phenomenon of major companies licensing IP from smaller companies, or, acquiring them, such as Google acquiring Nest, and for billions of dollars. Thus, we see the Internet of Things as a tectonic plate shift in the geography of high tech, and one which is shaking things up around the world.


Maxine Bingham photo

You May Be Wearing an IoT Device Today
27 January 2015 - by Maxine Bingham

Those of us with Nest thermostats or Fitbit wristbands are experiencing the new world of the IoT. A truly global phenomenon, IoT products and services are coming from makers as well as major corporations.

The ladies in my walking group swear by their Fitbits (there are similar ones by Jawbone), which not only report how much exercise they’re doing, but how well they are sleeping. Devices such as Fitbit often include a social media function so that you can track your progress against others.

According to market research firm IDC, sales of wearable fitness trackers will have reached 119 million units as of 2014.

The IoT is a general phrase meaning those “things” or devices that are connected to people or other “things,” i.e., to other devices or machines with as little human intervention as possible (such as smart electrical meters).

Devices that connect to people, in addition to wristbands such as the Fitbit run the gamut from heart monitors, temperature monitors for babies to things one wears (“wearables”). Statista estimates that the wearables market will be worth some 12.6 billion U.S. dollars by 2018.

Wearables are especially useful for athletes, such as Hexoskin’s. Hexoskin is a smart device that connects to an intelligent sports garment with integrated sensors to capture body metrics such as heart rate recovery, heart rate variability, breathing rate, breathing volume, activity level, acceleration, cadence, etc.

Their 100% textile biometric shirts are designed to offer an easy and more natural way of regularly capturing precise data in real performance contexts. A small Bluetooth device is connected to the fabric sensors and placed in the shirt’s built-in side pocket during activity and sleep.

Smart watches, such as the soon-to-be available (March it is rumored) Apple Smartwatch will be used to control IoT devices as well as return valuable information to us. Apple has already released its design kit so that it can launch with many applications, as opposed to the single point applications of many wearables today.

AMyo armband number of startups, such as Thalmic Labs, are creating smart armbands that will enable people to operate devices via gestures in the air. As they explained to me, some ways they expect their Myo armband (see photo) to be used include using gestures to underline, zoom in or create circles when giving a PowerPoint presentation, pausing or fast-forwarding a film on Netflix while sitting in your chair, or even the ability control music on the go when you're skiing, snowboarding or running, as you don't have to take a phone out of your pocket, you use your hands.

One concern with wearables that capture personal data is how that data will be used, and, if they can be hacked. Thus, security and privacy are major concerns that manufacturers seem to meto be slow to address. In fact, this week’s “FTC Report on Internet of Things Urges Companies to Adopt Best Practices to Address Consumer Privacy and Security Risk: Report Recognizes Rapid Growth of Connected Devices Offers Societal Benefits, But Also Risks That Could Undermine Consumer Confidence,” summarizes these concerns well. Report Link

Whether it’s temporary tattoos for checking blood sugar for diabetics as developed by UCSD, or heart monitors with Internet connectivity, despite security and privacy issues (which the industry must address, and we as consumers must press for) wearables are promising to change our lives for the better.


Ron Bingham IoT Perspectives

My Top 10 2015 Technology Predictions for the Internet of Things: 3B Units by 2015
14 January 2015 - Ron Bingham

Below are my top 10 2015 predictions for the Internet of Things:

1.  In 2015 3x more IoT devices will ship than smartphones.

IoT Perspectives forecasts a 55% increase in IoT units shipped in 2015 over 2014. At three billion units, IoT will exceed the one billion units forecast for smart phones projected for 2015. The growth will occur from embedded systems connecting to the Internet, wearables and home automation.

2.   There will be no de facto standard for home automation networks in 2015.

There are currently at least five standards that are vying for home automation. These include low-power Bluetooth, low power WiFi, Thread’s 802.15.4 mesh network and ZigBee. Home networks face a number of problems, including reliability, latency, cost, ease of installation and security. Whichever network solves all these problems, will become the de facto standard. This won't happen in 2015. Five standards are, in effect, no standard.

3.   Thread will release its home automation “standard.”

The 802.15.4 mesh Thread networking standard is scheduled for release in mid-2015.

4.   SMD will ship its Bluetooth IP reference design.

Sunrise Micro Devices has received its first reference design chip back from the foundry and will ship its reference design featuring its IoT-optimized low-power low-cost Bluetooth IP design this year.

5.   ARM will dominate IoT silicon designs.

ARM’s processor IP currently is found in 95% of smart phones. Its dominance is due to its high-performance, low-cost architecture. For the same reason, ARM will dominate IoT designs.

6.   There will be an explosion of IoT startups and products.

The technology infrastructure is there. An entrepreneur who knows how to program C or Java Script can build a working prototype for less than $2000. The “Maker” community using design kits from Ti, Intel, Marvell’s Kinoma Create and others, as well as open source breadboard devices such as Arduino and Raspberry, is a thriving and growing community and will spur under-employed and/or entrepreneurial engineers and programmers to strike out on their own.

7.   High school students will be designing IoT “Things.”

For the reasons mentioned in item six above, the barrier to entry and learning curve for producing IoT products is very low. Initiatives such as the nonprofit Code.org’s Hour of Code, Us-ignite’s Bringing Internet of Things Know-How to High School Students and Marvell’s Kinoma Create, which donated their IoT prototype design platforms to the UIST Student Innovation Contest, all foster interest and innovation among high school would-be entrepreneurs.

8.    Products based on 14nm silicon technology will ship in 2015 offering smaller, more energy efficient IoT devices.

    Intel and the three big foundries, TSMC, Global, and Samsung are already sampling or shipping 14 nanometer parts. Watch for the next iPhone announcement in the fall of 2015 to include 14nm technology. This means that 14nm technology will be the standard for low-power high-performance semiconductor content in IoT devices in 2015.

    9.   IoT skepticism will diminish.

    Articles, studies and talks appeared in 2014 expressing skepticism about the viability of the IoT market. However, IoT has been around for at least 10 years quietly gaining momentum. It sometimes takes 10 years to be an overnight success. What has changed, are the semiconductor technologies that have made sensors, memory and processors so cheap that they can be deployed economically everywhere.

    10.  Semiconductor companies will become more systems companies than parts suppliers with improving margins.

    As semiconductors become more dense and more functionality can be incorporated on a single die, all the complexity of an entire system will fit on a chip. Already semiconductor processor suppliers are supplying compilers, operating systems and design infrastructures with their products. Marvell’s Kinoma Create is an example of this trend that will continue in 2015.

    2015 is the year when the Grand Convergence of microprocessors, connectivity, sensors, cloud and design ecosystems turn into the Grand IoT Market Opportunity, when smart homes, smart cities, smart farming, smart retail, eHealth, connected cars, smart factories, smart toys and games and smart wearables become a reality. This fits with our prediction of three billion connected units in 2015.


    Maxine Bingham

    Reading Between the Lines of Accenture's Engaging the Digital Consumer Study
    7 January 2015 - Maxine Bingham

    Accenture’s study, revealed at International CES, entitled, “Engaging the Digital Consumer in the New Connected World,” polled 24,000 consumers in 24 countries. There is a great deal of information in this study (read the PDF), although we have somewhat different conclusions from reading it. In the summary, Accenture notes that:

    “The research indicates that consumers find intelligent devices increasingly relevant to their lives and are inspired by the possibilities of the connected world. Yet to gain the consumer confidence that will move their products and services from early adoption to mainstream use, consumer electronics companies need to do three things:

    1. Offer phenomenal customer experiences right out of the box.
    2. Break through a crowded marketplace with strong digital brands.
    3. Provide a level of security and privacy that will inspire consumer trust.”

    Within the next year, data from the study reveal that:

    Accenture Ownership and Purchase Intent

    • 12% of consumers plan to buy a wearable fitness monitor. Within five years, 40% plan to do so.
    • By a year from now, 12% intend to buy a smartwatch whereas 41% plan to by 2020.
    • 41% plan to buy a home connected surveillance camera and security system within five years.
    • 39% plan to buy a smart home thermostat and wearable health device by 2020.
    • 37% plan to buy an in-vehicle entertainment system by 2020.

    When asked what factors have been or would be the most important when making their decision to buy intelligent devices:

    • 33 percent said “ease of use.”
    • 29 percent “features and functions.”
    • 28 percent a “trusted brand.”

    Accenture, whose audience is primary large corporations and brand building, has a different takeaway than I do from the data, as I focus on startups and new ventures. Thus, what do the data reveal in my view?

    • Users are open to new experiences and new manufacturers – startups actually have an advantage as they can innovate and get to market quickly with easy-to-use products.
    • Startups can take on established brands if they focus on great customer experience.
    • Established brands mustn’t allow their bureaucracy to slow down availability of consumer IoT, they’d be smart to align with new ventures, thus combining their brand and market reach with innovation, or, "Big Iron brands can be easily left behind.
    • The user does not seem more concerned about IoT privacy and security than current concerns over use of the Internet – I believe this will change only with some dramatic breaches or scenarios – certainly, governments are concerned now as more and more key services are connected wirelessly.

    In reading between the lines of this study, the story for consumer IoT startups seems to be that the opportunity is here, as long as they stay focused on the consumer’s experience and needs, and, that an established brand is no guarantor of success.

    Figures Courtesy of Accenture Study: Engaging the Digital Consumer in the New Connected World: Reading Between the Lines