A Practical Approach to the Internet of Things

The market opportunities around the Internet of Things (IoT) are substantial for Intel, McAfee, Wind River, along with their ecosystem and the industry at large. But in a practical sense, how should businesses approach IoT? How can they start optimizing their processes and how do they ensure security? I recently caught up with a couple of experts to find out: Adam Burns, Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development of Intelligent Solutions at Intel, and Santhosh Nair, General Manager, Intelligent Systems Group at Wind River. Check out their great insights below, along with a video of Adam discussing the opportunities and a very cool IoT Infographic from Wind River. Let me know how you’re approaching IoT. – Valerie Scarsellato, aka @Intel_Chick, Marketing Specialist, ISG

Val: So, first things first, how should businesses approach IoT?

Adam Burns: I think the first thing really for businesses to think about is the top business problem they want to solve. What are they going to do to get meaning out of their data and what business problem is it solving for them? Given that, they should ask what systems they need to connect and instrument or what new capabilities to put in place to optimize or even transform their business.

Santhosh Nair: I would encourage businesses to start thinking about the best way to connect the wealth of new applications, systems, and devices to what can be complex networks. How can they use information from machines for better decision-making? How can information be exchanged among siloed institutions, systems, and applications? How can the operational efficiencies of IoT-enabled systems be scaled for higher profit potential? And how can successes and lessons learned be leveraged more broadly across multiple vertical markets?
Operators and device or system manufacturers have very different perspectives on the opportunities created by the IoT, but all are looking to develop solutions that will scale efficiently, increase average revenue per device, and create competitive differentiation, while responding to the needs of specific vertical industries.

Val: In terms of practical business processes, how can businesses optimize their processes with IoT?

Adam Burns: I think there’s really two sides of the coin here. With business optimization, we see a lot of interested customers asking about what they can do with the business they have TODAY. For example, how do they take advantage of streamlining logistics and doing predictive maintenance on high value assets they have in place? That’s close to their core and they see an immediate impact of the bottom line.

The other side of the coin is really the new services and new opportunities possible with IoT; what we call business transformation. The technology is flexible enough that once they can collect data, once they know how to deploy analytics and turn that data into value, it opens up an array of new service opportunities and companies can start to partner and really drive new compelling opportunities in that way.

Santhosh Nair: The compelling driver behind connecting smart devices via IoT is, as is often the case, economic advantage. For example, it typically costs at least three times more for a human being than a device to service a machine, read a utility meter, or adjust the heating and cooling to manage energy usage in a building. Another important driver is the real-time demand for Big Data to make faster and more precise decisions. Across multiple industrial sectors for example, I’m seeing IoT producing two key operational benefits to optimize business processes:

  • Real-time analytics: Enabling predictive maintenance and self-diagnostics, real-time analytics are performed autonomously by intelligent machines and devices in IoT. For example, systems can extend the life of components that are near failure by reducing mechanical load.
  • Adaptive analytics: Converting the vast data sets generated by IoT into a source of rich and actionable information, adaptive analytics can help identify the trends that will transform businesses and enable large-scale, real-time decision making.

Val: Security is obviously a requisite as companies move into IoT. How should businesses approach the security question?

Adam Burns: When I think about it from a user perspective, if I’m going to start controlling a device based on the data it provides, I need to be absolutely sure that the device is trusted and the data could be trusted. And so when you think about security, you think about making sure it connects properly and making sure it’s only running the applications that I know are okay. Then I go into the whole path of protecting data from the device to the cloud and ensuring the services I’m offering have integrity. It’s just absolutely critical when you think about the internet of things in action; I can’t control devices if I can’t trust them.

Santhosh Nair: Security is a key differentiator for IoT, and security vulnerabilities are a roadblock for adoption. Security at both the device and network levels is critical to the operation of IoT. The same intelligence that enables devices to perform their tasks must also enable them to recognize and counteract threats. Fortunately, this does not require a revolutionary approach, but rather an evolution of measures that have proven successful in IT networks, adapted to the challenges of IoT and to the constraints of connected devices.

The last point I’ll make is that security should not be thought of as an add-on to a device, but rather as integral to the device’s reliable functioning. On the software side, security controls need to be introduced at the operating system level, take advantage of the hardware security capabilities now entering the market, and extend up through the device stack to continuously maintain the trusted computing base.

Val: Thanks, gentlemen! For more information, check out this video with Adam and this infographic from Wind River.