The first live IoT Slam, snugly safe from the rain in the headquarters of Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, has brought some of the biggest and most influential IoT movers together for a two-day conference.
"For the next two days, we want to share the best and brightest we have," said Bill Mortimer, IoT Community's VP of strategic marketing. That includes successes and failures, with the thought that it's not enough to cover best practices, but also to learn from mistakes.
Perhaps helped along by the fact that this is the first live IoT Slam, all previous conferences had been purely digital, a sense of collaboration pervaded the presenters throughout the first day, particularly as they delved into some of the challenges facing IoT, such as data gathering and blockchain.
"Cooperation between partners is an essential way to achieve value," Mortimer said.
The scope of the first day of the conference, just like the scope of IoT, was as disparate as the attendees, whose industries ranged from IT mainstays like IBM to more tangential players, like banks and the FinTech industry.
Toward that end, the announcement of IoTPractitioner.com came in the morning. The site promises to be a place for regular announcements, ideas, and news about IoT.
Much of the first day's talk focused on the hypothetical — use cases, challenges, and possibilities. After all, IoT is a very young field, and as Stephen Douglas said in his presentation on network virtualization, "People are bound, in IoT, by their imaginations."
We'll be digging into a lot of the specific discussions over the next couple of weeks, but for now, here is a general recap of the themes for IoT Slam's Day 1.
Chris O'Connor of IBM led with the opening keynote address.
"We're just at the beginning of this journey in IoT," he said, adding that we've gone from mainframes to client servers, and only in the past decade or two have we really dug into the Internet's potential.
His advice to solution creators out there? "You've got to get the use case right."
Essentially, every IoT solution in a business setting will revolve around three core concepts:
Improving operations and lowering costs
Enhancing customer experience
Transforming and generating new revenue streams.
If your proposal doesn't match up with one of those three core goals, give some serious thought as to whether IoT is right for it.
"The language is different (across industries)," he said, "but the use case will be on of those three things."
The mere act of connectivity isn't interesting anymore. It hasn't been solved, as we'll dive into, but it's been largely advanced enough so that it can be a foundation to IoT and the problems it solves. And that's what it's about, O'Connor said: "IoT is, fundamentally, a data problem." He went on to say that during any solution's development, the question needs to be asked, "Where am I practically going to apply this?"
It looks like we're building toward a dichotomy in IoT. There's massive IoT, then there's mission critical IoT.
The massive IoT focuses on low costs, low energy, smaller datasets, and huge numbers of devices all contributing toward relatively low revenue. Meanwhile, mission critical IoT requires ultra low latency, high reliability, and strict SLAs.
And given how relatively young IoT is, there is still a lot of unpredictability out there. Speaker after speaker talked about the talent gap, and Tony Shan lauded developers and the role that they will play. "In the IoT world, if you do a lot of code, you’re the best," he said. "You build the best solutions. But essentially, companies are stuck in the mud because of the lack of talent and the huge variety of options out there. "It's all heterogeneous," Shan said. "It's very confusing."
On top of that, roughly 60% of projects stall at the POC stage, he added, and of the 25% of IoT projects that actually get completed, a third of them are still considered failures. There is a lot of uncertainty out there in the world, and it's going to take time to find repeatable, scalable processes that can work through and across verticals.
Stephen Douglas of Spirent Communications spoke at length about connectivity in the IoT world, particularly about cellular.
"There are lots of connectivity options when it comes to IoT," he said. By 2022, 4G will take up about 48% of the IoT's connectivity pie, followed by LPWA at 38%, he projected.
There's almost certainly room for both licensed IoT connectivity options, like your preferred number of Gs, and unlicensed ones, like LoRA and Sigfox. But the jury is still out whether cellular, while considered ubiquitous, is ubiquitous enough.
There's also the concern about cost. Tamara Dull of SAS pointed out during a panel discussion that for her smart home, she doesn't have an unlimited data plan. She uses Z-Wave for connectivity because the cost of connecting two dozen devices and their data isn't feasible over a cell network.
Kim Bybjerg of Teleena pointed out during that same panel that he believes the future lies with hardware being able to seek out and connect to any of the various options at its disposal, such as cellular, Bluetooth, or anything else that happens to be in the area.
Douglas said that he sees a bright future for software in the connectivity space. Where the world used to rely on specialized hardware, there has been a huge shift in recent years toward commodity hardware and open source software. It's a good time to be working in network function virtualization because that's where the transformation will, and already is, happening.
And then there's everyone's favorite: IoT security. Just about every speaker touched on security at some point, but some of the more poignant pieces came from Intertrust's Jaideep Jain. Focusing on manufacturing, which he said will benefit the most from IoT, he said the conversation about security always starts too late and focuses on an incomplete picture.
"We never think of data security when we start collecting and analyzing data," Jain said, later adding, "Usually, when people talk about protection, they talk about it in the server space.”
IoT and the data it generates need more than just server protection. The first step should be securing the ingestion point. There are hundreds of thousands of ingestion points across a large manufacturing IoT solution, and there needs to be code hardening, tamper proofing, and spoof protection at that level.
"It's not enough to secure the cloud, you have to secure every collection point," he said.
On top of that, data governance will be an essential part of any strategy. “Data governance is an extremely important part of security that you have to consider along with encryption and ingestion point security," Jain said.
Tamara Dull's presentation focused more on consumers, but there were lessons to be learned by developers and solution providers as well. Users are getting smarter. In addition to being wildly unethical, shady data sharing practices aren't even very feasible these days. She cited a class action lawsuit that BOSE is facing wherein a headset user discovered his headset's app was collecting data about him so the company could sell it.
The moral of the story: Users are starting to do more research, they're getting more tech literate, and it only takes one to blow the lid off of unwanted data sharing processes. Treat them with respect and honesty, and they'll return the favor.
We're going to cut this short here — but fear not, there's still another day of IoT goodness tomorrow. Overall, the first day was about collaboration and the complexity standing before those working with IoT, not to mention the consumers themselves. We'll be digging into some of the more exciting presentations in future posts, so stay tuned for those. And If you want to be a part of IoT Slam, here's your virtual ticket.