Taking Intelligence to the Edge for a More Connected and Secure IoT
Learn more about the importance of IoT edge intelligence for connectivity and security.
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The Internet of Things is rapidly maturing and moving from fairly limited implementations towards large scale, enterprise-wide adoption. What’s more, it is fast reaching a tipping point where these "things" need to incorporate intelligence and control as well as connectivity.
The first generation of IoT was mostly built by retrofitting connectivity to previously un-connected devices or connecting purpose-built IoT devices to central systems through linear communication channels.
For example, devices like credit card readers were not initially connected. They were then connected via landline, then by Wi-Fi, and finally, by cellular means. At each stage, it was realized that centralized business and information systems could deliver more value by gaining more immediate access to the remote edge devices. Solution development was driven from the center towards the devices at the edge.
In the next generation of IoT, this will be reversed. With the possible exception of perishable consumable goods, virtually all manufactured products can potentially be enhanced by connecting them to the digital environment. For many use cases, there could also be valuable benefits from connecting edge devices to each other.
So, the direction of solution development will be from the edge — made up of connected and capable individual products or clusters of devices — inwards towards the end user at the center. In some use cases, edge devices will communicate with each other as much, or even more, than with a central cloud.
This ubiquity of highly connectable things opens new, and different, business models that will take advantage of the fact that delivering and analyzing data or sensing, actuating, and undertaking other edge functionality can all be provisioned on the fly and when the service infrastructure needs it. This computing model will be similar to the evolving multi-tenant cloud paradigm where the resources of Things are self-identified by the Things themselves and are then provisioned and allocated to the service dynamically on an as-needed basis.
In order for this model to scale to ABI’s 2023 forecast of three million-plus new cellular IoT connections every day , solution designers need new tools to simplify the process of provisioning devices and also improve the ongoing management capability across various critical functions. These can be summarized as:
The reputational and financial damage that can arise from cyber-security breaches mean that end-to-end security is now a fundamental IoT requirement. Products can be hardened against attacks by building security into devices at the point of manufacture and then having tools to leverage layers of security from the connectivity module through cellular transport to the delivery of information to customer’s systems
For solutions made up of thousands, or potentially millions, of edge devices, lifecycle management needs to be greatly simplified to ensure each device always has the most up to date firmware and application software. Integrating and, as far as possible, automating the management of hardware and software also simplifies logistics and reduces costs.
Similarly, where solutions and devices are to be deployed across multiple geographies or require access to multiple carriers to be able to offer guaranteed SLAs, SIM-less cellular subscription management integrated directly into the LPWA cellular IoT connectivity module is also essential to streamlining logistics.
Every IoT solution should be justified based on the value that can be extracted from being able to access the device data. Automatic device discovery and plug-and-play integration into the customer’s enterprise systems and business processes will increase the ROI of a project.
Tools to normalize data or define the logic and behavior of devices at the edge can also simplify and automate tasks such as the sending and receiving of data and the management of cellular connections between devices, clouds and the enterprise. Giving the edge device decision-making capabilities can also drive quality of service.
Products that operate automatically “out of the box” are the foundation for zero-touch on-boarding and are also more inherently secure. A zero-touch approach also simplifies and lowers costs of initial deployment and accelerates time-to-market.
What this all means is that — in the same way that built-in Wi-Fi is taken for granted in the PC market — embedding the point of connection deep within devices at the point of manufacturing keeps the cost of implementing an IoT solution low. Endpoint intelligence will become more critical as the market progresses to smarter devices and solutions. At the edge, low power, low cost, and small size are key drivers for larger-scale device deployments, and these next-gen edge solutions will need to have software for management, connectivity, and control fully integrated within the hardware itself.
1 ABI M2M Embedded Cellular Modules - 3Q 2018 MD-M2MM-164
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