The Internet of Things (IoT), put simply, is a way to infuse computing power into the world around us. But Ron Evans, an IoT developer, sees it a little differently.
The Internet of Things, said Evans (the self-described “ringleader” at California-based boutique consultancy The Hybrid Group), “is about closing the last meter between customers and businesses.”
SD Times had a chance to ask Evans—who’s been working on robotics and open-source hardware since about 2008 and is an Intel Software Innovator—about the connected world, its potential impact on improving quality of life, and the hardware and software that will power that world.
(Related: Intel wows with future tech)
SD Times: What do you see as the biggest value IoT can bring to enterprise organizations?
Evans: We call them “hardware-enabled services.” Smart companies, like Intel, realize IoT is about more than gadgets; it’s about providing better services, and even providing entirely new services, such as offering “clickstream data” for consumer interactions in the real world.
Where are these systems-on-chip, which power IoT, being deployed now? And what does the future hold for them?
Embedded devices are traditionally used in the industrial space. But, while most automatically think of assembly lines, HVAC and security systems and other parts of the supply chain are just as interesting and applicable, if not more so. Telematics is also one of the most active connected device spaces, and yet people don’t usually consider that area when they think of IoT.
Connected device development has been the redheaded stepchild of technology for a long time, even though computing ultimately runs on all these embedded devices. They’ve been viewed as a black magic box of sorts. This is part of what we’re trying to overcome and change to make this technology a lot more accessible.
In what way are you trying to make IoT systems more accessible?
By using open-source software as the foundation for embedded devices, it makes it possible to use well-established software development and updated mechanisms. These are just two of the many benefits of regular security updates, and they provide users with more opportunity to customize their own equipment.
What are some emerging standards, or in what specific areas is work being done to create standards?
Some standards that are very interesting to us in [machine-to-machine] are MQ Telemetry Transport and Constrained Application Protocol. These are connectivity protocols that are better designed for device-level communication rather than just Web protocols. We are also exploring our own higher-level [Common Protocol for Programming Physical Input and Output, or CPPP.IO] routing standard that encompasses several different transports.
We know about industrial uses of embedded devices, but how will consumers ultimately benefit from IoT?
A lot of research, development and growth are happening in the connected consumer device space. A good example is the refrigerator that pings you to pick up milk when it senses the container is low. But it’s the connected refrigerator that knows you haven’t been drinking non-fat milk and suggests, “Would you like to try chocolate on your next order?”
The societal benefits of IoT are just as important as the economic benefits, and can really help improve quality of life. Medical devices are a good example. A recent study on managing blood sugar levels used devices that gave a person the proper dose of medication based on his current sugar level.
In your examples, a lot of data is being shared, and yet data sharing can also be a double-edged sword. While we may want to divulge information to make connectivity more useful, we may not necessarily want that information used in ways not intended. What steps are being taken to ensure data is protected in the IoT world?
There are certainly concerns with gathering this type of data. Could companies use the information gathered about you from IoT to get you to alter your lifestyle, and penalize you if you don’t?
Organizations such as OWASP have started to focus on improving the security of IoT, and we’re working with companies such as Rapid7 to also do our part to help harden the IoT attack surface. The information-sharing practices of various providers in the IoT ecosystem comes into play once a reasonable degree of security is in place. Smart companies will be very careful to control the information sharing that takes place behind the scenes, and give a lot of control to the users who generate the data.
You described how you engaged with Intel and work with Intel Edison technology. What is it about what Intel is doing in the IoT space that made you want to collaborate with them?
We were really pleased by the fresh attitude of openness at Intel. Open source seems to be at the core of the Intel Edison platform, which is a real indicator that Intel understands the “sea of change” that has taken place within the overall IoT environment, and wants to be part of it.
We became attracted to Edison because of its built-in capabilities that enable contributions to larger, more complex embedded systems. It’s a single-board Linux computer system-on-chip type of device. It’s very small—a little bit larger than a postage stamp—and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, along with a dual-core Atom processor and a gigabyte of memory.
The only way to enable Edison is through a very small 72-pin connector. There have been a number of companies building daughter boards, and Intel provides one that is Arduino-compatible for those who want to attach Arduino shields or other things to Edison. From my perspective, Edison was really intended to become a permanent part of some device—not like an Arduino or Raspberry Pi or something where it’s more of a piece of hacker hardware—but really used to power the type of device-to-device, and human-to-device interactions that are in our future.
For more information on IoT, look no further than the Intel IoT Developer Zone.
This article is sponsored by Intel.