Could Information Silos Kill the Internet of Things?

I missed this when it came out in July, but thought it was worthy of notice!

In an Information Age article, Maurizio Pilu, a European leader in development of the IoT, throws cold water on those of us who believe the IoT may be as big an innovation as the Industrial Age. Pilu, who runs the UK’s Connected Digital Economy Catapult, which was established by the Technology Strategy Board to growth the UK’s digital economy, says that the IoT is an “..evolution, not a revolution.”

He should know: after all, his prior job was running the TSB’s “Internet of things” program.

“He believes the Internet of things will (sic) gradualy follow analyst company Gartner’s much-cited hype cycle – a peak of inflated expectations, followed by a trough of disillusionment, followed by enlightenment and mainsteam adoption.

“If that’s true, then the trough is surely on its way. Last year, Gartner’s hype cycle for emerging technologies had the Internet of things approaching its peak.

“One risk factor that jeopardises the Internet of things’ potential is siloed thinking, Pilu believes. Every industry projects its own demands on the Internet of things, and the result may be disjointed – and therefore less powerful – systems.”

I don’t buy Pilu’s argument, but I do agree that “siloed thinking” is a threat to full development of the IoT. You’ll remember that my first “Essential Truth” about the IoT is that we must begin asking a fundamentally new question that is at odds with the old way of treating knowledge — hoarding proprietary information:

Who else could use this data?

In part, Pilu’s skepticism stems from the results of a program last year:

.. the TSB oversaw a significant research programme to study the potential impact of the Internet of things.

“It brought together over 400 business and public sector organisations to develop proof-of-concept projects for potential Internet of things applications. These ranged from a mobile fitness app that could sell aggregated data to retailers to an assisted living system to monitor patients in their homes.

“Ten study groups examined these projects, conducting interviews and focus groups, to assess their technical, social and ethical impact.

“’One thing we found across all the studies was uncertainty about how to unlock the value from the Internet of things,’ says Pilu.  ‘But another common theme was the use of data.’

Pilu argues that making data openly available will be the key to unlocking the Internet of things’ real potential.

But, as many of the TSB’s projects found, this is not always possible. One study looked at the public infrastructure on city streets, for example, and found that the associated data is often held in closed systems or discarded quickly after being gathered. 

“’There are few incentives to make data available, owing to a combination of actual or perceived liabilities, unclear returns and costs,’ it concludes.”

So sharing information won’t come easily. It’s an issue to which I plan to devote much of my efforts in the field. I’ll keep you posted!

Furious About the Government Shutdown!

Posted on 30th September 2013 in Uncategorized

I try to keep this blog focused on the Internet of Things and related topics such as big data, but I will deviate on occasion (look for at least one post in the next month about the World Champions to Be, AKA the Boston Red Sox!), and this is one of them!

For months, I’ve been looking forward to moderating a panel at the international M2M and IoT Summit, to be held tomorrow and Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington.

As of now, one of the panelists is Mark Eichorn, Assistant Director, Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, Bureau of Consumer Protection, at the Federal Trade Commission (the only US agency that’s demonstrated interest in the IoT).

BUT THAT MAY NOT HAPPEN! You see, if the ignoramuses (let me be blunt about it) who make up the 40 or so (out of 435: you do the math — does that constitute a majority???) “Tea Party” types in the House of Representatives don’t suddenly change their ways, the federal government will shut down at 12:01 AM tomorrow, and Mr. Eichorn and the other federal representatives who were supposed to participate in the conference or attend it, won’t be allow to!

I happen to think federal workers are great such as Mr. Eichorn are great: they work long hours, come in for a fair amount of abuse, and have already suffered financial losses because of the equally stupid sequester.

If you agree, please call Speaker Boehner’s Office, 202 225-0600, and tell him what you think about his spineless leadership.

OK, got that off my chest…

PS: Oh, the cause of all this stupidity? The Affordable Care Act, modeled on our own Massachusetts health reform law, signed by a Republican governor in 2006, and acknowledged by all as a success. It works. Get over it. Give me a break!

PSS: The Tea Party? Latest poll shows public support for them has shrunken to near all-time low!

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Essential Truth: the IoT Democratizes Innovation

Posted on 23rd September 2013 in Essential Truths, Internet of Things

I’ve got Internet of Things innovation on the brain right now: I’m writing a speech specifically to deliver to college audiences to motivate them about careers in the field, so I keep seeing more cool stuff that young people are doing in the field. You know, when you’re a hammer, all you see are nails…

This one was in the current Popular Science, about a young programmer named Nathan Broadbent, who had a hunch, based on two of his preoccupations:

“Web developer Nathan Broadbent loved automating everyday tasks. He also loved frozen dinners and wanted to program his microwave to prepare them. He suspected an oven could harness Universal Product Codes — the bar codes found on almost all food packaging — to download and execute cooking instructions all by itself.”

It was pretty obvious to him, but why wasn’t anyone doing it? “‘We’re at this point with technology that we have everything we need to make this possible, but no one’s doing it.'”

Nathan Broadbent

So, voila, Broadbent hacks his microwave, integrating a Raspberry Pi board and a custom circuit board. He added on a wi-fi adapter, microphone, speaker and barcode scanner for good measure.

Now, when the scanner identifies a frozen food, the Pi downloads the cooking instructions from a online database he created, programming the microwave to cook the food! He can even issue voice commands. And, shades of the Tweeting Toaster, it can even tweet when the cooking is done.

Reading about Broadbent and another young IoT innovator, smart “onsie” creator Dulcie Madden (whose background is in public health, not electronics) leads me to posit another of my Iot Essential Truths, closely related to the earlier one of empowering individuals:

“The Internet of Things democratizes innovation, by giving them tools that make it easier for people who have particular interests, pains, or other motivations, to invent solutions that will make their lives simpler and/or richer, and to find solutions to problems that large companies haven’t even thought of.”

To me, that’s pretty cool (heck, I’m even designing an IoT app myself — because of a chance occurrence that triggered an “aha moment” — if you’re a hungry young app designer, I’m looking for a partner, so contact me!). I wasn’t able to make it to the Maker Faire in NYC this last weekend, but I suspect that a ton of great ideas will emerge from the cross-fertilization that came out of that event!

PS: here’s the Raspberry Pi microwave!

Chatting up Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino.There at the beginning!

Posted on 19th September 2013 in Internet of Things

I’m about to launch a new venture: paid speaking about the Internet of Things to corporate audiences and college students (details to come in the near future — but feel free to contact me NOW if you think of an audience that would be open to my evangelism for the IoT!).

One of the speeches I’m preparing is aimed squarely at college students — I’ve been excited to see how many 20 and 30-somethings play a lead role in the IoT and I’m also concerned about the future for these kids (my youngest very much included) in terms of the conventional economy — we’re in the process of leaving them with a very sorry mess, and I think they’re best advised to think outside-the-box and create their own opportunities.

WHICH IS A LONG WAY OF GETTING TO A GREAT CONVERSATION that I had at six AM today with one of those leaders who I plan to feature in the speech to provide inspiration, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino,  who I knew primarily as the designer of the Good Night Lamp. I was quick to learn that she’s done much, much more, and was really there at the beginning of the IoT movement!

Here’s what I learned!

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

She began studying product design in Montreal, and her professor told her to investigate the field of interactive design.

Wanting to go back to Europe, she enrolled in the program that many credit with being the home of the first maker movement in the IoT, as one of 17 students in the Design Institute of Ivrea, Italy. If that rings a distant bell, it’s because that’s where the Arduino board was developed, which has been the entry point for so many to the IoT. It was during this period that she actually designed the Good Night Lamp.

 

Good Night Lamps

She then moved to London, forming an Arduino distributorship with inventor Massimo Banzi.

She grew the business to about 12 people, which also did R & D on inter-connected products for companies such as BBC and Nokia.

Deschamps-Sonsino closed the business and then went back to consulting in 2010. In early 2013 she revisited the Good Night Lamp, getting it into production.

When I asked her whether her lack of a programming background was a handicap, she laughed, and said “I still don’t know how to program, but I know enough to be dangerous .. I have a really good understanding of what’s possible and what isn’t” in terms of programming. She thinks her awareness of programming is much higher than most product designers, who are ” …  still interested in designing chairs and salt and pepper shakers!” She thinks that design education must evolve — too much of it is still focused on the kind of mid-20th century design that created cults around designers such as Philipp Starck. She is adamant that there is a role for product designers in the IoT, saying that most of the products have been designed by programmers, who come at product design from a technology perspective. In fact, she thinks that a lot of education will have to change because of the IoT, which she sees as a disruptive technology:  “We have to get away from vertical learning niches, and put more emphasis on collaboration.” She shakes her head at one leading European manufacturer, where the product designers are physically isolated from the technologists and others, making collaboration impossible.

When I asked whether she’d faced any discrimination in the IoT world as a woman, Deschamps-Sonsino said:

“Not really, being a woman was actually useful because there aren’t many around: as long as it’s to my benefit, gets me in front of audiences, it’s OK. Some  who got involved in the IoT in their 30s act inappropriately,but I’m managing it!”

Since I’m hoping to use these speeches to motivate young people to seek IoT careers, I concluded by asking her what the future holds:

“I think it has such tremendous potential, incredible opportunities. I think curiosity is the key. Start looking online for examples of IoT products: people keen to get feedback on their designs. Try to engage: take a 2-day workshop with Arduino. I’d particularly say to younger girls, the idea that tech for boys is total bullshit.

Young people have a lot to contribute. Opportunity for a lot of products because of the freshness of their outlook. You don’t have to learn to code.  Other parts of the industry are ossified , but this is so open.” (my emphasis)

We wrapped up the conversation after 45 minutes. My day was already made! What an inspiration. Thanks, Alexandra!

More Evidence #IoT has Arrived: CNBC Docu ToNite

Posted on 18th September 2013 in Internet of Things, M2M

On the heels of Tom Friedman’s Sunday NYT column, here’s more evidence the IoT is achieving mainstream recognition: CNBC will air a 1-hour documentary tonight, titled “Rise of the Machines,” 9 PM EDT tonight.

The blurb for the show says, breathlessly:

“All around us, there’s a technological revolution underway powered by devices as small as a grain of rice. They are sensors, capable of tracking and recording everything we do. They’re in our smartphones, our cars, our appliances, even our bodies, and they’re connected to the Internet to share information and make our world smarter. Virtually all products that use electricity – from toasters and coffeemakers to jet engines and MRIs – now have the ability to ‘talk’ to each other, and to us. And, what they have to say is profoundly transforming our lives – the way we travel, treat disease, and enjoy our homes.”

Yep.

Segments in the show will include:

Should be interesting. Insightful or just skimming the surface? We’ll see!

PS: thanks to my book agent, Mike Snell, for tip on this one!

 

It’s Official: Tom Friedman Anoints the IoT; Plus Jobs Issue Is Raised!

Posted on 16th September 2013 in 3-D printing, Internet of Things, M2M, maintenance, manufacturing, services

OK, the Internet of Things is officially a Big Thing: Tom “World is Flat” Friedman wrote about it in the Sunday NY Times.

Friedman, searching for evidence of American “exceptionalism” in a bleak landscape of Capitol Hill paralysis, etc. zeroed in on GE’s “Industrial Internet” initiatives as a ray of hope. As he wrote,

“I wanted to see what new technologies, and therefore business models — and therefore jobs — it might be spawning that public policy, and education policy, might enhance. I have no idea whether or how G.E. will profit from any of these breakthroughs, but I saw the outlines there of three radically new business trends that the United States should want to dominate.”

One of those themes was how 3-D printing could streamline the design and production process.

The second, which I wrote about earlier, was the concept of crowdsourcing design, in particular the contest GE held to design a new jet turbine mount (more about that later!!!).

Finally, Friedman zeroed in on the IoT, specifically widespread use of sensors:

“Lastly, we are on the cusp of what G.E. calls ‘the Industrial Internet’ or the ‘Internet of Things’ — meaning that every major part of a G.E. jet engine, locomotive or turbine is now equipped with online sensors that constantly measure and broadcast every aspect of performance. Computers capture all this big data and use it to improve everything from the flight path to energy efficiency.”

He gave several examples, such as wind turbines and hospital beds, where data from sensors can help to optimize efficiency and cut operating costs. He pointed out that the data allows GE to create new services “… that offer not just to manage an airline’s or railroad’s engines, but how fast all its planes or trains go, how flight and train schedules are coordinated and even how its equipment is parked to get optimal performance and energy efficiency (aside to marketing managers: what kinds of services would the IoT allow you to introduce, perhaps replacing actual sales of products with leases based on use? Think about it!).

Friedman concludes, “Watch this space, even if Washington doesn’t: When everything and everyone becomes connected, and complexity is free and innovation is both dirt-cheap and can come from anywhere, the world of work changes.”

Indeed! Nice to have someone with Friedman’s clout recognizing the IoT is a paradigm shift!

MEANWHILE: Make certain to read the comments following the column. They are primarily negative, and zero in on one thing: the IoT’s threat to jobs. In particular, the critics focused on the GE engine mount design contest.  One was particularly pointed:

“According to CNNMoney, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt pocketed $25.8 million in total compensation in 2012. That’s about $20,000 every hour and a half. How come 8 geniuses cost only 90 minutes of CEO time?”

You’ve gotta agree, $20,000 ($7,000 to the winner) is a pretty paltry sum considering what GE gets in return, and given readers’ suspicions that companies may let go their salaried designers and instead exploit freelancers (I’ve thought the same about some of the incentives offered by Innocentive member companies for some of the crowdsourcing projects that they’ve offered), you can bet that there will be more criticisms in the future if this becomes a common practice.

The IoT will undoubtably result in loss of some jobs — disruptive technologies do that — although optimists say they will create jobs as well. But if companies don’t want to reap a lot of criticism for their IoT initiatives, they’d better put some thought into the job creation aspect as well!

 

Could IoT Allow Do-over for Privacy, Security — & Trust?

Posted on 13th September 2013 in communication, management, privacy, security

Expect to be reading a lot here about privacy and security between now and my panel on those issues at the IoT Summit in DC, Oct. 1 & 2, as I prep to ask the panel questions!

Here’s another, from Stacy Higginbotham (BTW, she does a great podcast on IoT issues!), based on a conversation with ARM CTO Mike Muller. It’s reassuring to see that this IoT-leading firm is taking privacy and security seriously. Even more refreshingly, theirs is a nuanced and thoughtful view.

Muller told Higginbotham that IoT vendors should learn from some of the missteps on privacy on the Web so far, and make amends:

“’We should think about trust as who has access to your data and what they can do with it. For example, I’ll know where you bought something, when you bought it, how often and who did you tweet about it.

“When you put the long tail of lots of bits of information and big data analytics associated with today’s applications we can discern a lot. And people are not thinking it through. … I think it’s the responsibility of the industry that, as people connect, to make them socially aware of what’s happening with their data and the methods that are in place to make connections between disparate sets of data (my emphasis). In the web that didn’t happen, and the sense of lost privacy proliferated and it’s all out there. People are trying to claw that back and implement privacy after the fact.”

Higginbotham adds that “… what troubles Muller is that today, there’s nothing that supports trust and privacy in the infrastructure associated with the internet of things.”

What struck me, as someone who used to earn his living doing corporate crisis management, is that one of the critical issues in trust (or lack thereof) is guilt by association may not be logically valid, but is emotionally powerful: if people’s preconception of IoT privacy and security standards is that they’re simply an extension of Internet ones, there’s likely to be trouble.

She goes on to differentiate between security, privacy — and trust.

“Trust is the easiest to define and the hardest to implement. It relies on both transparency and making an effort to behave consistently ….  When it comes to connected devices and apps, trust is probably most easily gained by explaining what you do with people’s data: what you share and with whom. It might also extend to promises about interoperability and supporting different platforms. Implicitly trust with connected devices also means you will respect people’s privacy and follow the best security practices….

“Privacy is more a construct of place as opposed to something associated with a specific device. So a connected camera on a public street is different from a connected camera inside your home. It’s easy to say that people shouldn’t be able to just grab a feed from inside your home — either from a malicious hack or the government (or a business) doing a random data scrape. But when it comes to newer connected devices like wearables it gets even more murky: Consider that something like a smart meter can share information about the user to someone who knows what to look for.

“So when thinking about the internet of things and privacy, it’s probably useful to start with thinking about the data the device generates….

(As for security:) “To protect privacy when everything is connected will require laws that punish violations of people’s privacy and draw lines that companies and governments can’t step over; but it will also require vigilance by users. To get this right, users should be reading the agreements they click through when they connect a device, but companies should also create those agreements, especially around data sharing transparent, in a way that inspires trust.

Governments and companies need to think about updating laws for a connected age and set criteria about how different types of data are transported and shared. Health data might still need the HIPAA-levels of regulations, but maybe looser standards can prevail for connected thermostats.”

Sounds to me as if there’s a role in these complex issues for all of us: vendors, government, and users.

But the one take-away that I have from Muller’s remarks is that IoT vendors must realize they have to earn users trust, and that’s going to require a combination of technical measures and unambiguous, plain-English communication with users about who owns their data and how it will be used. To me, that means not hiding behind the lawyers and agate-type legal disclaimers, but clear, easy-to-understand declarations about users’ rights to their data and companies’ need to directly ask them for access, displayed prominently, with the default being that the user completely denies access, and must opt in for it to be shared. 

What do you think?

Higginbotham concludes that “we need to stop freaking out about the dangers of connected devices and start having productive discussions about implementing trust and security before the internet of things goes the way of the web. Wonderful, free and a total wild west when it comes to privacy.” Hopefully, that’s what will happen during our October 1st panel.

Good Paper by Mercatus on IoT Privacy and Security

Posted on 12th September 2013 in privacy, security

I’m politically on the liberal, not the libertarian side, but I’ve come to respect the libertarian Mercatus Center, in large part because of the great work Jerry Brito has done there on governmental transparency.

As part of my preparation to moderate a panel on security and privacy at the IoT Summit on October 1st in DC, I just read a great paper on the issue by Mercatus’ Adam Thierer.

In comments submitted to the FTC for its November workshop on these issues titled “Privacy and Security Implications of the Internet of Things,” Thierer says “whoa” to those who would have the FTC and others quickly impose regulations on the IoT in the name of protecting privacy and security.

Opposing pre-emptive, “precautionary” regulations, he instead argues for holding back:

“…. an “Anti-Precautionary Principle” is the better default here and would generally hold that:

“1. society is better off when technological innovation is not preemptively restricted;

“2. accusations of harm and calls for policy responses should not be premised on hypothetical worst-case scenarios; an

“3. remedies to actual harms should be narrowly tailored so that beneficial uses of technology are not derailed.”

He reminds us that, when introduced, such everyday technologies as the phone (you know, the old  on-the-wall kind..) and photography were opposed by many as invasions of privacy, but social norms quickly adapted to embrace them. He quotes Larry Downes, who has written, “After the initial panic, we almost always embrace the service that once violated our visceral sense of privacy.”

Rather than imposing limits in advance, Thierer argues for a trial-and-error approach to avoid unnecessary limits to experimentation — including learning from mistakes.

He points out that social norms often emerge that can substitute for regulations to govern acceptable use of the new technology.

In conclusion, Thierer reminds us that there are already a wide range of laws and regulations on the book that, by extension, could apply to some of the recent IoT outrages:

“…  many federal and state laws already exist that could address perceived harms in this context. Property law already governs trespass, and new court rulings may well expand the body of such law to encompass trespass by focusing on actual cases and controversies, not merely imaginary hypotheticals. State ‘peeping Tom’ laws already prohibit spying into individual homes. Privacy torts—including the tort of intrusion upon seclusion—may also evolve in response to technological change and provide more avenues of recourse to plaintiffs seeking to protect their privacy rights.”

Along the lines of my continuing screed that IoT manufacturers had better take action immediately to tighten their own privacy and security precautions, Thierer isn’t letting them off the hook:

“The public will also expect the developers of IoT technologies to offer helpful tools and educational methods for controlling improper usages. This may include ‘privacy-by-design’ mechanisms that allow the user to limit or intentionally cripple certain data collection features in their devices. ‘Only by developing solutions that are clearly respectful of people’s privacy, and devoting an adequate level of resources for disseminating and explaining the technology to the mass public’ can industry expect to achieve widespread adoption of IoT technologies.”

So get cracking, you lazy IoT developers (yes, you smirking over there in the corner…) who think that security and privacy are someone else’s business: if you don’t act, regulators may step in, and stiffle innovation in the name of consumer protection. You’ll have no one to blame but yourselves.

It’s a good read — hope you’ll check it out!

 

The Hill Publishes Op-Ed on IoT Security and Privacy

Posted on 11th September 2013 in privacy, security, US government

Earlier this week, The Hill, the highly-respected Capitol Hill newspaper, published an op-ed co-authored by Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors and me on the ever-important topic of IoT privacy and security (or lack thereof!).

In it, we warned that “on the heels of the NSA scandal, news of security problems’ threat to privacy may cripple the IoT before it achieves its promise.”

We went on to explain that:

“The record on security and privacy is not reassuring.

“The Obama administration has almost entirely ignored the Internet of Things (by contrast, it’s frequently mentioned by the Chinese leadership, which has invested massive amounts in the technology) . The president has never mentioned it, and the FTC is the only federal agency that has begun to protect IoT privacy and security.”

We called for public-private collaboration to make IoT security and privacy a priority:

“Individual companies must make privacy and security a priority. Opaque user agreements such as Facebook’s letting the service provider remarket or redeploy user data won’t be acceptable. A recent INEX study of one multi-billion industrial market revealing 96 percent of industrial equipment owner/operators believe they own data from their machines, and access to it is theirs to determine — not the machine’s builder or service providers that connect it. Customers must legally own their online data, determine who has rights to what, and sharing must be “opt in”, with ZERO sharing as the default.

“As for security, companies should explore Resilient Networking, a concept developed for the Department of Homeland Security framing new approaches to network/cyber security in more connected, distributed, automated, and dynamic digital networks.

“But individual efforts aren’t as important as collaborative ones, again, because of the data-sharing that is central to the IoT’s transformative power. We’re encouraged by formation of the IPSO Alliance and the IoT Consortium, which make security and privacy a priority.

“The president must also become involved in this issue. One reason is that the IoT will benefit government: cities worldwide are already applying the IoT, and it can make government in general more effective and responsive. Working closely with the private sector is a priority because 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the electric grid, pipelines and chemical plants, is in private hands, and is the focus of IoT initiatives such as a the “smart grid” to make them more interconnected and reliable – but also more vulnerable to a coordinated attack.”

That’s our opinion on this crucial issue. What’s yours?

P.S. A reminder that these issues will be front and center in  the panel on security and privacy that I will moderate at the IoT Summit, to be held October 1st and 2nd at the National Press Club in DC. Don’t miss it!

I’ll moderate D.C. panel on IoT privacy and security!

Posted on 5th September 2013 in privacy, security, Uncategorized

Huzzah!  As you know, I’ve been repeating the mantra that, as technological barriers such as battery size disappear, the most important obstacle threatening full development of the Internet of Things is the linked issues of privacy and security.

That’s why I’m quite honored to announce I’ll be hosting a panel on those issues at the 2013 M2M and Internet of Things Global Summit, to be held October 1 and 2 at the National Press Club in DC! 

It’s an impressive panel:

Other panels at the summit will discuss a related issue, device security; actualizing the IoT’s benefits; financing the IoT; IoT devices in the 4G era; and global standards.

Major speakers include:

  •  Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman, FTC
  • Chris Vein, Chief Innovation Officer, The World Bank
  • Kevin Petersen, Senior Vice President, Digital Life, AT&T
  • Ed Tiedemann, Fellow and Head of Standards, Qualcomm
  • David Hoffman, Director of Security Policy and Global Privacy Officer, Intel Corporation
  • Alicia Asín, Co-Founder and CEO, Libelium
  • Chad Jones, VP Product Strategy, Xively
  • Chris Rezendes, President, INEX Advisors
  • Doug Merritt, Senior Vice President, Product, Solutions & Industry Marketing, Cisco

It should be a great conference. Sign up now! See you there!

PS: What questions do you think I should ask the panelists?