Highlights of 2015 TiECon Part III – IoT Track

Introduction & Backgrounder:

This is the third and final article on this year’s TiECon conference. It covers the Internet of Things (IoT) track with emphasis on Cisco’s closing Keynote presentation. The first two articles on TiECon 2015, as well as others by this author can be read here.

Gartner Research defines the Internet of Things as “the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states of the external environment.”

For years, the biggest issues for IoT have been worries about security and privacy. Despite lots of hype, there is no definitive set of standards and connectivity options for various IoT industry verticals. That includes the identification of MAC/PHY, protocol stacks and message formats.

In an excellent blog post, Chris Kocher- Founder and Managing Director of Grey Heron identifies five key IoT issues that are said to be challenges areas: Security; Trust and Privacy; Complexity, confusion and integration issues; Evolving architectures, protocol wars and competing standards; Concrete use cases and compelling value propositions.

Compliance will continue to be a major issue in medical and assisted-living applications, which could have life and death ramifications. New compliance frameworks to address the IoT’s unique issues will evolve. Social and political concerns in this area may also hinder IoT adoption. Related to entrepreneurs:

“Slower adoption and unanticipated development resource requirements will likely slip schedules and slow time to revenues, which will require additional funding for IoT projects and longer ‘runways’ for startups.”

Battle of IoT Platforms & Protocols:

This TiECon session promised to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of different IoT platforms and protocols that are available to build successful products. Three panelists from semiconductor companies (Intel, Marvell and MediaTek) described their own hardware/software portfolio without relating them to ongoing work in the various IoT consortiums and alliances. Representatives from Amazon Web Services (AWS) and WSO2 provided perspectives from a cloud service provider and middleware provider point of view, respectively.

Panelists:

  • Dr. Manas Saksena, Sr. Director of Technology & Marketing, Platform Solutions Group at Marvell Semiconductor
  • Geetha Dabir, Vice President, Internet of Things at Intel
  • Marc Naddell, Vice President MediaTek Labs at MediaTek
  • Jinesh Varia, Technology Evangelist at Amazon Web Services
  • John Mathon, Vice President of Enterprise Evangelism at WSO2

Mr. Mathon said that IoT value will be created by the integration of new devices with information from them analyzed in the cloud. Mr. Varia opined that would not always be the case as there might very well be on premises servers that provide control and data analytics for devices. There’s also the issue of IoT device to device communications as envisioned by the AllSeen Alliance.

Ms. Dabir noted that Intel’s IoT platform was not just silicon, but also included “intelligence analytics” that was being developed by Intel Labs. The goal is to understand the hardware environment of things (e.g. motors, sensors, etc), record status and do predictive maintenance¹ (the ability to accurately diagnose and prevent failures in real-time is a major advantage for companies and might be vital for critical infrastructure applications). Intel uses its WindRiver subsidiary’s Operating System as part of the company’s IoT platform.

Note 1. An example of predictive maintenance for a wind turbine farm for renewable energy production: A wind on-site sensor-equipped systems could collect data from multiple turbines, not just a single turbine, enabling failure analysis to be performed to predict when a system or component is likely to malfunction due to stress or overheating, and thereby enabling better operator or autonomous decision making for maintenance.

For example, if there is a high likelihood of the gearbox breaking down within a turbine, then switching to a lower performance mode and a reduced mechanical load, while still delivering 80 percent efficiency, could mean continued operation and further electricity generation for several weeks. This would allow scheduled maintenance that combines the repair and maintenance of more than just one turbine.

IoT Track Closing Keynote by Anand Oswal (VP Engineering, Cisco):

Here are the key points made by Mr. Oswal about IoT/IoE:

  • The pace of change is accelerating through digital content, the Internet and the mobile economy.
  • Disrupting tech trends are coming from social, mobile, big data/analytics, cloud and now IoT.
  • The Internet of Everything (IoE) includes: people, processes, things and data.
  • IoE is characterized by: cheap and reliable sensors/devices, ubiquitous wireless connectivity (which standard: 2G/3G/4G, WiFi, Zigbee, BlueTooth, Near Field Communications, other?)
  • Industries to be impacted by IoE include: aviation, rail, oil & gas, heavy machinery, power generation, health care, and smart cities.
  • The IoE future will bring: self refilling bottles, crop harvest alerts, smart carts, and driver-less cars.
  • IoE can be equated to the impact that the Industrial Revolution had on the world (post TiECon comment – a very bold statement in this author’s opinion).

Cisco is working with partner companies on several real world IoE examples, which include:

  1. Mining precious metals: WiFi network combined with sensors on both workers and equipment; video surveillance of miners and engineers working underground.
  2. Asset monitoring: Tire company increases its efficiency in real-time.
  3. IoE ready retailer: Dynamic optimization of store staffing based on check-out line monitoring throughout the store. Big Data/ Analytics at the retail store combines the power of mobile, social, data and cloud.

IoE poses new challenges and opportunities for industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and smart cities. What’s needed for IoE includes:

  • A converged, managed network that might include both a closed proprietary network (vertical industry dependent) and an open IP-based network.
  • Operations and resilience at scale, including self management of devices/processes & automated self-healing/failure recovery.
  • Security for all industries and applications.
  • Distributed intelligence, especially at the edge of the network (oil & gas).
  • Application enablement (Cisco IoX was provided as an example).
  • Big data – geographically distributed with real time actions that affect business processes.

Cisco is a charter member of the IoT World Forum which is “an annual event that brings together the best and brightest thinkers, practitioners, and innovators from business, government, and academia to accelerate the market adoption of the Internet of Things.”

Cisco is working with entrepreneurs globally through a variety of new funds and initiatives – Entrepreneurship Residence Program, Startup Accelerators and IoE Innovation Centers. The company has funded² six IoT/IoE related start-ups in 2014 and has allocated $150M for early stage start-up investments.

The IoT start-ups funded by Cisco include:

  • Ayla Networks: “Agile IoT platform end-to-end solutions that allow manufacturers to turn home controls, HVAC, appliances, lighting and other everyday products into intelligent devices.”
  • Pawaa: “SecureCARE software for data leak prevention.”
  • ParStream: “Analytics platform built for large-scale IoT solutions utilizing massively parallel processing technologies.”
  • DGLogik: “Innovative software solutions that enable, drive and visualize the IoT; connecting and visualizing all things IoT”

Authors Note: “..” descriptions of the above start-ups was taken from their websites.


Note 2. Gartner Group has estimated that IoT companies will generate $309 billion in revenue per year by 2020, half of which will come from startups. A lot of that money will find its way back to companies like Cisco (Qualcomm, and Intel are also investing in this space) as IoT drives up demand for hardware components and network equipment. It certainly makes business sense for established tech companies to help the IoT/IoE market lift off and gain critical mass.


Cisco has started an Incubation Program Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) which supports early-stage business-to-business companies. This new entity will collaborate with Cisco and its global partner ecosystem to build IoE, Big Data/ Analytics and Smart City solutions. Anand said that start-ups Cisco has invested in are “paired with a business unit/group,” assumingly to work together on a combined solution for their IoE deliverables.

End Note:  We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive and detailed three part series on TiECon 2015. Please leave a comment in the box below this article and email me any questions you might have on the material covered:  alan@viodi.com.

References:

Video interview at TiE TV lounge with Anand Oswal:

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