Data Security is the Biggest Challenge - Slows IoT Adoption

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Bigtronics Data Lab is an IoT, Big Data Analytics organisation that specialises in digital transformation, consulting and business solutions to various industry verticals. The company is serving smart industry segment through its technology partners – Cloudera, Confluent Apache Kafka and Couchbase – in consulting, product designing and end-to-end implementation services.

Narendra Singh Chauhan, Director & Chief Technology Officer at Bigtronics Data Lab, in an interview with EFY bureau, discusses about evolution and future of IoT, challenges in IoT adoption, India’s readiness in IoT and much more.

Excerpts:

Q. In your opinion, which are the top 3 technologies that are shaping the future of IoT? How are they influencing the future of IoT?


The Internet of Things (IoT) is “a network of Internet connected objects, able to collect and exchange data.” To put it simply – “You have ‘things’ that sense and collect data and send it to the internet. Network of devices such as vehicles and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators and connectivity, allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.”

The top three technologies that will govern the future of IoT are:

  1. IoT driven by AI/ML: Artificial intelligence (AI) will be applied to a wide range of IoT information, including video, still images, speech, network traffic activity and sensor data. AI and machine learning (ML) will be applied for deeper analysis of data collected from IoT devices and sensors in real-time scenarios. This analysis will help in data-driven decision-making.
  2. Cloud computing: Using cloud capabilities to the network edge, data is processed and analysed at the edge or close to its source issues like security, bandwidth, latency and reliability.
  3. Blockchain in IoT: As the IoT matures and becomes more widely deployed, a wide range of social, legal and ethical issues will grow in importance. These include ownership of data and the deductions made from it. Data security has been one of the biggest challenges that slow down IoT adoption. Blockchain has the potential to address this issue as data exchange happens over a distributed and secure network. The transactions are stored in the form of chain of blocks which are very hard to tamper, hence ensures security. Use of blockchain-based IoT solutions will not only enhance security but also enable greater transparency and improved audit-level tracking of IoT-based transactions.

Q. Between the cellular and NB-IoT/LPWA families of wireless technologies – which one are you betting upon? Why?

NB-IoT is an efficient, cost effective technology for a wide range of IoT applications. Any devices that have low energy consumption, low data transfer demands and are geographically dispersed or remote, can benefit from its application.

We are working on NB-IoT Open Labs for JNPT and telecom sector in India that will be available for customers, partners and vendors to test their applications, devices and chip sets in a secure, live environment.

Services offered at our Open Labs include:

  • NB-IoT device test for network integration
  • E2E testing from device to network, and from network to the internet and user applications
  • Power consumption testing
  • Extended coverage testing (ECL0/ECL1/ECL2)
  • NB-IoT GCF Certification

Q. How’s the development of standards (or lack of it) affecting the adoption of IoT?

Development of standards is an important factor. When the IoT matures and is widely deployed, a wide range of social, legal and ethical issues will grow in importance. These include ownership of data and the deductions made from it, algorithmic bias, privacy, and compliance with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation.

Successful deployment of an IoT solution demands that it’s not just technically effective but also socially acceptable.

Governance framework that ensures appropriate behaviour in the creation, storage, use and deletion of information related to IoT projects will become increasingly important. Governance ranges from simple technical tasks such as device audits and firmware updates to more complex issues such as the control of devices and the usage of information they generate.

Q. How ready is India’s tech eco-system to develop and deploy IoT solutions?

The Government of India is one of the few that has clear and enabling IoT-related policies and regulatory frameworks in place. India’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeiTY) has already published a draft IoT policy document to ensure the country captures a 5-6 per cent share of the potential US$ 15 billion global bonanza by 2020. The paper covers IoT-specific training provisions as well as research and development (R&D) initiatives to support new IoT-enabled products and services.

The number of IoT devices in India is expected to reach more than 1 billion by 2020. Increased penetration of affordable devices, combined with cloud computing, analytics and rising consumer expectations are driving the rapid growth of the IoT market in the country.

The Government’s initiatives like Digital India and Smart Cities Mission have given a great boost to IoT adoption. Few of the Smart Cities projects have been implemented and a large number of them are in progress. These smart city solutions are largely IoT-based solutions.

Q. Do you foresee India’s tech industry developing its own IP and branded products/solutions in the IoT arena?

The IoT ecosystem in India is evolving, with support from industry bodies and government initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, which aims to create a robust manufacturing ecosystem in the country. Such integrated approaches will provide the necessary incentive to build domestic ecosystem of IoT original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and solution providers.

Looking at the size of the IoT ecosystem in India today, there are about 120 IoT focused organisations, with 60-65 per cent being startups which are working to create their own IPs. Venture capital firms have invested over US$ 60 million in Indian IoT startups since 2014. The opportunity is spread across hardware, software platform and applications providers.

Q. Do you see the Open Source phenomenon play an important role in the IoT arena?

Apache Software Foundation’s Hadoop Ecosystem and other open source products, which are a part of it, efficiently capture, store, process and drive insights from data generated from IoT. Proprietary IoT platforms are finding themselves tied to limited functionality, with rigid architectures that are not interoperable.

In summary, open source software solutions are gaining more precedence than proprietary solutions.

Q. What’s your opinion on the state of security available for IOT solutions? How do you see the evolution from hereon, w.r.t threats and counter-measures?

Security is the most significant area of technical concern for organisations deploying IoT systems. This is because organisations often don’t have control over the source and nature of the software and hardware being utilised in IoT initiatives. Securing data, at each transformation stage of IoT solutions from source, storage, process and transformation, is of significant importance. Information security officers ensure that the right staff is involved in reviewing any decisions that involve purchasing IoT devices and embedded operating systems.

As counter-attacks, alerting system should be deployed with in-built ML/AI, whenever outsider attacks happen (including Malware, Hackers), unauthorised access to data and network.

Q. W.r.t. edge vs cloud – where do you think will we see faster development in the next year or two?

The advent of IoT devices and wide deployment of IoT system require large amounts of data capturing, storage and processing power in an uninterrupted manner without any limitations. Due to multiple scalability factor including processing power, ad hoc storage capacity requirements can be addressed and fulfilled by hosting it on cloud rather than on premises.

Deploying IoT system on the fly, scaling horizontally and having processing capacity more compare to on-premises data centers, can be done easily with the help of Google Cloud Systems, AWS and Microsoft Azure. The shift from centralised and cloud-to-edge architectures is well under way in the IoT space.

Open Source solutions having low latency data processing and perform much faster analytics closer to the source gaining importance. Combining cloud-based and edge computing solutions is the need of the hour.

Q. What are the key technologies missing, which when made available, will accelerate adoption of IoT across the globe?

Majority of IoT endpoint devices use conventional processor chips, with low-power ARM architectures being particularly popular. However, traditional instruction sets and memory architectures aren’t well-suited to all the tasks that endpoints need to perform. For example, the performance of deep neural networks (DNNs) is often limited by memory bandwidth, rather than processing power.

The IoT user experience (UX) covers a wide range of technologies and design techniques. It will be driven by four factors: new sensors, new algorithms, new experience architectures and context, and socially aware experiences. With an increasing number of interactions occurring with things that don’t have screens and keyboards, organisations’ UX designers will be required to use new technologies and adopt new perspectives if they want to create a superior UX that reduces friction, locks in users and encourages usage and retention.

By 2023, it is expected that new special-purpose chips will reduce the power consumption required to run a DNN, enabling new edge architectures and embedded DNN functions in low-power IoT endpoints. This will support new capabilities such as data analytics integrated with sensors, and speech recognition included in low cost battery-powered devices. CIOs are advised to take note of this trend as silicon chips enabling functions such as embedded AI will in turn enable organisations to create highly innovative products and services.