The perfect role for operators in IoT?

July 17, 2016

goldThe telecom industry got a head start in the early days of IoT aka M2M. Ericsson took the lead with the 50B connected devices mantra which translated well into an obvious role for huge operators with millions of connected users and massive investments in wireless networks. And it went without saying that the obvious providers of technology and solutions would be the telecom vendors already in the family. This was a clever and well executed plan by primarily Ericsson since the operators were looking for the next massive growth opportunity after having connected most people and given them data buckets. Operators went for it with one primary caveat – we will not only provide connectivity.

Now, only few years later IoT has gone from a connectivity focused baby to a data centric young adult. IoT is only a new phase of Internet – we’re adding things to people and businesses already connected – which explains the speed of development. From a usage point of view, Internet including IoT and the enabled services and solutions will remain customer focused and very fragmented and the operators will continue working hard to figure out their role beyond connectivity.

Here’s what I would do. The two major challenges for IoT are security and privacy. The smaller one is security since we are used to repair and plug holes as we go, and since we tend to have a very short memory. But privacy is really challenging since nobody knows how the requirements will develop over time. When your data is out you can never get it back why any service will need a solid privacy architecture to cope with future requirements without having to rebuild from scratch. The user must own his or her data and decide who should get hold of it.

But privacy is not only a technical issue why we need trusted partners to help us manage our data. Today most of us trust serious banks to manage our financial data as an example. Our trusted partner needs big muscles to force and enforce proper agreements and obviously have to walk the talk themselves. Operators already manage a lot of our private data and provided they do that well, this is a great position to build the trusted partner role on. The trusted partner role can also be required to build and orchestrate a fair and robust sub-eco system in a specific market like smart homes or connected cars.

So why is privacy of importance anyway? Today most users of internet applications sign up without even reading the agreements. One often hear “I’ve nothing to hide” as the key argument to avoid the hassles of reading and thinking. But with today’s capabilities in data analytics, all digital traces and information we leave behind can quite easily be used to picture an individual, understand how a product is designed, see patterns, understand security procedures and arrangements and so on. In the wrong hands this can be really bad and this type of information is already very useful for burglars to know when people are away and industrial espionage for example. A small example of what could, technically, be in use today is recruiters knowing without asking that a female candidate is pregnant, don’t exercise or have a heart problem.

I am absolutely convinced neither consumers nor policymakers will let this development continue as today. And this is where I believe operators with a relevant brand can find their role in IoT beyond connectivity. A role which will be increasingly important and valuable as far out as I can see. Two good examples of operators I see moving in this direction today are Telefonica and Telia Company (see FAQ 6 and 7).

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Trusted partners are key to IoT

February 7, 2016

trusted partnerIoT will make major impact on how we do things and what can be done, across industries and borders. Adding things to the Internet creates a massive opportunity in pair with what Internet have done to us to date. The major challenges are as always to be found in organisations and processes, rarely in the technology as such. However, if we cut the cake differently, and look at it from people making bets on creating and implementing IoT products and services, I would argue that the two biggest challenges are security and privacy. And security is the smaller of these two big ones! We have always had security challenges, but they can be mitigated and fixed on the go. Fixing bugs and problems are part of the development so to speak. If someone finds a back-door and steal our jewels, we will install a lock on the door and hope people will forget it, if you see what I mean. The vendor of the door takes a hit but people have a tendency to forget quite rapidly.

But with privacy it’s a matter of architecture and trusted partners. If data that at some point in the future is considered sensitive is “out there”, it’s too late to take it back. In the digital world nobody knows how many copies there are, who has them, what they use it for, and so on. Most countries have laws and policies for this already, sure, but the first issue is that policymakers probably will shape up rules and policies down the road. Nobody will be badly punished for data that is made available before the changes, obviously, but it might take fundamental changes of systems and services to meet the new policies if the architecture isn’t there already. The second, and much more difficult challenge is that people themselves might change their views over time on what is acceptable and not. Such changed requirements are neither planned nor managed within countries or companies. They might come and go, spread across by social media and gather less or many people behind. And policy makers are always influenced by public trends, media etc. so these “unmanaged public policies” can force rapid legal changes as well.

If your clients suddenly believe that the data they “produce” in their homes or when they shop belongs to them, it will be hard to keep them happy if you don’t let them control it. And even more so if you sell the data to third parties. And to let users be in control of their data requires an architecture supporting that – it’s not something hard to add on the go.

I believe connected cars, homes, cities, cloths, pets, shops, bikes, gardens, etc. sooner or later will meet privacy requirements from policymakers and people that will be necessary to meet and very challenging for those without an architecture to supporting. The role of a trusted partner will be absolutely key and for those being trusted it will be a fantastic foundation for creating brand value and profitable business. The jury is out who can take this important and valuable role. I believe it is a national player and I put my bet on a responsible mobile operator with a solid brand.

Inspiring examples: managing buildings with drones

November 5, 2015

dji-phantom-3Swedish real estate giant Riksbyggen develops and maintains buildings across the country since 75 years. Some 350.000 people live in buildings managed by Riksbyggen. Maintenance of buildings is expensive, dangerous and surrounded by a lot of  regulations and policies. Just imagine climbing snow-covered rooftops in the cold and dark Swedish winter. Riksbyggen have an innovative and business focused CIO who started study the development of drones for building maintenance 2008 to try save money, time, lives and the planet. Early this year they tried the DJI Phantom med 4K-camera and the concept worked. An inspection takes some 10 minutes instead of two hours and the result is digitally documented in 4K, ready to show the customer and to be saved for planning of future maintenance etc. Just to check the snow indicators on the roofs takes a couple of minutes for a whole block instead of having to climb up on each roof to take a look. With an IR camera mounted on the drone additional checks can be done. Today Riksbyggen has 9 trained operators and are currently running a pilot with a couple of customers. Imagine how many similar applications there are for drones to revolutionise!


Smart Homes For Real

January 7, 2015

_799128_pursepad300Smart Homes is a much talked about opportunity for IoT. It has what it takes to attract a lot of companies and people including those owning, managing, visiting and living or working in them. And beyond that also companies selling products and services for them. And the concept of smart homes is fluffy enough to include the three big deliverables of IoT: sustainability, safety and efficiency, as well as things like economy, comfort, fashion and entertainment.

We all know that a specific solution for every single task or device isn’t good enough. So the approach to make a remote controller for the toaster, one for the fridge and one for the kitchen fan (I actually saw a dedicated remote controller for the fan in Italy and I’m still thinking about the use-case) will not make the job. And we also know that “this is THE network for the SmartHome” approach isn’t taking us there since we already have a lot of different infrastructure and networks in houses and we have a number of different more or less technical requirements on them.

The combination of these two insights makes it hard to come up with Smart Home solutions that will capture large parts of the market, especially if we leave aside new buildings where one can start from scratch. I suggest something like a cluster approach to the challenge where we try to combine infrastructure, applications and tools to provide attractive solutions for larger parts of the Smart Home challenges. Let me give you a couple of examples what that could look like:

  • The ultimate Media solution which uses IP networks to stream content easily and flexibly to and from devices and services (bring the best from Sonos, AirPlay, Spotify, Netflix, etc). Once installed you could add, change and remove hardware and software components easily.
  • A really secure managed infrastructure with a tough SLA for applications and services that require an infrastructure to really trust. Applications could be alarms, door locking systems, smoke detectors and other things you are ready to pay extra for if the service is guaranteed.
  • A kitchen app that interact with all your favourite Internet services for cooking and shopping, your kitchen appliances regardless of brand (or not?) and maybe energy monitoring and advice relating to the kitchen.

I have concluded that we will have at least three networks in our homes: an unmanaged Wi-Fi network which is already there, a managed very secure network with top-notch quality of service and a more generic but still managed network for things like home appliances. WAN solutions will generally speaking be too expensive and will just complement the LANs the way they always had. But some devices connected directly to a mobile network and/or narrow band WAN infrastructure like Sigfox will most certainly be part of the solutions.

One of the most interesting projects I’m currently involved in is a joint effort between a number of Swedish real estate owners and members of our alliance for Swedish IoT entrepreneurs (SMSE) with real estate focus. The request from the real estate owners was “a secure, robust and open service platform for multi-dwelling buildings” which they can install now, keep for years and have app developers to start bringing innovation to tenants, owners and maintenance staff.

We’re working with several technologies and one of the most interesting one is the well established Internet chat protocol XMPP since it provides a promising open architecture to deal with data integrity and privacy issues. We have already pulled together the bits and pieces required to run our first hackathon creating mobile apps on building automation systems talking XMPP. I’m looking forward to the next few months of this project which hopefully include a major hackathon demonstrating the power of this approach.


Inspiring example: Infracontrol makes cities talk

July 21, 2014

smartcityOne of the most talked about areas for Internet of Things is Smart Cities. Cities themselves invest to become one. Most of the large players in IoT focus on Smart Cities. There are events, predictions, articles and show cases everywhere and each and everyone use their own definition of Smart Cities. A city is a very complex and dynamic location which from an ICT point of view could be described as a system of systems. It is obvious that sub-systems could be more efficient using IoT solutions and that the overall system of systems could be improved if the data collected was shared cleverly between the systems. No wonder Smart Cities is a perfect topic to focus on both for suppliers and municipalities.

But how much smarter has cities become over the last years? Well, there are of course impressive reference cases here and there and a lot of sub-systems in a lot of cities have become better using IoT solutions. But the size and complexity of pulling it all together in a city is difficult to deal with both from practical and technical perspectives.

This is why I am really impressed by Infracontrol, their pragmatic approach to Smart Cities and what they have been able to do. They started about 20 years ago to help cities connecting mainly traffic related things like tunnel alarms, ventilation systems and traffic lights. As they grew bigger in several cities and with new applications they developed Infracontrol Online™ 2003 to connect cities and citizens for better services. Today they have 56 Swedish municipalities using Infracontrol Online™ and their first ones in Portugal in place as well. Their customers report 60% better service quality, 30% savings in maintenance expenses, a lot of energy savings and higher citizen satisfaction. Sounds smart to me! Needless to say Infracontrol is a member of  the Swedish SMSE-alliance!

Get inspired by Jenny Gustavsson’s 5 minute pitch on Infracontrol at Internet of Everything For Real™ 2014!


Inspiring examples: Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems – TPMS

September 23, 2013

TPMSVehicles with wrong tire pressure cause accidents and consume excess energy. Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) were developed to prevent these issues. The first passenger vehicle to adopt tire-pressure monitoring was the Porsche 959 in 1986 and today it is becoming a legal requirement in more and more countries. Car manufacturers have been introducing different TPNS systems more or less voluntarily but in the United States, as of 2008 and the European Union, as of 2012, all new passenger car models released must be equipped with a TPMS. Similar laws are on their way in Asia-Pacific.

TPMS are definitely complex from an engineering, communication and product point of view and the combined investment, including equipment in garages and motor vehicle inspection sites, the sensors in the tires and the receiving part of the in-car system is very big. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US estimates that 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year are attributable to crashes caused by underinflated tires (Bob Ulrich, Editor, at Modern Tire Dealer) so it seems like well working TPMS can help save lives, money and the planet. But every system like this is always a potential hacker target and Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina released a joint study some years ago indicating that they had succeeded to hack a car through the TPMS.
In any case, this is a typical M2M application – it’s been around for years, many of us have them, they are not SIM-based and they deliver on the three M2M promises: safety, sustainability and efficiency.

Let’s face the M2M security challenges

April 13, 2013

hackersInitially technical innovators focus all they have on making it do whatever they want their innovation to do. Shortly after the breaking news about their brand new product, solution or service we use to receive the follow-on news about problems with things like security, health impact, integrity or fair trade. The scope of the problems obviously relates to what the new thing actually is.

Lets face it, it has always been like this. Telephone systems, microwave ovens, TV set-top boxes, ATM:s, door locks, PCs and Wi-Fi networks are all examples of things that quite easily were possible to manipulate, at least initially. But when we connected people and businesses to the Internet the magnitude of the problem increased many times. Having almost everything using the same communication protocols and even the same network gained us a lot of efficiency but also raised the security bets drastically. Most attacks are not reported publicly but the ones we hear about are serious enough. Fire Eye claims one security attack to enterprises every third second, based on analysis of information on more than 89 million security related attacks reported. Some specific examples since last summer, picked up from Network World: 450.000 stolen passwords from Yahoo, 5,8 million passwords from LinkedIn, 1,5 million from eHarmony, 8 million online credentials from Gamigo and about 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers from South Carolina. And we all remember the series of password thefts at Sony some two years ago. We’re already at the point where this belongs to the daily news feed and is business as usual.

Now we are connecting also things to the Internet and we will inevitably enter a new era of security and integrity issues, yet on another scale. Imagine hackers manipulating traffic lights, road signs, railroad control systems, power grids, nuclear plants, TV broadcasts, elections, pacemakers, airplanes, stock exchanges or hospitals. Media is quite frequently presenting examples along those lines and even if it is hard to differ between urban legends and real life cases it is safe to say that security will be a very important part of the M2M industry.

Recent examples from media include the Techspot.com story about a security consultant and pilot who claims he can hijack a commercial airplane remotely with his Android app, a story about a hacked pacemaker in the US where almost five million pacemakers and implantable defibrillators have been sold the last five years and several stories about hacked cars including the most recent research from Rutger University and University of South Carolina where they manipulated cars in motion via the TPMS system. At the Hack in the Box conference in Amsterdam the other day electrical vehicle charging stations were identified as potential targets for hackers to cripple parts of the electricity grid.

If the issues of security, safety and integrity aren’t taken seriously by the industry they will slow down or even prevent deployment of M2M solutions. Since perception is reality we need to go beyond just fixing the issue – we also have to make people believe it is taken care of seriously.


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