IoT Tech Expo 2018: Highlights and Key Takeaways

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By Dan Shey | 4Q 2018 | IN-5336

Santa Clara, California, hosted the IoT Tech Expo North America on November 27 and 28, 2018. The expo also hosted the Blockchain Expo, the Cyber Security and Cloud Expo North America, and the AI and Big Data Expo. This foresight’s author chaired the “Developing for the IoT” conference track that covered a range of topics from the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and analytics to Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) networks and eSIM. The following foresight provides highlights from the track presentations and other conference activities.

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The IoT Tech Expo North America

NEWS


Santa Clara, California, hosted the IoT Tech Expo North America on November 27 and 28, 2018. The expo also hosted the Blockchain Expo, the Cyber Security and Cloud Expo North America, and the AI and Big Data Expo. This foresight’s author chaired the “Developing for the IoT” conference track that covered a range of topics from the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms and analytics to Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWA) networks and eSIM. The following foresight provides highlights from the track presentations and other conference activities.

Highlights

IMPACT


Rescue Projects: Eric Lenington, chief executive officer of ObjectSpectrum, provided some of the best examples of a common theme expressed by the IoT platform community. Many enterprises and suppliers continue to pursue IoT projects as a development activity facilitated by their own resources and know-how without leveraging the large community of IoT suppliers. Many times, these company’s efforts result in unworkable or unscalable IoT solutions that later become “rescue projects” for the IoT suppliers. Some reasons cited by Mr. Lenington for such failures included creating a custom device not designed for mass production, using a prototype platform for a full-scale rollout, and building an IoT solution without a sufficient market for demand.

New Wave of IoT Software and Middleware Platforms: Several relatively new IoT platform companies presented at the conference. They include Losant, DGLogik, ObjectSpectrum, and Vantiq. Losant, DGLogik, and Vantiq are specializing in rapid IoT application development but are relying on the enterprise customer or partner for device management services. ObjectSpectrum is targeting the hard-core developer who wants to leverage established, full-featured development environments for IoT app development. All companies are bringing a suite of tools to overcome issues with extracting data from IoT devices and to leverage cloud environments for IoT data storage and execution of business logic. Just as important, all are built on modern cloud and open-source tool sets to lower costs and enable scalability.

Using IoT for Safety: One of the panelists was from USAA, the Texas-based financial services group whose key client base are the people who serve in the U.S. military. Their interest in IoT is to leverage it not only to improve the lives of their clients but also to save lives. It is this latter point that was especially prescient due to the recent fires in California that claimed nearly 100 lives. Several experts noted that IoT could be used to more quickly detect forest fires so that the response time by fire and emergency services personnel could be reduced.

LPWA: There was a lot of discussion around the use of Cat-M and Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) for IoT deployments. There was frustration that the IoT networks based on these technologies lacked coverage, did not currently allow for interoperator roaming, and had very buggy network software. But there was also optimism for the possibilities of connecting numerous items to be used, for example, in monitoring consumables in hotel and convention center restrooms or in monitoring industrial equipment such as compressors.

New Gateway Subscription Model: Rigado is a gateway original equipment manufacturer who is changing not only the features of their gateway solutions but also how they offer and price gateway solutions. Their newest line of products allows deployment of applications and greater edge intelligence. Critical to supporting these new features is the gateway operating system that is based on Ubuntu. Ubuntu enables a microservices architecture for rapid application deployment and firmware upgrades with no impact on operational uptime. It is the power and flexibility of Ubuntu that is also allowing Rigato to change their revenue model from pure capital expenditure to an operating-expenditure subscription model of US$9 per month.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Voice Enablement: Geeta Chauhan, chief technology officer at DeepCloud AI, made a bold prediction that AI will automate application development such that the human contribution to writing code will be less about manual development and more about identifying required outcomes, with AI selecting and orchestrating application creation. This same group of panelists also prophesized that more human interaction with the IoT will be through voice interface instead of app interface. Indeed, the transformation to voice interaction is already underway via technologies that have enabled Amazon Alexa and is already being applied to interactions with industrial equipment.

eSIM: Embedded Subscriber Identification Module (eSIM) technology was the topic in three presentations in the “Developing for IoT” track. Telna, an IoT Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), is using eSIM technology to target mid-market companies who seek global connectivity. Tata MOVE, a key competitor, is also offering connectivity management to their services and encouraging application development through accessible application programming interfaces. Valid, the fifth largest SIM card supplier worldwide (in 2017), was also pushing the benefits of eSIM. Valid was promoting the benefits of eSIM for Global System for Mobile (GSM) network interoperability, security (e.g., antitheft, strong authentication, and secure software updates), and new business models (from global coverage to choice/change in MNO access). iBasis, a wholesale carrier for international phone calls, is using eSIM to create a global network for IoT devices.

Key Takeaways

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Overall there was plenty of optimism for the IoT at the show. This stemmed from two primary factors:

  1. Most suppliers believe that IoT is still in the early stages of deployment, due to the vast number of things still to be connected; more enterprises realize that do-it-yourself is not the best approach; and there is more availability of new connectivity enablement technologies such as LPWA and eSIM.
  2. There is a notion that a second generation of suppliers—who have learned from their pioneering competitors to create more efficient and scalable approaches to building IoT solutions—are emerging. These suppliers are leveraging open-source tools combined with laser-focused Internet Protocol (IP) to overcome app development challenges. In addition, these suppliers are recognizing that certain partners will do a better job at addressing IoT service capability, such as device management.

One company who not only encompassed many of these ideas but also had the most radical approach to address IoT deployment barriers was Helium. Helium is creating a new LPWA connectivity network that is built around a wireless hotspot, itself built on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and an open-source reference design. Each hotspot can cover approximately 100 square miles. While Helium can say it has introduced several innovations from a hardware and wireless protocol perspective, what is truly innovative is its network deployment strategy. Helium’s network deployment is crowd sourced—anyone can purchase and deploy the hotspots. But to encourage this community-driven network deployment, hotspot owners are paid for the use of their hotspots based on blockchain technology. Using this technology, usage is verified for the hotspot and paid for by the device owner that is seeking the Helium network access; rates are set by the hotspot owner. Overall, Helium believes that by leveraging the scale of crowd sourcing and by using innovative technologies and business models, they can remove a significant barrier to IoT growth, thereby opening network access similarly to what HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Transmission Control Protocol/IP (TCP/IP) did for the Internet.

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