By Eileesh Buckley, reporting on the recent IoT  event at University of Limerick.

One of the afternoon speakers on day 2 of UL’s inaugural IoT seminar answered a question raised the previous day: how do you connect a cow to the internet?

John O’Connell of CW Applied Technology answered not just the how, but also the why, of connecting a cow to the internet. O’Connell shared the example of his client Moocall, who produce a calving sensor.  The product solves a problem for farmers in monetary terms as well as making their life a bit easier. A number of speakers made the point that deployment of IoT needs to be to address a problem rather than “just because we can”.

O’Connell said: “ IoT is a solution in search of a problem.” He also highlighted the challenge of big data, he said: “a key door into big data is small data.”

In another agricultural example he shared the story of a farmer that wanted a sensor that would alert him when a particular gate on a field was opened.

While the big data approach would suggest capturing patterns and lots of other data, the customer only wanted one function from one piece of data, he didn’t need the complexities of big data. He might decide in the future that he wants extra data, but his immediate need was a single data point and action.

David Treacy from Rapid 7 likened the push to IoT to the goldrush in California, saying: “Everything was a bit disorderly,  it was the guys at the edge of the San Francisco trail who made the money, they sold the shovels.” In his comparison he raised the issue of a multitude of protocols and solutions for IoT, and he agreed with comments from day 1 when it was said that IoT will reduce to one or two dominant solutions. Treacy said: “The problem in this space, at the moment, is that you could pick the betamax. No one has the answers yet.”



VMware’s Richard Bennett concentrated his presentation on the intersection of IoT, the human factor and integrity. He said:” IoT has to meet human expectations if it’s to be successful.” Bennett raised the spectre of ransomware getting onto something like a car where an unscrupulous hacker might require payment to re-enable your brakes. He said: “It’s not security, it’s about integrity. Integrity is the biggest barrier to the adoption of the Internet of Things” At the end of his presentation he said: “It (IoT) leads back to two expectations: the internet of Things must perform as if though it were a human being with emotion. “But the Internet of Things can not be closed to aid security, it has to be open. Otherwise the value of context is lost.”

Gar Hynes from Hewlett Packard Enterprise shared a problem facing HP with the impact of counterfeit products as an example of a problem that could be solved through an IoT solution. He also agreed with others over the 2 day seminar by saying: “There’s going to be an explosion of data once IoT takes off.”

Brian Coffey from Analog Devices outlined the changing demands from customers with the advent of IoT.  His team are seeing increasing demand for more complete solutions rather than individual components. Due to the current uncertainty around transmission protocols and standards Analog Devices are building solutions with a modular element so that the desired wireless solution for any given customer can be switched in/out.

One interesting insight on the security aspect was found when there was a project to fit sensors to Analog Devices’ own machinery to do data gathering internally, their internal IT department was vehemently opposed to the data being transmitted to the cloud directly. Instead their preferred solution from a security perspective is that the raw data goes through a local gateway for processing.

A position that was reinforced by others over the two days, while there is some desire for data processing and conversion to meta data to reduce traffic levels; the security benefits of edge processing were also highlighted.

Dr Sean McGrath wrapped up proceedings by asking for feedback and suggestions for next year as he hoped that the seminar will become an annual event. His final question was to those from industry: “What type of engineers should we train?” He highlighted the confusing messages from industry, each employer wants specialists immediately but they all want very different specialities.

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