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IoT Summit Highlight: The Role of IoT in Mobility, Smart Cities & Urban Technology​

Thursday, October 25, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gary Hotze
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Chuck Byers, Sr. Technical Leader, Software Engineering, Cisco 


In which areas can IoT spur innovation in mobility, smart cities and urban technology? What are the biggest challenges and opportunities?

Opportunities for innovation abound and are there are a multitude of things to be discovered, systems to be developed and problems to be solved. IoT will shift the paradigm of how we work, when we work and ultimately how we interact with devices. Interactions will manifest in the physical world, blending the lines between virtual and physical. It’s an exciting prospect, indeed.

Regarding the challenges, the worst challenges out there are security and privacy. Security is a particularly nasty problem because the Internet of Things and actuators to the networks control capabilities. Up until very recently, we just had sensors. We just had data flowing into the internet without necessarily vast opportunities for it to instantaneously affect the outside world. Indeed, we have data breaches, several very well-publicized multimillion-dollar losses as a result of those data breaches, but there was no physical harm; no humans got injured as a result of that. Now as we start putting things such as autonomous vehicles and chemical plants etc. in the field that have actuators that can actually go out and change the parameters of the physical world, as soon as those become part of the network and the control of humans is one level indirect from that network, then we start seeing stakes get much higher for security. Hackers have much more opportunity for mayhem if they can go out and disrupt a pipeline or cause an autonomous vehicle traffic jam on the interstate. We need to ensure that the security of IoT systems is up to the job, trustworthy, appropriate for mission-critical, safety-critical and even life-critical applications because that's where the future of IoT is heading. So, that's undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges.

A second challenge is probably going to be the management of these networks. By control, I mean the installation, configuration and ongoing monitoring of all of the IoT endpoints. Depending upon whose study you read, there may be 50 billion IoT endpoints in the world, even as early as next year. Moreover, think about what happens if some human has to select that security camera, type this IP address, click a bunch of boxes to configure its parameters and then push the download and start the camera button. Even if it only takes a minute to access each of these endpoints, that's 50 billion minutes in person-hours required. Automation is necessary to make that system cost-effective and sustainable. There have to be universal, trustworthy and plug-and-play interfaces that would make all of these things function interdependently. The ideal scenario: the technician bolts these devices to the wall and flips the power switch on while all the network connections, all of the configurations, all the operational parameters and calibration operate without human intervention, at least 99.9% of the time.

What’s your outlook on the IoT industry? What are the next frontiers of the IoT revolution and urban mobility/future cities innovation?

Four different technologies are particularly promising and vital for the future of these markets. The first one is wireless mobility especially 5G, advanced WiFi and even various kinds of free-space optical communications. So, we have to continuously figure out how to connect things at ridiculously high bandwidths with ridiculously high densities, and that's an essential enabling technology for all of these verticals.

The second one is going to be various forms of artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, deep learning and analytics algorithms. The technology has gotten to the point where the complexity of these networks is so high, and the rate of change is so fast that humans can't keep up, so we need artificial intelligence and all of its variants to support that. There are many growth areas associated with automation, automatic configurations and the analytics of these huge fire hoses of data that are coming off of these huge arrays of IoT sensors.

The third, as I mentioned before, is security and privacy. Blockchain technology gets said quite a bit in this space; indeed, the General Data Protection Regulations, recently enacted in Europe are going to be influencing the rest of the world, and I would expect that there will be more teeth in national privacy legislation forthcoming. A lot of interesting network problems associated with maintaining security and privacy, especially isolating designated recipients of a specific sensor stream from all those who are out there on the internet not authorized to receive that stream. It’s a difficult problem to address.

The fourth and final technology and one that's closest to my heart is the distribution of intelligence up and down the network. Many IoT deployment models have these relatively dumb, relatively simple sensors and actuators out on the edge points and then some dumb network that hooks them to the cloud. Their model is dependent on the lion's share of the work getting done in the cloud.

It turns out that that's probably a flawed model, because of concerns with latency, reliability, network bandwidth and a multitude of other reasons. You're going to wanna distribute the computation, networking, and storage that are working those sensors and actuators on a hierarchy between the cloud and the devices. That's variously called "fog computing" or "edge computing,” "cloudlets" or some call it "mist computing." The point is that we're going to be distributing the computational resources a lot deeper in the network than one would find today with a few dozen major web cloud data centers. It's going to be the equivalent of a small cloud data center in every building, on every street corner and rolling in every autonomous vehicle. So consequently, there are substantial challenges associated with designing those networks, distributing their workloads and operating them reliably and profitably.

Why should people attend your upcoming panel, “The Role of IoT Mobility, Smart Cities & Urban Technology” at the forthcoming IoT Summit Chicago?

There are substantial challenges and many opportunities in the intersection of the smart highway, autonomous vehicle, smart city and connected building markets. Eventually merging them and distributing intelligence across them will significantly improve the efficiency, safety, livability and fun of urban environments.

Our panelists will discuss the many services and capabilities future urban environments will deliver. We will explore the applications of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, 5G wireless, fog computing, and connected spaces in urban environments. Some cautions will be discussed too, as there are significant challenges in areas like privacy, hacking prevention, and network performance to be addressed.

What types of topics or critical issues will you explore on the panel?

Many of the most interesting IoT use cases fall on the intersections between these traditional verticals, which we’ll explore. Within the context of connected transportation, there are many infrastructural questions. For example: what do the roadside units look like, how much computing and storage and networking power are in each autonomous vehicle, what's the equivalent of platooning for the future and many more. It’s clear that this vertical and panel isn’t just about self-driving cars, it's also about things such as positive train control and railroads, autonomous trucks and autonomous maritime implementations along with drones which undoubtedly we will discuss in brief. The panel will cover many that are interrelated to this emergent field.

Tell us about your background and experience concerning your panel's topic.

I work on fog computing architecture for Cisco, and also am technical chair of the OpenFog Consortium. Fog moves the power of the cloud closer to the IoT things, significantly improving the performance, efficiency, security and reliability of IoT services. Fog computing will enable smart cities, connected transportation and related technologies.

What do you think are the top issues facing the community when it comes to IoT? Challenges? Opportunities?

One significant challenge is security/privacy. IoT networks are often very critical, and hacking and data breaches can have serious consequences. IoT network management is also a big challenge. If billions of new IoT devices are added to the internet, installing, configuring and monitoring them all had better be efficient. Performance (especially latency and wireless network capacity) are key to IoT success. Technologies like edge/fog computing and low power wireless will be very valuable.

What’s your assessment of the current state of IoT in the Midwest? How does Chicago relate in this landscape?

I think we are doing pretty well. Chicago has some advantages when prototyping and trialing new IoT technologies, especially the talent of our workers, and our extensive infrastructure.'


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