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Six years of IoT Summit Chicago - What’s New, What’s Not

Monday, December 10, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kaylin Berg
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Karen Purze, Principal Consultant, Pressure Drop LLC

There were a lot of familiar faces at this year’s IoT Summit Chicago, held downtown recently. The summit, powered by the Illinois Technology Association, is a convergence of IoT thought leadership and innovation from across the region. While some persistent challenges were discussed, the conversation has changed significantly since the first summit was held 6 years ago.

From “What” to “When”
The “from pilot to production” theme of this year’s conferences reflects the shift from “what if” to “when”. When you deploy a successful pilot, how do you get it to production? When 5G becomes pervasive, what alternative network technologies might also exist? When smart home and voice-controlled devices are routinely added to home networks, what security concerns should consumers (and the businesses providing services by means of those networks) understand?

While the first conference in 2013 featured many speculative discussions of consumer use cases, this year’s conference focused far more on enterprise and B2B solutions. The idea of IoT solutions as pervasive, even “background” enablers of day-to-day business seems now to be a foregone conclusion (at least for this audience.)

From Standards to Norms

Six years ago, panelists discussed system-on-a-chip reference architectures, software-defined networks and the need for standards. This year, there was evidence that companies have moved well beyond prototypes and are mostly proceeding without too much concern for “standards” (with the exception of a panelist representing the LoRa alliance.)

Perhaps the growth of service-oriented architectures over the same time period has shown that interoperability can be achieved efficiently without relying on industry-wide standards. Consolidation around norms if not standards may yet occur, but it was only mentioned in the context of what things might look like “6 years from now.”

From Digital to Analog

At the first summit in 2013, more time was spent talking about technical implementation details and unbound possibilities than this year. I’ll remember 2018 as the year expectations around IoT came to earth (in a good way.)

Daniel Obodovski, the author of The Silent Intelligence, gave the keynote six years ago and again this year. His boutique consulting services firm asserts that the “value of technology is when it almost disappears into the background delivering the value of insight quietly, almost silently - hence the name “The Silent Intelligence”.” In that context, perhaps it’s not surprising that he started by reminding us that “sensors don’t solve problems.” The emphasis in his keynote -- and in many of the panels -- was on understanding what he called the “analog” problems that technology doesn’t solve. Operational concerns, training issues, executive buy-in, and business-lead sponsorship. People stuff. Like I said: back to earth.

What’s New, What’s Not
While at times the panelists seemed to think progress in IoT solutions is inevitable, some questions remain unanswered after six years of thought leadership and innovation. Panelists acknowledged that partnerships will be required to succeed, but none provided compelling models for data governance or data ownership.

“Who owns the data?” has come up every year. While one speaker (Joe Renz) proposed that “the machine owns the data” and another proposed that “the consumer owns the data”, there still aren’t (yet?) systems in place to really support these ideas.

Security was another popular, persistent topic. In 2013 we were already talking about how to secure data “at rest”, and as it hops along its path from endpoint to a server. This year, we were talking about poisoned machine learning datasets as potential attack surfaces (!) Thanks, Mike Mackey, chief technology officer of CENTRI Technology, for planting that thought.

Cheaper devices, higher data rates, faster speed, and lower latency are only going to get us so far. The last mile to full-scale production deployment of IoT solutions will look familiar (even mundane): have clear business goals, have a clear understanding of how to actually support a solution, and have people that know how to collect and use the data.

The rest is easy.


About Karen Purze
I'm an author, content marketer, product manager, and family caregiver with a passion for technology. If you'd like to reach your customers wherever they are and speak to them in a language they can understand, we should talk.

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