Expediting IoT Growth with Blockchain

[fa icon='calendar'] Dec 19, 2016 2:33:54 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in blockchain, blockchain technology, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, M2M, machine to machine, tech, TechCrunch, technology

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer/Marketing

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been developed with a centralized communication model as an integral part of its infrastructure. The cloud acts as the centerpiece for IoT communication, allowing devices to communicate, store and process data, and connect through the internet. However, cloud technology will be unable to sustain the sheer amount of data that is being processed with the growing IoT. Blockchain technology can be used to create a more decentralized communication model, helping alleviate the discrepancies of privacy, communication, and scalability for the IoT.

Cloud technology is great for introducing the power and potential deployments of IoT. In a TechCrunch article, the issues of future cloud applications are captured perfectly when author Ben Dickson states, “cloud servers will remain a bottleneck and point of failure that can disrupt the entire network.” The issue is that IoT ecosystems are expanding at an unprecedented rate; the resources that need to be allocated for maintaining the cloud will not be enough to nurture the growth of this technology. The cloud may be the IoT solution at this point in its development, but the costs and demands of processing that much data will become a nuisance. There needs to be an improved system for handling the heavy traffic of smart technology.

Blockchain technology is the answer the IoT industry has been searching for. Blockchain is a Machine to Machine (M2M) communication platform that enables devices to act as nodes and communicate with each other, removing the stress of storing everything in a central server. This innovative technology can help track and monitor the vast quantities of connected deices, allowing for devices to be able to coordinate their transactions directly with other devices. This can help cut down on the expenses of maintaining the enormous cloud networks and data centers.

One way to further understand the blockchain approach is to examine common network topologies. Utilizing the cloud as the centerpiece for IoT infrastructure is essentially creating a star network configuration. This means that each devices is acting as a node that is connected to a central device. The nodes cannot communicate directly; they can only communicate through the central device. The issue with this is that if there is a single point of failure, particularly the central device, the entire network goes down. Blockchain technology enables the network to resemble more of a mesh network configuration. This essentially means that every node is connected to each other and can communicate without going through a central device. This does create some redundancy within a network, but it this could be a more reliable solution for the IoT.

Decentralizing the communication model of the IoT can be an important step in establishing a reliable network for devices to operate within. The security of the IoT would also be improved due to the fact that there is no central point the information has to go through, removing the possibility of data being intercepted at the central device. Even though this technology is very promising, it does not come without problems. Setting up these networks is much more complex than setting up one that runs through the cloud. Once these networks are setup, there comes the issue of creating them on a scale where billions of devices can communicate directly with each other. The future of this technology is unclear due to these roadblocks, but the potential ability to have a seamless network with M2M communication is ideal for the development of the IoT.

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IPv6 and The Internet of Things

[fa icon='calendar'] Oct 10, 2016 3:28:20 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in authentication, end-to-end encryption, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, IP address, IPv4, IPv6, M2M, machine to machine, NAT, NDP, Neighbor Discovery Protocol, Network Adress Translation, tech, technology

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

A majority of the tech industry has come to accept that the Internet of Things (IoT) will increase in size by the year 2020, enabling around 30 billion internet-connected devices. Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) was the first internet protocol to be released for public use. When it was released, it only allocated enough address spaces to accommodate for just over 4 billion devices, which is clearly not even close to enough space at this point in time. Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), which is the most recent internet protocol, is the perfect solution for the IoT as it extends the number of address spaces to roughly 340 undecillion.

The IPv6 can essentially provide every person on Earth with around 4,000 usable IP addresses, which is more than enough space to sustain the expected IoT growth. Due to the limited size of the IPv4, implementing IPv6 as the new standard for internet connectivity is inevitable. When IPv4 began to run out of address space, Network Address Translation (NAT) was developed to enable different devices to share the same public IP address. At the time, this was a very innovative solution that compensated for the unexpected expansion of the internet. However, many devices that are being developed today utilize an IPv6 address space. Even though converting any IPv4 addresses to IPv6 may be cumbersome, it is only a matter of time before IPv6 is universally accepted, rendering IPv4 infrastructures completely useless.

What does this have to do with the IoT? The most important thing to consider is that upgrading from IPv4 to IPv6 will require end-to-end encryption and a stronger authentication process. This is because using NAT creates a middleman in the device communication, removing the ability to have more secure machine to machine (M2M) communication. IoT devices are heavily reliant upon robust and secure communication as the data collected by device sensors can include sensitive information. IPv6 will enable safe M2M communication and allow for the IoT to continue to expand at its expected, exponential rate. There can still be some security risks with IPv6, but it is a significant advancement in comparison to IPv4.

Security aside, IPv6 could be the solution for multi-protocol interoperability between different devices. This is due to the fact that it includes a very large address space, allowing for the internet to be extended to any device. IPv6 utilizes auto-configuration, which is used to establish a link-local address. It can then use its Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) to check if the address is unused and unique before it saves it. This is a major upgrade for the IoT because IPv6 completes its address conflict detection before actually using the address itself, which IPv4 did not do.

When it comes to things such as mobility and scalability, IPv6 is well equipped to handle the plethora of IoT devices that will soon be creating networks within homes and cities. This upgraded internet protocol brings more functionality and more security than IPv4 could offer, while ensure every device will have a unique IP address. As the IoT world continues to expand at such a rapid pace, its dependency on IPv6 is an unavoidable step in creating seamless device interoperability and communication.

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The Internet of Things and Bluetooth

[fa icon='calendar'] Oct 3, 2016 3:03:15 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in BLE, Bluetooth, communication, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, mesh network, readwrite, Smart Devices, smart home, tech, Wi-Fi

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

Despite its name, the Internet of Things (IoT) is not constricted to purely internet-based connectivity. In fact, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solutions are increasing the functionality of IoT devices more successfully than via the internet, creating a more reliable framework for further connectivity. BLE technology will enhance and optimize the overarching operability of smart home devices by creating faster communication speeds and extending signal range.

Even though using the internet to connect devices works very well, it can have inconsistencies in its connection and shorten the battery life of various devices. These issues can be resolved through the use of BLE technology. Using BLE in IoT technology will allow devices to operate for extended periods of time on small power sources. In a readwrite article, it was stated that the new updates to Bluetooth technology made it possible for a coin-cell battery to last for several months, or even several years. Implementing Bluetooth technology within different IoT devices will help make managing a smart home a very energy efficient process.

The improved functionality of the IoT with the use of BLE goes far beyond simply saving power. BLE has the ability to extend the range of connection between devices by nearly four times that of a Wi-Fi network. This makes it a more reliable method for connecting numerous smart devices throughout a home environment. Not only is there a further range, but the communication speeds are revamped and much more capable to fulfill the demands of the always on and always communicating IoT devices.

Smart devices will be able to take full advantage of increased communication speeds and range due to the fact that BLE utilizes mesh networking. This is a network topology that allows for each device to be fully connected to each other within a network, allowing each node to assist in data distribution. The consumer benefit of mesh networking is explained by NXP; “Applications for Bluetooth mesh networks include those found in most every consumer’s home: door locks, lights, HVAC systems, and white goods (washers, dryers, refrigerators, and so on).” A mesh network is reliable for maintaining a smart home environment because individual devices can still communicate if one device runs out of power or is disconnected.

An increasing amount of manufacturers are beginning to integrate Bluetooth technology within their IoT technology. BLE will improve the overall functionality of the IoT and aid in establishing much more sturdy networks that will sustain the operation of numerous devices. This will help consumers create more efficient and powerful smart home environments.

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IoT: Converging IT and OT

[fa icon='calendar'] Sep 19, 2016 2:43:06 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in data, electronic data exchange, General, Information Technology, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, IT, operational technology, OT, tech, technology

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The continuously expanding network of internet-enabled smart technology is transforming the current framework that constitutes the Internet of Things (IoT). Historically, Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) have been two completely separate and distinct domains. The importance of physical equipment for monitoring and detecting change in industrial processes through OT has never been truly connected with the processes of electronic data exchange found in IT. However, the integration of wireless sensors into IoT technology is altering the infrastructure of traditional industrial processes. The convergence of IT and OT is an inevitable and necessary step in unleashing the true power of large-scale connectivity via the IoT.

The vast assortment of physical objects being connected to the internet provides manufacturers with the ability to collect and analyze data instantaneously. These networks of devices generate a plethora of data, allowing for the creation of intelligent and immediate solutions. This process is where the lines begin to blur regarding the various IT and OT processes. Traditionally OT infrastructure would require those in charge of operating and maintaining a device to physically process its data in the field. The wide-spread acceptance of gathering data via the internet has enabled workers to access any needed operational data, allowing for analysis and monitoring without having to waste more human resources.

The rapid and continuous growth of the IoT is making the integration of IT and OT environments an inevitable repercussion of increased connectivity between internet-enabled devices. The fundamental technology (software, platforms, etc.) behind OT systems are adapting to operate on a similar level to IT systems. The inherent similarities between modern OT and IT will make it easier to manage an integrated system as opposed to two separate entities. Gartner, which is an IT research company, stated “A shared set of standards and platforms across IT and OT will reduce costs in many areas of software management, and reduced risks come from reducing malware intrusion and internal errors” (Gartner). Efficiency within a company will see an exponential increase with the convergence of IT and OT.

Improving efficiency is only one of the many benefits of implementing an integration system between IT and OT systems. The convergence between these two fields will provide businesses with more information to make smarter decisions in terms of business processes. The integration of IT and OT will enable further analysis of products through data, which will lead to performance improvements that can increase the satisfaction of consumers. Being able to coordinate efforts between IT and OT within an organization is a cost-efficient method in reducing missteps in decision-making.

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Will Net Neutrality Impact the Future of IoT?

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 29, 2016 3:15:37 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Communications Act, data, General, internet, Internet of Things, internet service provider, IoT, ISP, net neutrality, Netflic, tech, technology, Wi-Fi

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The debate over net neutrality has the potential to transform the current infrastructure of the internet. Net neutrality is primarily focused on whether Internet Service Providers (ISP) should be able to provide “fast lanes” or throttle speeds based on bandwidth consumption, and as a measure to provide quality internet speeds. Certain corporations such as Netflix provide services that consume mass quantities of data, which can drastically slow down internet speeds for other users. If situations like these enable ISPs to be able to charge large data consumers for quality service, then there will be an impact on a corporate level that could trickle down to the level of individual consumers. Net neutrality has the potential to alter the future of the Internet of Things (IoT) as more internet-enabled devices are generating data and using bandwidth.

The issue of net neutrality has been around for a several years at this point, but IoT technology has barely been a part of the discussion. Most wireless devices haven’t reached the surface of the net neutrality debate due to the fact that most devices consume minimum amounts of data and require very little bandwidth. This is beginning to change as internet-enabled devices are increasing in quantity in an effort to create truly integrated smart homes. Even though individual devices don’t utilize that much data on their own, IoT devices can use a moderate amount of bandwidth when multiple devices are unified within a network.

Large networks of smart devices can have a minor impact on internet speeds for in-home Wi-Fi, but IoT devices are unlikely to consume enough data to drastically affect wireless communication on a larger scale. These devices may not be data-heavy, but they do rely on internet speeds to optimize functionality. Brian Kelly, co-founder of Golgi, stated, “When it comes to connectivity, speed is everything. Eighty percent of smartphone users now expect apps to load in three seconds or less” (TheNextWeb). This is synonymous with IoT expectations as most smart devices are integrated within smart phone applications. The speed and convenience of the IoT is what makes it unique and accessible for the average consumer.

Most consumers are opposed to ISPs being able to charge for better service. The current IoT infrastructure could increase in complexity if the government allows ISPs to throttle internet speeds and limit bandwidth consumption for internet consumers. However, the government, and a majority of the consumers and small businesses, are against tampering with internet speeds and that is unlikely to change. Title II of the Communications Act, which was established within the past couple years, bans throttling, blocking and paid prioritization of any type.

It is safe to say the IoT will generally be unaffected by the issue of net neutrality. The ability to freely use the internet is something that is coveted by most internet users, thus it is unlikely that there will be any successful dismantling of the Communications Act. Even in the improbable event that ISPs were given the power to control the internet, there wouldn’t be any dramatic impacts for the IoT. This is due to the fact that these networks of devices are not consuming bandwidth in quantities even remotely close to that of companies like Netflix. The future of the powerful, efficient, and internet-enabled smart home is in good hands.

 

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The Changing Nature of Human Life and the Internet of Things

[fa icon='calendar'] Jul 25, 2016 11:55:28 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in connected, Consumer, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, network, Smart Devices, smart home, technology

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The way consumers interact with the objects in their lives is changing at a pace that once seemed impossible. Connectivity that was recently unimaginable will soon be the standard for all technological devices. The Internet of Things (IoT) goes far beyond industrial applications; consumers will be able to receive updates and information about nearly every aspect of their lives with wirelessly connected smart devices. The push for IoT technology is a push for control. Users will have control over their homes, cars, and even their own bodies through wearables. Even though it may seem intimidating to have technology take such an invasive role in consumer life, the benefits created by connectivity outweigh the perceived intrusive nature of smart devices.

The internet-connected devices that are being implemented as a means to create the ultimate smart home are changing the way individuals interact with their environment. IoT devices allow users to establish a network of smart devices, giving the user the flexibility to build an environment optimized for their needs. Smart home connectivity is enabled through powerful software such as the innovative Apple HomeKit, which gives users complete control over a variety of smart devices. Having the ability to control and monitor different aspects of a home gives the user endless possibilities in terms of setting up a custom, optimized environment.

The ability to control a connected network of devices will help save the user a significant amount of money. The most direct application in terms of money being saved is simply having the ability to reduce power usage. IoT devices give the consumer the convenience of being able to operate different devices on timers and manually control devices with their mobile phones. If a thermostat is being controlled, the user can set the air conditioning to only be on when people will be present in that environment. If various lights are left on when the user leaves their home, they have the ability to turn them off remotely. A washing machine can be set to run its wash cycle during electrical quiet periods. These are just a few of the many ways a smart home can be managed to reduce electricity usage and save the consumer money.

The smart home is still in its infancy. Even though the potential for the IoT to continue to improve human life is easily observable, extremely advanced solutions are still on the horizon. This does not mean that there are not functional and efficient devices on the market today, it simply means that there needs to be more hardware available to develop a true network of connected devices. It is essential to begin to create a personalized smart home as the cost of connectivity continues to plummet and smart home solutions become more sophisticated.

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The Internet of Things: Changing Big Data Analytics

[fa icon='calendar'] Jun 13, 2016 3:14:53 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in analysis, analytics, Big data, big data analytics, Consumer, data, data-gathering, device, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, Nathan Rockershousen, outscale, technology, Will Hayles

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The collection of data through large datasets is becoming increasingly popular among businesses. The prominence of the Internet of Things (IoT) has created a surplus of data that is now being utilized for statistical analysis. Big data analytics and IoT devices are interconnected in the sense that IoT devices enable companies to access large quantities of information. This information is then used to help gather details about the consumer and the product. IoT technology is transforming the collection of data and the information that the data provides allows for the development of more advanced IoT devices.

As more devices become connected to the internet, there will be more data that companies will be responsible for sorting through. Once IoT technology matures and becomes widely adapted, big data analytics will no longer be optional. The analytical value in having access to large datasets that are continuously updating can be substantial for any organization. Not investing in big data technology that can sort through the immense quantity of the data gathered will be a major hindrance in maintaining IoT devices. Will Hayles, a technical writer for Outscale, reinforces this concept by stating, “Without the proper data-gathering in place, it’ll be impossible for businesses to sort through all the information flowing in from embedded sensors.” This essentially means that the inability to utilize data efficiently will create obstacles in terms of competing with other IoT-based companies as analytics can provide insight into consumer wants and needs.

The integration of IoT technology and big data has the potential to create higher expectations for technological innovations. Simply being able to collect data from IoT devices will not be sufficient. Companies need to implement some sort of analytical platform that can sort through the vast amount of data gathered. Big data analytics and the IoT are interdependent. When organizations are able to access information about their products, they are able to immediately update the technology to provide new and improved content to users in addition to being able to improve any issues. Essentially the influx of data is creating a higher standard for technological innovation. Any business that does not wield the power of big data analytics will quickly lose relevance due to an inability to recognize the potential for improvement that is provided by collected data.

The adoption of big data analytics within the corporate environment is inevitable as wirelessly enabled devices begin to play a larger role in the consumer lifestyle. This change will not happen overnight, but it is crucial that organizations start to develop the analytical tools necessary to manage vast amounts of data. This means that the infrastructures of many businesses will need to be modified in order to compensate for the changing nature of IoT technology.

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It’s time to get smart

[fa icon='calendar'] Sep 17, 2015 2:55:01 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in connected products, customers, ECN Magazine, Featured In, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, manufacturers, smart home, smart house, smart products

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Connected products also are a smart play for manufacturers by enabling them to stay connected with their customers like never before. Smart products can deliver maintenance reminders, special offers, recall notices and other notifications at prescribed intervals. The data captured by these devices can help manufacturers get to know their customers better. For example, by gathering usage data, washing machine manufacturers can know which of the functions owners use most, helping with future product development. Sensors in the appliances can trigger alerts when a component is about to fail, allowing customers to set up service calls proactively, which boosts customer loyalty. Even information about how much detergent customers use, water temperature preferences and wash cycle choices could be packaged and sold to detergent companies as consumer insight information.

At the same time, connected devices are becoming fairly inexpensive to manufacture, and they can be sold with a higher price tag. In general, connectivity can be added for a material cost of about $10, plus the cost for app development and cloud hosting. While lower cost devices, such as coffee makers or toasters, may not be able to support the added cost, larger ticket items (washers/dryers and refrigerators, for example) can. Much of it depends on the added convenience and value the connected device brings to the consumer.

The possibilities presented by smart products are very attractive, so designers are thinking of ways to add connectivity to products. Along with adding the Internet component, smart products present other unique design considerations.

Read more at ECN Magazine or download the PDF now.

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Sensors Expo 2015: Grid Connect contemplates the wireless factory

[fa icon='calendar'] Jun 18, 2015 10:56:33 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Adam Justice, BLE, Bluetooth, Featured In, General, industrial networking, internet, Internet of Things, Mike Justice, Sensors Expo, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi

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Grid Connect recently moved into what could be considered the ‘consumer’ space through its ConnectSense subsidiary, which provides plug n’ play sensor solutions for a variety of applications through devices such as their recently released Smart Outlet. The parent company still focuses on more traditional embedded connectivity, but according to Mike Justice the industrial networking landscape has started to shift as factory operators become increasingly interested in wireless communications.

Justice admits that Wi-Fi is still a no-no in most plant settings because of the unknowns it introduces, but says that Bluetooth and ZigBee are making considerable strides as they provide no direct connection to the Internet and subsequent security issues.

Read more at Embedded Computing Design or download the PDF now.

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10 Internet of Things design considerations

[fa icon='calendar'] Feb 6, 2015 11:25:24 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in antenna, Apple HomeKit, Bluetooth, cloud applications, communication, consumers, cost, Embedded Computing Design, Ethernet, FCC certification, Featured In, gateway, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, IoT device, manufacturers, network, networking, networking technologies, power source, router, security, smart products, SSL, technology, Wi-Fi, wifi, Wireless

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Connecting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) is essential to manufacturers looking to stay competitive within their industry. Adding IoT capabilities gives consumers more features. It also allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customer while discovering new product use cases and applications that open them up to new revenue streams. When designing your first IoT device, there are 10 things to keep in mind...

Read more at Embedded Computing Design or download the PDF now.

10IOTDESIGNCONSIDERATIONS_BANNER

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