How shall we keep the promise for trillions IoT devices?

March 1, 2018

 

The Internet of Things is everywhere at the Mobile World Congress. Every single booth belonging to a large company displays a car in order to demonstrate the company is part of the “Next Big Thing”, the convergence between automotive and telecommunications.

 

However, sizing the Next Big Thing is not as easy as one may think in the first place. Analysts are guilty for having overpromised, anticipating volumes of IoT devices in the tens or hundreds of billions in the short term. Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, even talked about a trillion IoT devices in the next 20 years. Now, the industry is seen as underdelivering as the tens of billions are not happening now! No one is able to agree on a realistic cold rational market analysis!

 

At the same time, everyone considers there is a need for better security before or at the same time as deploying the IoT. The consensus stops here! Every stakeholder pretends they have the best solution for IoT security! According to each of them, their company has understood everything of IoT security needs and they propose the single ultimate solution!

 

These solutions tackle different steps in the IoT value chain. For instance, Cisco IoT (Previously known as Jasper Technologies) focuses on its Kinetic control center that allows to extract IoT data and make it exploitable. In addition, Cisco IoT adds that they consider NB-IoT as their preferred connection standard, as they just signed an agreement with China Unicom which has he ambition to add 100 million NB-IoT devices over the next 18 months. According to Cisco IoT, their footprint in the automotive industry, with partnerships with GM, Audi, or Ford, just to name a few, is a recognition of the security of their solution.

 

On the other hand, LoRa Alliance, with 540 members supporting its open-source standard, claims that, together, they are on their way to reach 50 billion connected devices. LoRa Alliance focuses on low-power, long distance communication, hence does not target the automotive industry but crocuses on energy and utilities, smart building and smart city, agriculture, and logistics and tracking. In terms of security, the LoRa specification provides for the use of AES 128 with a combination of network keys and application keys, but allows the addition of a secure element in the radio part or in the device itself, a solution proposed by large companies such as Gemalto, Idemia or G+D along with smaller players such as Trusted Objects.

 

IoT is still in its infancy. Along with more commercial developments, more battles between standards will happen. As of now, no one is able to anticipate the outcome of these fights. But we will keep watching!

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