We had a great couple of days in Las Vegas at the IoT Evolution conference meeting with people and learning what they and their companies were doing with IoT technology.
We also had a great time attending the keynotes on Wednesday and Thursday, hearing from Jennifer Singh of Thomson Reuters, Mary Beth Hall of Verizon, Zulfikar Ramzan of RSA, and Tao Zhang of Cisco. Their topics spanned the IoT ecosystem, and were informative and insightful -- and since we're an IoT marketing agency servicing clients across that ecosystem, we're constantly striving to keep up with what's current in the field as well as gazing into the crystal ball of the IoT future.
IoT Data: The Promise, The Problem, and the Profit:Jennifer Singh, Director, Digital Identity Solutions at Thomson Reuters
Jennifer Singh was up first and led with an interesting factoid: Location-based app company Foursquare was able to accurately predict a 30% revenue drop for Chipotle restaurants in Q1 of 2016 through analytics performed on aggregated data from its millions of users.
That fact led into a more general discussion of the vast amounts of data -- Big Data, in every sense -- that the growing number of IoT sensors is generating around the clock. That data is enormously valuable, and is in fact being purchased by investors, enterprise knowledge workers, and by a perhaps-surprising third party: Machines. That Big Data should be purchased for machines seems somewhat obvious, in hindsight, since the machine learning that drives much of AI requires enormous amounts of data, but it certainly was an a-ha moment as Jennifer spoke.
Those sales of Big Data are predicted to reach $400 million by 2021, but there's a fly in the ointment: Enterprise doesn't need just the data, it needs the insights that that data provides. The value chain, then, has several steps to it: Big Data flows from the data collectors to the data aggregators, and from there to those who can generate insights on that data before it ultimately is in a useful form for enterprise knowledge workers.
The problem with that value chain is that currently only 8% of enterprise-level companies have mature Big Data processes. The flip side of that problem, though, is that there is huge opportunity for companies to position themselves within that value chain while it's still a green field, because as mentioned earlier the money to be made here is enormous -- and to drive that point home, Jennifer closed with the forecast that by 2020 automakers will be making more money from data sales driven by connected-car data than they will from the sale of the cars themselves.
Verizon's ThingSpace: Bringing IoT Solutions to LifeMary Beth Hall, Director of Marketing, Verizon Wireless
Next up was Verizon Wireless's Director of Marketing, Mary Beth Hall, who spoke on Verizon's IoT ThingSpace platforms and the reasons that Verizon is investing so heavily in IoT.
Mary Beth led with the insights that new business models are increasingly based around expectations rather than owned assets. We own relatively few things, but we expect them to know and do many things -- and it's IoT that bridges that gap between the digital and the physical.
She then addressed the shift in IoT profit centers, which has moved from connectivity into the application space with only 5% of IoT revenue currently being driven by connectivity charges. But connectivity, of course, is essential -- and it's advances in connectivity that have accelerated IoT adoption. Global customer bases and their needs have also driven IoT platforms to become more flexible, since devices, connectivity options, and use cases vary greatly around the world. A connectivity standard that Verizon is particularly bullish on is 5G, which has the benefits of fiberoptics but of course is a wireless technology. Mary Beth let us know that even though the standard is still evolving, Verizon has major investments in 5G connectivity.
She also left us with one final thought: No one can do IoT alone.
Practical Approaches to IoT SecurityZulfikar Ramzan, CTO, RSA Security
The keynotes on the final day of the conference were kicked off by Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO of RSA Security, who gave a talk that was both informative and entertaining.
If there's a word you're not used to hearing in conjunction with cybersecurity, it's probably entertaining. But Zulfikar was just that, leading off with the Kenny Rogers Law of Cybersecurity: You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. He then explained that his Rogers law was in fact the classic sunk cost fallacy, and that many IoT security teams and businesses hold on to security practices because of investments that are primarily emotional in nature and not based on rational assessments of future value.
He then provided an insight that many businesses needed to hear: That the IoT ecosystem is in rather a mess because so many businesses mislabel features as products, products as solutions, and solutions as companies -- and then pay the price for that mislabeling.
His next insight was also great, if perhaps less painful to some than his previous observation: That insight is properly the basis for information security. He followed that with Mike Tyson's Law: Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the face. To avoid that punch in the face -- to keep data lakes from becoming data landfills, as he phrased it -- it's necessary for organizations to operationalize insight through the use of a wide scope of analytics.
Zulfikar then addressed what he considered the most appropriate facet for security lockdowns: Identity, and making sure that users granted access only if they were the right person, in the right place, at the right time. To point out the seriousness of identity as a cybersecurity attack vector, he dropped this statistic: More than three billion account credentials were compromised in 2016 alone.
Cybersecurity, though, is actually more of a business problem than a security team problem, though, so successful business management of security should rely on keeping track of and investing in what works in order to avoid the sunk cost fallacy. From a management perspective, then, following the money is important: Security teams might very well have emotional attachments to the particulars of intrusions, so it's necessary for management to assess higher-level impacts in order to appropriately make decisions about the future. In order to do that, enterpise companies need to break down the siloes that exist between various business units, because siloed information can lead to missing important information.
His final summary: It's time to stop thinking of threats individually and start focusing on business-driven cybersecurity.
The Emerging Era of Fog ComputingTao Zhang, Chief Scientist for Smart Connected Vehicles, Cisco
The conference keynotes were closed out by Tao Zhang, Chief Scientist for Smart Connected Vehicles at Cisco, who spoke on the concept of fog computing.
The underlying premise of fog computing is that the Cloud alone is inadequate for the IoT. This is true for a variety of reasons, such as bandwidth, the endlessly increasing variety of devices, the need to sometimes move computing closer to the Edge, and the needs of the users themselves to be able to access support locally.
Tao's next observation was that the evolution of the IoT was in fact a history of moving computing back towards the user and away from the Cloud. There remains, however, a large gap between the Cloud and Edge devices, and fog computing as a concept is aimed at filling that gap. To that end, fog computing uses horizontal architectures that distribute functions closer to users along the cloud-to-thing spectrum.
Ultimately, IoT solutions will be one continuum from Cloud to device, but we're not there yet. In closing, Tao likened fog computing to being similar to earlier technologies like TCP/IP and the Web in their revolutionary nature: Get involved now, and you'll be glad you did.
And I'm glad that Brandon Curtis and I had the opportunity to go to IoT Evolution and get even more involved with the ecosystem we love so well. Thanks to the IoT Evolution team for putting on a great conference, and we're already looking forward to the next IoT Evolution event, in Orlando this January. We'll see you there!