Controlling the chaos (of the IoT) Sunday, 10 April 2016

News article written by Corbett Communications. The statements made or opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Engineers Australia.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to fundamentally shift the way we interact with our surroundings by electronically monitoring and managing objects in the physical world, optimising the performance of systems and processes, and saving time for people and businesses and improve quality of life, according to business and economics researchers, the McKinsey Global Institute.

However, its 2015 report on the IoT warned that the digitisation of physical systems will require a range of actions from policy makers.

“Not only will they be called upon to update and strengthen policies to protect the privacy and property rights of businesses and consumers, but they will also need to regulate entirely new forms of activity in the public sphere,” the McKinsey report stated.

“In privacy, security, data ownership, and data sharing, existing regulations will have to be reviewed and updated. Regulators and lawmakers will need the expertise and collaboration of businesses (technology providers and users), citizens, and experts.”

With industry forecasters saying 30-50 billion devices could be connected to the internet within the next five years, not only industry but government will need to circumvent the potential ‘chaos’ heading down the pipeline to ensure businesses, and indeed society itself, remain stable and or thrive. The Center for Data Innovation, a global think tank focused on the intersection of data, technology and public policy, said while the private sector will be the primary driver of the IoT, it is subject to an “array of market failures that could limit incentives and slow progress toward a fully connected world”.

MIT’s Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning, dean of digital learning, who specialises in research on the IoT, talks about “controlling the chaos” in relation to the IoT to “bring order to the disorder the IoT generates”. He warns that an agreement on system architecture must be reached, saying it is “imperative” that paradigms for effective implementation and use are established. He says open Standards need to be developed to reflect the best architectural choices as there are currently too many siloed Standards that don’t account for devices sharing data. He also calls for a “test bed” to be created by government where best practice for the IoT can be designed and perfected.

Systems giant Cisco has advised that, “virtually every major technology company, whether it's a hardware, software, telecom, or semi-conductor company, has an interest in pursuing the Internet of Things to drive growth,” so stability for national economies is imperative. Bearing this in mind, the data innovation think tank warned “poorly designed government regulations can make deploying IoT technologies more expensive and less valuable”. The IoT balances on three factors, according to the centre: market failures; the need for an innovation-friendly regulatory environment; and the need to promote equity; therefore it recommended that governments develop comprehensive national strategies that remove obstacles and support development and widespread adoption of IoT technology.

Europe-based The Industrial Internet Consortium, which includes heavyweights IBM, Fujitsu, GE, Cisco, Intel, AT&T to name a few, released its version of Industrial Internet Reference Architecture mid-last year with “broad applicability across industrial and other IoT systems to drive scalability and interoperability within industry”. The architecture, the consortium said, helps place existing and emerging standards into a common structure, making it easier to quickly identify gaps that need to be filled. But who or what will ensure those gaps are filled remains to be seen.

Australia is also involved in this area with the International Electrotechnical Commission’s ISO/IEC JTC1 WG10 (working group), focused on the Internet of Things and working on a reference architecture for the IoT. ITEE chair Geoff Sizer has been nominated by Engineers Australia as a participant in the group through Standards Australia.

In a recently released Smart ICT report on the Inquiry into the Role of Smart ICT in the Design and Planning of Infrastructure by the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, 10 recommendations were made, including that the Australian government oversee the formation of a Smart Infrastructure Task Force led by Infrastructure Australia based on the model of the UK BIM Task group, to represent all levels of government, academia and industry. The new task force will develop national policies, including the development of industry and product standards, and training and education. It will also be responsible for the development of a national strategy to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and innovation.