IoT

IoT
Investment PrioritiesInvestment Priorities

This study is a deep dive into investment spend and priorities for approximately 400 IT leaders.

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Pulse Flash Read

Edge computing: a vendor’s dream in a catastrophizing world?

Edge Computing, as a category, sounds like a bad marketing attempt to create intrigue around yet another ‘paradigm-shifting’ technology that’s ‘the future of the enterprise’. What the name actually refers to is its functionality -- pushing the IT perimeter right up to the edge of where the data is being collected, in the form of smart sensors or Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. Edge Computing (EC) isn’t just about gathering data, though. Because gathering too much data eventually becomes problematic. Smart sensors mostly collect unusable ‘noise’. Think about all the images a smart camera picks up throughout each day on a busy street. If the cloud has to process hours of nothing but the occasional pigeon wandering into shot, that’s a ton of wasted server space. What EC does is place computing power inside those sensors. This computing is done in isolation, locally, cut off from the rest of the network, after which only the clean, usable data is sent on to the cloud or data center.  While EC solves some big problems in principle, there are a lot of discrete steps and factors to the whole process. Imagine the data as a game of hot potato. Each step of this game of hot potato requires entrenched security -- it’s bad news if someone can simply hack into that data being processed in the sensor (and there are many anecdotal reports of this happening), or indeed corrupt it before it’s passed on to the data center. That means containerization. There’s also latency and power consumption to consider. What’s the point of collecting data out in the world if it takes too long to make it to the cloud and back (a potentially fatal problem in industrial safety settings), or devices die out in remote locations? That means utilizing up-to-date 5G networks, LoRa (Long Range, low energy radio frequencies), BLE (Bluetooth Low-Energy) etc. And indeed, all the computing happening at source needs Machine Learning expertise thrown at it to figure out what’s useful.  This hot potato situation creates complexity as myriad, unproven vendors step in to offer ‘expertise’ and single point solutions to intrigued but overwhelmed IT teams.
Gartner predicts a ‘volatile’ situation over the next few years as quick adoption is met with insufficient solutions. Because of this, Gartner forewarns organizations to have an agile mindset going into any EC projects. However, we live in a world where climate-driven catastrophes and social unrest are becoming the norm. This could spell disaster for all of us tech companies for whom the internet is the lungs inhaling life into our organizations. Large scale outages will become a (bigger) problem based on current infrastructure. However, EC enables a situation where devices don’t depend on constant connection. Data can be stored on-device until a network can be re-established, preserving it during downtime. ECs can also be architected to form Mesh Networks, so that even if a node in that network goes down, the rest of the network can pick up the slack and find alternative pathways for upload. If the cloud forms the organization's brain, ECs can act as miniature, extra, failsafe memory banks. However, given that these sensors are physical objects, they won’t ever be totally safe from harm, either. Just look at how conspiracy theorists have torched 5G towers (or what someone on Facebook thought was a 5G tower, anyway). So physical device safety is another aspect to consider. As part of a movement made up of several different innovative, overlapping fields such as IoT networks, 5G, virtual machines, cloud computing, Kubernetes (to name a few), wide scale adoption might take a while to come to fruition. Perhaps over time more generalized, established, expert vendors will take control of the field. IBM is already pretty well positioned for that. ClearBlade boldly offers a scalable, managed solution for a ‘common software stack across the board’. RedHat offers a ‘Virtualization Manager’ for centralized oversight with a Graphical User Interface and an open source library to refer to, but that leaves IT a lot of work to do, still. For now, EC seems to be living up to its name more by existing on the edges of conversations rather than in IT infrastructure. But as data collection turns increasingly into data deluge, Edge Computing might form the necessary dam that saves the IT ecosystem from disaster.

Are there any vendors you’re excited about in the Edge Computing space? Or is Edge Computing not there yet for you?

Top Answer : AWS

What are your top IoT privacy concerns?

Top Answer : For us at GitLab we’re all remote and one of our biggest obstacles is to put what you’d normally consider basic security measures in a traditional brick and mortar world. We're in the process of getting an MDM product installed on laptops. Because of the very nature of open source and DevOps, a majority of the company is thinking about, “What data are you collecting and what is your responsibility around that data?”  With WFH, you're not just getting the IP address of their personal work laptop.  There’s the potential you’re getting other information on things in their environment. It's that real mashup of personal and work environment that makes it tricky.  How do you strike that balance, especially when you're trying to sell in the enterprise and you’ve got certain companies demanding you do certain security measures and track certain things? I don't have an answer. It is a really complicated problem and I think it’s just going to get worse. But there's going to be an opportunity for new solutions to help manage this stuff.   For example, cloud data products like DataBricks. It’s only going to get more and more complex, especially as these IoT devices have more compute power and become capable of doing so much more.

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IoT ImplementationIoT Implementation

This report focuses on IoT implementation and the challenges that IT leaders have faced.

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How do you think IoT will be used in a post-Covid world?

Top Answer : One area I see companies utilizing IoT is when offices open back up. All these counties are adding instructions (e.g. you can only have 25-50% of employees in your office). I definitely see companies utilizing IoT to monitor that, and giving employees an app or something so they can check and see if there’s space in the office for them to go in today.

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Disruptive TechnologyDisruptive Technology

This report dives into how 450 IT Executives are thinking about disruptive technologies like AI, ML and IoT.

How concerned are you about security risks due to IoT?

Top Answer :

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All these devices, sensors, etc. that go in the IoT framework pump out a boatload of data. What are you seeing in IoT devices, and how are you absorbing all that data?

Top Answer : For us it's all about streams and then applying ML and AI to it. The underlying theme of AI is that it was figured out a while ago, but it didn't have enough data to work with. So now what we have to have is this compute and storage scale that allows us to leverage all the data. What our product provides to our customers is the ability to leverage data.  How do you stream data into something in real time.  How can you run AI/ML against it in real time? Our product is tailored towards doing exactly that.

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How worried are you about privacy issues due to IoT?

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What are your top IoT security concerns?

Top Answer : Now that we're in this COVID environment, the main thing we're talking about is securing our devices, assets, the networks they leverage, and such. We're actually going through a device trust roll out right now, to train everyone on how they should manipulate these devices that we're enabling and empowering them with to be effective and efficient.  The main thing is securing these devices. Yes, we like to have cool things, we like to have things operate quickly.  But the thing that keeps me up at night is, what are we introducing to our environment? What kind of vulnerabilities are we creating by allowing more tools to exist? How can I make sure we're being safe and secure?

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Pulse Flash Read: Password(less) Passwords are rubbish, aren’t they?  We’ve all asked for someone else’s Netflix login, only to break out in a cold sweat when you see that their password is something like: basketball (yeah, they finally signed up to watch The Last Dance). And, let’s be honest, you didn’t feel great about them sending it over iMessage either. I’ve literally turned down free access to Netflix because of this. And cybersecurity experts like NordPass agree: they’re sick of telling us how rubbish passwords are.  Letting humans stay in control of those crucial windows of access that passwords reveal will always be problematic. The bad actors awaiting in that password-generated web traffic are experts at exploiting human faults. Take the recent Twitter hack: Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) seemed like a great extra layer of security until a fatal flaw in the thinking was revealed: all it took was some social engineering and the implicit trust users feel with 2FA was turned into a classic bit of phish bait. What if the answer is in the problem? Password-related attacks happen when human meets internet. Can we remove either or both of those issues? Turns out we can. Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) are secure pieces of hardware for containing digital information, lock and key in a discreet piece of machinery that fits neatly on your desk. (Actually, they’re pretty small nowadays, the main issue might be losing it, SD-card style.) They generate truly random keys, unlike computers, that exist outside of the internet’s nefarious reach, providing what’s known as Root of Trust (RoT); trusted nodes within a cryptographic system, a critically important element for any IoT network (and much more reliable than human secret-keepers). If you’d prefer not to ship out HSMs to all your remote staff, there are simpler options that, while not as cloaked as HSMs, at least bypass the password problem. Both AWS and Microsoft Azure offer OTP (One Time Password) access via SMS (yes, it might seem annoying at first but it takes less time than resetting that password we forgot 30 seconds after creating it), plus others such as Okta, OneLogin, Acceptto and Hitachi ID offer robust solutions. We produced a white paper with Microsoft you can read here about IT execs’ experiences with FirstLine Employee remote login.  Magic links are another option. San Fran-based Magic (formerly Fortmatic) promises ‘customizable, future-proof, passwordless login with a few lines of code’. All you have to do is embed Magic on your site and apps, clients receive an email link they click to sign in, and that’s that. The link, like that 5 of hearts you were watching, vanishes and the hijacking opportunity along with it. (Incidentally, Magic uses HSMs to handle your data.) Here’s a guide of how to add Magic to your apps, including a more in-depth discussion of both HSMs and Magic. The demise of the password comes with an acceptance of our own limitations. We forget. We enjoy simplicity. We share. So, accept that your team are human and find a password alternative that fits your needs. Because if you don’t, those clients, and your investors, might end up being another thing you’re scrambling to retrieve. What startups/tech are you excited about in the passwordless space?

Top Answer : This is our first editorial piece by our community editor Aaron Towlson. Would love your thoughts on it and if you'd like to see more of these to spark discussions  . Thanks!