Formula 1 racers

Managing the IoT Sprawl

My Day at the Races

I recently got myself invited to a Formula-1 event and expected a grandstand seat to watch the races. I quickly realized that that was not going to work. If you are close enough to make out the drivers in the cars, then they are moving too fast for you to catch any details, let alone identify the car. The thoughtful organizers instead hand out small 4 by 4 inch television screens with a keyboard attached. On that you are alerted to who just passed you at 200 mph, and you can switch to the camera mounted above the driver to see what he sees with performance data and road surface conditions superimposed. The sound channel gives you the roar of tires, engines and the wind.

Formula 1 racersThe cars themselves have between 150-300 sensors all collecting and sending data back to the pit in real time. Those telemetry levels require big data analysis, to allow optimization in real-time. But tiny data glitches may also have a huge impact in such high-speed environments. Secure and correct data transfers and analysis can win the day or kill the driver, which may explain why so many IT companies sponsor F1 cars.

IoT will go further and faster

With anything from 25 billion (says Gartner) to 210 billion (says IDC) M2M devices expected to be online by 2020, we are fast tracking towards complete IoT (Internet of Things) immersion. Those numbers dwarf today’s corporate perimeter and BYOD discussions. There simply won’t be any perimeters left to defend. Enterprises are already being inundated with data flows – but more and more of them will be fully automated. Employees and customers will be wearing many of them – some may be inside our bodies.

Corporate virtual front doors and main data access sites will still be there, but the volume of M2M traffic hitting and bypassing such nodes will likely be huge. So how is corporate IT going to police such traffic volumes? Whatever solutions are adopted, they will have to scale massively, be relatively cheap, be able to integrate with existing authentication and authorization systems and have minimal impact on network and data processing performance. At this stage of M2M development, OPEX-based managed services can provide the required capacity without the CAPEX lock-in, and allow companies to assess operational costs and business opportunities.

Managed Services can help

Telcos have a certain advantage in this managed service area over competitors such as pure play security providers, hardware and software vendors, and system integrators: much of the flows are over their own WANs. At the high end, the global telcos lead with their own SOCs (Security Operations Centres) and well-established managed security services providing anything from security analytics and intelligence over DDOS defense, investigative response, GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) capabilities, identity and access management to vulnerability management services.

One telco that is in the vanguard with 50-country coverage is Verizon with its newly announced Managed Certificate Services (MCS) platform that creates digital certificates for large-scale IoT deployments counted in the tens of millions. The platform is designed to authenticate objects and machines and secure data transmitted between these connections. The service is delivered via a portal with usage-based pricing.

Early adopters of IoT will likely be in process-heavy industry verticals such as manufacturing, where there are significant security threats to industry control systems such as SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition). Transportation and distribution is another, where the ability to track and identify items in real time is a major competitive advantage.

Although few of us will ever get to sit behind the wheel of an F1-car, our cars are fast acquiring a wide range of wired and wireless sensors to enhance traffic safety and performance that will need to be managed securely. In the enterprise better real-time integration of devices and processes can likewise create whole new business opportunities, if increased complexity and risk assessments remain under control. The IoT will inevitably affect us all.

Image credit: Zach Zupancic (flickr) / CC-BY-ND