IoT and Networking

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer/Marketing

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been revolutionary in changing the way consumers interact with the technological devices in their lives. The amount of users with IoT devices in their homes, cars, and even on their bodies is also growing at an increasing rate. It is clear that IoT technology is heavily integrated into the lives of many consumers. That being said, there has been a lot of media coverage regarding the security of these devices.

Security in modern technological devices is a critical feature and a very big concern for consumers due to the threat of being hacked. Properly encrypting IoT devices is very important because very personal information can be accessed through IoT devices. In addition to simply losing personal information, the physical safety of consumers is at risk. An example of this can be found in the 2014 Jeep incident. Hackers were able to infiltrate a Jeep Cherokee via the internet in order to send commands to the car’s entertainment system, brakes, steering, and even the transmission. Despite the fact that this happened a couple of years ago, the technology is still under the same risk of being hacked. Even the FBI has intervened and has begun to warn any car makers and owners that vehicles with high levels of internet access have an increased risk of being hacked. 

These security issues aren’t just affecting cars; these problems can be observed in a variety of other Internet-enabled devices. Another example is how connected baby monitors and other home monitoring devices are being tapped into by hackers, allowing them to see if anyone is home. Essentially any IoT device can be breached and used in an unintended way if proper security measures aren’t taken. When valuable data is at risk, security should be a bigger concern for manufacturers. The current and common culture among IoT companies is to release devices to this public with minimum protective measures in order to be the first to the market. Not all companies are a part of this culture, but a large portion of them contribute to these security issues. It’s not an issue of developers being unfamiliar with the intricacy of this high-end technology, it’s an issue of not taking the extra time to implement adequate security measures.

It is clear that having impeccable security features will benefit the consumer and the manufacturer in the long run. The invasive nature of IoT technology leaves the user very vulnerable to breaches in safety and security. The manufacturers should be responsible for monitoring the activity of their devices and determining how to block suspicious activity once the product is released. However, if security systems were developed in entirety before a device is released, these extra measures wouldn’t be as necessary. As IoT technology continues to become a bigger part of the lives of the consumers, it will be vital to our safety that a higher standard of security is implemented.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is continuing to grow at a rapid pace as more devices are becoming connected. However, the IoT is rendered useless without a system of networking to support it. As WiFi-enabled devices increase in popularity, the demand for networking will expand substantially. IoT-based technology is disrupting the current networking market due to vast amount of data that is collected and the quantity of devices connected to the Internet. Companies will be expected to have extremely efficient networks that will allow for real time analysis. In addition to this, simply having faster internet speeds and creating more access points is essential in supporting the rise of IoT devices.

One of the developing applications of IoT devices is found within the smart home. Some smart technology devices require extremely fast networks. When using multiple devices, it is critical to have a network that will enable the connectivity of all devices. The IoT enabled ConnectSense sensors and Smart Outlet rely on networking to enable machine-to-machine communication. Your ConnectSense products collect data through this communication in order to provide you with accurate and efficient analysis. Improving the ConnectSense cloud is one of the ways Grid Connect is able to help you adapt to the implementation of IoT devices in your home. Having a network that can sustain the connection of multiple devices is very important. Additional actions that can be taken in order to create a more efficient network are constructing quicker router speeds, ensuring that the WiFi is able to be accessed everywhere in the home, and creating an in-home network that can sustain multiple connections.

A strong network is essential for the use of various IoT products, whether it’s a smart home device, a piece of wearable technology, or even if it’s for an industrial application. Gateways, routers, and other networking devices can help improve networking abilities in order to support the demanding nature of connected and data driven devices. Finding a perfect network configuration will compensate for whatever quantity of data your IoT devices are bringing in.

It is clear that the impact the IoT is having on networking is only going to expand as the demand for a more connected and efficient world continues to increase. Having quality control of networks will allow for an improved customer experience.  Creating networks that can handle a great deal of traffic and data will allow you to be prepared for the IoT’s disruption of the networking market.

Apple HomeKit and IoT Standards

Last Monday, Apple announced a new feature called HomeKit that is coming in iOS 8. This feature will make the smart home smarter by allowing users to control the smart devices around their house such as lights, door locks and security cameras all through their iPhone or iPad.  It’s a good start for a standard with some cool capabilities for allowing devices to talk in the home.

Common standards for devices in the home is one of the key pieces to moving the Internet of Things (IoT) industry forward, and up until this point, it has been largely missing. Currently, one-off integrations being made for individual smart devices are proving to be expensive and time consuming. Having a common language that each device can use to talk over the network is definitely something to help move IoT manufacturers and their smart objects into the future.

How HomeKit Works

At the center of HomeKit is a common database that all HomeKit compatible devices will talk to.  This central database allows different apps to control and manage all of the smart devices in your home.   When a user first starts working with HomeKit, they will define their home (or multiple homes, if they are so lucky).  Within the home, you then define all the different rooms.  Those rooms can then be grouped into zones, such as “upstairs” or “downstairs.”  Different smart devices are assigned to a particular room in your house and contain different actions that you can take using these devices.  These services can also be grouped by common devices allowing for actions like, “Turn off all the lights.”  These actions can be controlled manually or triggered at certain days or times.  Commands and control of devices, actions, and action sets can all be manipulated by a user via voice control with Siri. All in all, this will provide a common experience for all HomeKit compatible devices and allow all our connected devices to start talking to one another.

Security & Privacy

Security and privacy are among the largest concerns of all individuals as they look to add intelligent devices into their homes.  This was central to the design of HomeKit and something that Apple took very seriously.  To create a secure ecosystem, Apple has implemented end-to-end encryption in HomeKit between all iOS devices and the smart accessories they will control.  This ensures privacy for users and that their smart devices cannot be misused.  In addition, they went further in protecting users’ privacy and security by ensuring that the HomeKit APIs can only be accessed by apps in the foreground on iOS.  This means that devices will only be accessed when users have Home Automation apps open and are aware of the possibility of those devices being controlled.

Less value in Hubs & Gateways?

With Apple’s HomeKit being a network protocol, it favors anything that is a “smart object.” A smart object is any IP enabled device that can talk on the network. A hub that serves as an access point to devices may begin to provide less value to IoT in the future. Right now, hubs and gateways are still needed to talk with non-IP enabled protocols like ZigBee and Z-Wave.   While HomeKit provides support for these types of devices, they will likely become a commodity or a kit item for products, like they are today with Philips Hue (customers get a ZigBee gateway with a starter pack).  Companies whose core product was a hub or gateway are going to need to bring more value than just connecting desperate products, as HomeKit will now do this task. 

A Smarter Home

I am personally excited, both as a manufacturer of connected devices and as an early adopter of many of these types devices in my own home.  With HomeKit, Apple has given a shot in the arm to the home automation and IoT industries, helping move the both industries forward.  We are currently looking into everything involved in HomeKit and integrating it into our current and future ConnectSense products.  It will certainly be exciting to see what developers and device manufacturers do with these new capabilities.  One thing is for sure though, our homes are going to get a lot smarter and more exciting with many types of new experiences on the horizon.