IoT Roadblocks: Speed Bumps Or Major Road Closure?

Security, proprietary interfaces and inertia are threatening to hold back a massive growth opportunity for the semiconductor industry.

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The Internet of Things promises to be a big volume market and continues to grab headlines as companies race forward to prepare for its highly anticipated exponential growth. Huge market size numbers are being tossed around in every article and presentation. But when will the IoT really make an impact and what will it look like? Are we setting ourselves up for a false start?

The technology for smart lighting has been around for at least a decade. There are lights in every room, on most every street, and if you’ve ever been in a casino, they’re used to attract your attention. There are so many lights, in fact, that you can see them from outer space. So why hasn’t ‘smarts’ been added to one of the most obvious energy consuming devices, the light fixture?

Certainly cost has been a major factor. But now security and privacy issues are top on the list of consumer objections to connecting all their smart devices to the Internet. Data and system breaches have attracted a lot of attention due to the Target point-of-sale break in, smart appliances used as botnets, and the Heartbleed security flaw.

Companies developing products for IoT are delivering security options, but they continue to utilize encryption technologies that are more than a decade old. Software developers don’t even know what the system requirements will be. How can they anticipate the type and level of security to install? Most of the new security systems that are being implemented are proprietary solutions. This is not consistent with the objective of IoT, which is interoperability.

Semico defines IoT as an environment where physical objects can connect to the Internet with a unique identifier in order to send and receive, analyze and react to the information collected. Key to the IoT is the unique identifier and the ability to react to the information collected. That usually means data flowing in both directions. The interoperability of different devices, communication protocols and gateways make broad-based IoT implementation a unique challenge for security and standards.

There are some companies moving in the right direction. At the Freescale Technology Forum last week, the company demonstrated its ‘one box’ platform in a device that can be delivered to ODMs and OEMs this year. Freescale partnered with Oracle and ARM to create a secure platform that will help standardize and consolidate the delivery and management of IoT services. On April 7, ARM and Sensor Platforms introduced Open Sensor Platform (OSP) to provide an embedded framework for data acquisition, communication and interpretation of hub applications.

There will be 2 billion households in the world by 2020. Semico estimates there are 70 different devices in the home that potentially could be connected to the IoT, and that does not include each individual light fixture. Then there’s IoT for commercial, retail, automotive, infrastructure and industrial applications. I agree these are huge numbers, and the semiconductor industry will experience unit growth as companies try to grab market share. But the current products and services are too fragmented.

Consumers and companies need to feel confident that all connected devices will be easy to use, but not an entry point for the “bad guys.” Smart lighting is an easy entry point and an obvious IoT application. The technology exists. Connecting the devices and creating the environment to use the information effectively is still a challenge. There are still a number of major hurdles to get over in order to rollout a truly smart environment, and in order to kick start implementation, the industry needs to find the next ‘must have’ equivalent to the smartphone.

These issues will be addressed on April 23rd at the Semico IMPACT: Smart Lighting event. For more information click here .