IoT 101 with the Internet Society


Organizations have been supporting data generating endpoint devices for quite some time, including: building automation, security devices, and cameras, and industrial process controls for years. IoT is adding a wide range of new consumer and industrial endpoints to IP networks. These endpoints can be fixed in location or mobile. IoT connects to and services nearly any endpoint that produces information (sensor) and/or controls endpoints (actuator). These endpoints will be managed by data centers and/or cloud services, not by humans.

I discovered a white paper “The Internet of Things (IoT) An Overview Whitepaper: Understanding the Issues and Challenges of a More Connected World” by Karen Rose, Scott Eldridge, and Lyman Chapin of the Internet Society. This 50 page paper provides a comprehensive overview of IoT.

The Internet of Things Defined

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices that can be embedded or stand alone with electronics that sense (produce data) and/or control processes. This is delivered through network connectivity that enables data collection and exchange. IoT allows devices to be sensed and controlled remotely across a network infrastructure such as the Internet.

IoT creates business and service opportunities for direct integration between the physical world and software systems. The end result is improved efficiency, accuracy, increased safety, while producing an economic benefit. Each device (thing) is identified through its embedded computing system. There are several predictions about the population size of IoT; some as much as 100 billion devices by 2025.

This is Not New

There been many forms of sensing and control devices within premises such as environmental controls, security devices, and video surveillance that we may have at home or the office. Sensing and control devices have been embedded in manufacturing systems for years. A modern aircraft may have 10,000+ sensors and control devices embedded in the aircraft frame and engines.

These are closed systems. Most cannot be connected to the Internet. They cannot support IP and many have non-standard interfaces or interfaces that are supported by a particular industry or vendor. An advantage of a closed system and network is security. Privacy issues are minor or nonexistent. A disadvantage is that they have to be managed locally. If they were connected to the Internet, it would allow for remote management. Security issues would be increased.

IoT is all over the Map

There are over two dozen organizations that have some interest in IoT with more emerging. This translates into cooperative and competitive standards and solutions. For example, will all cars, trucks, and busses use the same interface and be interoperable for vehicle-to -vehicle communications? Even if there is a common set of standards, what about communicating with off road construction equipment and military vehicles? They all can share the same road but will they interoperate?

The overview white paper devotes most of it coverage to five areas deemed important for the success of IoT.

  • Security – Poorly or improperly secured IoT devices can allow malicious individuals to use IoT entry points for a cyberattack.
  • Privacy - IoT data collection and its use produces privacy issues when the individuals who are observed by IoT devices have different privacy expectations. Compare privacy regulations as practiced in the U.S. and Europe which is tougher.
  • Interoperability and standards - Full interoperability across every product is not always feasible, necessary, or desirable. Should we have government mandated standards which may hamper innovation?
  • Legal, regulatory, and right issues – When data collected by IoT devices is sent across jurisdictional boundaries, whose regulations are in control? How are IoT devices used in legal actions?
  • Emerging economies and development - There are frequently unique challenges related to the deployment, growth, implementation, and use of technology in developing regions of the world. How are these economic challenges mitigated?

Another interested group is the many government agencies, domestic and international, that are struggling with policies and regulations that apply to IoT. The U.S. and Europe do not automatically agree on privacy and security regulations. China could go off on its own creating an internal IoT market that excludes most of the world. The global coordination effort will probably not be able to keep up with the IoT technology advancements which may produce some technical anarchy. The white paper provides links to various worldwide government organizations interested in IoT.

The Internet Society Influence

The mission of the Internet Society is: “To promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” To help achieve that, the Society:

  • Facilitates open development of standards, protocols, administration, and the technical infrastructure
  • Supports education
  • Promotes professional development Provides reliable information about the Internet.
  • Provides forums for discussion
  • Fosters an environment for international cooperation
  • Serves as a focal point for cooperative efforts
  • Provides management and coordination for on-strategy initiatives

The challenges presented by IoT support and deployment are heavily influenced by the rapid advances of technology. It is likely that many issues resolutions dealing with privacy, security, and regulation will come after the IoT devices are in common use. We will eventually solve most of them but consider the state of cybersecurity on the Internet. We are fixing it after we deployed the technologies.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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