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Human Factors & Trust Fabrics: Building Confidence & Resilience Across Connected Systems

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As investment in industrial innovation grows, and with the U.S. economic recovery strategy coming into focus – with trillions of dollars set to be distributed to improve cities and towns across America –  the importance of blending the physical and digital worlds to improve outcomes, control costs, and create sustainable improvements across the environment, education, employment, services, transportation, public safety, and cybersecurity has never been greater.

Among the panels being presented at this week’s annual Frontier Conference is one focused on “THE IMPORTANCE OF PEOPLE AND TRUST IN SCALING CONNECTED SYSTEMS,” led by Jason Shepherd, a pioneer in IoT and Edge Computing, leading these efforts at both ZEDEDA and Dell Technologies. He is also a pioneer in open source software and platforms, contributing to projects such as Project EVE and EdgeX Foundry within the Linux Foundation’s LF Edge organization. He is also the chair of the governing board for the latter. Shepherd is responsible for building ZEDEDA’s ecosystem of commercial partnerships and open source collaborations to augments the company’s open edge orchestration solution that simplifies deploying secure edge systems at scale.

“Imagine if the overall Internet was built as a closed ecosystem, controlled by a small set of siloed organizations, much less one,” Shepherd says. “Of course, there are browsing restrictions placed at a company level and in some countries, but the Internet simply wouldn’t have made the same massive impact on society without fundamental openness and interoperability. As it turns out, the term Internet of Things is a misnomer. It is really about a series of increasingly connected Intranets of Things. Ecosystems will get increasingly larger and more interconnected as the value to do so exceeds the complexity and risk to security and privacy.”

Shepherd believes we are now actively in the era of the ecosystem and service economy, with offerings increasingly driven by a network effect spanning multiple entities and backed by a significant service component.

“Leading technology providers will be those that create differentiated value through services, domain knowledge, necessarily unique software, and hardware — not those that are reinventing foundational infrastructure over and over again,” he says.

Shepherd invited experts to the panel who share in this vision for advanced integration and interoperability, including Bob Mazer, co-founder of Smart City Works Labs and the Smart City Works Venture Studio, Kate Stewart, Vice President of Dependable Embedded Systems at ‎The Linux Foundation, and Roy Timor-Rousso, Chief Revenue Officer at JpU.

“The ultimate potential of digital is driving new experiences and business value through interconnected ecosystems, however in order to build complex relationships that span private and public boundaries, we need both open interoperability and tools to ensure that no single entity owns the trust,” Shepherd explains. “For this, we need to focus on the human elements that balance privacy with the value received, collaborate openly and leverage technology to automate data confidence because it simply isn’t feasible to build the necessary trust relationships one by one.”

To this end, Shepherd led the incubation of Project Alvarium within Dell starting in 2018 and the November 2019 public announcement of intent to form as a Linux Foundation project. Project Alvarium aims to build out the concept of data confidence fabrics by layering trust insertion technologies with a system-based approach. Dell, The IOTA Foundation, and Intel continued to incubate the Alvarium code in 2020, and soon open collaboration will begin within the Linux Foundation. 

Shepherd has observed the overall industry increasingly step up on enabling trusted systems and data, from developing secure edge operating systems like Zephyr and EVE-OS, establishing trusted software supply chains, and building distributed ledger efforts like IOTA.

“Combined, these projects are focused on facilitating trust in both machine-generated data and across human relationships,” Shepherd says. “The automation of trust spanning the human-machine relationship will be a critical enabler for new business models and experiences, while protecting privacy and IP, in addition to detecting the rapidly growing amount fake data generated by AI.”

“Being able to secure the resource-constrained IoT endpoints is going to be a key factor as we look to scale IoT systems into the wide range of market segments, like Industrial, Smart Cities, Automotive. From the start, the Zephyr project has worked hard to follow security best practices so that it can be trusted for secure communication to the edge and cloud. We wanted it to be a foundation that others can innovate on when Linux is too big, such as in sensors and actuators,” says Kate Stewart, Vice President of Dependable Embedded Systems at The Linux Foundation.

Panelists will be discussing:

  • Macro challenges in cities (e.g., utilities, safety, and security, accessibility, pollution, traffic solution) and rural areas (e.g., connectivity)
  • The present and lasting impact of COVID-19
  • Key challenges, both technology, and people
  • Changing business models
  • Security
  • What's next, including AI, trust fabrics, and data confidence and integrity.

The panel is taking place on April 13, 9:00-9:45 AM CST.


Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Erik Linask

Special Correspondent

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