Part I — So What is The Internet of Things?

James JD Sutton
Jun 16 · 10 min read

The Seed Was Planted…

When I first started to learn about IOTA and the Tangle I was very intrigued how a few founders developed a technology that deviated from the traditional blockchain crypto model. Instead of simply using the crypto-economic foundation where security of the network is based on Proof-of-Work (PoW), mining, and incentives, the founders took a leap and thought outside of the box. They dared to create a network based on a completely different approach.

Elon Musk once said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor”. Well, the odds were certainly not in the founders favor when they decided to create the Tangle. As everyone in the crypto space focused on an incentivized based decentralized or distributed system, they dared to take on the insurmountable challenge of creating a network protocol in which the security was not based on fees. Instead, they sought out to create the Tangle, where the users of the network had the same motivation as those who run nodes and maintain it; a working, secure, scalable distributed network.

Steve Jobs once said, “People with Passion can Change the World”. It wasn’t hard to see, that if the developers could step so far outside of the norm and take on such an immense challenge… there is no doubt that they have passion flowing through their veins and the ability to change the world.

The enthusiasm that I saw within the developers and the community filled my spirit. Soon I found myself diving down the proverbial rabbit hole. I was never a techie, I had no idea what the Internet of Things was, nor have I heard of Linux. Yet something took hold of me in 2017 and I found myself trying to understand not only what the Tangle is, but what is the Internet of Things, and how does it all connect.

It has taken me nearly twenty-four months to partially understand not only what IoT is, but also, why is a secure protocol so important for the infrastructure? Why is security essential in regards to edge devices and sensors? Is it easy for companies to develop within the IoT space, and how accessible is something like Artificial Intelligence (Ai) to the world?

In the end, I wondered how IOTA and the Tangle can provide a solution for it all? How can it enable a trustless, distributed, and secure data communication layer? How can the Tangle provide a flexible and user friendly protocol to enable governments, companies, and people have an option to easily build applications in a cost effective manner?

Also, how about all of the data generated by the Internet of Things? Is it possible to offer a platform which can analyze the data for integrity, create collection efficiency, and allow for a foundation of a digital marketplace? The more I researched the more I found that these not only are the needs of IoT, but that there is an answer as well.

So what is the Internet of Things?

In the Forbes article ‘A Simple Explanation of the ‘The Internet of Things’, they state, “Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT”.

The Internet of Things will be a global entangled web of connected devices. Not only will it create machine-to-machine relationships, but it will also facilitate machine-to-human and peer-to-peer connections.

https://www.ibm.com/blogs/internet-of-things/what-is-the-iot/

This is a great video by IBM that shows not only how important data is, but where we are going in the future. In this video we see that a single car has several sensors which are continuously collecting data in real-time. The data collected will eventually be streamed directly between themselves, but also sent to the cloud. When looking outwards, we can see that all of the data generated by all of the cars will be flowing freely within the IoT ready for capture. Now, apply this use case to nearly every machine that has an on/off switch, and we start to realize the enormity of which connected devices within the IoT will bring. Not only is there going to be an exponential amount of data, but all of it will have value to some government, some company, and to some one. The data within the IoT is the commodity of the future.

Is the Internet of Things Here to Stay?

www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2018/07/11/10-useful-facts-to-know-on-world-population-day/

It is very clear and numerous research studies will show that IoT devices clearly out number humans on earth. In 2020 it is estimated that there will be 7.6 Billion people living in the world and there will be an estimated 30.73 Billion connected devices. This mean there may be 4.04 connected devices to every person. The reality is that a large portion of the worlds population may only have a smart-phone being their connected device. However, as each year passes, technology not only advances but also spreads outwards which connects the unconnected. This expansion will eventually, truly form a global network making up one global Internet of Things.

An example of such a valuable resource can be seen with Oil. The resource oil led to the combustible engine which changed society as we know it and an exponential growth in demand occurred. As David Sønstebø (One of the Founders of IOTA) stated, “Data is the new Oil”. Just as the emergence of energy such as steam, electricity, oil, and gas powered the third industrial revolution of the 19th Century, so will data and connected devices power the 5th Industrial Revolution of the 21st century. Or, as Byron Reese describes in the book The Fourth Age, we haven’t truly seen a rise in technological advancement as of yet. Through Artificial Intelligence we will be aided to solve many of the issues that are holding humanity back. As Reese summarizes, Artificial Intelligence feeds off our environments and our data. So needless to say, the Internet of Things is here to stay!

So What Are The Issues We and Companies face With The Internet of Things?

Companies clearly see the Internet of Things as as a fundamental part of society and an integral part within the digital economy. Many businesses and organizations do not have the same war chests and endless capital as the likes of Amazon, Google, and other of the large Corporations. Instead, they must strategically adapt and integrate into the new IoT infrastructure. Ana Bera’s discovered through her blog post, 80 Mind-Blowing IoT Statistics (Infographic), that when analyzing issues that face the industry the following has been found:

  • 80% of companies fear that they lack the skills to make sense of all the data that the Internet of Things provides.
  • 60% of companies stated that IoT initiatives always look good on paper, but end up proving to be much more difficult than anyone expected.
  • In 2019, one-third of IoT solutions will be abandoned before deployment due to a lack of data management and analytics capabilities.
  • 35% of IT leaders cited security as a top barrier to IoT success.
  • 84% of organizations have experienced an IoT-Related security breach.

The blog post explains that studies found various issues that included: difficulty and lack of expertise for creating an IoT layer, lack of understanding of how to manage and use the data collected, and lack of knowledge on how to secure their networks.

A global study was published by Aruba, The Internet of Things: Today and Tomorrow, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, which found that 84% of organizations have already experienced an IoT-related security breach! That is over 8 out of 10 companies who have experienced breaches in their IoT infrastructure. More than half of respondents declared that external attacks are considered a barrier to embracing and allowing for adoption.

As security is not only a risk within the IoT, it has always been a risk within human networks. Stat News wrote an article in 2016, Communication failures linked to 1,744 deaths in five years, US malpractice study finds, how communication failures has caused fatalities, and these are human variables. The examples were:

  • In one instance, a nurse failed to tell a surgeon that a patient experienced abdominal pain and a drop in the level of red blood cells after the operation — alarming signs of possible internal bleeding. The patient later died of a hemorrhage.
  • In another, medical office staff received calls from a diabetic patient, but did not relay the messages to the patient’s primary care provider, so the patient never got a call back. The patient later collapsed and died from diabetic ketoacidosis, which arises when the body doesn’t have enough insulin.

We must think, in regards to sensors and connected devices, which relay communication in real-time, the risks are extremely high. Data integrity is not only of a high importance, but also requires redundancy within the networks. With quality digestible data, human error can be mitigated.

However, what happens when the devices fail? What happens when the networks fail? What happens when the data gets corrupted through network attacks or simply through security weaknesses? If we think of IBM and the car example, we can start to imagine how catastrophic such events could be. Should the network fail that supports all of our devices and our municipal digital infrastructure, the cost is too high. This risk must be mitigated as much as possible, even despite all odds.

It is inevitable that the human race moves closer to minimizing human error through the advancement of technological aids. Yet over time, we will naturally become more complacent and trusting. The issue will then become what happens if they fail? If the Internet of Things fails, the consequence is much greater than if a human fails. It isn’t just one person that will fail, but a whole cluster of connected devices, or worst, a network that shuts down. Rather than one patient dying, it would be as if a whole hospital went down affecting multitudes of patients. Or even worst, a whole city.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Dyn_cyberattack

In 2016 a distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS Attacks) were conducted on systems operated by Domain Name System (DNS) provider Dyn. Three attacks were conducted throughout the day affecting services. Services that were affected were: Airbnb, Amazon.com, Netflix, Starbucks, Fox News, The New York Times, PayPal, and many others. These are some of the biggest companies in the world. The question becomes, when our medical devices, our transportation systems, our utilities infrastructure, and anything with an on/off switch is all entangled through connected devices and the Internet of Things, what happens when they go down? This is not only a human problem, but exemplified when considering a connected digital problem.

Over time the demand for connected IoT devices and networks will rise, this is a fact. However, so will our complacency. The only way to protect the world against such severe risks is to have a secure, distributed, trustless protocol that acts as a foundation layer in which to build the Internet of Things. That layer, that layer is the Tangle.

With 84% of companies experiencing security related IoT breaches already, security is one of the major challenges to overcome. Again, as Elon Musk said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor”. The question is not “is there a problem”, the question becomes, “how do we bring security in a trustless method which also has redundancy to the Internet of Things? There is an answer though, and that answer is creating a secure protocol that becomes the backbone for IoT. That backbone will be the Tangle. A network providing a secure communication layer that is built as trustless system. With such great risks, this must be completed despite all odds.

Conclusion:

The Internet of Things is here to stay. Not only is it here to stay, but Data is the new oil! Data will be a resource which finds a higher demand than any other resource of the past. Data, this new resource, will fuel the Fifth Industrial Revolution, or as Reese says, The Fourth Age. Yet, this can only be completed if we can capture and send data over a secure, distributed, and redundant network. In other words the Internet of Things needs a transport layer. A secure infrastructure to allow digitized packets of data to flow around the globe and space freely and securely. The question then becomes, “should the backbone of IoT be centralized, or decentralized”?

Coinmonks

Coinmonks is a technology-focused publication embracing decentralize technologies. We are Non-profit and education is our core value. Learn, Build and thrive. Our other project— https://coinmonks.com, https://cryptofi.co, https://coincodecap.com

James JD Sutton

Written by

Mechanical Integrity Specialist, Subsea Inspection Coordinator, and a Passion for IOTA and the Tangle

Coinmonks

Coinmonks

Coinmonks is a technology-focused publication embracing decentralize technologies. We are Non-profit and education is our core value. Learn, Build and thrive. Our other project— https://coinmonks.com, https://cryptofi.co, https://coincodecap.com