Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Security is biggest challenge facing IoT, says Digi

Steve Rogerson
March 5, 2019

Security is the biggest challenge facing the IoT, according to Andreas Burghart (pictured), sales engineer at Digi, speaking at last week’s Embedded World show in Nuremberg.
“We see security as big for the IoT,” he said. “There are real threats when it comes to security. Attackers can find things in the black market to access credentials for thousands of devices.”
He they could then use IoT devices in the field to launch attacks on big servers.
“They are not running these from PCs any more but from these edge devices,” he said. “Also, you don’t want your patent data to leak. You don’t want it on the internet at all but want to process it locally.”
He said designers could not compromise on security.
“You have to respect the privacy of data,” he said. “You have to keep them in a secure field.”
He admitted there was a trade-off with edge devices to have security and intelligence but still keep them low power, but said that Moore’s Law meant more compute power over time, so even small devices could perform additional applications.
“Low power is very important,” he said. “You have to scale things down when you are not using them. Processors are getting less power hungry as they scale down the silicon.”
On market trends, he said there was a growth in agricultural applications and that Industry 4.0 had become very big.
“There is a lot more edge computing,” he said. “You have to be able to process the data. You have to spread the computation. The early days of connecting random data are over. People want to get business value out of their data. They want to be more efficient.”
He said the company’s XBee RF modules let people run application code in the field and added features for software updates so they could stay in the field longer.
Vendors, he said, were driving a lot of new services for smart cities.
“Look at street lights, for example, with motion sensors, and providing heat maps of city centres,” he said. “There are a lot of innovative companies out there connecting new services.”
One of the problems, though, he said, was a lack of standardisation.
“More standards would help,” he said. “It is always good to have standards. If you develop something new and pick the wrong standard, you may have to change.”
As to what connectivity technology will win the IoT battle, Burghart is in the cellular camp.
“Sigfox is proprietary and is single source,” he said. “You have to have a lot of trust to use that. LoRa is also single source and proprietary. It is also low bandwidth. Cellular has more flexibility and security. With cellular, there are a lot of companies providing this and they will be there over the long term.”