Altran recently hosted a webinar titled “Engineering the future of IoT”. In this webinar, our experts discussed on the evolution of IoT and the various engineering challenges with respect to developing and integrating IoT applications.
Given the huge number of questions asked during the webinar, we were not able to answer each one of them live, so we have addressed them below.
1. IoT is applicable in diverse domains such as Energy and Utilities, Industrial Automation, Home Automation and so on. Do you see all this converging under a single IoT umbrella with common specifications?
The uniqueness of each of the domains will continue to drive the IoT requirements for that particular domain. Lack of standardization is a significant issue in the industry today. It is very hard to say which domain will dominate and which will not. Although a good learning from history is that— standards that are driven by organizations such as industry alliances, world bodies are likely to be popular. Since domain requirements are different, standards specific to respective domains are also likely to emerge.
2. What are the major barriers that you have encountered while deploying and integrating IoT solutions in the market with your customers?
Three major barriers that we have encountered include integration across different components of an IoT solution, diversity of domains, and their uniqueness and a lack of standardization.
First, the need to integrate across different components makes it necessary for firms who are building the IoT solutions to have multi-disciplinary technology expertise, across the various layers — devices, connectivity, gateway, cloud, analytics and HMI (Human Machine Interface).
Second, the diversity of domains presents its own set of challenges – an industrial IoT solution requirement is different from consumer electronics, while there may be similarities from a technology perspective; hence the domain angle is crucial. Strong collaboration between the technology firms and domain experts in the field is crucial to build robust and scalable solutions.
Third, the standardization is an evolving field, and it’s hard to predict which standards will dominate in the future. However from an architecture perspective, it is recommended that modularity and scalability be designed into the overall solution to quickly adapt to the evolving standards. We also strongly believe that there will be consolidation and a subset of today’s standards will emerge in the future as adoption increases.
3. What is the role of System Integrators in designing and building of IoT solutions?
System Integrators (SI) play an integral role in architecting, designing and building of IoT solutions. The multi-disciplinary nature of the IoT domain presents significant challenges such as choice of sensors and connectivity protocols and build versus buy of IoT platforms. It also requires deep engineering expertise across the various layers.
Altran as a product engineering services firm has been partnering with its clients to build IoT solutions in 3 ways:
a. An ecosystem integrator that brings together multi-disciplinary technologies to realize a larger IoT solution
b. An engineering partner that helps our clients accelerate time to market their solutions
c. An innovation partner that experiments with next generation technologies and evaluates their applicability in various domains
4. How can IoT be leveraged in a connected car? Do you have a solution in this domain?
Connected car is one of the fastest growing IoT segments, and there are multiple applications that can be leveraged in the automobile space. The applications include infotainment, emergency assistance, automatic crash notification (ACN), stolen vehicle assistance, navigation, diagnostics, audio/video streaming, over the air upgrades, vehicle telematics and other safety/security systems.
Altran’s solution combines the product engineering services expertise as well as software enablers to address the connected car market. We have enabling software for next generation In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI), Phone projection systems, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) algorithms and network in a box that help accelerate the time to market. Our services portfolio starts from system design inside the vehicle to cloud management outside the vehicle.
5. Is it possible that the sources required to manage IoT takes almost the same, if not more, place than the task to be completed? When should one consider IoT over traditional information gathering and control?
One has to create a balance between the cost of deploying an IoT solution and the benefits and return on investment (ROI). It is important to make sure that an IoT solution is right for the job and not over-configured or over-engineered. The benefits of any IoT solution should be more than the cost of deploying the solution and also running the system over a period of time. The efficacy of the IoT solution also needs to be compared with traditional information gathering solutions to determine the benefits that will get realized once the IoT system is deployed.
6. I have a question on Connectivity: When you speak of IPV6 and use of older standards like ZigBee, who provides the leaf level IP address for the end nodes? Is it the gateway and how is this supposed to be managed?
There are various mechanisms to assign IP addresses and provide connectivity between IP networks and non-IP networks. An IoT gateway with support for interfaces like Zigbee can do the necessary conversion between an IP network and Zigbee (or any other non-IP network). IP addresses can also be dynamically assigned by a Gateway using a mechanism like Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). Depending on the requirement and design of the specific system, there would be other options as well which can be evaluated vis-à-vis the system under consideration.
7. Many smart, connected devices are either completely unsecured or boast security features that are far too complex for the average consumer to implement, leaving data vulnerable to attack and even raising safety concerns. How you handle this?
It depends on a number of factors like type and nature of sensors, and also what kind of data is being transmitted by these unsecure devices and over which medium. Security can be enhanced by using various engineering techniques and a right technique needs to be selected for the right problem. For example, an encryption module can be used to encrypt the data being sent or a secure tunnel can be used over an existing connection. Mechanisms like TLS and DTLS can be used depending on which transport protocol is being used. A hardware enhancement can also be made to enhance the device security. However, we need to evaluate what kind of data is being transmitted and what is the cost of making it more secure versus the need and return on investment?
8. What is the current status of overcoming challenges for different device interoperability? That is, is it easy to monitor and control different devices (i.e. different communication languages/protocols) through a central system?
IoT encompasses many domains/market segments from home automation to Industrial automation. With different protocols, sensors and devices being used for various purposes and due to lack of complete standardization and interpretation of standards, many interoperability issues are present. While challenges exist, there are ways to plug interoperability gaps, and with careful design and engineering of the system seamless interoperability can be achieved. For example, gateways which allow protocol level connectivity between devices talking different protocols or an I/O module that allows sensors with incompatible hardware interfaces to be connected to a gateway and so on. Complete system level validation including interoperability validation is important. System integrators with good end-to-end system integration experience can play a key role in this.
If you have any further questions regarding the webinar or our IoT offerings please click here to ask your questions and our experts will get in touch with you.