How the “Internet of Things” Will Feed Cloud Computing’s Next Evolution

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By David Canellos

While the Internet of Things is not a new concept (Kevin Ashton first coined the term in 1999 to describe how the internet is connected to the physical world), it is just now becoming a reality due to some major shifts in technology.

According to ABI Research, more than 5B wireless connectivity chips will ship this year – and most of those chips will find their way into tablets, sensors, cameras and even light bulbs or refrigerators that will increasingly become connected to the internet. Currently, there are about two internet-connected devices for every person on the planet, but by 2025, analysts are forecasting that this ratio will surpass six. This means we can expect to grow to nearly 50 billion internet-connected devices in the next decade.

Driven by a revolution in technology, for the first time we have the ability to create a central nervous system on our planet. Over the next decade, most of the connected device growth will come from very small sensors that are primarily doing machine-to-machine communications and acting as the digital nerve endings for highly dynamic global sense-and-respond systems. This sensor technology will allow us to measure systems on a global scale and at the same time offer a never-before seen array of intelligent services.

“Whether it is Smart Cities, e-Health and Assisted Living, Intelligent Manufacturing, Smart Logistics and Transport, or Smart Metering, 21st century machines are now sensing, anticipating, and responding to our needs; and we can control them remotely. We cannot have a policy or create the impression that the Internet of Things would create an Orwellian world. Our goal, and our commitment, should be to create a vision that focuses on providing real value for people”, said Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

This promise is what generates excitement about these interconnected sensor data networks. If successful, they will help us solve some of the biggest problems facing our society, making “The Internet of Things” not just a reality, but a force for major change.

The Role of Cloud Computing

While the Internet of Things is exciting on its own, it is my belief that the real innovation will come from combining it with cloud computing. As all these interactions between connected devices occur, large volumes of data will be generated. This data will be easily captured and stored, but it needs to be transformed into valuable knowledge and actionable intelligence – this is where the real power of the cloud kicks in. Systems in the cloud will be used to (a) transform data to insight and (b) drive productive, cost-effective actions from these insights. Through this process, the cloud effectively serves as the brain to improve decision-making and optimization for internet-connected interactions.

Cloud computing can provide the virtual infrastructure for utility computing integrating applications, monitoring devices, storage devices, analytics tools, visualization platforms, and client delivery. The utility-based model that cloud computing offers will enable businesses and users to access applications on demand anytime, anyplace and anywhere.

Data Protection Challenges

With the intersection of the Internet of Things and cloud computing, protecting personal privacy becomes an essential and necessary condition. How to ensure information security and privacy is an important issue that must be addressed and resolved in the development of the Internet of Things. People will resist the ubiquitous free flow of information if there is no public confidence that it will not cause serious threats to privacy.

The intelligence and integrated nature of the Internet of Things raises serious concerns over individual privacy in the new environment of smart devices and objects. Universal connectivity through internet access exacerbates the problem because, unless special mechanisms are considered (encryption, authentication, etc.), personally identifiable information (PII) may become uncontrollably exposed.

Data Protection Solutions

In order to remove barriers to the Internet of Things and the cloud, the technology industry (and enterprises deploying and using these technologies) needs to embrace the basic principles of protecting personal privacy, including the management, storage and processing of all sensitive information.

Legislation will continue to evolve in an attempt to deal with these issues, and sector-specific industry bodies will produce regulations that provide guidelines and best practices to security and privacy officers. And security technologies will surely continue to advance to ensure that these regulations can be complied with in the most effective and efficient ways possible.

In the middle of it all will be IT and security professionals, and their technology partners, who will have the challenge of managing not only the threats of data leakage and identity theft, but also growing consumer and employee concerns about data privacy.

Perhaps Marc Vael, international vice president of ISACA said it best: “The protection of private data often referred to as personally identifiable information (PII) is the responsibility of both organizations and individuals. Organizations need to ensure that PII is managed and protected throughout its life cycle by having a governance strategy and good processes in place. Individuals must think before they provide their PII to a third party ... and be aware of the value of the information they are providing and assess if they can trust whom they are giving it to. Data protection involves improving people’s awareness, using best-of-breed technology and deploying sound business processes.”

If the industry – and its customers and beneficiaries – can embrace these ideas, we’ll be able to realize the full potential of the cloud-enhanced, Internet of Things world of which we’re on the cusp.

David Canellos is president and CEO of PerspecSys. Previously, Canellos was senior VP of sales and marketing at Irdeto Worldwide, a division of Naspers. Prior to that, he was the president and COO of Cloakware, which was acquired by Irdeto. Before joining Cloakware, Canellos was the general manager and VP of sales for Cramer Systems (now Amdocs), a UK-based company, where he was responsible for the company’s revenue and operations in the Americas. Prior to his work with Cramer, he held a variety of executive, sales management and business development positions with Oracle Corporation, Versatility and SAIC.

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