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October 1, 2015updated 30 Aug 2016 12:17pm

Offline, expensive & unsafe: How to build a supreme IoT?

C-level briefing: Mark Powell, executive director at Bluetooth SIG, talks keeping IoT on when the internet is off.

By Joao Lima

Bluetooth SIG owns the Bluetooth trademarks and oversees development of the Bluetooth standard. The company is deeply emerged in the IoT spectrum with Powell stating that this revolution is just starting.

"The world is going to be made up of pieces of hardware that are measuring data and sensing different things."

CBR spoke to the executive director on some of the biggest IoT challenges facing the industry.

CBR: How can you make IoT work offline?

MP: It is important to have multiple connection points. Today we have devices like smartphones and tablets that connect to the Internet of My Things (IoMT), like fitness bands or earpieces.

What we are adding is the ability for those things to connect through a gateway to applications in the cloud. The local connection is not going away, if there is no internet users can still use a smartphone to control those things.

CBR: The industry is very much focused on standards and specification. What is the difference between standards and specifications?

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MP: There are many standards organisations who produce documents which some people call standards others call specifications. In my mind, they are kind of the same thing.

We need the standard or the specification to be implemented in a clean and consistent way so that everybody’s stuff works with everybody else’s.

CBR: At techUK, the industry heard that we have enough standards in the consumer electronic space and that what we need now is legislation. Do you agree with that?

MP: No, I do not agree with that. There are applications coming that we do not have specifications for and if we want to make sure that consumers can buy products that work together, we need specifications for those.

CBR: Picking up on legislation, what is your view on the government’s IoT involvement?

MP: There are perhaps important issues that the government should worry about. For instance, many of these IoT products use what is called unlicensed spectrum. For example, Bluetooth and WiFi operate in a frequency band of 2.4 Ghz and on the side of that there are frequency bands that use LTE.

LTE is much more powerful, and without the right legislation, it is possible that there might be some interference. That would be a concern.

Today, the frequencies are quite separated but I know much how money auctioning spectrum can give to governments. Perhaps without thinking, they might auction spectrum without being concerned about interference.

CBR: Why is security such a hot topic in the IoT space?

MP: There are two tough things with security. First, knowing where all the holes are is pretty tough. It is difficult to look at a system design and anticipate all of the different possibilities for cracking or breaking into a system.

Second, technology is advancing all the time. It is inevitable that the security that we have today will be needed to be upgraded in years to come as techniques for cracking locks get more sophisticated.

It does not matter how secure someone’s wireless technology is, if they do not implement something as basic as a username and password then people are still going to be able to get in.

CBR: What other challenges are we faced with in securing IoT?

MP: In the future people will think this way: I have these IoT devices, they are mine or they are in my house and I need to be able to allow this application and this provider access to my data.

For example, I want all my windows and door sensors to be connected to my security service, but I do not want my blood pressure meter to be connected to it, I want that device to be connected to somewhere else.

When I have provided data to those things, I obviously do not want any burglars to get access to my security service. We go from securing the device itself, securing the air link, the wireless link, the connection back from a router in the home to the internet, and then we have to secure the applications as well.

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