IoT Evolution Expo Reveals a Broad Range of Platforms, Standards and Approaches
I’m pleased to introduce my colleague Chuck Byers, who is Principle Engineer and Platform Architect with Cisco’s Corporate Strategic Innovations Group. He works on the architecture and implementation of fog computing platforms, media processing systems, and the Internet of Things. He also serves as co-chair of the Architecture Framework Working Group and Technical Committee of the OpenFog Consortium. He represented Cisco last week at the IoT Evolution Expo.
On January 22-25, I attended the IoT Evolution Expo conference at Disney World in Orlando. This is a broad based conference focused on IoT and related technologies. This is the 19th event in this series of conferences since 2009.
I was struck by the broad variety of focus areas, platforms, technologies, purpose-built products, and standards competing for attention. You might say IoT has reached its “teenage” years—mature enough to be all over the place doing all sorts of exciting things, but not mature enough to follow a broad set of commonly agreed upon rules and standards. Here are some highlights:
The conference was organized into a series of tracks, including IoT security, IoT in Healthcare, Industrial IoT, LPWAN, IoT for Enterprise, Smart City, Business Intelligence/ Analytics, Blockchain, and Fog. Each of these tracks had up to a dozen sessions. In addition, there were keynotes from Cradlepoint, Verizon, Intel, McAfee, ARM, LoRa Alliance, GE, IBM, and Axis. Special sessions included panels of analysts, venture capitalists, and awards presentations. Finally, there was an exhibition floor with about 40 booths.
I was part of the Fog Computing Workshop, a mid-level discussion of fog technology and its applications. We got started with Lynne Canavan’s introduction to the need for fog from the perspective of OpenFog. She did a great job describing the fog landscape and how the OpenFog consortium fits in. Then, we did a deep dive into a couple of fog use cases, including presentations from Fangyu Li from University of Georgia on subsurface imaging for mineral exploration, and Jingyi Zhou from ZTE on 5G network slicing for fog computing. Studying use cases in detail really drives home the need for fog and highlights the key architectural requirements. Next, we transitioned into an architectural overview session. I presented the OpenFog pillars and Reference Architecture, and then Arsalan Mosenia from Princeton gave a detailed presentation on fog security. Finally, the fog session concluded with a panel discussion, where we fielded lots of great questions that gave me the impression that there are people out there deep into fog implementation.
A repeated theme across the entire conference was how much variability there is across the IoT problem and solution spaces. I listened to sessions in the medical, industrial, and smart city tracks, and there didn’t seem to be much commonality of thought on how to implement their IoT solutions across those verticals. In fact, the conference organizers did a quick census of IoT platforms, and depending upon your definition and what you include as a platform, there may be between 350 and 900 different products, standards, and variants, all calling themselves “IoT Platforms,” most of which claim to offer more or less comprehensive solutions to IoT’s problems (at least from their perspectives). To me, this means there is plenty of consolidation ahead of us in this marketplace, and it is unclear who will come out on top. Another common theme was the expanding value of edge / fog computing in IoT networks. Cisco’s leadership in establishing a fog vision for our industry has certainly influenced the marketplace, and should prove of great value in the future.
Overall, it was an interesting conference. The venue at Disney World did inject some different dimensions into the discussion. For example, Disney uses a wearable RFID bracelet they call a “Magic Band” to identify guests across the resort, and enable many “magical” experiences. So even “the Mouse” spurred discussion in the conference on the security, privacy, scalability, and big data implications of this, and how it might be a predictor for larger IoT developments in the future.