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yyrkoon

RANT: Cloud of this, IoT of that . . .

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The IOT thing has been around for long enough to become a cliche. As it stands now, in the consumer marketplace, it is a sales point for people that want the latest and greatest technology but have no clue how it works or what it is useful for. Roughly four years ago, I was shopping for a new refrigerator. The big store I went to had nothing that wasn't advertised as IOT (except dorm size), though only some of them were networkable. All of the networkable ones had features like temp setting through a web interface. All identified themselves readily with no security over the connection. A couple allowed Wifi connections direct to them (they acted as hubs if also connected to, say, a home network) 'for convenience'.

 

I don't need to know the details to know that a) these devices are a big ol' security hole, B) there is no need for a network connection for a home 'fridge, and c) once it is set, I have never changed the temp setting on a fridge or freezer, and don't see the benefit to being able to via a web interface, and d) I want no part of a neighbor, or a neibor's annoying kid, being able to shut my fridge off when I go away for a couple days while there is food in it.

 

I also don[t see the point of the same features (and basicly same interface and poor security) in a lightbulb. Or many other products. A toaster oven with wifi and web interface (they exist)? What on earth for?

 

This is related to, but different from, the cloud push.

 

There are things that can benefit from the 'cloud' storage (file server) and always connected models. In most cases, it is a gimmick or a way to rent-seek. Note where autodesk, for example, is going. Subscription and cloud storage, on their server, only. No net connection, no use. Saving backups locally is made awkward to impossible (awkward in autodesk's case). Drop the contract, and you no longer have access to your files. Since software doesn't wear out, it is a way to insure an income stream, and a better one, for the provider, than the last generation upgrade without downgrade path model that sold a new Autocad or Inventor license to most enterprise users every year (upgrade one machine, and all of the othrs in the organization can no longer work with projects touched on the upgraded machine), Given the market constraints and the need for the company to have an income stream if it is to remain solvent, I don't know how else they can do it, but that doesn't mean that I, as the little guy, like it or can afford it.

 

I'll shut up now. <Pshhhh> And have an adult bevvie.

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The IOT thing has been around for long enough to become a cliche. As it stands now, in the consumer marketplace, it is a sales point for people that want the latest and greatest technology but have no clue how it works or what it is useful for. Roughly four years ago, I was shopping for a new refrigerator. The big store I went to had nothing that wasn't advertised as IOT (except dorm size), though only some of them were networkable. All of the networkable ones had features like temp setting through a web interface. All identified themselves readily with no security over the connection. A couple allowed Wifi connections direct to them (they acted as hubs if also connected to, say, a home network) 'for convenience'.

 

I don't need to know the details to know that a) these devices are a big ol' security hole, B) there is no need for a network connection for a home 'fridge, and c) once it is set, I have never changed the temp setting on a fridge or freezer, and don't see the benefit to being able to via a web interface, and d) I want no part of a neighbor, or a neibor's annoying kid, being able to shut my fridge off when I go away for a couple days while there is food in it.

 

I also don[t see the point of the same features (and basicly same interface and poor security) in a lightbulb. Or many other products. A toaster oven with wifi and web interface (they exist)? What on earth for?

 

This is related to, but different from, the cloud push.

 

There are things that can benefit from the 'cloud' storage (file server) and always connected models. In most cases, it is a gimmick or a way to rent-seek. Note where autodesk, for example, is going. Subscription and cloud storage, on their server, only. No net connection, no use. Saving backups locally is made awkward to impossible (awkward in autodesk's case). Drop the contract, and you no longer have access to your files. Since software doesn't wear out, it is a way to insure an income stream, and a better one, for the provider, than the last generation upgrade without downgrade path model that sold a new Autocad or Inventor license to most enterprise users every year (upgrade one machine, and all of the othrs in the organization can no longer work with projects touched on the upgraded machine), Given the market constraints and the need for the company to have an income stream if it is to remain solvent, I don't know how else they can do it, but that doesn't mean that I, as the little guy, like it or can afford it.

 

I'll shut up now. <Pshhhh> And have an adult bevvie.

 

Networked lights are useful, and in fact have you heard of the DALI protocol ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Addressable_Lighting_Interface

 

Networked, a DALI setup can be used to control / monitor lighting in a very large building. Which is very useful. As far as bluetooth lights go . . . I have one, and this one is not all that great, but I can see how bluetooth, or wifi lights can be very useful.

 

Anyway, there is an article in this months electronic design magazine."The biggest Security Threats facing embeded designers", and much of it covers IoT. They propose that this can not be dealt with using software alone, but instead software, and hardware. I disagree. If a decent software protocol was in place, hardware would not matter. The problem *IS* all the major "consumer grade" networking protocols are garbage. Industrial networking protocols, I do not know all that well.

 

However, if somehow we could move most or all of these remote sensors to a wired network. For any given situation. We would not be having this discussion. So what we really need, is a wireless networking protocol that is not so insanely flawed, that an 8 year old child could break into it . . .

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Or the person making the IoT device *DOESN'T* ;)

 

(Yes, this has since been patched out)

 

It's really easy for anyone to not know everything they need to in order to design a secure device. I was in the security sector for years as a private consultant, and it was not easy keeping up. Just on security flaws. Not to mention everything else an embedded designer would need to know . . .

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WTF is an of-the-shelf IoT gateway anyway? Just an rebranded ordinary router? An edge router for every protocol they thought of - Zigbee, 6LoWPAN over various frequencies, etc.? Sounds like a scary idea.

 

By the way, there's now an OWASP for IoT. Not great but better than nothing. Not sure where I heard about it. Apologies if it was here!

https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_Internet_of_Things_Project

I was not aware of this, but one thing I did noticed once you provided the link is that there is not project for the one language that needs it the most probably. Javascript(  Nodejs ).

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It's really easy for anyone to not know everything they need to in order to design a secure device. I was in the security sector for years as a private consultant, and it was not easy keeping up. Just on security flaws. Not to mention everything else an embedded designer would need to know . . .

 

Agreed. That's why I'm not delighted by the prospect of IoT-mania encouraging a proliferation of cheap internet-connected devices.

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Networked, a DALI setup can be used to control / monitor lighting in a very large building. Which is very useful. As far as bluetooth lights go . . . I have one, and this one is not all that great, but I can see how bluetooth, or wifi lights can be very useful.

I don't follow that end of the universe at this point. I have worked in facilities with good, though AFAIK wired, network lighting control.

 

The consumer technology seems to be predominantly gimmick. Historically, the early adopters drove technology, and by the time it made mass market, there was a reasonable level of reliability and utility achieved from the experience of the early adopters. I don't see that with most of the IoT devices, honestly including the lightbulbs. I see a few uses in the home, and in fact have wireless control (formerly X10, now RF keyfob hanging on the wall by the door) for lights in my basement, as I didn't want to run more wire for the switch. I do not trust a system that requires a smartphone to operate the lights in my house (lose or break the phone and SOL until replaced) via bluetooth (poor security)

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Agreed. That's why I'm not delighted by the prospect of IoT-mania encouraging a proliferation of cheap internet-connected devices.

One of the biggest offenders in my mind is MQTT. Or at least the use of MQTT the way I've seen it demonstrated. It would not take much brainpower to royally screw up someones remote system through that protocol.

 

But, if you also occationally watch defcon, or other white,black, grey hat videos. You'll noticed several on hacking just about any wireless protocol out there. Bluetooth is particularly bad. By "particularly bad",  I mean I can not believe people actually endorsed the standard . . .Because the standard is horrendous. Then to compound things even more. Even though BLE is very short range. It does not stop others from "painting" your signal and spying form a greater distance. Which is why I'm glad we're essentially "wrapped in tinfoil" in our house. Which is actually an 80' x 100' steel building. ;)

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So, am I the only one who is getting tired of hearing about "the cloud of this" or "the IoT of that" ?

 

Networking has been around since when ? the 60's at least right. Then embedded devices date back to at minimum the '70's right ? So since when did this "rocket scientist" of a person decide to reinvent these ideas that have been around for tens of years. Known as "network connected storage", or network connected sensors" ?

 

It's almost as bad as someone proclaiming in public "Hey, dont use your hand, there is this new product known as toilette paper . . ."

 

Or am I worrying too much about this whole thing ? heh.

 

 

Yea I definitely see your point. If it ain't new, it's hard to get the general public interested. Look at all the fuss over iPhones that are already positioned to be replaced by the time they reach users' hand. This remarketing makes me think about how successful Tesla has been in bringing back the electric car, which definitely good, but it's hardly a new invention as it is often touted. That being said, I would say IoT sounds more attractive than machine to machine haha.

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Yea I definitely see your point. If it ain't new, it's hard to get the general public interested. Look at all the fuss over iPhones that are already positioned to be replaced by the time they reach users' hand. This remarketing makes me think about how successful Tesla has been in bringing back the electric car, which definitely good, but it's hardly a new invention as it is often touted. That being said, I would say IoT sounds more attractive than machine to machine haha.

heh, well I was reading this months design news, or one of he embedded magazines we get sent to us, where IoT has a totally different meaning. The . . . Internet Of Tomatoes . . .which I guess a tomato could be classified as a "thing" ;) But this was in relation to having sensors all over a tomato farm and an android app to view stats. There are other project out there too such as an application for monitoring dairy cows, and an indie go go project called "no more woof" that tries to extrapolate what a dog wants, by reading it's brain waves . . . Crazy, but pretty cool project ;)

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So just last week I stood before some 300 fruit farmers at a university research center showing our little IoT soil moisture transmitter that may either lift the burden of manually measuring twice a day on multiple locations, or from the long wires crisscrossing their fields with gprs modems and bulky batteries. There was quite some interest both from farmers as from their consultants. The name 'IoT' may be hype but there are a lot of realy useful applications.

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So just last week I stood before some 300 fruit farmers at a university research center showing our little IoT soil moisture transmitter that may either lift the burden of manually measuring twice a day on multiple locations, or from the long wires crisscrossing their fields with gprs modems and bulky batteries. There was quite some interest both from farmers as from their consultants. The name 'IoT' may be hype but there are a lot of realy useful applications.

 

 

That's IIOT = Industry Internet of Things.

 

What was the transmitter technology, sub-1GHz?

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So just last week I stood before some 300 fruit farmers at a university research center showing our little IoT soil moisture transmitter that may either lift the burden of manually measuring twice a day on multiple locations, or from the long wires crisscrossing their fields with gprs modems and bulky batteries. There was quite some interest both from farmers as from their consultants. The name 'IoT' may be hype but there are a lot of realy useful applications.

there were actually a lot of useful applications long before the phrase "Internet Of Things" was coined. But NOW. every joe, bob, dick, and harry has a computer in their pockets . . . Which means, computer are no longer for "nerds", but for everyone. Since they're "cool".

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I think the real factor now days is that sensors, wireless networks, and whatnot are more affordable than was available previous to the last few years. The hardware we have now days, would have cost 100 times more back in the 70's or 80's. Then probably 10's of times more in the 90's to early 2000's.

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Yes, i've been doing telemetry since approx. 1997. Since then the prices have dropped significantly, both hardware as data bundles so we're connecting ever smaller and smaller installations as well. I guess that somewhere you cross the line between telemetry and IoT but nothing really changes. Even when there isn't a real boundary I'm still cool with 'IoT' because customers want it.. :)

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heh, well I was reading this months design news, or one of he embedded magazines we get sent to us, where IoT has a totally different meaning. The . . . Internet Of Tomatoes . . .which I guess a tomato could be classified as a "thing" ;) But this was in relation to having sensors all over a tomato farm and an android app to view stats. There are other project out there too such as an application for monitoring dairy cows, and an indie go go project called "no more woof" that tries to extrapolate what a dog wants, by reading it's brain waves . . . Crazy, but pretty cool project ;)

This makes me think about a book I read a decade or so back: When Things Start to Think. For me, this book was a complete paradigm shift about what connectivity could be used for. There's lot of anecdotes in the book about things that are, that were and failed and where the future (which is now) is heading. I agree that a lot of IoT is just screaming to get pushed onto the market, but there are products that actually add a benefit to your life which are or might be classified as IoT.

 

I think there is a slight difference between M2M and IoT. M2M is about machine interaction and machine monitoring, while IoT is about human interaction with machines in a more immersive way than the mouse/keyboard/screen. Alas, most IoT solutions nowadays interact through smartphones, which are these stupid screens again.

Genuine Things (note the capital T) do not interact through a smartphone or website, they interact through other Things. For example, I do not want to switch on my coffeepot through scheduling it in my calendar, I want my coffeepot to figure out when I want coffee and have coffee ready when I want it. The pot can do so by querying my phone, watch (which monitors when I am asleep or not), my door lock, my alarm clock, my car, etc. I think Things are about smartness, not about connectivity.

 

Cloud is different from servers, although just slightly. Cloud is about virtualization. Cloud is a server(park) that allows clients (or yourself) to use a virtual machine (IaaS), virtual back end (PaaS) or virtual application (SaaS) while not paying for the physical servers. Cloud is about being able to migrate machines from one cloud provider to another, unlike renting a dedicated server, which must be either physically moved or backuped and restored in another physical location. I still think a virtualization pool is a better name than a cloud, but cloud just has a better ring to it.

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This makes me think about a book I read a decade or so back: When Things Start to Think. For me, this book was a complete paradigm shift about what connectivity could be used for. There's lot of anecdotes in the book about things that are, that were and failed and where the future (which is now) is heading. I agree that a lot of IoT is just screaming to get pushed onto the market, but there are products that actually add a benefit to your life which are or might be classified as IoT.

 

I think there is a slight difference between M2M and IoT. M2M is about machine interaction and machine monitoring, while IoT is about human interaction with machines in a more immersive way than the mouse/keyboard/screen. Alas, most IoT solutions nowadays interact through smartphones, which are these stupid screens again.

Genuine Things (note the capital T) do not interact through a smartphone or website, they interact through other Things. For example, I do not want to switch on my coffeepot through scheduling it in my calendar, I want my coffeepot to figure out when I want coffee and have coffee ready when I want it. The pot can do so by querying my phone, watch (which monitors when I am asleep or not), my door lock, my alarm clock, my car, etc. I think Things are about smartness, not about connectivity.

 

Cloud is different from servers, although just slightly. Cloud is about virtualization. Cloud is a server(park) that allows clients (or yourself) to use a virtual machine (IaaS), virtual back end (PaaS) or virtual application (SaaS) while not paying for the physical servers. Cloud is about being able to migrate machines from one cloud provider to another, unlike renting a dedicated server, which must be either physically moved or backuped and restored in another physical location. I still think a virtualization pool is a better name than a cloud, but cloud just has a better ring to it.

From what I understand. "The cloud" is all about remote processing. Or remote storage dumbed down so even the average Joe can use it. Usually through an abstraction layer( "clever" software ). In the context of "remote processing" I mean you perhaps have an app that runs on your phone. Which performs a specific task. But that specific task may actually, in part, or in whole be processed on a remote system. Which is more capable.

 

But again, I digress. All of this was happening long before "Einstein" decided to reinvent the wheel . . .

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Remote processing was very much possible before the cloud, but then you were doing it on physical servers. You rent these servers from a hosting provider like Rackspace. You could even have virtual servers, or VPS, mostly these used to be sandboxes or BSD jails.

The difference is that Cloud is not just a bunch of computers, it's a bunch of redundant computers, none of which have a hard tie to one service or another. Services are "floating" through the pool of computers. If one physical machine dies, not a single service dies with it. While with the classic VPS solution, a new machine (even if it's a running fall back) will have to be loaded with the previously running VPS or private server solutions before the service to the dependent customers could continue.

All things that are about online hosting/processing/back ends are possible in the cloud, but the cloud allows dynamic scaling of storage and processing power, in addition with an intrinsic redundancy. The key here is virtualization.

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You keep talking about virtualization, but thats been happening for years too. For most people however, virtual servers were undesirable. But I've known people who have been running Xen on Linux for many, many servers.

 

Anyway, the point *is*. All this technology already existed, and was being used prior . . .

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This IoT stuff is kind of like the music industry <shudder> or the illegal drugs industry.  If you get someone hooked on your product then you've got a reoccurring source of money.

 

It's all about money (for now).

 

<tinfoil hat on>

I predict it will become all about power later on.

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Electricity, food, phone/internet providers, hosting, cars, mortgage, employees they all need reoccuring payments. Are hosting-/dataplans so especially bad for small remote wireless sensors that potentially save a lot of money on other expenses?

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Money is essentially power when you simplify the concepts a bit.  Finite amounts of money usually beget finite amounts of resources, but humans require a steady stream of resources over time to achieve life, indeed death is the cessation of the continual resource train we require.

 

Thus, those who control the money flow, control life.  That is true "power".

 

And the companies vying for control over the IoT technologies know that their influence could give them structural insight & control over the development of this technology in the future, and they are betting this tech will be disruptive enough that it will become desirable-and eventually necessary for modern society (much as the cellphone has crossed this threshold I would argue), so it's a competition to see who can capture the most converts and followers and convince them to use their products.  Beware the embodied marketing behind most connected technology these days, it's all laced with puppet strings from competing companies just waiting for the right time to "pull" and orchestrate their self-serving surreptitous agenda (that is, of course, not so secret - it's the continual maximization of margin, of having the true structural capability to charge you more money for less so their rich shareholders receive ever more increasing levels of profit).

 

The value of open standards, and of open source, in this arena lies in the power of choice- when technology is based on open standards agreed upon by most, each provider and player can be kept honest by the manner in which their customers can "choose" another vendor without significant pain.  The "IoT" crap we've seen so far is anything BUT open, and open standards may still be a long ways out... initiatives like OpenThread sound promising but, when backed by a zillion companies, beware the politics of sharks when you are nothing but a clownfish.

 

However all this scary capitalism overshadows the real value of connecting things - the "emergent sum" concept, when interconnected and interrelated processes (the promise of IoT, I think?) can create qualities not otherwise intuitive or obvious.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

Base the tech on open standards, and we may all benefit in some form that might not be totally obvious to us until 10-20 years into the future.

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