Embedded Trends 2015

This year will bring a lot of challenges for the embedded community. Trends like IoT and risk management coincide with Gartners predictions for 2015. In the near future manufacturers should deal with implementing security strategies – and developing payment models for services rendered.

While trends like „computing everywhere“ is kind of an old hat for the industry – because embedded systems are well established in the backbone of every mobile infrastructure – the ‘Internet of Things’ still needs some adjustings. Gartner says: “Enterprises should not limit themselves to thinking that only the Internet of Things (assets and machines) has the potential to leverage these four models (Manage, Monetize, Operate and Extend). For example, the pay-per-use model can be applied to assets (such as industrial equipment), services (such as pay-as-you-drive insurance), people (such as movers), places (such as parking spots) and systems (such as cloud services).


Embedded Trends: Home Automation – just the Beginning

For instance there is still a lot to do in the area of home automation. Instead of one app for each aspect like blinds, central heating or fridge there should be just one app for the whole home. Standardization and interoperability are important steps towards this goal. Embedded systems in heating and home automation controls will be easier to develop when interfaces and infrastructure are standardized – i.e. testing processes will be much more straightforward. But even then the industry does indeed have to face one very important question: who is going to pay for these services and how?


Looking for Payment Models

Devices are usually paid one-off but IoT requires a long term contact with the device. Data transmission needs infrastructure, electricity and maintenance: it is not for free. So payment models with – for example – a pay-per-use concept are required in IoT. In the end of course the user has to pay – although it might be difficult to determine the price: 10 cent for each time, the heating is turned down from afar, five euro per month for all the automation processes?

In IoT collecting and analyzing data will have to come along with either important conclusions or some way to earn/save money. That’s why prevention and predictive maintenance are two of the most important business cases today.


IoT-Scenarios Containment…

The other prominent deployment of IoT is containment: After the machine stopped – how can the situation be dealt with in the most efficient way? How can the person with the knowledge required and the correct spare part be at the right place at the right time? The eCall system (emergency call) for cars is a typical containment solution. After the accident has happened, it’s all about containing its consequences, for example by automatically calling an ambulance. eCall is a very typical IoT application where embedded systems are involved, by checking if the airbag was released and sending the coordinates via GSM.


… and Behavior Modification

Another example are applications with the intention to make people change their behavior. We will be seeing much more IoT solutions in the health sector, like systems for measuring the blood sugar of diabetes patients and to automatically note the values in a diary. Basis is a GSM or UMTS home gateway that connects with the cloud while the devices are communicating via Bluetooth or ZigBee. There will also be plenty of smart city applications: to make people drive slower, save power or call the waste removal at the right time. There is still a lot of standardization needed in terms of communication and to define standards will be taking some time – given the various parties trying to represent their particular interests. But the lack of standardization should not be an excuse for standing still. It is better to do something – even today – than doing nothing.


Leaving the Key under the Doormat


All these applications imply the transmission of sensitive data. On the other hand it is highly doubtful that application vendors will be taking care of security issues (read blog post on IoT-Security). That is why risk-based security and self-protection, like Gartner predicts, will be a most relevant issue. “All roads to the digital future lead through security. However, in a digital business world, security cannot be a roadblock that stops all progress”, the market analysts are stating. In the example of the blood glucose meter it has to be safe to assume, that all transmitted and calculated blood glucose levels really belong to the patient (and not the neighbor) and cannot be manipulated. To make sure nothing can be manipulated, encryption is needed. But every encryption requires a key and here is, where things get cumbersome: quite a problem in applications that should be as easy to handle as a smart phone app.


Maksim Smeljov – fotolia.com


Embedded systems: Key for the Key Management

Providers of IoT software and devices might not be very interested in security issues in the beginning, but as soon as a fraudulent use of data becomes public they will have to deal with serious image problems. Knowing how careless most people are with their passwords, there will have to be other concepts to ensure security. There is work to be done, but right now no one seems responsible. 2015 should be the year for manufacturers to think hard about new security solutions. Embedded systems can be very valuable in this area, as almost every one of them has a hardware element capable to store an encryption key or to accelerate the encryption process. But they have to be integrated in a security infrastructure. “On-chip security features do serve as fundamental enablers for secure systems but can provide a false sense of security without a broader view of security policies. Consequently, the trend toward enterprise-level security lifecycle management emerges as the most promising solution for hardened security in embedded systems underlying the explosive growth of interconnected applications”, writes Stephen Evanczuk from EDN Network. Otherwise the key will be left under the doormat.

What do you think – how will the Internet of Things and risk management influence the Embedded Market? Do we have already the right answers for security issues coming up?

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