The Internet of Things is basking in its nirvana stage.
Industry pundits are predicting a multi-billion dollar industry fueled by billions of connected devices that will support better business and make life more efficient and pleasurable for individuals.
Cisco this week unveiled a new division just to focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), the software innovation group at billion-dollar giant Bosch Group has already mapped 10 challenges confronting IoT adoption, and Gartner last month named IoT a Top 10 strategic enterprise technology for 2014 and predicted 25 billion devices will be connected to the Internet in 2020.
While possibilities seem endless, the challenges of building such an interconnected world include security architectures, bandwidth, IP addressing, standardized communication protocols, management consoles, certificate management, power consumption, privacy and identity.
In order to query or connect to any "thing" that thing will have to possess an identity of some sort. A smartphone has relevance as a device, but its value skyrockets when it is identified as yours and gets even better when it can be associated with your other "things." An HVAC provides an even indoor temperature but it needs to identify itself to participate in an ecosystem of "things."
"We don't think of most things having a unique identity," said Phil Windley, founder and CTO of Kynetx and a co-founder of the Internet Identity Workshop, a three-day identity conference that held its 17th edition last week. "I think there is a mindset and we have to figure out why we want things to have identities. Why do the chairs on the deck need to have an identity?"
Identity helps form relationships between things, such as pieces of equipment on a shop floor, or a sensor and a device.
"What drives us to care about unique identities in some ways comes down to the extent to which these "things" are customizable based on our relationship with them," said Windley.
His company has launched a Kickstarter campaign around a device called Fuse, a sensor that plugs into your car giving it an identity and associating its data with carpool groups, company expense reports, fuel management and general maintenance.
On whose behalf the thing acts on (whether a data subject or not)
The data subject (no user, same user, different users, group) associated with data that is collected and shared.
Madsen is trying to get his head around the IoT and "I see a lot more [people] calling out sets of requirements."
Patrick Moorhead, founder and president of Moor Insights & Strategy, an independent technology analyst firm, has broken IoT into two camps, industrial (IIoT) and human (HIoT).
In his recent Forbes column, Moorhead compares IIoT and HIoT across a number of segments, including security. In regards to IIoT he says security means guarding physical access to the "thing." He names identity and privacy as the keys for the HIoT security model.
"We are being presented with a whole new set of identity issues," Madsen said. Those issues need definition and he thinks there is a model to work from.
"Today, OAuth and OpenID Connect at the most basic level are enabling a consent, or authorization, model," he said. It could be an app calling Twitter or a website pulling calendar data out of Google.
"OAuth gives me some means of controlling an application acting on my behalf. We need something logically comparable for the IoT. And it needs to be standardized. The whole IoT stack needs some standardization."
Jeff Stollman, an independent consultant, is also thinking about how a "things" fabric is structured.
"Before we create a bunch of silos, we need to see the bigger picture so we can kind of create a system-wide solution, to ensure privacy, or create interaction or trust frameworks. We need to know how big the universe is to begin with and then try to structure it."
He says there is potential for outcomes that we cannot even yet imagine but they will take time to arrive.
He says his biggest concern right now is the good vs. evil debate, which holds that anything that enables a user action also enables a bad guy to do the same.
"It's a new frontier," said Stollman. But with some of the same old battles.