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Security Sep 07, 2023

7 ways automation can enhance your IoT ecosystem

By Nektarios Georgalas Manager for Innovation, Solutions Architecture and Technical Programme (IoT), Digital

This blog post is based on the research, development and experience of our world-leading research and network strategy team at Adastral Park, who are continuously driving innovation through collaboration with technology partners, industry bodies and academics, in pursuit of tomorrow's technologies.

In recent years, we’ve been steadily adjusting to the introduction of IoT devices into our workplaces, vehicles and homes.

By 2025, it’s predicted there’ll be 41.6 billion IoT devices in deployment globally. In particular, organisations have discovered how IoT technologies open up new ways to manage, monitor and measure assets and their performance, uncovering valuable insights that would otherwise have remained hidden.

Organisations and society are now ready for the next evolutionary step – scaling up individual ecosystems into smart city deployments where all connected devices gather and share vast amounts of data to enable a new vista of possibilities.

Can a large IoT ecosystem be managed by human teams alone?

However, as the number and type of connected devices rises, the management burden grows and demands increasing amounts of time and expertise to configure and manage the IoT solutions, as well as to analyse the results and decide what actions to take.

This will soon become unsustainable. Without automation, there’s a distinct danger that the huge management burden would end up outweighing any advantages of larger IoT ecosystems, causing development to stall.

It’s vital we recognise the importance of creating and building in automatic capabilities, known as ‘autonomics’ in IT management. These capabilities of self-configuration, self-healing, self-protection, self-optimisation and self-adaptation will protect the future potential of IoT ecosystems.

Seven ways autonomics advance large IoT ecosystems

We’re investing deeply in making this future possible through our involvement with pioneering research projects, like our recent trial of a smart port ecosystem. This testbed showcases the seven key breakthrough benefits autonomics can deliver to IoT ecosystems:

1. Overcoming large-scale deployment challenges

Traditional IoT onboarding isn’t viable when millions of devices are involved. So, during our smart port trial, we tested an Easy Device Onboarding system that installed thousands of IoT devices securely at once. It took care of locating and connecting devices on the network, configuration and checking actions against the relevant provisioning policies, and ran its own updates – all without human input.

2. Mitigating growing attack surfaces

Larger IoT ecosystems bring an expanded attack service and increased vulnerability, and the consequences of a malicious attack on a smart city or smart road network could be catastrophic. We trialled a robust Remote Attestation system, which used automation to remotely authenticate IoT devices as they connected to the network, specifically requesting device characteristics that can’t be replicated.

3. Protecting privacy

Smart cities will need to use smart cameras with computer vision technology to detect objects, monitor security and health and safety - but there are privacy implications with this level of non-stop surveillance at scale. We successfully installed an automated video tool that automatically anonymises faces and uses GDPR-compliant analytics to identify potentially sensitive or private content before encrypting those images.

4. Improving health and safety

Smart environments must be safe if they’re to take off - particularly in ecosystems with inherent dangers, like industrial use cases or smart roads. During our trial, we experimented with smart cameras that continuously monitored environments using computer vision analytics. They detected health and safety issues like workers falling or wandering into dangerous areas, raising the alarm much faster than a human could.

5. Managing large-scale video feeds

A large smart camera network will generate a constant stream of visual data that will need to be processed, securely stored and then viewed. Relaying footage across vast environments, like cities or even countries, may create latency challenges, so caching and processing at the edge will be critical for operational efficiency. We’ve been working on a highly scalable, high-availability video storage platform that’s built on Apache Cassandra. It can automate video feed exchange to send footage securely between the cloud or edge, and is already integrating well with other platforms. 

6. Self-healing IoT networks

Rapid detection and fix of outages, viruses or misconfigurations will be vital when so much of the smart city or ecosystem depends on a continuous service. A combination of automated network health monitoring, network micro-segmentation and policy-based incident responses provides the best defence against issues by managing detection, isolation and repair automatically. These IoT autonomics continuously scan the ecosystem and isolate any devices responsible for unusual activity into their own micro-segment, where they’re remotely scanned and remediated, before being securely brought back into the wider ecosystem. 

7. Tailoring services and pricing to different requirements

Larger ecosystems will have a variety of different groups of people operating inside them and using them differently. During our smart port trail, to meet these diverse requirements, we explored how an automated management system could generate tailored service level agreements for different ecosystem tenants – like more accurate pricing based on space usage or device activity data. Our system measured contextual data against specified performance indicators to ensure service agreements were met. It also explored where operations, space or pricing could be further optimised. 

Building tomorrow’s IoT-driven environments

IoT autonomics have huge potential – enabling new environments that are smarter, safer, healthier and more efficient.

If you’d like to find out more about our work as a leading innovator in the IoT space, download our latest whitepaper