In this interview I speak to the creator of Internet of Things Australia, Stuart Corner. He is one of Australia’s most experienced writers and commentators on telecommunications. Stuart has been following the industry since 1984 and for over 20 years he published Exchange, a weekly subscription newsletter for the Australian Telecommunications Industry. Today he contributes IT news and features to a number of publications and undertakes a variety of corporate IT writing projects.
Stuart shares his enthusiasm for the potential of IoT in the everyday world and what developers can look forward to with IoT development.
Be sure to check out Internet of Things Australia, Australia’s first independent web site providing news and views on Australian, and global, Internet of Things developments.
Feel free to tweet me comments, feedback or questions to @ChrisBriggsy.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Hi everyone, Chris from SSW TV here. And today, I am with Stuart Corner, one of Australia’s most experienced writers and commentators of telecommunication. He’s also the guy who writes iotaustralia.org.au and today we’re going to talk about IoT and and the opportunities are for developers. Stuart, how’s it going?
STUART CORNER: Pretty good Chris, thanks. Yourself?
CHRIS BRIGGS: Pretty good. So do you want to start off by giving us a quick intro to IoT?
STUART CORNER: Okay Chris, well IoT stands for the Internet of Things and that’s the distinguished from the Internet Today. I mean today the internet has been there primarily for human consumption. Everything comes over the internet really is for us to read, to watch or to listen. In the Internet of Things, the data is designed for consumption by computers as essential or for control. So there’s - Internet of Things mean sensors in the environment on machinery in thinking you’re smart phone it means wearable devices. All these things that basically produce data, which is designed to give you some information. There’s also a term called the Internet of Everything, which has been, comes from CISCO which is gaining some traction and it’s really an acknowledgement that it’s not just the things on the communication network but the ecosystem. Embraces all the processing of that information particularly data analytics a.k.a big data because there’s going to be lots of things out there the forecast is half a billion and these proves massive amount of data which only provides value when you do some analysis on it. So I think it’s a usual concept to talk of Internet of Everything because it does make people think about the whole ecosystem not just the things in the communication network.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Well that’s amazing So, where are now in now in regards to IoT? Where is it currently being used today?
STUART CORNER: Well it’s widely used of course you know the smart home technology, the smart metering is widely used. There are several millions smart metres in Victoria alone. Machine to machine (M2M) communications is very well established. The wearables boom is again well established. But if you go to Gartner who are famous for their hype cycle if you would call it starts off with the technology trigger, rises to a peak and reflected expectations and then when those aren’t met it declines eventually, which is a plateau of productivity, which is a mature technology. Gartner says IoT is right at the peak of inflated expectations. I would tend to disagree with that. I think it’s beyond that and is an established technology and so it’s like wearable machines have been going on for several years. But there’s lot of Internet of Things applications that are in use today. They’re not widely known. I think the awareness and onlybeginning spread.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So, of the range of these applications, which would you say is you’re favourite?
STUART CORNER: My favourite applications, it’s hard to pick a favourite but if you want something that’s really quirky there’s an Australian IoT start-up called Wearable Experiment I think and they came up a year ago with something called Fundawear. Fundawear is underwear that vibrates and is controlled by your partner. So for instance, wear the underwear and their partner control it. It’s called the future of foreplay I think.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Oh, you got to love Australians, don’t you?
STUART CORNER: Uh, that’s a really quirky one. That would have to be you know a really bizarre one. Other than that my favourite, no I don’t have any particular favourites. There are many, many very viable applications.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So that Fundawear interestingly, would you say that would also relate to the quantifies self-movement?
STUART CORNER: Well absolutely although I don’t know how you quantify that. But the Quantified Self Movement is the way that you measure everything about what you do. And some of that will come from wearables, which you know plays a big part monitors your heart rate, where you go, how high you walk, how far you run, how many calories you burn. But it’s also things that would need some of the technology to get into data form like what do you eat which you have to manually input in most cases or or you could scan the barcode on the product package and things like that. On the Quantified Self Movement, it’s been around for a few years and it naturally got quite a bit of momentum. In fact, you go on and to meetup.com there are two meet – up groups in Australia dedicated to the Quantified Self Movement and Sydney’s got about 300 members and the one in Melbourne just got shy of 200 members. And these people are really looking at the technologies to do this and of course, wearables IoT play a big part of that. It has real potential you know? if you track what you eat and how you feel and over a long period, you could well uncover allergies to set the foods that you didn’t know you had. You just wonder why some things you don’t really feel crash hot. Maybe it might be something you ate that day and after a while, you start to see a pattern emerge.
CHRIS BRIGGS: I agree completely I actually discovered how lactose allergy recently from having to keep a physical diary of what I was eating and when I was feeling unwell. It be great if I could just wear a Fit Bit or something like that and then it sort of tell me, “Hey, maybe you should try and have the dairy so much.”
STUART CORNER: And of course, that’s where the data analytics part of IoT comes in. You wouldn’t have to manually look at all the information you would just feed and now investing in just some processing agents that we say I think there’s a link here between eating – consuming lactose and not feeling good, you should look at that.
CHRIS BRIGGS: But I think the real question is where does this data to reside, who then owns the data about my consumption habits and what can they do if it’s outside of telling me I have allergies.
STUART CORNER: Well that is the question. I mean there is existing privacy legislations but I am not sure it covers all the applications of IoT. Any of these wearable devices the data is essentially stored in the Cloud. Fit Bit stands to go in Fit Bit’s cloud while the data goes into other clouds. And the rules and regulations are still being formed just to who owns up data and what they can do with it. And probably a lot of it is specified in the terms and conditions when you sign up these services, which of course nobody ever reads in the first place. But it is a very grey area that we’ll need a lot of work to draft and clarify all the time.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So you’ve talked a little bit earlier about machines – machine applications. What kind of industry do you feel that will really take hold of that?
STUART CORNER: I think every industry we will take under that. There is not an industry that can’t make of better use of data that comes from machines to improve maintenance. And if you got a sensor or something like a conveyor belt, you can know if it’s going to break it down so you can replace maybe a necessary scheduled maintenance with a time management. And you can avoid a breakdown, which are extremely costly. And that might apply across the whole gamut of the industry. Anyway, whether this machinery that wears that can have a break down that can be costly. But more than that, you can actually have input to the manufacturing process and you can control what you’re doing. And there’s a whole movement around industry called Industry 4.0. It’s called 4.0 because Industry 1.0 was the Industrial Revolution, Industry 2.0 was production line manufacturing I likened before, and Industry 3.0 was the first stage of digitisation. And this vision, which came from the Germans about three years ago, they announced it and it’s got to be gathering momentum. Then the whole of manufacturing becomes automated you actually have input to manufacturing process and so you could decide if you got a website for example will say that, I want some this particular device and an opportunity for information to the manufacturing chain it will be produced and packed and shipped to you probably automatically. It’s a very immature area at the moment. Projection of seeing sense going to be here about 2025 but I heard someone saying the other day that the Germans in particular will working on gangbusters on progressing industry 4.0, which wouldn’t be surprising because obviously German money, the fact thing is in many ways world – leading. And increasing been expecting by manufactures in a lot level of these countries, so half the time.
CHRIS BRIGGS: See that would be extremely useful as a developer. Sometimes I’ll order parts in senses and they have been customised to my needs. So I’ll come in and I’ll get all sort of conflicts and weird situations. It be great if I could just say, “Look, I want to order these parts you’re going to manufacture but can you pre burn in the correct ID’s for me before you even send it out the door?
STUART CORNER: Hmm, if it does certain something then it’s time to happen.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So, it’s clear that IoT is going to change our lives. What kind of issues do you kind of foresee becoming real threats for its growth?
STUART CORNER: Hmm threats to its growth? I think possibly purposely of legislation will get in the way of certain areas. I think the general sort of scepticism about new technology will slow to drop in in some areas unless there can be a level of education you know? A lot of people say, “It’s just another buzz word.” They just see it to be babied around as another buzzword that doesn’t really have much significance. But you know, there are many leading authorities that actually say it is going to be bigger than the internet and more disruptive than the internet., There was a report produced by the World Economic Forum, Accenture this year could present things to that effect. I think you know gone that probably needs to have some involvement and then there’s momentum here to get going to recognise that it is a major trend that is going to impact all areas of society and to without over regulating do what they can to smooth the way. I don’t necessarily see any huge barriers to its opportunity. I think you know useful applications will be found we’re in relative country. You’ll get people like from the things like Fundawear and then many other applications that will come up with small – scale ideas for IoT. There will be some big wins and it will really generally gather steam I think.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Well its really interesting because there has been a lot of talk lately about how to seem to innovate for the future. And I have a feeling that that is going to really be the driving force for IoT’s adoption. Its need to do more of less, it’s need to innovate. But the massive problem I foresee is security because we can go and purchase all the privacy but it’s not just hacking into the device and download all the personal data. It doesn’t really help the price rates.
STUART CORNER: Well, that’s the biggest problem I think with IoT because the devices are generally low cost, they have to be low cost to be widespread, and in many cases, they’re not very secure. Security isn’t built it. There’s been a few high profile incidences where these Wi-Fi connected light bulb they can change the colour on turn up and down from your phone have vulnerabilities that allow people to steal the password for your Wi-Fi network and once they can do that they can get in and who knows what else they can do. They’re notoriously insecure and those are Jungle and he was an internet luminary in Australia in going back to the early days of the internet wrote a piece on his blog and saying the internet of toxic and stupid things. It’s a very high profile shortcoming of some internet devices. Now you know, lack of security has been a feature of almost every innovation guarantee. If you go back to Wi-Fi, the first Wi-Fi encryption protocol WAP was found to be woefully inadequate and something that replaced it was VPN, which was better. So I think security in IoT too will catch up and ways will be found to secure things at cost effectively either in the devices themselves or some other components in the network. But here are likely to be a few high profile – almost certain there is a some high profile breaches where people have gotten into networks through IoT devices which will create radical risk and will probably slow things down a bit. But you can say the same for other areas I think. You know Cloud computing for example was held to be a security threat. But Cloud computing has gained momentum very rapidly and those problems are largely being solved. Another example was bringing your own device. The corporations were forced to accommodate personal mobile devices. This created security threats but now of course a mobile device management technologies emerged and now there’s plenty of companies supplying enterprise mobility management, which make those other inconsistencies, be quite secure. So, you know where is it the demand I think the industry will catch up quite rapidly but it probably does cause I think companies certainly creates opportunities for people to come up with the solution.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So as a developer, I see the main problem being that there’s such a wide area to secure. It ranges from the device all the way up to the web service and everything in between. And I agree with you, I hope that they take the same kind of approach we took to Wi-Fi security which was we kept irading, we kept trying to improve the standards and we kept trying a better way to secure ourselves. But see, funnily enough about the light bulbs I remember that story because we have a few of those light bulbs in the office and it didn’t stay around much longer. So, everything you need to communicate overt the air, what kind of networking infrastructure do you think we’re going to be really be seeing get fleshed out for IoT?
STUART CORNER: Well, that’s a really interesting one Chris, because I sort of fairly accepted that sales of the day is not well suited. It requires high power in the device and a lot of these IoT devices isn’t designed to sit there on battery power for years and just wake up when they got something to say or to be interrogated when somebody wants information. So selling out of this today is not well suited. The next iteration of cellular, which is being worked under an aggressively called 5G, will specifically cater for IoT devices but that’s a few years off yet. And there are a number of other technologies emerging to connect these devices. They’re called LP1, Low Power wide Area Network technologies. Wi-Fi is clearly one option but these use whare are called the instrumentation scientific and medical (ISM) bands in the wireless specturm which in Australia are called class license which means you don’t have to have a specific license, the device you used just have to comply with the power transmission characteristics etc And In fact, we – it just emerged this week there’s a company in Australia is about to launch such a network and it’s called – the company is called National Marovan Network Communication I think is some sort of a bit of take on national broadband network. And they’re using the technology which is now standardized called LOLOWANG. It’s got the backing of IBM and a few other big players and it works in the 918 -928 Mega hertz kind which is plush lighters in Australia. They got one best station in operation. And the whole idea this will be an open network that anybody can buy devices that conform to the standard and then they just pay for service to get their data over that network and they can do with the data with whatever they like. And they say it will be very low cost, they reckon the best stations but look conserve. Hundreds of thousands of devices over a range abut two kilometres in urban areas and this is just 15 kilometres in rural areas will only cost about $5,000 each. So they can build this network at fairly low cost. I mean the best station is back all over cellular or over a terrestrial links and in fact, they’re talking of partnering with NBA for it to do that. When they help to have that network up and running in very short order So, this provides cost – effective connectivity that anybody who wants to deploy an IoT network as long as they can get the devices. This is an international – it’s not of standard yet but it’s certainly gathering momentum. A French Telco is planning to put these networks in 500 towns in France within a couple of years. So that would work in an ecosystem. That means there will be a mass market that cost of the devices will come down. But that’s only one, there’s numerous other similar technologies some of which are proprietary, so which are being standardised. There’s a French company called SigFox which recently scored investment north of 100 million dollars from a number of very powerful investors. They plan to build these networks out in 60 countries. They haven’t indicated they’re going to come to Australia yet. And there’s another technology company called Weightless, there’s one called Nuel, N-U-E-L. There are some standardisation initiatives. So how is this all going to come out I think is anybody’s guess at present.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So do you see eventually that we’d be able to buy a component, let’s say I’ll pay Sigfox a 100 bucks a month, do I actually need to pay the $5,000 for the base station or rather I can just rent some bandwidth from it.
STUART CORNER: Yeah, you would get band station that’s just a reflection of the December coming roll-up fairly low cost. You are simply bay on your devices and then over standard internet connection or a leased line you would get your data from that network. So you won’t have to worry about connectivity essentially. You put your devices wherever you want them and then you get the data from them so just over an internet connection, which will ultimately go connect to this wireless network.
CHRIS BRIGGS: All right, that’s nice to hear. I was working on doing a remotely connected weather sensor that I would attach to a model plane to do all sort of telemetry data. And the biggest problem was trying to actually fit on the sim card module because they’re a large module and as you said they require a fairly power.
STUART CORNER: Yes. Yeah, I don’t know how big these sort of modules would be. At present time, I haven’t gotten any information on that.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So we the ability to connect these devices out in the field. Do you see that his is going to also help the fog edge computing initiatives also?
STUART CORNER: Well that’s a whole another interesting area. I mean there’s a school of thought that says that these things are going to generate masses of dat. You don’t want to ship all that data back to a central hub for processing. And I mean in some applications that might well be true. For example if you’re sensing any like piece of machinery it’s going to generate masses of data throughout normal operation and you’re only looking for normal s like increased vibration that tells you that something is wrong. You’re never going to want probably most of that data, so that makes good sense to process that with the edge of the network and then just send some kind of analysis back higher up the chai if something – a miss is detected. But for example, if you’re trying to analyse logs from a network device you’re looking for intrusion attempt then you’ll never going to know what you’re looking for so you really got to take all that data and then process that centrally to look for the anomalies that some access and was trying to get into the network. So I think it will help applications in some areas but it wants some it would be universal in the IoT world. There’s a - fog computing is purely CISCO term for what can be generic called edge computing and there are a number of different ways of doing it. And again, just how that’s going to come I think it’s still too early to tell.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Yeah, so that’s the funny thing about the fog computing it’s so sexy but I know that it’s just a CISCO on the term. So, it would be very curious to see which names who takes over.
STUART CORNER: I mean they call it fog in relation to Cloud this is the term that kinds of linked to Cloud but I am not sure it’s a very appropriate term. Edge Computing is far more generic and fat more descriptive of what we’re actually talking about.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So, this all is wonderful but where do you see a developer’s fitting into this? What kind of opportunities are there?
STUART CORNER: Well you know any ecosystem is going to require several components. For example, if you take to like a smart metering application that the CSI have developed and is being commercialised, you probably – the devices is in your home. But once your they communicate over the internet back to a central Cloud and then you have an app on your Smartphone or your tablet that shows you how much probably you are using and allows you to turn these devices on and off. So in a system like that you’re going to need some software and devices, you’re going to do software in the cloud and you’re going to need an app on a controlled device. So anything that you come up with that wants to do something like that is going to require quite a lot of software development. And it’s really the scope is only limited by people’s imagination. I came across a really interesting app the other day I watched someone’s developed. It’s a sim module. It’s actually embedded in an insole that goes into your shoe. And the whole purpose of this is to track dementia patients because they wonder out of a nursing home for example. They honestly do from time to time. And the thinking behind it is that even a dementia patient isn’t going to go walk around without putting their shoes on. So this isn’t a device that event a wearer exist but he’s there and once he goes out then he starts to send signals using the GPS then they can be tracked and recovered. And I mean there are many applications that are more individual, the scope is only limited by people’s imagination. In terms of actual employment opportunities, I just did a quick search one of the manager/employment at sackseek.com.au and put in IoT and it got about 80 hits on Google. Now it’s a pretty end to end. I got in almost 30,000 hits for job opportunities related to M2M. And this is seed.com.au, this is the Australian website. And it maybe be a match of not just nomenclature but a lot of jobs out there if I have decide to yet or certainly in the M2M world there would seem to be dust off for the job opportunities.
CHRIS BRIGGS: See I am really glad to hear about the dementia patients shoe tracking because Alzheimer’s is very close to my own heart with a grandparent who is affected. And then they had to put down this large mat that was very obvious and would serve as alarm whenever he walked on it. And the problem they told me was they only had so many mats because they are really expensive. So this would be a great solution that would really bring down the costs.
STUART CORNER: Yeah, I don’t know what’s the costs of these things are But I wouldn’t imagine a huge cost and obviously widely available.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So do you get these little words should be developing, Funda pants developing single dads or small teams? Or do you think it’s going to be more of a larger corporate space?
STUART CORNER: I think it shouldn’t if you look at the real innovations of the internet, it’s never called from large organisations its come from one, or two individuals Google, facebook, twitter you name it. They started off not exactly those are the stand out ones but I think disruption tends to come from not from the established order and many of these applications will be disruptive and then probably will gain some of them will become huge. Established organisations were certainly deploy our T- tech technology to streamline and improve our operations. But I think the really innovative application prior to table come from left field, from creative entrepreneur individuals.
CHRIS BRIGGS: I agree completely. So I remember the other day we talked about the Quantified Self and I went home thinking, “Oh, it’s really interesting.” And I recently actually just recorded a webinar where I made little weather temperature sense in dibex of cloud. So I am retooling at the moment to track my office environment to see does my actual environmental conditions directly relate back to my coffee and other junk food consumption. So all it takes is that spark of a good idea.
STUART CORNER: Yeah, yeah and then the potential is really unlimited. I mean it’s certainly again, if you have a network like the National Broadband Network (NBN) that takes out that key communications component. Then all you need is the devices and you do have the software to process them, which could run the Cloud at very low cost and then you have an app on a tablet that allows someone to use that and getting information on that sense. So, you develop a huge investment you just need the creativity and to develop some software essentially. And the more you roll out the more you actually have to buy to get this thing rolling you don’t have to make this huge investment thanks in part to Cloud it meets it creativity really.
CHRIS BRIGGS: I agree completely. I think my total cost to date is $100 to make this sensor and Rasperry Pi 2 Cloud ready to go.
STUART CORNER: Right.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So, Stuart what are you doing in respects?
STUART CORNER: Well a few months ago Chris, I thought this is a space that’s really going to take off. And in terms of sort of coverage from a news point of view in Australia, nobody is really looking at it. It’s really going below the radar so I since started a website iotaustralia.org.au in which I started putting news items, opinions, post, blogs about IoT specifically trying to get stuff there about what was happening in Australia which there wasn’t a lot of in the beginning but it certainly gathering momentum rapidly. I think in the week after I launched it CISCO announced they’re going to invest 50 million dollars in two IT innovation centres in Australia. Communications Alliance, which is the industry body that develops codes and standards for the coms industry and now it’s the formation of IoT think tank. So this is something very timely and the momentum is starting to gather. The AIIA, The Australian Information Industry Association held a one – day IoT seminar in Canberra I think kind of a local government to it and trying to stimulate some government involvement. So things are really starting to happen. And I think it is very timely and I am just hoping that it will become a forum that’s totally independent where with news and views on IoT. So, if anybody got anything to say about IoT, they want to make a comment, or they got news about IoT then please get in touch with me.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So I want to thank you Stuart. But what is the best way to gain contact with you?
STUART CORNER: My email address is corner.stuart –C-O-R-N-E-R dot S-T-U-A-R-T @ gmail.com. Or they can communicate by the website www.iotaustralia.org.au.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Well I hope everyone gets in contact with you with some great articles for your site.
STUART CORNER: Thanks Chris.
CHRIS BRIGGS: So as everyone learn heaps and don’t forget, we have a webinar on IoT at devsuperpowers.com. And if you want more great content like today’s interview, don’t forget to subscribe to SSW TV. See you Stuart.
STUART CORNER: See Chris. Bye, thanks a lot.
CHRIS BRIGGS: Bye.