Why the standards debate is hampering the growth of the Internet of Things in the UK

The Internet of Things offers a host of benefits to the UK, such as improved data, customer service and even a manufacturing renaissance on British shores. However, a lack of loyalty to one, common manufacturing standard for connected devices is one of a number of barriers that is holding back mass adoption in the UK and Europe.

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Data is, generally, being stored in the cloud. Companies need to pay extra attention to data lifecycle phases and ensure data destruction is available - and auditable - as part of its service. If any confidential datasets are residing outside of the company will need a layered security strategy.

Curran says: “The core principle to be followed here is the encryption of data. Proper encryption too. A company which does not encrypt sensitive customer data deserves to be fined accordingly...We can expect to see more direct input/output (I/O) offerings as well.”

Despite the fact that encryption is a basic step for large enterprise, recently well-known brands have fallen foul of security flaws. With connected devices, manufacturers need to encrypt more than their back end applications, something that BMW learnt the hard way when burglars were able to unlock cars using smartphones - a simple “man in the middle” attack.

Adapting the standard IP stack

Technologically, the IP stack will need to adapt to low-processing power microprocessors like wireless sensor network nodes that are likely to be deployed in the IoT.

Additionally, protocols will need to support high speed communication on nodes and route optimisation will be required.

Further into the future, international time zones will need to be synchronised if devices are to connect on an international scale.

Security challenges

Further, security issues need to be addressed. More specifically, device manufacturers will need to use the correct cryptographic algorithms and modes. An international ISO/IEC 29192 standard was devised as limited memory, battery life and restricted processors need a lightweight cryptography. The traditional form of heavy cryptography is not easy to deploy on a typical sensor - which is why, Curran warns, many IoT devices are currently insecure.

He adds: “Regulations for the IoT need to address issues of ‘minimum specifications’ for devices.” 

Is the UK ready for the IoT?

As it stands, many embedded devices do not have enough computing power to implement all the relevant security layers and functionality a company, or consumer needs. Throw mismatched industry standards and poor battery life into the mix and the IoT does not appear as healthy as analysts would have you believe.

But once policy-makers start identifying and reducing the barriers to data sharing, bring industry together to promote interoperability and ensure that laws allow data sharing between different bodies, UK industry could flourish.

While you may not believe in sticking to one standard for now, indecision could be the biggest inhibitor to the IoT so far.

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