The concept of the IoT, as a strange and wonderful nexus dovetailing the
digital and the physical world already, is a modern-day truism. Although,
we’re not there yet.
Given the hype over the past few years, one would expect to see mass
deployment across virtually any vertical by now. But we don’t. As a
matter of fact, the adoption of IoT is behind schedule. You may remember
on the installment of smart connected devices
over time, as the forecasters did their reality checks, figuring that
anticipated growth did not match the reality. Until recently.
As we speak, IoT adoption is
indeed accelerating. For the first time, the industry is operationalizing the promise of smart
tech. Eventually, we’ve reached the tipping point of the IoT. But why
Until recently, IoT lacked the hotbed to breed innovation and implementation
at a critical pace. One key condition is only coming together now: ecosystems.
Coming from individual, isolated applications, IoT architecture has matured
into complete end-to-end systems, with data centers and use cases, which
actually involve real consumers. This has become possible due to four
technology pillars that are driving the current IoT wave.
Sensors to Capture Every Facet of the Physical World
Sensing technology has come to a point where sensors are super small,
tremendously energy-efficient and super versatile, making them a critical
asset at the heart of the Internet of Things. Whatever use case one may
imagine, we have reached a state of technology where any physical signal in
our human world can be translated into electric signals and then into
machine-processable digital data. Be it the mood of a person monitored by a
home entertainment system, the saturation of a soil with nitrogen in a smart agriculture
application or the vibrations of a turbine in a predictive maintenance
scenario, as an integral part in the perception of the human environment,
digital sensing has established a new connection between our lives and
The second driving force at work here is connectivity. Established,
field-proven standards are now covering the entire scope from
connectivity, like NFC over mid-range (WiFi,
V2X), to wide area networks and
(Lte, LoRa). For wide area networks, the promise of 5G is looming at the not
too distant horizon. As we speak, the first infrastructure trials for 5G
layouts are rolled out in Europe, China and the US. In addition, more advanced
and powerful technologies such as ultra-wideband (UWB) are being implemented,
bridging the last gaps and enabling an entire new suite of use cases.
At the same time, adoption rates for the well-established technologies are
picking up momentum. Just a month ago, the 100th Chinese city has rolled out
NFC-based contactless payment for public
transport, enabling consumers secure and easy access to mobile ticketing. The
full spectrum of wireless connectivity and the enablement of fast,
cost-effective commercialization of easy-to-use mobile payment devices, with
the ability to scale rapidly, is obviously another key driver for the IoT.
Compute Has Shifted to the Edge, AI Will Be for Everyone
The third pillar is “edge”: A fundamental change in innovation
is unfolding that is pushing more smart tech to the edge than ever before. The
old model, where data is generated at the edge and processed in the data
centers, has come to its limits. Consequently, computing is shifting to the
edge rapidly. In fact,
that in just a year from now, already 43 percent of all IoT computing will
occur at the edge.
And there’s good reason for this. Dedicated edge processing reduces
response time and network congestion. Autonomous vehicles for instance, will
rely crucially on real-time processing to make correct decisions within a
fraction of a second. Dedicated processing eliminates the need to build
inefficient and unresponsive centralized cloud data centers to handle the
significant increase in data collection. It is more reliable at the device
level and it will result in better user privacy, since raw data won’t
be uploaded to the cloud.
Edge processing is based on distributed resources that may not be continuously
connected to a network in such applications as autonomous vehicles, implanted
medical devices, fields of highly distributed sensors and a variety of mobile
To make use of machine learning (ML) and to enable artificial intelligence
(AI) in this challenging environment, an agile application is necessary that
can retain learning and apply it quickly to new data. This capability is
called inference: taking smaller chunks of real-world data and
processing it according to training that the program has done. For inference
to work in edge environments, processing architecture and hardware are
required that are optimized and come with certain requirements on processing
capacity, energy efficiency, security and connectivity.
Advanced hardware fulfilling these requirements is
and has given IoT adoption a strong boost. What comes on top is the
democratization of previously exclusive technology. Machine learning, until
very much recently, was available only to those with sophisticated cloud
architecture, advanced algorithms and access to massive real-world data sets.
set of new toolkits, edge node developers are now able to efficiently integrate and run
cloud-trained ML models in resource-constrained edge devices and thus enable a
broad range of industrial, IoT and automotive applications. Removing the heavy
investment necessary to become ML experts has enabled tens of thousands of
customers whose products need machine learning capability.
According to a recent
Cisco study, only 9% of respondents in the US have high levels of trust in IoT devices.
Or, in other words, what are all the blessings of life in the digital age when
one must fear the fridge betraying one’s privacy?
The same study says 42% believe that IoT services deliver significant value to
them. While IoT adoption is accelerating across all industries, businesses and
end users alike are facing constant privacy and security threats. This paradox
underscores that establishing trust in applications is paramount for the IoT
In fact, we see vulnerabilities to IoT devices being announced at a rapid
rate, such as the
Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities of CPUs the
attacks. Many of these incidents highlight that we are increasingly reliant on
a few dominant system building blocks which have not been thoroughly security
Against the backdrop of these threats, stakeholders now seem to have
understood that a joint effort in building trust is mission critical. And
indeed, change is happening. For the first time, we see frameworks, such as
the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe or the California
Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA), come into effect that are defining common
guidelines on data security and privacy. On the industry side, initiatives of
leading players, like the
Charter of Trust, demonstrate strong commitment in advancing cybersecurity and securing the
digital supply chains.
To fulfill that promise and create an Internet of Trust, advanced providers
design their products, systems and services with security testing in mind.
They are upgradable so that patches can be applied after a security breach,
which will inevitably happen at some point. Systems are designed in a
resilient way to prevent the collapse of an entire network due to an attack.
And, because security requirements vary considerably for different markets and
applications, scalable security is created in the architecture of products and
This is exactly what
secure connectivity at NXP
is about. With a successful track record of providing solutions to secure
ecosystems such as secure microcontrollers, NFC, payment, access control and
high-speed network switches, our engineers and businesses are playing a key
role in the creation of the Internet of Trust. Success in this field is rooted
in a system approach, where not only secure products are delivered, but
it’s also ensured that design for security and design for privacy
solutions are provided to customers. This
security by design approach
also encompasses design for secure manufacturing, secure trust provisioning
and secure delivery, thus building the fourth pillar of the IoT ecosystem.
2020s Will See the IoT Getting Real
A new world of sensing, world-spanning connectivity, the shift from center to
edge, and advanced security to shield systems and devices are the key drivers
for the IoT to take the step from exploration to actual implementation.
If we look into the future, we expect 75 billion connected devices in 2025.
With literally trillions of end-point devices, new applications and business
models evolving around them, the shift from center to edge is nothing less
than a tremendous opportunity.
This is not about adding value and creating new business models alone, but to
make our lives easier, simpler, more convenient and more secure. If technology
isn’t helping to advance people’s well-being, then there is
little reason for technology to exist. The IoT holds the power to transform
our lives and it’s upon us to deliver on that promise.
This article was originally published on Kurt Sievers’ profile on
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President and Chief Executive Officer, NXP Semiconductors
Kurt Sievers has served as president and chief executive officer of NXP since May
2020. As a member of NXP’s executive management team since 2009, Kurt has been
instrumental in leading the definition and implementation of NXP’s strategy for
“secure connections for a smarter world.” Prior to being elected CEO, Kurt served as
president of NXP and oversaw all of the company’s business lines. In 2019, Kurt led
the successful acquisition of Marvell’s Wi-Fi Connectivity Business Unit, enabling
NXP to deliver complete, scalable processing and connectivity solutions to customers
across NXP’s focus end markets. In 2015, he played a key role in the merger of NXP
and Freescale Semiconductor, which created one of the world’s leading semiconductor
companies and a leader in automotive semiconductors and secure edge processing.
Kurt joined NXP in 1995, progressing through a series of sales and marketing,
product definition and development, strategy and general management leadership
positions across a broad number of market segments.