This is the time of the year to forecast on what might develop in the new year and to consider the advancements of different technologies and to engage in discussions to ponder what we might expect in 2016.  While there are many technologies that are developing, here are my six key forecasts for change for the Internet of Things (IoT) in 2016.

1./ Expect to see more advancements regarding security.  As IoT evolves, more and more data will reside on the communication networks and may never get to the data centre. Some network designers fear that content on the network is at greater risk, but this need not be the case. Clearly, protecting data is paramount. So, how do we protect the data?  What tools, strategies, and options are available to the network designer to ensure that the security requirements are not only being met, but exceeded.  Placing firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and intrusion protection systems, out at the network edge will be vital to securing the network fabric.  New strategies for AAA are need too so that it is federated over the network fabric.

2./ Federation of the network is key to IoT.  A federated network is one composed of multiple tiers. Each tier has specific functions to perform in the end-to-end network fabric. However, upon demand, these network tiers can come together or break apart upon demand.  So, a federated network is one that is able to make and break upon demand and can act in harmony or in isolation of the other network tiers as required. Authority and functionality can be grouped, or segmented. It is also managed as a centralized network and as a distributed network simultaneously, this is what makes it federated. The intelligence is at the edge, but it is centrally orchestrated.

3./ Security needs to change.  Security is not a one size fits all situations.  Security needs to be applied in a manner that provides the right level of protection for the need.  What we do for a mesh network might be different than what we do for backhaul network and the core network.  Security is not static.  It needs to be dynamic and vary its response to the threat and escalate as necessary to stay ahead of the threat.  In this day of wonderfully automated analytic analysis that can instantly diagnose a threat and deploy real-time counter-measures designed for that specific level of threat, IoT should be able to benefit from a variable level of response that is balanced to the urgency and demands of the penetration.

4./ Mesh topology will prevail over star and cluster tree topologies.  The emerging IoT standards permit three different topologies for the access tier network.  These are mesh, star, and cluster tree.  Mesh offers the best density and data rates, whereas star offers the greatest range, but at a cost to data rate, and, cluster, which is a hybrid of mesh and star, and cluster tree seems to continue to compromise the data rate, range, and latency.  Mesh has the greatest capacity to accommodate the largest number of nodes and is the most robust topology with numerous pathways to connect.   What needs to be stated is that star is ideal for rural and remote areas where range is critical.  Mesh is ideal for urban and suburban coverage.  Cluster tree can work in all scenarios, but seems to be compromised in every circumstance.

5./ IPv6 will take off and be used end-to-end in the IoT network.  The Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) 6LowPAN standard which drives the IETF IPv6 standard to the Internet of Things (IoT) network is fast becoming the de facto standard. Interoperability is the key to these standards that promises interchange between vendors. Everyone is anxiously awaiting these standards to be included into smart products. Once available, network designers can have the single vendor shackles removed from their purchasing process, thereby allowing an open multi vendor business model that provides robustness, cost effectiveness, enhanced support, and most of all, trust and confidence to these emerging smart networks. While some vendors resist this advancement, others embrace it so it is moving forward, albeit not as fast as we would like to see.

6./ A comprehensive back-end platform will emerge to bring the networks into a cohesive collective and seamless service offering.  The platform needs to be truly protocol and hardware agnostic, working seamlessly with any system — including your legacy systems.  The core IoT platform technology acts as an IoT version of middleware solutions, providing device connectivity at scale, cross-communication, data brokering, and storage.  It also makes sense of the captured data by offering actionable data intelligence through predictive computational models and a configurable rules engine.  It combines the back-end analytics with the analytics run in real-time over the network fabric.  The platform is essential for seamless operations and tightly coupled integration.

We will see many changes to IoT in 2016 and all of them are for the good of the technology to advance to become a critical part of every business.


About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has served in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V).  He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisors of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.