Why the Internet of Things is a matter of power, data and security

Jason Ford - News Editor, The EngineerJason Ford, news editor

A couple of Briefings ago we looked at IDTechEx in Berlin and the increasing role of graphene in numerous applications, including energy storage devices.

The multi-faceted trade fair in Berlin was also home to the Energy Harvesting & Storage Europe Conference with stand G12 and a slot on ‘Demonstration Street’ occupied by Ilika, which were there to show off its micro solid-state batteries.

In Ilika’s solutions, the liquid or polymer electrolyte is replaced with a ceramic ion-conductor, which it says enables faster charging, high capacity for low footprint, increased cycle life, low leakage currents, non-flammability.

The Hampshire-based company further claims its batteries are “set to revolutionise the design of sensors for the Internet of Things (IoT)” and its Stereax battery family aims to lead the vanguard with its comparatively higher energy density (up to 40%) and increased temperature range to over 100°C, which is claimed to be 30°C higher than existing solid state products.

The ‘always-on’, self-charging solution is expected to help accelerate IoT products to market, but those products – and the anticipated business advantages they potentially bring – amount to little if the data within them can be accessed by third-parties, a problem highlighted today by EEF.

Many of the engineers and commentators we speak to broadly define IoT – or Industry 4.0 – as the next evolution of IT that comes about from connecting people, systems and devices nin factories and businesses to achieve new levels of speed, innovation and decision making.

EEF has found that 46 per cent of manufacturers have failed to increase their investment in cyber security in the past two years.

The manufacturers’ organisation adds that in 2015, 90 per cent of large businesses and 74 per cent of small businesses reported a cyber security breach, which incurred average costs of between £1.46m to £3.14m for a large firm and £75k to £311k for a small business.

For these reasons, EEF has developed a free online tool for manufacturers to benchmark their cyber security and access information and links to further advice.

As well as data breaches, businesses adopting IoT have data storage issues to consider – on site or in the Cloud – and on this note we look to Bosch’s Werner Struth who spoke to The Engineer last year about this very subject.

He believes two major issues centre around the integrity of the Cloud provider and clearly defining the roles of those involved, namely the data owner and those who can be given limited access to data, be they suppliers or customers.

“They [suppliers or customers] get a certain amount of data that they are entitled to read and understand,” said Struth. “[Then] maybe there are data brokers. Maybe I’m willing to sell a number of my data to a data broker for a certain amount of money so he can make something out of that? Here, we need a clear definition of these roles and then a respective structure of the data semantics and the data container we use. This of course cannot be solved by a single SME. For this we need maybe national or international platforms like…the Industrial Internet Consortium in the US in order to solve these problems.”