John Sprague, Deputy Associate CIO for Technology and Innovation, NASA
The best way to tackle the benefits and challenges of the Internet of Things (IoT) is head on. In one example, an Internet of Things Laboratory was started 18 March 2015 at one agency to review uses including thermostats, wearables, medical and industrial sensors. Initially, 16 devices were reviewed and over 50 protocols investigated and a lot of valuable experience was gained. The prototype finished Phase I in 2015, and Phase II in 2016. The prototype also created four sub-teams to investigate various aspects of IoT:
• Protocols and Monitoring
• Data Analytics
• End Users Experience
Phase I and II laid the groundwork for a good foundation. An example of the findings was for just one device over a 14 hour period, the device transferred over 3 Megabytes of data. Multiply that out by hundreds or thousands of devices and you can see the impact to networks, security, and personnel. The groundwork dove into what it will take to manage IoT devices safely and securely by creating an:
• IoT Isolation Network
• IoT Device Monitoring System
One interesting outcome so far in the exploration of IoT devices is that “Data is the true asset”
• IoT Kiosk for easy customer friendly access to the Monitoring System
• In-house IoT Database and Analytics capability
• IoT System Security Plan (SSP)
Also performed was an evaluation of the major commercial IoT platforms in the market. The phases also created a safe place to use IoT devices to assess user interface, dependability, and behavior. The bottom-line was to find out what is normal behavior for a simple un-trusted device and what are the risks associated with using it on an internal network.
Along the way, partnering with government agencies, companies and others to share insights from across the Federal Government proved very helpful and lowered overall costs. Another benefit was to include representatives from across divisions, branches, and other internal entities to participate in an internal virtual IoT Lab. Other stakeholders to consider including in the laboratory are: networking, customer representatives, security, and architecture personnel.
Phase III will be exploring development of a model policy document, to be vetted with the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the stakeholder community. The commercial IoT platform will also be implemented. Security trepidations are naturally a big concern and mitigations will also be further developed.
Even before setting up an IoT Lab, teams could do a low-cost proof of concept, prototype or pilot. Valuable sensor data could be collected to begin to understand the concepts and get a feel for the myriad of tools available.
One interesting outcome so far in the exploration of IoT devices is that “Data is the true asset”. Following the Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) model (with origins back the mid-1950s), IoT devices are the start of valuable data that after extensive processing can form Wisdom, or what to do next with the data, information and knowledge. And after all, isn’t that why you do all this work to begin with?