The proliferation of autonomous digital devices in our daily lives, what we refer to as the Internet of Things (IoT), is poised to connect with other things in a chain of clouds to serve a much larger purpose and make possible a much wider spectrum of services. You can think of this as the socialization of things, where things communicate with other things — near and far.
The power of locally connected things is a game changer for local economies, in both urban and rural communities. From the energy grid to water supply systems, roads, trains, farms, schools, factories, hospitals, healthcare workers and first responders, the connectivity of things is becoming an enabler for economic prosperity. The emerging economy is shifting from a financial services economy to a cloud economy, from Wall Street to Main Street — the local economy, from smart cities and buildings in your neighborhood to smart factories and smart transportation in your state. We are in the midst of yet another technology revolution.
By most leading indicators, globalization of trade is slowing down due to geopolitical events, labor unrest and structural forces across the globe. What does this mean for globalization of data? Data is the fuel that powers a cloud economy. There are no tariffs on data (at least not yet). Data will drive decisions, actions and outcomes at the local, state, regional, national and international stages, at times of growth or recession, peace or war. Technology is already driving this transformation. As past generations dealt with semiconductors, mainframes, personal computers, rotary dial phones and dial-up lines to get to where we are today with hand-held devices, data centers and high-speed internet, the next generation will witness the dawn of yet another wave: the digital clouds of change.
Just as wireless was the fastest and most efficient means to connect people across the globe in the 1990s, without audacious infrastructure projects to lay copper cables from the first mile to the last mile, the concept of edge cloud computing and storage are key factors in bringing digital transformation to the masses across the globe. This will give impetus to a new wave of global commerce, information sharing and cybersecurity in a world without international firewalls. Even as a rotary dial phone transformed into a smart phone you carry in your pocket today and stay connected with the world, non-personal devices are becoming ubiquitous in the world around us in our homes, streets, cities and workplaces. As we transition from a need-to-know to need-to-share mindset on information exchange, data sharing — as trusted real-time feeds and as historical markers — will drive policies and processes of daily living from travel, events, social activities, news cycles, public utilities and the job market.
The cloud is for the IoT what software-defined networking was for virtualized data centers. In fact, it is much more than just connectivity. The volume, variety and velocity of information from millions of devices will make it difficult to transport data to backend compute engines. Therefore, instead of pumping data to compute, compute must go to where the data is: at the edge. The data in this case will be a heterogenous set of information purposed for telemetry, measurements, facial recognition, crowd sensing, street surveillance, traffic congestion control, license plate recognition, financial services, soil monitoring, air quality monitoring and plenty more. The potential is beyond imagination.
For innovators, technocrats and cybersecurity hawks, this means the promise and realization of 5G, edge computing, blockchain, post-quantum cryptography, and containerization of applications and services. This will impact the next generation of consumer devices, from entertainment set top boxes to home security monitoring systems, smart appliances, water management, air conditioning and heating systems. It will transform safety systems, from building management to transportation and aviation systems. It will modernize national defense, from battle equipment to soldier protection. The operations workflow from the manufacturing shop floor to field operations in the wild, and the maintenance of devices with a decade (or more) of lifespan will witness a gradual but imminent transformation, powered by service automation from a cloud of clouds. Instead of a centralized cloud, the IoT will require a trust chain of connected clouds.
Digital transformation is on a trajectory to drive innovation in edge protection, process automation and embedded mission-critical operations. Much of critical public infrastructure, utility grids, and industrial control systems are currently outdated and not cyber-protected. Imminent risks have no term limits. The emerging ecosystem of distributed computing will require a higher degree of trust in device identification, device authentication, permissioned admission controls and tamper-resistant content delivery.
Further, this must be rooted in the notion of trustworthy ubiquitous devices and trusted data to power decision logic — namely, process or policy-based actions. Untrusted devices and data without trust attribution will produce undesirable, and potentially tragic, outcomes. Therefore, it is time to collaborate at the grassroots level with the semiconductor industry, device vendors and service providers to make them trustworthy for induction into the lights-out automated ecosystem of connected clouds.
At DigiCert, we’re all about protecting the connected cloud of things to enable digital trust. Whether it’s one device or billions, DigiCert® IoT Device Manager provides a comprehensive, automated workflow for companies to manage their IoT devices with certificate-based security.