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11.24.14 - Igniting Technology: Internet of Things

The event's Innovation Showcase gave guests
a closeup view of emerging technology.

The loud buzz coming from the Calit2 Auditorium on Nov. 13 was another standing-room-only Igniting Technology presentation, one that spotlighted a most au courant topic: the Internet of Things and its potential to change the world.

Now concluding its ninth year, the Igniting Technology series, sponsored by intellectual property law firm Knobbe Martens Olson Bear, twice yearly brings academics, business people and members of the community to Calit2 to examine current trends in information technology.

This month’s event highlighted Calit2’s ongoing role in what has recently become a red-hot topic.  The Internet of Things defines a new paradigm, where devices of all kinds have IP addresses, and can communicate with each other and with humans.

But as Calit2’s Irvine division director G.P. Li explained to the audience in his introduction, Calit2 has been engaged in this endeavor for more than a decade. “Our major effort over the last 15 years has been the research and development of information and communication technology for use in four areas: healthcare, energy, the environment and culture. So this is really good timing to show you what IoT is all about.”

Li announced the debut of two additional IoT-focused series: monthly seminars that will emphasize IoT’s applications and innovations; and a quarterly series – “IoT from a.m. to p.m.” – that will zero in on the technical aspects (atoms to materials) and the results (products and markets). “We will work closely with professional societies and the community to bring people together to really promote IoT in Orange County and in Southern California,” Li promised.

KMOB partner Michael Guiliana, who moderated the event, gave the audience a glimpse of an earlier time. “When we talk about the way the Internet has changed our lives, older people get a little nostalgic so I want to get that out of the way,” he said to laughter, showing rotary telephones, bulletin boards (the kind with thumbtacks) and giant calculators. “Hand-held video phones existed only in science fiction: it was a fantasy at the time.”

Now, technology has become mobile, and we’re carrying it, wearing it, looking through it and taking it for granted. “The whole world is literally in our hands,” Guiliana said.

Presenters, from left: Bachman, Cheng, Hitomi, Kirby, Choperena and Mahoney discussed the ways in which IoT
is expected to change the Internet -- and the world -- once again.

He also cautioned budding entrepreneurs in the audience to set aside a budget to protect their intellectual property, sharing cases where ideas that weren’t properly protected were stolen. The rule of thumb, he said, is spending roughly 1 percent of a company’s worth to protect IP or license patents. “If you don’t have that [protection] your company can fail,” he warned.

UCI engineering professor Mark Bachman, Calit2’s unofficial “IoT evangelist,” said the institute previously didn’t have a name for the sensor, Internet, big data and applications work it’s been doing for years. “This term, IOT – which is really an old term but has just become popular – it just sums up so nicely what we do at Calit2,” he said.

According to Bachman, three factors over the last five years have led to this IoT explosion: extreme commoditization of electronics, the global infrastructure and a generation of millennials coming of age on the Internet. “There’s massive acceptance of technology in the marketplace,” he said. “This is going to have a huge impact.”

How huge? Projections call for 50 billion Internet-connected devices and a $19 trillion market by 2020.

Triple-digit growth is expected for energy, transportation, digital cities, finance and retail, while double-digit growth is projected for healthcare applications. “To me, this is the making of a revolution,” Bachman said. “The dotcom was a revolution and this is like that all over again, but it’s going to be bigger. 

The event drew a standing-room-only audience.

Hundreds of European and American companies are self-identified as being on the cusp of the IoT revolution. “That means they’re just leaving research and they’re getting ready to implement,” he explained. “The timing could not be better. As these companies want to move up into IOT, this is the sweet spot. We need to get in now and offer them the products and services they need.”

After sharing several examples of Calit2’s expertise in the burgeoning IoT sector, Bachman showed a slide depicting a storm. “Everything is right for this storm,” he said, “and it’s going to rain money. In California we like storms because they bring good waves. Are you going to be on the side watching the big wave, or are you going to be [in the middle] of it?”

Matthew Cheng, senior technical director in Broadcom’s CTO Office, said he prefers the M2M (machine-to-machine) designation to characterize IoT. “But we’re talking about the same thing so I’m not in the wrong meeting here,” he deadpanned.

Cheng said assuming world population reaches 10 billion by 2020, and each human will use multiple computers, the world could see one trillion operational computers six short years from now. And most of them will be connected to each other. “We’re not interested in a stand-alone computer anymore,” he said.

Key enablers like silicon, which continually enables faster, cheaper and lower power circuits; more plentiful and affordable sensors; improved wireless connectivity and the availability of the cloud are all adding fuel to the IoT fire.

The event concluded with demonstrations and a networking dinner.

Cheng said offering an end-to-end experience is critical for success. “You need to offer an experience within a home or factory that can be accessed from anywhere.”

Also critical are low-cost, open-device platforms, like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and BeagleBone Black. “Open source software is not new, but open hardware is still not that common,” Cheng said. “This is another thing that will enable IoT. Anyone can come up with new ideas in their garage.”

Art Hitomi is chief technology officer and co-founder of UCI spinoff company Numescent, a software firm that delivers applications from the cloud up to 100 times faster than linear digital downloads. “The cloud is powerful, and connectivity is great, but is it really going to scale?” he asked.

Applications and devices should be scalable in order to make them more distributed, Hitomi said. “Because people are demanding that more is done locally; not everything should be done in the cloud,” he said. Challenges include hardware, software and applications, as well as security concerns. “But if you can’t have one device talk to another, or to another cloud, then the value of that isn’t so great. You’re limiting that application’s IoT.”

Information that can be shared across multiple people and platforms will form the foundation for the next “killer apps,” he said, citing Facebook and Mint, which “grew because they kind of challenge society.”

Instead of worrying about hiding all our data, Hitomi said, we should be more open to sharing, like the younger generation “who will take pictures of anything.” This openness, he thinks, will lead to “great applications out there. And hopefully they will benefit society as a whole.”

He quoted computer scientist Jon Postel: “Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send,” and suggested that the advice still rings true. “I really hope, when you go to design whatever killer app you have, that you follow those principles. Because scale … really comes into play when you go to practice.”

At Cisco, where Shaun Kirby is director of the Internet Business Solutions Group, the phenomenon is called IoE – Internet of Everything. “We believe there are some additional components that add even more value,” he said, naming data, processes and people.
Kirby shared one of Cisco’s recent IoE successes – smart, connected parking, which solves a problem “people the world over can identify with.” He said the average Parisian spends up to four years of his/her life looking for parking spaces. The solution connects parking space sensors, meters and mobile devices, and utilizes analytics that can process the information and make predictions about when spaces will open.

The Internet of Things also will improve life in cities the world over, according to Kirby. From smart energy to smart traffic to smart manufacturing, the technology has the potential to “improve health, safety, efficiency and attractiveness of living, working, playing and learning.”

Among the beneficiaries is retail. Carts equipped with sensors can track shoppers’ patterns through the store, while sensors on freezer doors can signal when shoppers will be heading to the checkout lane. “So we can send a cashier down to the checkout long before the lines build,” Kirby said, adding that these advances could offer at least $100 million a year in operational savings.

He feels IoE offers the potential to go the last mile toward developing “frictionless” business processes. “Imagine a world without any shopping lines, without blackouts, with minimum traffic congestion or without spending what seems like an eternity to find a parking spot. We believe the future is very bright indeed.”

Al Choperena’s company, Smartenit, produces end-to-end solutions for home and building automation, and energy management. “How do we define IOT?” he asked the audience. “We look at the world in terms of things or objects, and we see IOT as the connectivity of those objects.”  He compared the system’s sensors to informants and the actuators to actors, saying, “Sensors without an action are really worthless. So what if we have this connectivity without a purpose?

Choperena defined the purpose as helping humans by offering devices that have a pre-determined or learned degree of autonomy. “What I really mean is that we don’t want the devices to get carried away – we want them to learn but not to become our masters.”

He shared three recent IoT projects implemented by Smartenit, including a Department of Transportation truck depot that uses automation to regulate block heaters; an electric vehicle charging infrastructure; and a farm that utilizes IoT to regulate water and energy usage.

Choperena left the audience with some tips for successfully implementing IoT. “Understand what the Internet of Things is and is not,” he advised. Define and visualize outcomes clearly, define requirements carefully, choose the appropriate architecture, use pilot studies and implement projects gradually because “things are not going to work the first time.”
The evening’s last speaker was Miles Mahoney, general manager of industrial data analytics at Frost Data Capital, who discussed the industrial side of IoT, or as he called it, the industrial Internet. He said the company’s large industrial partners, especially GE, are excited about opportunities to capitalize on the trend.

Mahoney, whose focus is machine-generated data, said analysts estimate that by 2020, 42 percent of the world’s data will be machine generated. But organizations must find ways to benefit from that data and use it to make critical business decisions. Currently, there is a large gap between the petabytes of data generated every month and methods for analyzing it. Mahoney said Frost Data Capital seeks to back companies that can begin to close that gap.

As an example, he said, a GE jet engine on a 10-hour flight to Asia generates 600 terabytes of data – the equivalent of a half-billion pieces of printed paper. GE is utilizing systems that can visualize the data, then push them remotely to people and machines who can make important decisions. “When that plane lands,” Mahoney said, “parts and equipment are available and everyone knows exactly what needs to be done.

“You see over time from an IOT perspective that this data loop, which [previously] has taken weeks or months or even longer, is going to be [closed in] days and hours and minutes. Now all of a sudden, this loop is far more efficient.”

IoT and data analysis systems can benefit oil and gas companies, as well as power and water, and aviation, to name a few. Mahoney founded Osprey Data to capture, analyze and enable unique modeling that can transform management of these high-value industrial assets. The company developed a platform called human augmented machine learning that removes the need for a data scientist to interpret the data.

He closed by saying that Frost Data Capital hopes to back 50-75 IoT companies over the next three to five years. “We’re really privileged to be in this big data and analytic space as the whole IOT market really gets on its feet,” he said. “There is a lot of promise … and I think it’s going to be an exciting future.”

-- Anna Lynn Spitzer

Mike Guiliana
Mark Bachman                    Shaun Kirby
Matthew Cheng                   Al Choperena
Art Hitomi                            Miles Mahoney