Updating 1 billion IoT devices: Is it feasible?

Article By : Junko Yoshida

Anecdotal evidence shows that anyone pitching a start-up in the IoT space faces kneejerk scepticism from the investment community. In short, IoT backlash has begun.

After the initial euphoria over the Internet of Things (IoT), the reality of the market is rapidly sinking in among investors, marketers and designers.

The underlying technologies and ecosystem designed to support the elusive IoT market remain too immature to reap profits for many corporations and investors. In fact, anecdotal evidence shows that anyone pitching a start-up in the IoT space faces kneejerk scepticism from the investment community. In short, IoT backlash has begun.

Against that backdrop, Resin.io, a London-based four-year-old IoT start-up, announced Monday (June 27) that it has secured Rs. 60.81 crore ($9 million) in funding from DFJ, GE Ventures, Ericsson, and Aspect Ventures.

Resin.io’s technology offerings provide a glimpse into the bigger challenges—thus far little discussed—facing IoT builders and designers.

Connecting embedded devices to the Internet is hardly trivial. But even a harder-to-solve problem follows once the devices are deployed.

The issue is how to manage and remotely monitor millions of deployed IoT devices.

IoT devices need over-the-air firmware and software updates, “but that must be done quickly and securely,” Bryan Hale, president of Resin.io told EE Times. Hale means that vulnerabilities have to be patched in hours, not weeks, delivering features to customers whenever and wherever they are in need, and offering consistency and reliability to large fleets of connected devices.

The Resin.io president says the mission of his company is to “make it simple to deploy, update, and maintain code running on remote devices.” Resin.io in essence uses “Linux containers and other open technologies to simplify the way developers build, deploy, and manage software for IoT devices.”

GE, Ericsson to weigh in

To Alexandros Marinos, Resin.io’s founder and CEO, strategic investments from big corporate venture funds like GE Ventures and Ericsson are a testament for what’s missing in today’s industrial IoT market and how Resin.io’s technologies could fill in the void.

“Advancing the industrial Internet requires the ability to deploy and manage software in remote environments,” Sam Cates, director at GE Ventures, a unit of General Electric Co., said in a statement. “Resin.io is uniquely positioned to bring the speed and safety to the industrial Internet."

Diomedes Kastanis, VP, and head of Technology and Software Solutions for Ericsson, sees that traditional over-the-air (OTA) update approaches are “simply not enough,” when billions of connected devices perform increasingly complex tasks. He said, “We are thrilled to support resin.io as it helps transform entire industries with the ability to safely deploy new software containers whenever and wherever is necessary.”

Looking at the IoT market today, Resin.io’s president Hale said, “There are already a lot of do-it-yourself types of IoT devices on the market.” He noted, “They aren’t updating firmware or software for their devices, and we see a lot of scary scenarios emerging.”

The industrial IoT market can’t afford to ignore the vulnerability of connected devices. In a smart factory, for example, a manufacturer needs to handle a big volume of data and deal with unpredictability in day-to-day operations. Can the company program the necessary changes and provision devices—when needed—as quickly as possible? After all, knowing the real-time status on the manufacturing floor is what makes the connected factory smart.

Smart trash bins

The same goes for devices like digital signage, point of service systems and interactive kiosks.

In fact, Resin.io knows a few things about the high-tech ‘smart trash bins’ London introduced in preparation for the 2012 Olympics.

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