IOTSWC 2023: Get secure and get sustainable
Walking through aisles of stands packed with connected devices that light up booths, the buzz of robots and cries of people adorning augmented reality headsets fills the air. Packed with screens showing animations and digital twins of buildings, factories and even cities, IOT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona is a window into the future of the internet of things.
One of the earliest tech events in the global calendar, IOTSWC is co-hosted at Barcelona’s Gran Fira conference centre alongside the AV and systems integration behemouth, Integrated Systems Europe. The smaller of the two events (which attracts an estimated 16,000 delegates as opposed to ISE’s 45,000 delegates) is a showcase for digitally connected devices and transformative technologies.
“The next three days are about embracing technologies that will change your world as you experience it,” explained Bill Hoffman during the opening remarks of the conference, alongside Barcelona-base cyber security expert Tomas Roy, and their co-host, a humaoid customizable robot from PAL Robotics.
In its seventh edition, the show claims to offer “an enhanced version of digital transformation, and primarily enhanced Internet of Things (IoT), that has moved far beyond connected devices to include technologies that leverage digital twins, augmented reality, robotics, AI, and more.”
While IOTSWC celebrates more busiensses taking on some of these digitally transformative technologies, it’s not without consideration for sustainability and cybersecurity.
Execs at the show appeared keen to highlight how IoT solutions had the potential to both help and hinder sustainablity efforts.
David McKee, CEO, and CTO of UK-based digital twin firm Slingshot Simulations pointed out the positives and negatives of IoT technology: “One is using technologies such as digital twins to help some of the pressing challenges we’re facing in the world today.
“How do we bring that data together? How do we use simulation analytics and machine learning to analyse the data, and to help us rapidly transform our cities into places that are cleaner, greener, and healthier for us all to live in.”
On the other hand, McKeen points out that while data-collecting technologies, such as carbon monitoring devices and sensors are used in factories, offices, airports, and more – the energy consumption through keeping and hoarding the incredible amounts of data is producing a dark cloud on the otherwise planet-saving light that technologies bring.
“We use less than 5% of the data we collect,” said McKee, and that “the other 95% is sitting on hard drives, burning CO2”.
This extra data, otherwise known as ‘dark data’, is something the computing industry has been ignoring for years, according to Hoffman, who is also chairmand and CEO of Responsible Computing, a membership consortium launched by IBM and Object Management Group to promote responsible computing values such as sustainability.
“Up until the last few years, nobody cared about power consumption. Nobody cared about carbon footprint,” he said. “We’ve all got to pay for that.”
Additionally, many CEOs who spoke at IOTSWC are becoming hyper aware of their green credentials and how they look to others, sustainability-wise.
As future employees look to work with sustainable companies, and other firms look to only work with other green firms, transparency is key, they argue.
“The imperative of joining a company that puts sustainability first is now on the top of people entering the workforce’s agendas,” said Anne Emberson, vice president of digital for water treatment company Nalco Water.
This is also something Hoffman told TechInformed Responsible Computing, hope to bring people with its offering.
“People will want to say that ‘hey, we are responsible’. And it turns out it’s not just the company itself. It’s the employees who want to work for a company that cares. It’s their customers that are asking ‘what are you doing about this stuff?’, and it’s their investors,” emphasised Hoffman.
“The computer industry is like a teenager. It’s got to grow up and become responsible,” he added.
As digital transformation booms, it’s not only sustainability that needs to catch up; it is also security as underlined by many technology leaders at the event.
“The cyber security thing, scares the hell out of me,” said Michael Grieves, chief scientist of digital twin institute and winner of the “Game Changer of the Year” award at the event this year.
While augmented reality and digital twins can reduce carbon emissions by allowing employees to train remotely, for instance, these technologies could also unlock even more harmful risks that cyber attackers could take advantage of.
Brian Laughlin, technical fellow at aircraft manufacturer Boeing concurred: “The security concerns are very real,” for augmented reality and digital twin devices.
“The ability for somebody to actually attack the device at the endpoint,” and access and even change the information is a true worry for Laughlin, as employees at Boeing can use augmented reality devices for training purposes when building an airplane.
“For example, if [an attacker] changed specifications on the build of an airplane that could be catastrophic,” said Laughlin.
Jonathan Eyre, senior technical fellow for digital twins at AMRC said, even “as consumers, if you have an AR experience at home, would you be happy having family photos in the background and that data being streamed up to the cloud.”
“Somebody else would be looking at what you’re doing, and it’s actually the same in the workplace if you’ve got classified materials in the background,” he added. “I think eventually we need to solve these things to enable these ecosystems to really kick off in enterprise.”
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