For IoT to evolve, governments need to deliver secure, reliable and intelligent infrastructure

04 Jul 2015
How do you rate the smart transformation around the world and in the region in particular?
 
Humanity today is witnessing an inflection point in history. There have never been more than 7 billion people involved in such a transformation. 10,000 years ago, the infection point was the birth of cities, followed by urbanization and then the industrial revolution. Today, we see the world going through what I’d like to call the Smart Transformation, driven by disruptive trends like mobility, social, cloud and data analytics. This smart transformation is happening at different levels in different regions across the world, and some societies are more innovative and advanced than others.
 
The wave is there, and everyone, people, enterprise, technology providers and businesses are playing their part in its acceleration. Most of us would see this eco-system in terms of three building blocks: Smart cities that provide the infrastructure, IOT which are all the things – today and tomorrow – that are going to be connected, and the enterprise and its readiness to complete the circle.
 
However, the missing fourth dimension is the Green element of that eco-system, ensuring that the transformation ultimately delivers true happiness to people. Without an eye on the environment, we will find ourselves in a place where things, people, businesses and governments are all connected and value creation is there, but the high price of this will be more consumption of our scarce resources.
 
Can you explain how you are explaining Future Green Cities?
 
You have to look at how technology can be leveraged to reduce environmental impact of using the technology itself, and  how smart can be leveraged to influence consumer behavior.
 
Reducing environmental impact of using technology starts from the design stage. Look for vendors who have followed green practices from the technology design stage, all the way through its deployment. I will give you an example, for the last few years, we have endorsed what we refer to as Green Networking whereby we incorporate environmental friendly approach to networking from concept, to design, all the way to deployment. The end result is phenomenal as today, and thanks to our meshed architecture on the network design eliminating all topology restrictions, not only we are reducing power consumption while increasing capacity, but we are also reducing our customers’ total cost of ownership. Our latest research shows that we are able to measure more than 30% reduction in energy consumed when the Avaya Energy Saver feature was enabled in our networking technology.  This means that the customer’s total cost of ownership is lower, and they are taking an active role in being green corporate citizens.  Promoting the use of video-conferencing anywhere inside Avaya and cutting down travel, we have reduced our carbon emissions by more than 8,000 metric tons, and saved over two years, around 44 million miles of travel. On average, we are saving around 1.5 million plastic bags a year thanks to our packaging practices.
 
On the consumer behavior side, we are looking at Future Green cities from an enterprise perspective. How can public and private sector players really drive consumer adoption of environmental friendly behaviors? Things (IOT) can be integrated in unlimited ways to deliver on that promise and we are showing, with a number of our customers, how innovation leaders are taking bold steps in that direction.
 
With IOT and Smart Cities, the first concern with comes to mind is security of the large data out there and public safety with so many connected things open to the malicious minds? How do you rate those topics?

Security is definitely – and correctly – a primary concern. There are ongoing debates around the world today on personal data protection; IOT is under threat because of the security concerns and the many ways that THINGS can be hacked and used in malicious ways. You would recall the recent issue of an ethical hacker breaking into an aircraft’s network through its communications system and executing a ‘Climb’ command. There will now be many more negative perceptions towards IoT, which is knee-jerk reaction.
 
In the bigger picture, technology has evolved to address all these issues and debates are healthy to ensure that governments protect citizens and citizens get value without their privacy being breached. But, this requires a shift in the way we architect and design a next generation Smart and Green infrastructures. The legacy model which has served us reasonably well for 15 to 20 years is no longer adequate, it is that simple. It requires complex static configuration at the edge for it to extend to allow services access representing a huge security risk as it opens the door to potential hacking, snooping, spoofing and more. The legacy model is making it extremely difficult, next to impossible, to provide an automated provisioning process suitable to support IoT and Smart Services enablement. The infrastructure must shift to a services-based architecture as opposed to a nodal configuration methodology. All this can now be fully automated through zero touch provisioning while eliminating all hacking and security exposure to services elasticity. There are political concerns that are specific to countries that determine the dynamics of big data residing with and being accessed by the government. This is something that we will ultimately leave to decision makers and people to determine. The good news is that there is technology available today that ensures that data is protected and leveraged to deliver greater value.
 
In my view, the debate we should be having is how far technology can deliver security to citizens and governments? Can we today catch a crime even before it happens? Of course we can and we are moving quickly in bringing these innovations. For example, ATM frauds are one of the biggest concerns of financial institutions and users alike. So how can you prevent an illegal ATM withdrawal before it happens, using IOT and data analytics? How can CCTVs and video teller machines in the country become a crime prevention tool by integrating facial recognition, eye scans, fingerprints to a national database, and contextually enable the communication process to alert the nearest police to an ATM being illegally used? How can you prevent a traffic jam or an accident from happening by contextually linking car-speedometers to location-based traffic lights and road sensors and trigger early alerts to one or many drivers?
 
Any public security and safety scenario can today be addressed and solved with integrating and customizing a number of technologies to deliver a specific outcome.
 
IOT is here to stay: things like beacons, smart devices, smart cars, you name it. If it’s not here yet, then it is in the making. But, we are putting a special focus in ensuring everyone understands the need to shift to a smart next generation architecture now suitable to enable 1,000s of smart services to better server the community. The market has to seriously revisit the options available and not start down the wrong path. In other words, would you build the tallest building in the world on a weak foundation hoping it will work or take the necessary time to engineer the foundation to guarantee you will need your future needs? I think the answer is quite obvious, isn’t it? The hunger of citizens and consumers to connect broadly and automate is going to drive the adoption of these things faster than we can ever imagine. For IOT to evolve however, governments need to deliver a secure, reliable, and intelligent infrastructure. This is also developing, and smart foundations that are invisible to hackers, reliable enough to ensure continuity, agile enough to enable IOT in all its aspects to happen are already here.
 
There are, however, two missing links to complete the transformation: the enterprise (schools, hospitals, banks, etc.), and the fourth dimension of environmental sustainability.
 
We have partnered with innovation leaders to demonstrate how much the regional enterprise is doing today to accelerate the transformation towards a sustainable, green and smart eco-system. They are using technologies that have been built based on the highest standards of environmental-consciousness, delivering benchmarked resource optimization, and are IOT- and ‘smart’-ready.
 
These are no longer futuristic concepts; they are a core part of what we bring to our customers.
 
* The writer is vice president, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Avaya

This article appeared in the Saudi Gazette on 04th July 2015.