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MWC Roundup: Cloud & Edge

Veea – Level-3 network meshing and edge-processing

Kicking things off was Veea, a company that made the switch from the software-focused edge-processing firm, to one that combined hardware with software and services – after finding that hardware was in fact a good bit harder than initially expected. As per David Rose, SVP Marketing, the company found that it shared an investor and chairman, and so decided to merge with a prominent customer – Max2.

Rose said that Virtousys, Veea’s predecessor, might have been a bit naïve in the ease of putting its specialist software on third-party boxes. To this end, Veea has emerged, with expertise in the retail ePoS and access-point (AP) world, built on Virtuosys’ domain expertise in edge-processing. With four hardware platforms, built to serve everyone from a pizza shop needing a single AP, all the way through to enterprise-grade APs, Veea’s ARM-based processor architecture is a common feature among the different APs.

Veea has a mesh implementation, aimed at uniting all manner of radio protocols at the third OSI layer, so that it can present a single interface to customers – whether the devices in question are using WiFi, cellular, Bluetooth, Zigbee, or LoRa. Rose noted that interest in LoRa was not exactly prominent. Veea is trying to present a generic platform, to accommodate the different protocols, but its main focuses are in retail, transport, connected buildings, and smart city.

As for progress, Rose said that Veea had just launched its platform, and that there were about 6 pilots currently. A promising project with Angel Trains in the UK was highlighted, with Rose noting that there were B2B and D2C opportunities in the smart home. The main channels were via system integrators (SIs), and resellers, and Veea is able to offer a blend between capex and opex business models – so that companies can purchase outright or pay monthly, respectively.

Canonical – new IoT Core OS, Chick-fil-A micro-cloud clusters

Venerable software-slingers Canonical were at MWC to hawk all manner of cloud-instances, but Riot was mostly interested in things taking place nearer the network edge. To this end, the recent launch of Ubuntu Core 18.04 was particularly interesting, as its Snap-based updating mechanism facilitates a very impressive upgrade cycle. If you aren’t familiar with Snaps, they are a container-based system for pushing secure code to devices in the field, and we promise that it is very exciting.

Canonical is navigating a world that is getting to grips with the different classes of edge devices, with those discovering they have very different requirements for latency and processing power. Telcos have major advantages over new entrants, in that they already have the networks built and can take advantage of all their locations in which to install ‘edge’ systems, but there are many factors to consider here.

As Thibaut Rouffineau, VP Marketing, noted, the IoT and the Edge used to be very separate, but now there has been a shift. There are those that view the ‘gateway’ world in a pejorative fashion, where the term connotes a quite dumb application that is merely shifting data back to a cloud application to be properly sorted, and those that are less sensitive to the idea of using the gateway devices in such a fashion. Now, even Chick-fil-A is deploying micro-cloud clusters of Intel NUCs, so if you are such a snob, it might be time to get with the program.

Notably, there is a growing need to install redundancy at the network edge, where a single gateway runs the risk of suffering an outage and falling over – resulting in a potentially costly outage. However, questions over whether a cast-iron business model for the edge actually exists persist, and this is something that is sort of complicated by the delayed success of Canonical’s App Store projects, which would see it take a slice of all revenue for the applications deployed on its App Stores across Ubuntu.

That day is apparently coming, for the applications, and it remains a seriously lucrative channel if Canonical can get the scale needed to sustain this option. Rigado’s in-building gateways were pointed too as a solid example of the type of ecosystem made possible by this architecture, but it was with great mirth that Rouffineau informed the room about the state of the AI industry – that Oral B is listed as an AI exhibitor in the MWC literature. Perhaps we still have a ways to go.

Industrial Internet Consortium – data standards look rather needed

Having not long absorbed the OpenFog Consortium, the Industrial Internet Consortium’s (IIC) President William Hoffman assured us that the organization would never become a standards body. Hoffman said that work will still continue on the testbeds, recommendations, and documentation that the IIC has focused on to date, which are soon going to be much more readily available once the Resource Hub finishes its beta-program. Hoffman had not realized the scale of the IIC’s resources until this process started, and the hope is to make these findings much easier to search through and digest.

Hoffman noted that none of the IIC testbeds are currently using 5G, but that some of them might eventually move into it. This led to questions over the viability of 5G in industrial applications, as MWC featured plenty 5G-enabled robotic arms. Neither Hoffman nor Riot sees why an operations manager would opt for 5G wireless rather than a wired connection when hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of manufacturing lines are at risk.

As for the role of organizations like the IIC, Hoffman said that standards create competition by giving customers choice. However, he warned that there’s still more money chasing this market that the amount of money that’s in it. Hoffman thinks this will have changed in around 18 to 24 months, at which point there’s a net benefit, which is inline with his expectations for the market timescale. Hoffman said that the industry had somewhat overhyped things, but that he knows there are companies making good money here, and that the curve is charting upwards.

As for more long-term concerns, Hoffman said that standards processes for data could be quite valuable, with GDPR being a driving force. Work could include the Object Management Group’s (OMG) Data Residency and Privacy features, which are in early stage development, but would hopefully define how data is stored and processed. With the scale of some of the Big Data projects that Hoffman has encountered, there’s a real need to ensure that adequate data filtering takes place, likely on the edge devices, as the cost of disk-space and processing cycles is going to prove prohibitive.

Kudelski – Wild West needs Security by Design

 

Next was Kudelski, where Christopher Schouten, Head of Marketing, allowed Riot to ramble about the ongoing security problem plaguing the IoT. Schouten said that it was fine to live in the Wild West when devices were being made for a specific function, but now that we have moved into an era where devices are being made to sell services, we have the potential for things to go horribly wrong.

Of course, this is where Kudelski’s design and operational services come in, where the firm can leverage its decades of experience in the pay TV industry to provide the means to keep an IoT device secure in the field. Of course, Kudelski would prefer if that device was designed with security in mind, as per the ‘Security by Design’ ethos, but sure, it will sell you the services needed to protect these devices in the field too.

Schouten thinks that there will be increasingly damaging attacks in the near future, with the private sector realizing the potential scope of these hacks and then investing accordingly. That fear will be the driver behind such moves to the services of the likes of Kudelski, but in addition, the firm is looking to integrate its services into the silicon that customers are going to pick to use in their designs, with Schouten pointing to recent partnerships with IDEMIA and STMicro as good examples.

Away from the B2B world, we asked Schouten of his opinion on the consumer side of things. He believes that consumers will come to limit the kinds of horrendously insecure IoT devices that they let into their homes, mostly because of the sub-standard customer experience that they afford – due to the lack of integration with the leading ecosystems. This is crucial, as the threat of a smart home being weaponized as a DDoS tool is very tangible, in Schouten’s view.

To this end, the company’s history in the pay TV world is valuable. Schouten outlined how you can consider the set top box as one of the first IoT devices, operating in bandwidth-constrained hostile environments, under constant duress from people trying to crack their content-protection systems. This legacy has led to Kudelski’s technologies being very device-focused, able to operate on limited bandwidth but with all the complexity needed for IoT implementations. With u-blox, Voith, and Pepper as customers, Kudelski is also pursuing telco partnerships, where the firm would provide security services on top of the telco connectivity or communication offering – as a value-add.

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