How many things does it take to turn on a light bulb?

I’ve just returned from the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco where I co-presented a workshop on IoT security – does one size fit all?

The stage was set throughout the keynote presentation – an honourable mention by Curtis Sasaki that the Samsung ARTIK 5 platform integrates Trustonic TEE technology, but more so by the number of references to security; Samsung Knox, Samsung Pay and Samsung ARTIK all depend upon secure platforms to deliver the experiences people want. I have never before seen such prominence on security in a keynote presentation. It seems like security is finally part of the top level messaging that we all need to care about. This made me very happy.

Other things not so; light bulbs. Call me old fashioned because when I touch a light switch I expect instantaneous response.  Well as instantaneous as heating a tungsten filament to light emitting temperature, but playing around with some IoT light bulbs on the show floor just frustrated me with the new user experience. Press… Wait… Wait… Press Again… Light comes on and goes off… Press Again… Wait… Light comes on. This made me unhappy.

How many devices are in this chain? Light switch chip to home hub to cable modem to ISP network to Light switch data centre to light bulb data centre to ISP network to cable modem to home hub to light bulb. One broken link in that chain (of at least nine components) and I’m left in the dark trying to figure out where it went wrong. I asked the demo staff why can’t the switch talk to a home hub and the home hub talk to the light bulb? That’s not how it’s architected was the answer – all control is in the cloud.

It strikes me that a lot of IoT thinking has things all back-to-front. Surely the primary purpose of a product must deliver a great user experience and the Internet connectedness be a secondary attribute? With platforms like ARTIK delivering the processing power of a modern smartphone, why does the decision to turn on a light need to be sent half way around the Earth when the user has already made that choice locally? Sure, I can turn on the light from the other side of the planet if I need to make my home appear occupied, but I’ll not sacrifice usability when I’ve got to live with the technology.

What we need is a better model for running apps locally in smart hubs – just as we add apps to smartphones to customise our digital world, we’ll need to add apps to home hubs. Developers will create those apps and innovate, and if we draw from the lessons learned in how to secure smartphones from malware, the TEE will play a central role to protecting hubs. Bad things are starting to happen.

With an integrated Trustonic TEE in a Samsung ARTIK powered “Thing”, who knows maybe Samsung Knox can bring Things to the Enterprise, and Samsung Pay can make Things pay.

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