“…more agility at the edge…” Q&A with Eurotech’s Chief Marketing Officer
A long-standing and productive relationship with Linux provider Red Hat is just one of the reasons Eurotech finds itself well positioned for the IoT/M2M era.
Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Robert Andres, Chief Marketing Officer, Eurotech, who recently shared his insights on a number of topics.
Embedded Intel Solutions: What are the current challenges and opportunities in the IoT/M2M space?
Robert Andres, Eurotech: Despite the general confusion in the market, there are some visible trends that are making things a lot easier. Many challenges are seen as sound reasons for not implementing IoT /M2M solutions at this time: Complex technology; the lack of specific know-how; an infrastructure that is required; IT/OT integration challenges; security; regulatory issues; certifications; confusing messages from industry and standardization bodies; interoperability of solutions, etc.
The good news is that there are major industry trends that lead to effective and affordable IoT solutions, and to commoditization of distributed systems. Unlike in the past we now have powerful embedded systems, not just general-purpose gateways—often in the form of off-the-shelf, purpose-built HW, and virtualization technology at the cloud datacenter. And on the device side,
Enterprise IT technology, best practices and an infrastructure that can be leveraged, along with cloud computing and many well established open and industry standards.
Eurotech has been delivering distributed device solutions (hardware and software) for more than two decades now, and this experience informs our relationship with customers and system integration partners. Stated broadly, our goal is to reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in M2M/IoT solutions.
That involves a dramatic lowering of initial investment, reduced risk in M2M/IoT projects, and much shorter time to market. It is about encapsulating the complexity of distributed systems in the field way beyond the development phase and significantly improving the deployment and operation of IoT infrastructures.
Embedded Intel Solutions: Can you be a bit more specific with regards to Eurotech’s IoT offerings?
Andres, Eurotech: Eurotech is one of the leading players in the embedded market, offering a broad product portfolio ranging from CPU boards and SBCs to purpose-built devices to high-performance computing systems. As mentioned before, state of the art M2M/IoT solutions also require well-designed software and communication services layered on top of that hardware.
One particularly important building block is the software on the device. In order to simplify and optimize the development of device software Eurotech offers an application framework layered on top of the operating system called the Everyware Software Framework or ESF. It is based on Linux, Java and OSGi and enables the implementation of business logic in a very effective way. Not only does it abstract the hardware in order to ensure investment protection with regards to the software, but it also allows new services to be loaded to multi-service M2M/IoT gateways or smart edge nodes dynamically.
Another very important building block we offer our customers today is a cloud-based M2M/IoT platform called Everyware Cloud that integrates easily into existing enterprise IT infrastructures—offering simple access through standard APIs to real-time and historical data from devices. In addition this M2M/IoT Integration Platform also offers the device life cycle features that ensure a smooth deployment and management of the distributed device infrastructure.
There are other important elements, depending on the nature of the customer’s business. One particular aspect I would like to highlight is carrier certifications, which are required in many markets for devices connected to the cellular networks. For many companies that wish to sell their products or services internationally these certifications are a major barrier because of the associated effort and cost. We offer with our ReliaCELL product range a very attractive, pre-certified modular solution.
Embedded Intel Solutions: With regard to effective connection with IT infrastructures, what are the significant ways in which the IT infrastructure itself is changing in response to the growth of the IoT—both on the consumer and on the Industrial (M2M) side?
Andres, Eurotech: Outside the traditional embedded business, in many of the new IoT business opportunities the IT department is playing an increasingly important role. That results in different technology and architecture decisions to allow an effective IT/OT integration. While more is changing on the OT side, IT is also discovering that new technology approaches are required. Interfaces and solutions (including programming of edge devices) have to be done in an IT-centric way (Java instead of C++)—and must also scale.
Embedded Intel Solutions: How is the race to get ahead of those trying to compromise IoT and M2M security affecting Eurotech’s plans for being a leader in the IoT/M2M space?
Andres, Eurotech: We see ourselves positioned well when it comes to IoT security aspects. Security is one of the elements that differentiates Eurotech’s IoT offering in the market. Eurotech understood very early on that security has to be approached holistically and in the details of an IoT (or OT) infrastructure—leveraging best practice approaches and technologies from the IT security space where feasible. Of course the OT world is different, and specific aspects differ from the traditional IT world approaches.
But powerful ICT security technology that has been created and is constantly validated, like cryptology solutions and strong authentication methods, certainly can be implemented in IoT solutions. Security in IoT projects is more than the combination of some “perimeter defense” security solutions like white- and blacklisting, firewalls and encrypted communication channels.
While these elements are important, we also believe that proper authentication methods, the use/storing/managing of certificates, and especially an overall architecture and design that eliminates many possible attack scenarios play significant roles.
Furthermore it is essential that external security specialists do validate/audit the security measures regularly.
Because of the very fractured world of IoT, Eurotech is one of the very few companies which are able to offer IoT security solutions that span from the IoT gateways or edge devices to the IoT application enablement platform. Examples are an end-to-end security offering based on x.509 Certificate/PKI technology or an architecture that ensures that the “attack surface” of IoT devices is significantly reduced.
Embedded Intel Solutions: What will be some of the overlooked or less obvious effects of cost and other pressures in the IoT/M2M space?
Andres, Eurotech: Distributed device solutions have been created for decades—most of them following a “traditional telemetry” approach where fixed functionality, silo-implementations and a focus on lowest cost per edge node are the primary driving parameters.
But looking at distributed device solutions with the promises made by a modern IoT approach not only requires a lot more agility at the edge in terms of software and functionality (for example, vending) but also aggregation and computational capabilities that require sophisticated and secure device and embedded software management capabilities. For these implementations the primary metrics include a focus on the lowest TCO and the best strategies to protect the investment, especially in software.
It is that software capability at the edge—the software-defined multi-service gateway—that allows many companies to preserve and extend their customer value. (Opposing the thought /fear that IoT technologies level the value of companies deploying such solutions.)
Embedded Intel Solutions: When collaboration with a partner such as Linux provider Red Hat takes place, what are some of the characteristics such a collaboration should have in order to be successful?
Andres, Eurotech: Good partnerships/collaborations build on a common understanding of success factors, technology and an aligned vision.
The Red Hat and Eurotech partnership offers a robust example of such a partnership. Both companies understand the value and necessity of a strong ecosystem to deliver IoT solutions.
The companies’ respective competencies and products perfectly complement each other (Red Hat on the Enterprise IT side, and Eurotech on the Operational Technology (OT) side with HW and SW). What’s more, Open Source and Java are important pillars in both companies’ strategies, and all these factors ensure a good “natural” alignment and many positive synergies between the parties.