How IoT Is Benefiting Business and IT Departments

The Internet of Things (IoT) is on a fast track to change pretty much how the entire world operates. The IoT market is seeing a boom by improving the supply chain management to defining the concept of a so-called smart home and everything else in between. Estimates point to an enterprise IoT expenditure of over $520 billion by 2021. It is more than double what it was in 2017.

Also, over a third of all companies are seeing an added 1,000 "shadow IoT" devices attached to their networks. Shadow IoT means that employees are bringing their smart devices to work. Statistics also show that nearly half of businesses already use digital assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, etc.) and smart TVs in the workplace.

The financial, healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics sectors are seeing the most use of IoT integrations. Nevertheless, IT departments across all spheres of business are implementing it into their systems.

Predictive Maintenance

Even though predictive maintenance is usually associated with manufacturing, you can also use it in the data center, such as for hard drive read-write heads. Similarly, machine learning can predict if one or more servers are about to go down. It means that its workload can be relocated in time, while the server is taken offline, repaired or replaced, so there will be no operation interruptions or the risk of data loss.

Reducing Costs

The IoT also benefits businesses by improving their overall energy efficiency. Several years ago, Google began making use of information collected in its data centers to improve energy consumption. It managed to reduce its cooling costs by 40%. Also, expect further improvements as these systems, aided by machine learning, will become even more efficient with additional data. Many other companies, in different industries, can follow in Google's footsteps and use machine learning to lower their energy consumption costs.

Virtual Assistants

Many IoT devices and smart virtual assistants are becoming ubiquitous in the office. And aside from them streamlining how employees navigate the digital environment, they are also helping with the physical one as well. These devices can predict when employees need something, even before they ask. If, for instance, staff members have to pass through an access control mechanism, a wearable smart device could automatically open the door when they walk up to it. These also help improve security.

For some healthcare organizations, for instance, the Weka Smart Fridge will come in handy. This portable IoT-enabled fridge will automate vaccine storage and dosage dispensing. It also includes remote monitoring, ensuring that the vaccines are at the right temperature, as well as inventory tracking.

Improving Conference Rooms

Another means by which IoT helps businesses optimize their processes in the modern workplace is to indicate which conference rooms are available and ready to use. Even if a reservation-style system exists in many organizations, it doesn't guarantee that each of them is in use. So, instead of having employees run around the building looking for a vacant room for an impromptu meeting, IoT devices can recognize which rooms are unoccupied.

Some technologies can measure phone signals or use infrared tools to detect if or how many people are in any area. By using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, companies can also tell who the individual occupants are. Depending on the size of the business or the industry they are in, this implementation could prove quite useful.

Takeaway

While these are only a few examples of how IoT is benefiting businesses in the 21st century, the limitations are set only by one's needs and imagination. If you want to learn more or are looking to leverage these technologies, contact one of our trained specialists. Managed Solution is at your service!

How IoT in education is changing the way we learn

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How IoT in education is changing the way we learn

Article written by Andrew Meola from businessinsider.com.

The Internet of Things, the connection of devices (other than standard products such as computers and smartphones) to the Internet, is in the process of transforming numerous areas of our everyday lives. And while it might not seem like an obvious application of the IoT, education is on that list.
The Internet has deeply rooted itself into our schools, and e-learning has become common practice in the American school system. But the applications of the IoT in education are numerous, and the implications for this disruption are tremendous.
The rise of mobile technology and the IoT allows schools to improve the safety of their campuses, keep track of key resources, and enhance access to information. Teachers can even use this technology to create "smart lesson plans," rather than the traditional stoic plans of yesteryear.
Below, we've compiled a list of IoT education examples, including the uses of the IoT in higher education, the future of the Internet in education, and examples of companies that are using the IoT to enter the education space.

 

IoT in Higher Education

The IoT can begin disrupting the education process as early as kindergarten and can continue to do so through 12th grade, but perhaps the most profound effects occur in higher education.
Students, particularly in college, are increasingly moving away from paper books toward tablets and laptops. With all of the necessary information at their fingertips, students can now learn at their own pace and have a nearly identical educational experience in their homes and in the classroom.
And while this trend provides increased convenience for students, it also makes the teaching process more efficient for professors. The surge in connected technology means that instructors do not need to manually grade tests on paper or perform other routine tasks.
Instead, professors can focus on the actual, personal instruction that is most valuable to their students. Devices connected to the cloud allow professors to gather data on their students and then determine which ones need the most individual attention and care. These statistics also let teachers properly adjust their lesson plans for future classes.
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Third grade students study on computers using online learning in the lab at Rocketship SI Se Puede, a charter, public elementary school, on February 18, 2014 in San Jose, California.
Outside of the classroom, universities can use connected devices to monitor their students, staff, and resources and equipment at a reduced operating cost, which saves everyone money. And these tracking capabilities should also lead to safer campuses. For example, students would be able to keep track of connected buses and adjust their schedules accordingly, which would prevent them from spending unnecessary time in potentially dangerous areas.

Future of the Internet in Education

As of 2015, 73% of all U.S. teenagers had access to a smartphone, according to Capterra. Nearly 100% of all U.S. public schools have Internet access. And 70% of middle school students and 75% of high school students use laptops for educational purposes.
With that foundation upon which to build, it's easy to see how the Internet of Things is poised to radically transform education as we know it. Capterra points out that 69% of students want to use their mobile devices more frequently in the classroom, and most of those students want to use them to automate tasks that they already do now, such as note-taking, schedule checking, and research.
As for the schools, the greatest benefits would be increased energy efficiency and reduced operating costs. New Richmond schools in Tipp City, Ohio are saving approximately $128,000 each year by using a web-based system that controls all mechanical equipment inside the buildings.
Furthermore, Greentech Media points out that investment in these "smart schools" usually pays off within two years. And this tech can even be installed into older buildings by attaching smart sensors and other devices to existing control panels.
And the savings continue as schools invest in reusable resources, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. Capterra notes that an average school spends an average of $30,000 to $50,000 per year just on paper, but reusable tech would completely eliminate that cost.
As more schools adopt this technology, expect to see more "smart schools" pop up throughout the U.S. until they are the standard for American education.

 

Examples of Companies in the IoT for Education Space

The foremost example of a tech company that has invaded schools is SMART, which pioneered the world's first interactive whiteboard in 1991. SMART boards changed the way teachers and students interacted in the classroom by moving lessons away from the dusty chalkboards that dominated education for decades.
But SMART is far from the only company sinking its hooks into the U.S. school system. IPEVO has also manufactured a wireless interactive whiteboard that serves as an alternative to the SMART board, notes the Huffington Post.
Ideapaint, which creates dry-erase whiteboard paint, dove headlong into the IoT by developing an app called Bounce with the goal of bringing more of the educational experience online.
And IBM has announced that it would invest $3 billion into the IoT over the next few years, and a significant portion of that money will go toward education.

 

More to Learn

Approximately 50.4 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools as of Fall 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That's a slight increase from the 50.3 million who attended in Fall 2015.
With figures like those, it's clear that the education system isn't going away anytime soon. And with that emphasis on the importance of education, it's equally important for the Internet of Things to improve the quality of that education.
But education is far from the only area of our lives that the IoT will transform. Transportation, energy, homes, healthcare, and more will all feel the touch of the IoT in the coming years.
That's why BI Intelligence has spent months creating the most exhaustive resource on not just education, but the entire IoT: The Internet of Things: Examining How The IoT Will Affect The World.
To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the IoT universe, choose one of these options:
  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT
The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the fast-moving world of the IoT.

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Infographic: Top security trends in IoT

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Top security trends in IoT

As written on blogs.microsoft.com
The continuous connection of smart devices across networks, commonly called the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving a transformation in how enterprises all over the world manage network infrastructure and digital identities.
With such rapid change comes new cybersecurity challenges. Many organizations are hesitant to tap into the power of the IoT due to the complexities and risk associated with managing such a diverse – and sometimes unclear – environment. But it is possible to secure your networks, enhance productivity, and protect customers in this evolving digital landscape.
IoT security doesn’t have to be overwhelming. But it does require a proactive and strategic mindset, and the first step is to understand IoT security trends.

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IoT security suffers from a lack of awareness

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IoT security suffers from a lack of awareness

By Clint Boulton as written on cio.com
As consumers we have become obsessed with connected devices. We like the idea of smart homes, smart cars, smart TVs, smart refrigerators or any machine that can be automated with sensors and an IP address. Yet fewer tasks in IT today inspire more fear than the prospect of protecting corporate networks from this proliferating wave of connected devices. The internet of things phenomenon expands the threat surface exponentially, in turn boosting business risk.
But CIOs often aren’t aware of all of the devices that make inviting targets for hackers. "One of the fundamental issues that faces the internet of things is knowing that they're there and giving them some identity,” says Gartner analyst Earl Perkins. "You can't manage what you can't see."
Factor in the hiding-in-plain-sight machines and BYOD devices, as well as emerging technologies that control office light fixtures, temperature and even window tint, and it's easy to see how vetting what's on the network will only get harder for CIOs. Securing internet of things is a primary focus of this week’s Black Hat USA conference, whose organizers told the Wall Street Journal that they received 50 proposals for seminars related to infiltrating devices, including how a computer worm could spread smart lightbulbs, how to hack medical systems, and a new kind of ATM skimming device.
Matt Kraning, CTO of security software startup and DARPA spinoff Qadium, says CIOs are focusing on locking down devices operating on the network as a result of BYOD policies while the mundane teleconference systems are ignored. There are tens of thousands of such unified communications and collaboration systems installed in executive boardrooms around the world. These systems use dated protocols, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), aren't encrypted and are rarely kept current on patches.
Imagine this scenario: The entire C-suite huddles with the board for their quarterly meeting. The IP-enabled video conferencing system doesn't work so they call IT in. Turns out the system was properly blocked by the corporate firewall, consistent with corporate policy. But rather than cancel the meeting, the execs order IT to break through the firewall to get the system to work. The big no-no occurs when the IT team doesn't put the firewall back around the equipment, leaving the system open to an enterprising hacker who may eavesdrop on executive meetings.
"They grew up when the phone was just a phone," Kraning says of executives who don't realize the threat that such systems pose. "Most have no insider awareness of IoT and that persists the myth that the problem is not already here." He says mail servers are also potential threat vectors.

IoT security: a victim of market economics?

The enterprise is naturally only a subset of the broader world – one in which the increasing drumbeat of connected devices poses an even greater threat. Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016 and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. Protecting those devices, from smart cars to smart hot water heaters to smart TVs, remains a big problem partly because of a misalignment of economics, says security expert Bruce Schneier.
PCs and cell phones churn every 18 to 24 month so the companies that produce them have financial incentive to constantly refine the security of those devices. But people replace cars every 10 years, refrigerators every 20 and thermostats "never," says Schneier. "There exists no mechanism to patch them because it's not economically viable for third-parties," Schneier says.
The problems will mount as new devices emerge and they, along with the sensors and software used in conjunction with them get cheaper and last longer. “You don’t have the same ecosystem of upgrade in terms of patching, devices and operating system -- none of these things that in a computer world makes them better,” Schneier says. “When your furnace becomes part of the IoT and they say you have to replace the hardware on your furnace every two years... people are not going to do it.”
Assigning fault also plays a big hand in the complex market dynamics. When a perpetrator infiltrates a network through a software vulnerability, we point to the flawed software. But with connected devices forming what is essentially a digital daisy chain, it is difficult to attribute fault. "If you're refrigerator interacts with your router and hacks your Google account, whose fault is it?" Schneier says. "The market economy actually works against securing IoT."
Such security threats can snowball quickly, as Schneier wrote in a blog post last week: “Vulnerabilities on one system cascade into other systems, and the result is a vulnerability that no one saw coming and no one bears responsibility for fixing. The internet of things will make exploitable vulnerabilities much more common.”

An IoT security model

Qadium is tackling the IoT security problem with “global internet sensing” software that scours hundreds of terabytes of data generated by devices configured by a given organization. Indexing a hundred different protocols, calling out to all of the devices that reside on a customer’s network and gauging their responses for anomalies. It finds dark spaces in corporate networks CIOs didn’t even know existed.
“We look at the entire internetperpetually and turn it into an analytics challenge,” Kraning says. The goal is to say, “We know where all devices of interest to a company are.” Qadium’s customers include the U.S. Cyber Command and the Navy.
According to Perkins, who says Qadium competes with Bastile Networks, Great Bay Software and ForeScout Technologies, such technologies play a useful role in helping CIOs discover what’s on what he calls the “network of entities.” However, the challenge doesn’t end there. A second set of technologies is required to isolate and neutralize malware or other network incursions. Securing connected devices, he says, requires a multi-layer approach that involves providing the proper policy enforcement for existing devices and those that will come onto the network in the future. This is no trivial task.
"We've reached an era in computing now where we are able to project a pervasive digital presence into the edges of business and into the edges of life -- on the human body, in the human body, in the house, in the car,” Perkins says. Gartner estimates spending security technologies to protect the Internet of Things will top $840.5 million by 2020.
What does the future of IoT security look like? Schneier, who has closely watched the cybersecurity market evolve over the last three decades, says the federal government must provide regulatory oversight into cybersecurity by establishing a new federal agency – ideally a Department of Technology Policy – to regulate the industry, similar to how the FCC was created to regulate airwaves and the FAA guides airlines. For now, Schneier says the government remains woefully behind on IoT awareness.
Yet Schneier remains cautiously optimistic about the industry’s chances to solve the complex challenges – like it always has – over time and through trial and error. The solutions “will be like everything we do in computer security to date -- a hodgepodge of things that work pretty well," Schneier says. "We'll muddle through, screw it up and get better."

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3 urgent truths about cloud computing in a mobile world in 2016

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3 urgent truths about cloud computing in a mobile world in 2016

As written on blogs.office.com
In a constantly evolving world transformed by cloud, social and mobile technologies, companies are focused on strategic platforms for streamlining processes, reaching customers and expanding sales. Cloud computing has been—and will continue to be—a big player in the game, impacting every aspect of our business processes. Global spending on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is expected to reach $16.5 billion this year, while the global Software as a Service (SaaS) market is projected to grow to $67 billion by 2018. So what lies ahead for 2016 and beyond? Here are three facts you should know about cloud computing:
  1. Going hybrid is not just for cars

    —Companies looking for enterprise cloud solutions no longer want to be forced to choose between their datacenter and the cloud. Businesses require a flexible IT infrastructure that can scale on demand. A hybrid cloud solution offers both. With a private cloud in a company’s datacenter, it can be more agile and manage resources more effectively. Given this fact, it’s no surprise that private cloud adoption increased from 63 percent to 77 percent, driving hybrid cloud adoption up from 58 percent to 71 percent year-over-year. This has allowed companies to take advantage of service providers that offer cloud storage, backup and recovery options with increased efficiency and reduced cost.
  2. Internet of Things (IoT) = cloud-based services

    —From vehicles and security systems, to refrigerators and washing machines, every “thing” is now connected. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), by 2018, there will be 22 billion IoT devices installed, driving the development of over 200,000 new apps and services. This has produced a new generation of platforms, which will eventually all communicate via the cloud. From pre-configured solutions that accelerate IoT projects, to the ability to connect devices to efficiently manage multiple assets with expandable scalability, to gathering valuable IoT data and capturing insights that integrate with existing business systems—there are a wealth of possibilities when it comes to using cloud-based services to jumpstart and manage IoT offerings.
  3. There’s a native app for that

    —Experts estimate cloud apps will account for a whopping 90 percent of worldwide mobile data traffic by 2019. That means time savings and efficiency are the name of the game when it comes to the application development process. With cloud-native apps reducing overall development time by 11.6 percent, many companies are choosing cloud-development strategies to streamline processes and boost collaboration. Growing alongside this trend are cloud app containers. They’ve emerged as an attractive way for developers to quickly and efficiently build and deploy these “born-in-the cloud” applications. By using containers, developers and IT professionals can deploy applications from a workstation to a server in mere seconds. And they can select from Windows Server containers, Linux containers and Hyper-V containers—both in the cloud and on-premises.
There’s no question—the cloud has been a game changer. With innovative security measures and a better understanding of cloud computing, more and more companies are relying heavily on cloud-based apps and platforms to boost customer demand strategies. Today’s cloud provides layers of security features and operational best practices, not to mention enterprise-grade user and admin controls to further secure an environment, beckoning companies to take advantage of a holistic, agile platform that is also secure.

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Microsoft's Solair acquisition could expand its IoT services

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Microsoft's Solair acquisition could expand its IoT services

By Blair Hanley Frank as written on infoworld.com
Microsoft dove deeper into Internet of things technology with the acquisition of Solair, an Italian company that operates a cloud-based IoT platform.
According to a Microsoft blog post, Solair's technology will be used to upgrade the company's Azure IoT Suite, a collection of cloud services meant to help companies use the Internet of Things.
Microsoft and Solair didn't disclose the financial terms of their deal.
Solair's technology, which already uses Microsoft's Azure cloud services, offers IoT services focused on a variety of markets, including home automation, smart metering, remote maintenance and inventory management.
Microsoft didn't say specifically what it will get out of Solair's technology, but it promised to release more details on the integration of the two companies later.
Microsoft acquired Solair for its technology, not its customer base, MachNation analyst Dima Tokar wrote in a commentary. Sam George, the partner director for Azure IoT, said in a blog post that Microsoft is excited about the technology and talent that will come with the acquisition.
Azure is a key part of Microsoft's corporate strategy. The company is betting big on getting more customers to use its cloud offerings, and acquisitions like this one are aimed at getting more companies to buy into the Azure ecosystem, especially for new workloads like those driven by IoT.

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Why IoT Security Is So Critical via @TechCrunch

why IOT security is so critical managed solution

Why IoT Security Is So Critical

By Ben Dickson (@bendee983) as written on techcrunch.com
Twenty years ago, if you told me my phone could be used to steal the password to my email account or to take a copy of my fingerprint data, I would’ve laughed at you and said you watch too much James Bond. But today, if you tell me that hackers with malicious intents can use my toaster to break into my Facebook account, I will panic and quickly pull the plug from the evil appliance.
Welcome to the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), where digitally connected devices are encroaching on every aspect of our lives, including our homes, offices, cars and even our bodies. With the advent of IPv6 and the wide deployment of Wi-Fi networks, IoT is growing at a dangerously fast pace, and researchers estimate that by 2020, the number of active wireless connected devices will exceed 40 billion.
The upside is that we are able to do things we never before imagined. But as with every good thing, there’s a downside to IoT: It is becoming an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals. More connected devices mean more attack vectors and more possibilities for hackers to target us; unless we move fast to address this rising security concern, we’ll soon be facing an inevitable disaster.

IoT Vulnerabilities Open Up New Possibilities To Hackers

Some of the more frightening vulnerabilities found on IoT devices have brought IoT security further up the stack of issues that need to be addressed quickly.
Earlier this month, researchers found critical vulnerabilities in a wide range of IoT baby monitors, which could be leveraged by hackers to carry out a number of nefarious activities, including monitoring live feeds, changing camera settings and authorizing other users to remotely view and control the monitor.
In another development, it was proven that Internet-connected cars can be compromised, as well, and hackers can carry out any number of malicious activities, including taking control of the entertainment system, unlocking the doors or even shutting down the car in motion.
Wearables also can become a source of threat to your privacy, as hackers can use the motion sensors embedded in smartwatches to steal information you’re typing, or they can gather health data from smartwatch apps or health tracker devices you might be using.
Some of the most worrisome cases of IoT hacks involve medical devices and can have detrimental — perhaps fatal — consequences on patients’ health.

What Is being Done To Secure The IoT?

The silver lining is that IoT security, previously ignored, has now become an issue of high concern, even at the federal government level. Several measures are already being taken to gap holes and prevent security breaches at the device level, and efforts are being led to tackle major disasters before they come to pass.
After the Jeep Cherokee hack, automaker Fiat scrambled to have the problem fixed and quickly issued a safety recall for 1.4 million U.S. cars and trucks to install a security update patch. The whole episode also served as a wakeup call for the entire IoT industry.
Now security firms and manufacturers are joining ranks to help secure the IoT world before it spins out of control. Digital security company Gemalto is planning to use its experience in mobile payments to help secure IoT devices. Gemalto will be offering its Secure Element (SE) technology to automotive and utility companies. SE is a tamper-resistant component that gets embedded into devices to enable advanced digital security and life-cycle management via encryption of and access-control limitation to sensitive data.
Microsoft also is entering the fray, and has promised to add BitLocker encryption and Secure Boot technology to the Windows 10 IoT, the software giant’s operating system for IoT devices and platforms such as the Raspberry Pi. BitLocker is an encryption technology that can code entire disk volumes, and it has been featured in Windows operating systems since the Vista edition. This can be crucial to secure on-device data. Secure Boot is a security standard developed by members of the PC industry to help make sure that your PC boots using only software that is trusted by the PC manufacturer. Its implementation can prevent device hijacking.
The IoT security issue has also given rise to new alliances. A conglomeration of leading tech firms, including Vodafone, founded the Internet of Things Security Foundation, a non-profit body that will be responsible for vetting Internet-connected devices for vulnerabilities and flaws and will offer security assistance to tech providers, system adopters and end users. IoTSF hopes to raise awareness through cross-company collaboration and encourage manufacturers to consider security of connected devices at the hardware level.
“The opportunity for IoT is staggering,” said John Moor, a spokesperson for IoTSF. “However, there are ever-real security challenges that accompany those opportunities.” Moor stressed the importance to address security from the start. “By creating a dedicated focus on security,” he promised, “our intention is simple — drive excellence in IoT security. IoTSF aims to be the home for providers, adopters and beneficiaries of IoT products and services.”
Other companies are working on setting up platforms that will enable large networks of IoT devices to identify and authenticate each other in order to provide higher security and prevent data breaches.
There also is research being conducted to enhance IoT security through device and smartphone linking. The effort is being led by experts at the University of South Hampton, who believe smartphones can help overcome IoT devices’ limits in user interfaces and complexities in networking.

What More Needs To Be Done?

While the effort to tackle security issues regarding IoT devices is laudable, it isn’t enough to ensure that we can leverage the full power of this new technology in a secure environment.
For one thing, the gateways that connect IoT devices to company and manufacturer networks need to be secured as well as the devices themselves. IoT devices are always connected and always on. In contrast to human-controlled devices, they go through a one-time authentication process, which can make them perfect sources of infiltration into company networks. Therefore, more security needs to be implemented on these gateways to improve the overall security of the system.
Also of concern are huge repositories where IoT data is being stored, which can become attractive targets for corporate hackers and industrial spies who rely on big data to make profits. In the wake of massive data breaches and data theft cases we’ve seen in recent years, more effort needs to be made to secure IoT-related data to ensure the privacy of consumers and the functionality of businesses and corporations.
There also must be a sound plan for installing security updates on IoT devices. Each consumer will likely soon own scores — if not hundreds — of connected devices. The idea of manually installing updates on so many devices is definitely out of the question, but having them automatically pushed by manufacturers also can be a risky business. Proper safeguards must be put in place to prevent updating interfaces from becoming security holes themselves.
What is evident is that the IoT will become an important part of our lives very soon, and its security is one of the major issues that must be addressed via active participation by the entire global tech community. Will we be able to harness this most-hyped, emerging technology that will undoubtedly revolutionize the world, or will we end up opening a Pandora’s Box that will spiral the world into a new age of mayhem and chaos? Let’s hope for the former.
Source: techcrunch.com/2015/10/24/why-iot-security-is-so-critical/

Azure + Farming: See how technology is being used on the farm to ensure healthier cows thanks to Windows, Azure and the Internet of Things.

Windows, Azure and the Internet of Things Managed Solution

Connected cows help farms keep up with the herd

By Lorence Heikell, Microsoft News Center Staff as written on Microsoft.com.
Steffen Hake knows the long, gritty hours involved in running a successful dairy farm, a life that can mean climbing out of bed before dawn and working past sundown — but he has an edge that generations of farmers before him never had.
“When I get up in the morning and put on my boots, I don’t go to the stables first,” he says. “I check my PC for alerts about whether any cows are sick, and I’m in the know right away.”
The reason is a modern breakthrough for a traditional industry. SCR Dairy calls its approach “HealthyCow24,” a solution based on the Internet of Things that uses Windows Embedded software and Microsoft Azure cloud technology.
Farmer Steffen Hake and his father, Erwin, use SCR Dairy’s technology on the farm.
This cow-monitoring system gives farmers insights that can boost milk production, smooth the calving process and ensure healthier cows — all while saving time.
And time is important for farmers like Hake, who has worked on his parents’ co-op farm in Wagenfeld-Ströhen, Germany, since 2005 and now manages 240 cows with help from his father and a few other workers. He’s part of a younger, tech-savvy generation that wants to do and experience more, both on and off the farm.
Having “connected” cows through the Israel-based company’s technology means he no longer has to dedicate nearly all of his time to monitoring his prized milk producers.
“If I had told this to someone a couple of years back, they would have thought man, you’re nuts,” Hake says. “But that’s the technology. It works.”
For hundreds of years, the dairy business remained essentially the same. A family would milk its own cows and sell any surplus to neighbors or the local community.
But over the last century, new machines were invented, urban populations exploded and the price of land skyrocketed. These trends and others put pressure on farms of all types to consolidate, specialize and increase production to keep supermarket shelves full.
Today a small farm only needs a few hands to manage dozens or even hundreds of cows, but maintaining a direct connection with each animal is still critical. One big reason why is that dairy cows must constantly be in a cycle of getting pregnant and giving birth in order to produce milk, and there is only a short window for insemination to be successful when a cow goes into heat.
In the past, farmers had far fewer animals and were able to spend hours each day watching their cows for signs, but today, with so many to keep track of, there isn’t always time for such careful monitoring.
That’s where SCR Dairy comes in. The company’s Heatime solution includes necklace tags with motion sensors and microphones that monitor the cows’ activity and rumination levels. Using an application that can run both on-premises or in the cloud, the system alerts farmers of increased activity that often means an animal is in heat or decreased rumination, which can indicate a health problem.
Cows’ activity and rumination levels can reveal valuable information.
“To identify a cow in heat, you need to spend at least 20-30 minutes in the stables per day, four to five times a day,” Hake says. “This time has now been eliminated.”
The system aggregates data from the sensors and conveys it to the farm’s office, and it’s available through a mobile application so farmers have access to data about cows’ heat cycles and health from anywhere at any time. It also allows farmers to make lists, prepare reports, sort cows by category and track each animal’s overall history.
SCR Dairy now has about 4 million tags connected to cows around the world, monitoring their activity and wellbeing 24 hours a day. The data generated from the tags is transferred to management solutions that help farmers make better decisions, as well as providing alerts.
“We have alerted farmers of cows having, for example, a prolonged calving, or a difficult labor, in the middle of the night,” says Matteo Ratti, vice president of SCR’s Cow Intelligence business. “They were able to go out and save the cow. With this technology, farmers get the information they need to manage the herd more efficiently.”
Enabling farmers to be more productive, expand their operations and take better care of their livestock isn’t just good business, according to Ratti— it’s critical to the future of the dairy industry.
“We hear it a lot from the farmers,” he says. “Young farmers are looking for technology solutions to make the work more efficient and more profitable, and they would not go into this business if the technology was not there. They need to be able to be away from the farm and still be connected.”
Running a dairy is hard work, but Hake says he wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
“I like the diversity of my job,” he says. “Riding the tractor, that great machine, that’s fun. Or when one of your cows is sick, and you are able to heal her so she is fully recovered after two days, that’s great motivation to me.”
Over the past two years, he’s realized plenty of ways the technology helps him do more in less time on the farm, which is a big deal for many in the younger generation taking over family farms today.
Hake finds freedom in being able to access all of the information from his smartphone so that he’s no longer tied to a specific location. And now that his family is renting a stable in a neighboring village seven miles away, the ability to monitor the cows remotely has become even more useful.
“We aren’t there very often, so we wouldn’t see when a cow is in heat,” he says. “That’s what makes this technology so helpful. When a cow is in heat or eats less than anticipated because she starts coming down sick, there is a warning indicator for me. And that’s a great thing.”
Lead photo: Steffen Hake, his grandfather, Ernst, and his father, Erwin, on the family’s co-op farm.
Photos by Peer Schmidt/Fokus Werbung und Fotografie
Source and full story: http://news.microsoft.com/features/connected-cows-help-farms-keep-up-with-the-herd/