Why is configuration management critical to the Internet of Things?

IoT Configuration and security

With IoT we all recognise that the World is just getting started.

Our commitment to IoT

At Configured Things, we are committed to the provision of a richer configuration language with associated runtime, security framework and other ancillary tools. It is with these tools that continuous configuration management becomes a business enabler.

IoT version 1 – The current prototype

As we collectively come to terms with the idea of IoT version 1, bright organisations are refreshing their old tech and issuing new tech to open up new possibilities. These possibilities are quite rightly generating lots of excitement around positive and perhaps negative disruptions to our lives. However this version IoT version 1 is just the prototype. Wait until version 2 when the smart crowd – the global population – gets to apply their imagination to drive use cases for IoT. It is clear that the potential for change is huge.

The evolution of IoT

This continuous evolution of IoT use cases  mandates that IoT platforms cannot be limited by baked in functionality defined by static code that matches only the imagination and purpose of the original provider. Static functionality that is exposed by a narrow, often one-time configuration schemes. These Things are costly to deploy en-masse and often financed via public funds. Society is going to be more and more sensitive to waste. Ripping out and starting again when the need changes is going to be politically non- acceptable.

Realising the potential

We believe that a well-engineered configuration management can dynamically create cyber resilient systems of things that provide ease of integration, control and a safe-space for human-machine and direct machine-to-machine interactions. It is with such a system that the hype of technologies such as AI, Blockchain 2.0 and 3.0, Mixed Reality and Robotics can not only become a reality, but widespread and not restricted to niche applications.

Configured Things believe that the configuration of Things, particularly IoT, needs to be thought of as an automated, continuous, dynamic process perhaps taking inputs from A.I. Baked-in functionality hidden in software should be limited as much as possible. General purpose functionality should be encouraged and functionality exposed via rich configurations.

This continuous configuration management needs to be aligned with a ‘DevSecOps’ approach to security so that the resulting, perhaps federated, systems are recognisably secure and automated to an extent that they add no overhead in terms of operations.




Smartfrog Re-launched

Patrick Goldsack on why Configured Things is taking a fresh look at the SmartFrog Opensource Project

The much loved Smartfrog project is still resident on SourceForge. We are in the process of moving the ancillary content (videos, introductory material, etc.) to a new server and in the mean time, we apologize for its current non-availability. We will try to restore it as soon as we possibly can.

We are in the process of redesigning SmartFrog itself to bring it up to date with the technologies that are now in current use and to make it suited to being the core modeling and configuration framework for Configuration Things.

The areas that are under change are:

  • A new more powerful configuration description language, taking all the good parts of the SmartFrog notation and making them even more expressive and powerful.
  • A new lighter-weight component model better suited to run on small light-weight devices common in the Internet-of-Things.
  • A security model that better suits the federated nature of the problem space that Configured Things is tackling.
  • A way of supporting very rapid and possibly conflicting changes to configurations, coming from the set of federated instances, with appropriate roll-back and failure recovery.

The intent is that this new version of SmartFrog (known as colloquially as SF2) will be released as open source with a permissive license that will encourage wide adoption and the creation of a user ecosystem.

The Importance of Federation for Digital Transformation

Patrick Goldsack discusses why Configured Things are so focused on helping organisations work together

Federation is the need to work across administrative boundaries within an overall framework. This work may involve control of the devices, including configuration and management, as well as access to data and information.In most large-scale deployments of things, even within a single enterprise, there will be aspects which involve federation. For example, control of network devices may be under the control of a different organization than that for building management, and although there may be times to link their management, they also need to operate in isolation and have independent failure modes.

In smart cities or event management, federation is inherent in the construction of a solution. System belong to vastly different organizations that need to collaborate – for example transport agencies, emergency services, local business and individual citizens. Each will have data that others may need to access, but with strict controls depending on the accessing organization. Limited control of the systems might be ceded to another organization, perhaps for a fixed period during an emergency situation.

These complex relationships make federation a complex issue and without the required underlying capabilities being included within the underlying platform it becomes an almost impossible task. Its importance ensures that federation is at the core of the conception of Configured Things.

Social Tax? – dealing with the impact of IoT/Smart Cities/Automation

Nick Randall discusses the social implications of the next industrial revolution

I’ve been discussing the potential social impacts of what we are generally about with various thought leaders this week. As technologists we are busy realising the ‘dream’ with a weather eye very much focused on doing generally cool things that will make peoples lives easier and better. Most of the discussion is about a positive social revolution.
Obviously we in our industry are aware that there is a potential downside to the upcoming revolution; whole areas of employment are under threat – from Big Data taking out layers of professions like legal, banking staff, estate agents etc. as well as the almost traditional erosion of manufacturing jobs with the progression of automation. To the latter category – just think what driver less vehicles might do.

Industrial relations are going to need to be handled by all parties much more effectively than the recent rail strikes in Southern England – as an example.
In our own industry – our innovations will lead to layers of technical staff being taken out of organisations. Turkeys voting for Christmas?
Do we think our political, corporate and industrial leaders are ready for this? Can they effectively manage this social revolution? Probably not. <gulp>
The proposed answer for this is touted by our industry peers as education and retraining. Well – I don’t see much group think from our political,corporate and labour force leaders on this so where is the strategic vision and leadership going to come from?
Perhaps we need a concept of social tax akin to the model we have adopted re carbon emissions and carbon tax? At least with “carbon tax” we have a framework to discuss the issue i.e. global warming.
Lets get a discussion started – but first lets invent and agree a framework for this discussion.