Ashok Sankar: Adding Value to the Internet of Things

Ashok Sankar

Ashok Sankar, Strategic Product and Marketing, Raytheon Cyber Products

How can product vendors add value to the Internet of Things? That’s a question Ashok Sankar addresses in his role as a strategic product and marketing executive with Raytheon Cyber Products. “Our primary concern is security — to ensure that data is not compromised or does not fall into the wrong hands,” says Sankar, who joined Raytheon in 2012. Read on to discover the latest IoT trends that Sankar and his team are tracking – and how the Internet of Things will both disrupt and evolve in the federal marketplace.

WashingtonExec: The terms Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything – which better describes what we will use in the future? And do you consider it a disruptive technology?

Ashok Sankar: The term IoT seems to have taken off for now. Essentially it’s about connecting all smart objects together to perform some function to achieve a tangible benefit. While the expectations of what can be accomplished are high, they have to be balanced with realistic expectations as well. That said, it certainly is disruptive ; not just because of its potential for productivity and efficiency benefits but because of the fundamental way we live our lives.

If you start looking at some of the applications of IoT, the transformational potential is unprecedented – how we interact with each other, the world, the way we would make decisions, the way we function, etc. Still, I don’t expect the term to stay cohesive for a long time. You will start to see fragmentations. I expect to see niches develop and especially as market influencers like analysts, the media and solution providers start to get involved.

WashingtonExec: How do you see the connection between mobile devices and the big data analytics tools out there?

Ashok Sankar: Mobile devices and big data analytics are essentially fueling these transformational aspects. Think of a wearable, something that monitors your health or sleep patterns. It communicates with a mobile device such as your iPhone, which collects the data – it is an intermediary node that has enough smarts to locally process what is sent and sends the information collected to a central big data repository.  Based on information it receives and instructions pushed to it, the mobile device can now tell the wearable what to do or how to adjust to achieve a certain goal.

The analytics side would receive data from many such devices and now can analyze patterns and glean insights and can now deliver customized instructions to  individual devices based on what is learned.

Another example would be where, based on user buying and activity patterns, alerts can be pushed – just-in-time, based on time of day, location, and many other attributes. The linkage between them will help us to transform how we go about doing things. The same thing can be extended to other use cases like traffic patterns and airline reservations – where there is some sort of a human involvement that is a necessary task, which can then be automated because of the confluence of these technologies, as well as analytics and cloud-based technologies.

An example would be, say, you are at the airport and your flight is delayed.  The analytics system, based on certain information can now process without human involvement, the next optimal route and flights to take and sends you an alert with the flight(s) information and the gate you need to be at and by when.

WashingtonExec: As a vendor how do you plan to continue adding value to the Internet of Things market?

Ashok Sankar: One of the things that Raytheon Cyber Products does is focus on security. Obviously when you have things like the Internet of Things, a plethora of  devices that have no security considerations built in start to come  into play, essentially increasing the attack surface. The Internet of Things are especially more vulnerable because a lot of them essentially come in with the idea of being a throwaway; any investment to make them more secure is not necessarily there. Cost is a bigger factor than security.  So securing this data – wherever it may be stored, transmitted or used – is our business.

WashingtonExec: When it comes to person-to-person, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine technologies, how does each relate to the Internet of Things?

Ashok Sankar: I think the Internet of Things is a confluence of all of these different aspects. It is about accomplishing a certain objective by bringing together many interactions. That said, person-to-person communication might be an approval process that is necessary from somebody or maybe there is a doctor who is asking a specialist a question based on what he or she might see with a patient. Machine-to-machine communication might be based on some kind of medicine/drug dosage that is given to a patient based on the readings they are getting back. It may not necessarily require human intervention anymore and that could happen based on what information a sensor in a wearable is providing. All of those things start to play a factor and they all have to work together to achieve these objectives.

WashingtonExec: Is there anything that you would advise not using due to privacy concerns?

Ashok Sankar: I think the Internet of Things will be a forcing function in this regard and accelerate concerns over privacy more than before. From this perspective, I think the concept of data compartmentalization will start to get a fresh look. If you look at, for example, the defense and intel communities – they classify and segment data at various levels based on their sensitivity, accessibility and many other attributes. I believe data separation technologies will play a critical role in addressing privacy and security challenges going forward.

One other aspect to consider is to look at the data that is being collected – meaning collect only the data that is necessary. I was at the Gartner security summit recently and I heard that more than 60% of organizations did not know what was collected, what they have and why it was collected. This is going to be important.

A third consideration would be to start thinking about security and privacy from the start, from the ground up. This has been, by and large, an afterthought and going forward the consequences can be worse than it has been – it is not just financial damage but can impact human lives. This also means that the providers of IoT should be held accountable for offering options on what can be collected, how it should be transmitted, where can it be stored, etc.

There need to be some fundamental controls in place other than just having all the data sent everywhere without any way to control it. It is important to note that privacy and security are the responsibility of individual consumers as well.  Individuals should have the option to decide what data can be collected and have the right to how it is stored and used, among other things. They should be able to make informed choices.

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