As chief internet of things architect for Intel Corp.’s Americas public sector division, Tiffany Sargent is passionate about coming up with strategies that drive market creation in the public sector. Those strategies include sharing reference architectures that advance IoT technology focused on connectivity, manageability, security and analytics.
“My job is focused on advancing, creating and implementing new reference architectures for the federal market — and incubating new technologies that can enhance current missions of federal agencies and local agendas,” says Sargent, who also serves as a principal engineer at Intel. “We’re also focused on partnering with systems integrators to onboard IoT technologies so we can better drive mission goals on behalf of our customers.”
When it comes to IoT, Sargent is especially focused on connectivity. When customers ask her how they best can prepare for IoT, Sargent repeatedly circles back to that central point.
“One of the most important areas people need to understand is, ‘What is your connectivity plan?’ How are all the parts of your system connected? And what is the technology backbone that real-time data can ride on?’” Sargent says. “If people’s systems aren’t connected seamlessly across an IT infrastructure, and you want to move data in real-time, that’s where you need to invest first.”
IoT capabilities like remote condition-based monitoring, which relies on the cloud for operability management that only requires having to communicate with the cloud through the use of an end-point device sensor, is one step in that direction.
“You can have your edge computations run with real-time data and have a system that is remotely managing and computing data, which is then being collected [and]transformed into shared information without operationally being tethered to the cloud,” says Sargent, whose expertise in IoT stretches back to the ‘90s, when she designed and implemented an early version of an IoT system, when she was just starting out at Intel.
Remote condition-based monitoring capabilities are critical for Special Forces and similar Homeland Security operational environments that lack consistent cloud connectivity. Intel’s IoT architectures, in response, provide a self-sustaining environment operating at the edge, computing on a remote system through preloaded algorithms, which can, in turn, send information back to Special Forces or first responders on their local devices, among any number of entities. This approach represents a technological leap forward, Sargent says.
“This is a really big change in IoT where you can run an entire system on an edge remotely, only linking to the cloud in case of changes or updates — or if you want to share [information]with a Central Command Center,” Sargent explains.
Underpinning this new technology are new types of communications. An example is LoRaWAN, an unlicensed radio spectrum, accompanied by low power and secure connectivity, which can also extend the battery life of sensors and reduce implementation nodes — optimizing the odds of communication even when nodes are out of sight or range.
“Before, sensor communications might not relay messages well or at all; now, there is this whole revolution occurring that moves beyond previous limitations,” Sargent says.
The same holds true for advances in another area critical in data operability: video image processing. Here, too, technology rests on moving computation to the edge, ensuring capabilities, such as video and facial image recognition, can still occur. While the cloud is necessary at the outset, the technology is not dependent on the cloud for future operability.
“To fully prepare algorithms, there would have to be a cloud use at the start, because you are going to need the cloud infrastructure to create the algorithms — using machine learning, for example — but you don’t have to remain tethered to [the cloud]to operate,” Sargent explains. “This is what is changing the game.”
All these technologies open the door to greater choice. Customers can bring the compute to the data, or bring the data to the compute, depending of their application requirements. Distributed computation for video provides an especially compelling IoT opportunity for the federal government set of contract requirements that Intel sees.
“If you are doing ‘traditional work,’ where you are bringing the data to the compute, you are going to collect the data at the edge, on a sensor or camera, and bring it to the cloud to compute and then send it out,” Sargent says. On the flip side, Sargent says, “You can also bring the computation to the edge, and in that case, once data is then computed into information, you then send that result — whether it be to another edge device or back to the cloud.”
Such advancement translates into greater speed, unencumbered by previous network bottle neck or connectivity challenges. For entities like the Special Forces, that capability is especially critical when it comes to sending data from within remote areas, sometimes with a desire to remain undetected.
“The idea of computing at the earliest point of data ingestion is that you only then send information on, you are not sending data directly through broader infrastructures,” Sargent says.
None of these IoT advances, however, can occur in a vacuum, which is why Sargent is equally passionate about fostering collaboration with industry partners. That focus takes center stage, in part, through Sargent’s role as chair of the Washington Exec IoT Council.
“One of the unique things about IoT is nobody is going to do it alone — it is all about the ecosystem,” Sargent says. “People have to come together to work on all aspects of IoT solutions; no one is ever going to own the whole thing — this is a worldwide effort.”
Sargent is adamant in the belief that only strong industry partnerships can address the biggest challenges facing IoT ecosystems. That belief informs Sargent’s participation in, and leadership on, the IoT Council.
“The WashingtonExec opportunity really allows us to share challenges, to figure out ways to team and work together, and to spin off meetings as a result of the dialogue we have,” Sargent says. “Personally, I’ve probably had 10 significant meetings through people I met, several of those leading to joint opportunities.” In addition, IoT meetings allow participants to meet with government agencies, such as NIST, which recently conveyed framework guidance for commerce.
While fostering collaboration in her IoT role, Sargent also seeks to advance conversations around system and data interoperability. “One of the biggest opportunities we have, from a collaborative environment [standpoint], is to share perspectives about an IoT common data framework — this in itself can lower the barriers for implementation and accelerate the adoption of any IoT systems,” Sargent explains.
Looking ahead, Sargent sees IoT becoming even more all-encompassing.
“Ultimately I see data becoming the center of the system,” Sargent says. “I think we are going to see digital objects, essentially, becoming the primary way we talk about data elements, and we are going to start not only securing the system through hardware and software, we are going to start shifting some of our focus to securing data elements, looking at how to put more intelligence at the actual data element level.”
That focus sustains Sargent in her current work at Intel and cross-collaboratively, with industry partners.
“As a data economy emerges, and IoT is a prime data collection point for systems, we will optimize our systems by driving more intelligence to the edge,” Sargent says.