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NOTA BENE
A blog about the Internet of Things

The essays, articles, and links below are about the Internet of Things (IoT), it's origins, challenges, and opportunities to combine new business models, technology innovation, and customer-centric design approaches to help businesses make better decisions, allow people to do more with less, and make the world a better place.

Mark Benson
26 March 2018

Keynote presentation at Smart IoT London

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Delivered a keynote presentation at Smart IoT London last week on case studies in digital transformation.

17 July 2017

Publication on Tiers of User Experience for Smart Connected Appliances in Appliance Design Magazine

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to have a piece published this week in Appliance Design Magazine on how the Internet of Things is changing the way appliance designers are addressing visceral, behavorial, and reflective user experiences for the products they create.

28 June 2017

Keynote Presentation at Sensors Expo

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I was honored to deliver a keynote presentation last week on behalf of Exosite at Sensors Expo in San Jose on how Conway's Law (systems mimic the organizations that produce them) leads to the inevitable fragmentation of IoT solutions, and how the "Inverted Conway Maneuver" (deploying technology that mimics the way you want your future organization to behave) is key to solving people problems through the intelligent application of IoT technology.

26 June 2017

Radio Interview on KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I had a great time being interviewed by Labiba Boyd last week on Modern Tek News (KZSU Stanford 90.1 FM) on how the Internet of Things is changing everything from smart buildings to high performance road cycling as well as the companies that make the products they depend on.

22 June 2017

Presentation on Organizational IoT Competency at IoT Slam

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to present at IoT Slam today on how organizations can build a long-term IoT competency, and how to avoid pitfalls along the way.

07 June 2017

Cyber-Physical Security Presentation at University of Minnesota

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to give a presentation at the University of Minnesota Technological Leadership Institute on how organizations can build a sustainable cyber-physical security competency, and the critical role that technology leaders play.

03 May 2017

Presentation at UW-Madison IoT Systems Research Center

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to give a presentation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison today at the IoT Systems Research Center on how the Internet of Things is changing organizations, common pitfalls they face, and how to use technology to bring people together.

21 April 2017

Building An Organizational IoT Competency: What You Need To Know

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to be published in Forbes this week on how organizations can build an IoT competency.

The Road To Unconscious Competence

In the field of psychology, the “conscious competence” learning model describes how individuals move from incompetence to competence in a certain subject area as they move from unconscious incompetence (naiveté about the competency deficit) to conscious incompetence (acknowledgment that there is competency deficit) to conscious competence (demonstrated competency through a concerted effort) to unconscious competence (competency as second nature).

This same model of “conscious competence” is true for organizations faced with the task of digital transformation through smart connected products, a visual depiction of which appears here.

There is no shortcut to mastery. Identification of gaps followed by planning, execution, growth and institutionalization of process and behavior are necessary waypoints on the journey to IoT competency.

14 April 2017

2017 Titans of Technology: Mark Benson

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I was humbled to be an honoree this year for the 2017 Titans of Technology award by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.

Congratulations to the entire group:

CEO

  • David Dourgarian, TempWorks Software
  • Janet Dryer, Perforce
  • Dean Hager, Jamf
  • Jamie Post Candee, Questar Assessment Inc.
  • Andy Reeher, Reeher

CIO/CTO

  • Mark Benson, Exosite
  • Aaron Cannon, Accessible360
  • Steve Knutson, Marco
  • Mike McCullough, Be The Match

Emerging Entrepreneur

  • Tyrre Burks, Player's Health
  • Odeh Muhawesh, TruScribe
  • Terri Soutor, FastBridge Learning
  • Nick Stokman, ilos Co.

Inventor

  • Larry Berger, Ecolab Inc.
  • Bharat Pulgam, mXers Audio

Advocate

  • Mike Bollinger, ivefront
  • Clarke Porter, Pearson VUE
  • Reed Robinson, Beta.MN
  • Richard Walker, York Solutions

Community Hero

  • Tamara Gillard, Minnesota Computers for Schools
  • Amanda LaGrange, Tech Dump
  • Nick Roseth, Swat Solutions and DocuMNtary

Dealmaker

  • Jeff Hinck, Rally Ventures

Hall of Fame

  • Michael Gorman, Split Rock Partners

Additional links:

04 March 2017

The Voice of Machine Learning Starts and Ends With Humans

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I had a piece published this week in Embedded Computing Design on the collaborative relationship between machines and humans when it comes to machine learning:

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents new opportunities for manufacturers to capitalize on the value of data for their business. One of those opportunities is through leveraging an approach called machine learning, which is a branch of artificial intelligence that enables machines (or virtual representations of machines in the cloud) to learn new behaviors based on their external environments, internal health, and changing inputs. However, in order for machine learning to work, humans must be able to grok the context of how the machine data is collected, aggregated, and consumed.

03 March 2017

My Toaster Hacked The Pentagon: What You Can Do To Secure Your IoT Devices

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I was featured in a piece on Forbes this week on cyberphysical security and how to keep IoT devices and data safe. It's hard to say something meaningful in just a few sentences, but here's what they used:

Consumers should understand the crucial role they play in cybersecurity, especially in regard to IoT devices, which have become increasingly accessible and vulnerable to hacking incidents. Consumers can make great strides in protecting themselves by using devices from reputable manufacturers, and protecting sensitive information like passwords and login credentials.

09 February 2017

How IoT is Changing Corporate Innovation

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I was honored to be published this week in a piece on IoT Agenda on how the Internet of Things is changing the way that organizations think about innovation:

Innovation programs are historically the vehicle that protects against internal stagnation and external irrelevance. However, the larger an organization gets, the more difficult it becomes to innovate outside of historical core competencies and market-facing product lines, both of which are common with IoT.

07 February 2017

Interviewed by Forbes on Cyber Security and DDoS Mitigation Strategies

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I was honored this week to be interviewed by Forbes on a cyber security Q&A piece on how to mitigate DDoS attacks:

Although total victory over hackers may be impossible, we can combat their efforts via a balanced approach that focuses as much on mitigating exploits as on preventing them. Develop a security strategy that can only be beaten by physical attacks, limits the scope of attacks to individual devices, and secures data at each step in the pipeline based on whether it is at rest, in motion, or in use.

More recent interviews.

02 February 2017

Interviewed by Forbes on Machine Learning

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to be interviewed by Forbes this week in a piece on machine learning and analytics:

"The road to advanced analytics and machine learning starts with basic connectivity and data collection. This journey includes pinpointing the questions that need to be answered with data analysis, identifying the data needed to answer those questions, and putting processes in place to gather the correct type and amount of that data to properly support machine learning."

Also, Kurt Dykema was interviewed in the same piece, saying that the first step is to start with an internal project based on a passion to solve an interesting problem:

Find an interesting problem that the team wants to crack, and let them develop their skills in machine learning while they work on a problem they are passionate about.`

09 January 2017

Capabilities and Incentives

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

James Anderson writing for IoT World News on the recent security and privacy report by the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG):

Critical observations accounted for a massive portion of the 43-page report, but it ultimately centered on the inability of IoT device manufacturers and lack of incentive to adapt to new security challenges.

Inability and lack of incentive are two aspects of security for manufacturers that I'm sure will change significantly in 2017.

21 October 2016

Interview with Embedded Computing Design

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Honored to be interviewed by Brandon Lewis at Embedded Computing Design on "IT, OT, and vying for control of the IoT connectivity platform" as part of their IoT Design initiative.

Here's a quote from the interview:

I’ve seen companies hire data scientists to try and figure out what’s going on with their data, but they haven’t captured enough data for the data scientist to actually do anything, and the data scientists don’t understand the machines well enough to know how to instrument them to get the answers that they want. So it turns into this cycle of inefficiency where if companies don’t get the first part right – which is basic connectivity, adding sensors to machines, getting data flowing, and learning to collect data on failures – if they don’t do that first they won’t ever be successful adding data scientists to their teams and driving true operational efficiency.

15 September 2016

2016 Minnesota Water Technology Summit

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I'm honored to be participating this year at the 2016 Minnesota Water Technology Summit at the US Bank Stadium on the topic IoT and Water Management along with Tom Arata (Ecolab), Pat Cardiff (Grande Cheese), John Dustman (Summit Envirosolutions), and Jen Nowlin (Accredent).

ABSTRACT: Internet of Things (IoT) technology is rapidly infiltrating into water systems, products and infrastructure to enhance monitoring capabilities, process efficiency and customer service across the entire water industry. This panel session will bring technology, business, manufacturing and engineering experts together to present and discuss water solutions that have been implemented and are scalable today, that will be leading water management best practices for the future. 

Specifically, I'll be presenting two use cases on how the Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling intelligent remote monitoring of industrial water usage and treatment in factories as well as remote monitoring of water maker performance on commercial shipping vessels and luxury yachts.

06 January 2016

The Security Tesseract of the Internet of Things

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Devices all around us are becoming connected to the Internet. A quick search online turns up a multitude of wild predictions. One thing is for certain: by 2020, there are going to be a lot of devices connected to the Internet.

Read more

06 May 2014

Dapper

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

I just released Dapper, a publishing tool for static websites. Dapper is a simple but powerful static website generator written in Perl. Dapper makes it easy to develop locally and deploy your site to Amazon S3 directly. It works great for corporate, portfolio, or personal websites and blogs.

Read more

03 May 2014

IoT Data Engineering

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Dan Woods, writing for Forbes:

The bounding condition in deploying the Internet of Things (IoT) is not going to be the deployment of devices but rather the management and analysis of the data coming off those devices. If you are interested in making use of the IoT, that’s what you need to be working on: Data Engineering.

I disagree that the deployment of IoT is "not a problem". However, it's true that the problem of dealing with large unstructured data streams is where the true dragons and opportunities are.

24 April 2014

The Case for IP for Smart Objects

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

From the IPSO (Internet Protocol for Smart Objects) Alliance, the following paper makes the case for why IP will rule when it comes to the proliferation of smart objects. Adam Dunkels, PhD, Senior Scientist, Swedish Institute of Computer Science and JP Vasseur, Distinguished Engineer, Cisco Systems:

IP provides standardized, lightweight, and platform-independent network access to smart objects and other embedded networked devices. The use of IP makes devices accessible from anywhere and from anything; general-purpose PC computers, cell phones, PDAs as well as database servers and other automated equipment such as a temperature sensor or a light bulb.

In case you need convincing, it's worth the read. More on the IPSO Alliance.

25 March 2014

FIDO Alliance

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

About the FIDO Alliance:

The FIDO Alliance plans to change the nature of authentication by developing specifications that define an open, scalable, interoperable set of mechanisms that supplant reliance on passwords to securely authenticate users of online services.

Trading simplicity (no passwords) can at times come at the cost of high security. However, I like the line of thinking that makes simplifying assumptions such as if a person is near to a device (physical proximity), they are very likely authorized to provision and use that device.

10 March 2014

Siemens on Industry 4.0 and The Future of Self-Organizing Factories

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Siemens on the future of self-organizing factories:

In smart factories, communities of machines will organize themselves, supply chaings will automatically coordinate with one another, and unfinished products will send the data needed for their processing to the machines that will turn them into merchandise.

More on the Industry 4.0 initiative from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany.

06 March 2014

The Industrial IoT Isn't The Same As The Consumer IoT

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Varun Nagaraj:

The differences between the IIoT and IoT are not just a matter of slight degree or semantics. If your Fitbit or Nest device fails, it might be inconvenient. But if a train braking system fails, it could be a matter of life and death.

Not all IIoT applications are a matter of life and death, but it's true that industrial requirements for reliability, safety, and security are usually more stringent than with consumer applications.

01 March 2014

Adam Gould on the Need for Radio, Security, and Data Standards

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Pablo Valerio, writing for EE Times, quoting Adam Gould, Vice President of the Sensinode Business at ARM:

We need standards at the radio level, the security layer, and the data format level... For developers it is necessary that they know that those devices are going to be able to talk to each other and [that they] really focus on the application.

This industry is still just getting organized. I agree with Adam. The best is yet to come and the first step is connecting devices based on open standards like CoAP.

25 February 2014

International M2M Council

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

The IMC is gaining momentum:

The IMC will roll out its new IoT Content Library, which includes over 50 case studies emphasizing ROI for M2M deployments, during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

No doubt the biggest reason for the growth of the IMC is due to the collection and dissemination of business case studies and ROI models.

17 February 2014

Current As A Leading Indicator For System Thermal Management

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Dan Harmon, Sensing Business Development Director for Texas Instruments, writing for Electronic Design:

Many systems use thermistors or temperature sensors to monitor the temperature at key locations in the system. While this works fine, measuring the temperature means that we are monitoring a secondary or lagging indicator.

Interesting approach. The idea of measuring current rather than temperature for predicting thermal performance is a good one since it gets us closer to the root cause of head in embedded systems: power.

14 February 2014

GE Predix

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

GE is planning to "release public APIs" for their Predix platform. Nikhil Chauhan, director of product marketing for GE Software:

Predix is a set of IoT applications designed to merge the physical worlds of machines with analytical data to create software-defined machines that will ultimately eliminate unplanned downtime [...]

Making an API public is not big news in itself. However, if an API becomes widely used, it could trump other lesser-used APIs that are coming out of the standards bodies (ETSI, OneM2M, etc.).

10 February 2014

Getting Vertical

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Sam Trendall, writing for Channelnomics, quoting a recent IDC report by Scott Tiazkun on the IoT:

The Internet of Things market must be understood in terms of vertical markets because the value of IoT is based on individual use cases across all markets.

Indeed, the growth in IoT will not be from the mass production of a few high volume devices. Rather, it will be of the mass customization of many small volume devices.

06 February 2014

Industrial Internet Gold: Hassle-Free UX

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Pragati Verma:

As more and more millenials join the workforce, they will expect industrial equipment to offer the ease of navigation and intuitive interface similar to the smartphones and tablets they have grown up with. In the era of ubiquitous sensors and miniaturized mobile computing, a hassle-free UX design and contextual awareness will be the glue binding together the Industrial Internet.

For the Industrial Internet, UX is the new black.

15 January 2014

The World Isn’t Ready For the IoT

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Ryan Daws, on the visceral reaction against Google's recent acquisition of Nest, and the emerging reality of pervasive computing in our lives:

Well I’m sorry to be blunt, but if you want this world you’re going to have to give up some privacy.

This issue has less to do with privacy than it does with trust. Nest owners that were previously happy, are now unhappy because of their distrust of the unknwn future of their private information with Google.

13 January 2014

Wolfram Connected Devices Project

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Wolfram just announced their Connected Devices Project:

[...] today we’re launching the Wolfram Connected Devices Project—whose goal is to work with device manufacturers and the technical community to provide a definitive, curated, source of systematic knowledge about connected devices.

Built, of course, on the Wolfram Language.

07 January 2014

Angry Periods

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Ben Crair, interviewing Mark Liberman – professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania – on the evolving meaning of the full stop:

“In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,” Liberman wrote me. “In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. [...]

I'm still clinging to the virtues of properly-punctuated text messages, but it's admittedly a dying (dare I say grotesque?) art. I wonder what sort of punctuation we'll use to communicate internet-connected machine statuses 10 years from now. Is it time to finally canonize a set of standard irony and sarcasm marks, but for machines only?

03 January 2014

PTC Acquires ThingWorx

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

PTC1 just acquired ThingWorx for $112M:

The acquisition is expected to add more than $10 million of revenue over the next 12 months, with $5 million to $7 million of revenue in FY'14.

Given an annual turnover of <$10M, that's a pretty nice valuation for ThingWorx (>10x). (PTC's FY'13 revenue was $1.3 billion.)


  1. Incidentally, PTC also owns the venerable Pro/Engineer (now Creo), which is a great piece of 2D CAD software. ↩

31 December 2013

Internet 2014: Rise of the Things

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Michael Simon, CEO of LogMeIn1, writing for CNBC:

Among C-level executives at product manufacturers and businesses in general, the Internet of Things (IoT) will be transitioning from "what and why" to "when and how."

This is consistent with what I've seen as well. Companies in 2014 seem to be moving towards making real plans around IoT initiatives as opposed to just learning about what it is.


  1. LogMeIn, in 2011, purchased Pachube for $15 million and renamed it Cosm, then subsequently to Xively.  ↩

30 December 2013

Deutsche Telekom 2014 M2M Predictions

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Jürgen Hase on behalf of Deutsche Telekom:

Industrial applications are the all-time paragon of M2M.

The rest of the predictions are pretty safe (smart factories, automotive aftermarket, big data analytics, consumer applications, smart cities, and global alliances).

(Via IoT World.)

27 December 2013

Internet of Getting Things

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Brian Proffitt, writing for ReadWriteWeb:

[...] once commerce gets smoother, the Internet of Things will have more of an Internet of Getting Things aspect to it [...]

Couldn't agree more.

27 December 2013

Business Model Innovation at Bosch/HSG

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Anita Bunk, writing for Bosch Software Innovations:

However, what I’ve learned for the IoT is that it is not just technology that counts. Finding successful business models is equally important – and no less demanding.

There is some solid work coming from the Bosch IoT Lab at the University of St. Gallen, led by Elgar Fleisch, Markus Weinberger, and Felix Wortmann on this topic.

19 December 2013

Affordances in the Internet of Things

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Adrian McEwen, quoting from Donald Norman's classic, The Design of Every Day Things:

Affordances provide strong clues to the operations of things. Plates are for pushing. Knobs are for turning. Slots are for inserting things into. Balls are for throwing or bouncing. When affordances are taken advantage of, the user knows what to do just by looking: no picture, label, or instruction is required. Complex things may require explanation, but simple things should not. When simple things need pictures, labels, or instructions, the design has failed.

Adrian goes on to draw parallels to the design of internet-connected devices:

As adoption of the Internet of Things gathers pace, more and more of our cities, homes and environment will become suffused with technology. With these additional behaviours and capabilities will come additional complexity - something that successful designers of connected devices and services will need to counter.

By their very nature, many of the new capabilities bestowed upon objects will be hidden from sight or not immediately apparent from first glance, which makes intuitive design difficult. What are the affordances of digitally-enhanced objects?

How do we convey to the user of an object that it can communicate with the cloud? Or that this device is capable of short-range comminication such as RFID? What does it mean that a toy knows what the temperature is, or when it is shaken? How do you know if your local bus shelter is watching you or, possibly more importantly, why?

This idea of applying affordances to the design of internet-connected devices is a useful concept, especially when thinking of how to apply internet-connected affordances without violating existing physical ones.

Incidentally, Adrian McEwen, along with Hakim Cassimally, has recently published a book together with Wiley on Designing the Internet of Things.

13 December 2013

Bluetooth Low Energy and IPv6

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Stacey Higginbotham:

The final tweak is a bit vague, but involves giving Bluetooth devices a way to talk directly to the internet by giving them some kind of dedicated channel, which could be used for IPv6 communications. But because Bluetooth is a low-power protocol, implementing IPv6 could require more battery power than is wise. So how the SIG or chipmakers add IPv6 compatibility to Bluetooth-power devices seems to need a bit more explanation and development from the chipmakers.

There has been quite a bit of work in this area at the IETF since April of 2011.

11 December 2013

Datagram TLS

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Here is the original paper on DTLS, the security basis for CoAP/UDP from Nagendra Modadugu and Eric Rescorla:

Applications that are based on reliable transport can be secured using TLS, but no compelling alternative exists for securing datagram-based applications. In this paper we present DTLS, a datagram-capable version of TLS.

Well written.

08 December 2013

The Art of Software Thermal Management for Embedded Systems – Final Proofs

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

This week, I finished reviewing final proofs for my upcoming book with Springer Verlag: The Art of Software Thermal Management for Embedded Systems. Abstract:

Read more

07 December 2013

OMA Lightweight M2M Tutorial

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

From Zach Shelby of Sensinode (now ARM), a short primer on OMA LWM2M. There's more on the most recent LWM2M spec and roadmap plans at OMA:

Further standardization will enhance the support of a wide variety of M2M implementations, and will become necessary as the market expands.

Next OMA member meeting is in Sorrento, Italy (February 2014).

07 December 2013

6LoWPAN-Compressed DTLS for CoAP

NOTA BENE/MARK BENSON

Ran across this excellent paper today by Raza, Trabalza, and Voigt on the topic of compressing and fragmenting DTLS headers over 802.15.4 networks using 6LoWPAN for CoAP. From the abstract:

Real deployments of the IoT require security. CoAP is being standardized as an application layer protocol for the Internet of Things (IoT). CoAP proposes to use DTLS to provide end-to-end security to protect the IoT. DTLS is a heavyweight protocol and its headers are too long to fit in a single IEEE802.15.4 MTU. 6LoWPAN provides header compression mechanisms to reduce the size of upper layer headers. 6LoWPAN header compression mechanisms can be used to compress the security headers as well. In this paper we propose 6LoWPAN header compression for DTLS. We link our compressed DTLS with the 6LoWPAN standard using standardized mechanisms.

CoAP requires DTLS, so that's not new. However, compressing and fragmenting DTLS such that it can be transported using 6LoWPAN is really neat. IoT needs more security-based solutions like this for resource-constrained sensing applications.