By Françoise von Trapp, editor-at-large, 3D InCites

On April 28, I’m going to attend IoT SLAM 2016 in my pajamas. Why? Because what other way is there to attend an all-day virtual conference that starts at 6 a.m. in my time zone? I want to make the most of it. IoT SLAM addresses the whole spectrum of the Internet of Things (IoT) together in one event, providing a multidisciplinary perspective of this game-changing market.

IPSO Alliance members will present on several topics, including the economic advantages of the Internet of Things (IoT), securing the IoT through open standards and Internet Protocols (IP), and the importance of maintaining the human element when creating a technologically connected world. In my opinion, these topics should all be at the forefront of our minds, as we’ve already established that none of it would be possible without the semiconductor industry, which provides the underpinnings that make the IoT possible.

To whet my appetite (and yours) for this conference, I spoke with Geoff Mulligan, Founder and Executive Director, IPSO Alliance; as well as Christian Légaré, CTO Micrium and VP, IPSO Alliance; and IPSO member Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist and Technology Evangelist, Greenwave Systems, about their respective presentations.

In his talk, The IoT and MAKE: A View from the White House, Mulligan will share the experiences he had in 2013-14 as an advisor to President Obama regarding the IoT as it relates to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. “I want to convey to the audience what the administration’s goals are with regard to IoT and additive manufacturing,” he said. Specifically, the administration wants to know how the IoT will create new job opportunities and improve healthcare systems, our safety through safer cars, and energy utilization through more efficient buildings or homes.

So what does 3D printing have to do with the IoT? Mulligan explained that it’s tangentially related, because connected devices could potentially be printed rather than manufactured. He said researchers are even working on how to print electronic parts. “The point is that at a higher level, we’re trying to provide a viewpoint on administration initiatives in [additive manufacturing and 3D printing] to bring them into fruition,” he said.

Mulligan said that what he brought back to IPSO from this experience were concerns related to IoT device security and identity. “Where are the gaps? What can we do to facilitate implementation and delivery of the IoT?” he explained.

In his IoT SLAM talk, IoT Protocols for the Things, Christian Légaré will pick up the core topic for IPSO Alliance. “Multiple protocols are being proposed, and no one protocol fits all,” he explained. Whether it’s a device, a smart phone, or the cloud, from the IP perspective, it’s all seen as the IoT. Micrium, the company Légaré co-owns with Jean Labrosse, develops embedded operating systems designed for devices. “Which transport and security protocol being used is important to us; it’s where the industry concentrates its R&D efforts,” he said.

Légaré explained that IPSO was created at the start of IP use in end devices. Initially, work focused on wireless sensor networks and low-power, constrained, small devices to determine why IP was required. Now, it’s about how IP is used in these devices. What do you do about authentication and device identity? “There are multiple open standard consortiums working on this sequentially, each focusing on different areas. The issue is so large, it can’t be done by a single consortium,” he said.

For its part, IPSO is focused on device interoperability, with security being one component.

“A device has to have an immutable identity that can’t be copied, forged, or hacked,” continued Légaré. “This is the challenge IPSO has taken on, and we have a working group devoted to it.” He also said silicon (Si) vendors are part of IPSO because this immutable identity has to start with the chip. The reason for open standards is to achieve economies of scale. This cannot be achieved with competing standards, so it’s important for Si vendors to work together to define the open standard.

What Légaré is most excited about is the energy that IoT is bringing back to the microelectronics industry. “The energy we had during the boom of Silicon Valley is back,” he said. “It’s fun.”

Jim Hunter rounds out IPSO’s IoT SLAM presence with a talk titled The ‘People-fication’ of Things, addressing one of my own chief concerns about today’s connected world: the importance of maintaining the human element in the face of technology.

Hunter’s company, Greenwave Systems, is a global IoT startup whose software platforms and services enable companies to integrate IoT capabilities into their products. Hunter’s talk will stress the importance of shifting the way we think about the connected things we install in our home. He says we should treat the things we put in our homes as employees, with the same requirements and expectations we would set when hiring someone: trustworthiness, confidentiality, and reliability. Do they fit the culture and work well with others (other devices, in this case)? Do they do the job we hired them to do, the way it needs to be done, the same way every time, without needing constant supervision?

“The problem we face is that technology is created by technologists, for use by non-technologists,” he said. “With the invention of the transistor, we created something requiring a new language and a new way of communicating in short, concise messages. That was the genesis of a culture of people who communicate in the same techie language. Unfortunately, the majority of the world doesn’t know how to converse that way.” He explained that this “splinter language” has created a usability gap between the technology coming into our homes and lives and the people who are using it.

Hunter suggests that “we shift our collective perspective, so that we consider technology as employees. When we do this,” he adds, “the shortcomings listed above become apparent, as do solutions such as common communication, tasking and interaction modules necessary for mass consumer adoption.”

In addition to IPSO Alliance presentations, IoT SLAM will feature many other compelling presentations. While I will blog about the takeaways I find important from this event, what matters to me may not be what matters to you, so I encourage you to register and attend the sessions and talks that appeal to you. The full agenda is available here.