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Skills shortage in the agritech sector holding back IoT innovation, finds Inmarsat

By Zenobia Hegde

The potential for Internet of Things (IoT) technology to drive innovation, efficiency, and increased productivity in the agricultural sector is at risk, as agritech businesses must urgently upskill current employees and embark on recruitment drives to ensure they have the capabilities to deliver the technology. According to independent research commissioned by Inmarsat, while the vast majority of agritech companies are moving towards IoT, a significant proportion lack the staff and skills needed to take advantage of the technology.

Market research specialist Vanson Bourne interviewed respondents from 100 large agritech businesses across the globe and found that while over 46% of agritech businesses reported full deployment of IoT solutions and a further 16% have initiated a partial deployment, many currently lack the skills needed to do so effectively. Additionally, agritech businesses require an uplift in skills at the strategic level, where 65% of respondents identified a shortfall, as well as the management and delivery of IoT deployment, where over 50% of respondents said they lacked staff.

The research also revealed the specific IoT skillsets that agritech companies are lacking. 55% of agritech companies reported a shortage in cyber security personnel, with analytical and sscience skills coming in second in demand at 53%.

Chris Harry-Thomas, director of sector development agriculture, Inmarsat, commented on the findings: “IoT is the frontline of the Fourth Agricultural Revolution, providing a digital nerve system with a network of connected and automated devices and sensors. Farmers are leveraging these technologies to dramatically improve the efficiency and precision of their operations, automating irrigation systems so that water is only delivered to where it is needed, and optimising fertilisation to improve yields.

“The automation of these processes is reducing the need for manual intervention on the ground, but creating new requirements for staff skilled in areas such as data analysis and cyber security which, as we have seen from our research, the industry is currently lacking.

“With the digital transformation in full swing, many traditionally mechanical-physical industries, such as agriculture, find themselves in a race to recruit digital specialists to support their IoT ambitions. Competing with the likes of Silicon Valley tech companies for skilled staff will be a challenge for the agritech industry, but as these businesses look to take on the burden of data security to build market share in the agriculture sector, it is critical that they recruit staff with the capability to do so.”

Chris concluded by stating that forming strategic partnerships with third parties can help agritech companies to bridge the gaps in their IoT skills portfolios: “Argitech businesses must upskill their existing staff and attract new talent if they are to develop successful IoT solutions.

However, longer term, the focus needs to be on establishing strategic partnerships with IoT specialists. With greater economies of scale, specialist partners can draw together complex IoT solutions across multiple communication networks, including satellite and cellular data, to deploy sophisticated, automated IoT networks across the agricultural industry.”

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Found: New Android malware with never-before-seen spying capabilities

By Dan Goodin

Enlarge (credit: portal gda)

Last year, researchers found what at the time was quite possibly the world’s most sophisticated espionage app ever written for the Android mobile operating system. Now, in a discovery that underscores the growing arms race among competing malware developers, researchers have uncovered a new Android spying platform that includes location-based audio recording and other features that have never been seen in the wild before.

According to a report published Tuesday by antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab, “Skygofree” is most likely an offensive security product sold by an Italy-based IT company that markets various surveillance wares. With 48 different commands in its latest version, the malware has undergone continuous development since its creation in late 2014. It relies on five separate exploits to gain privileged root access that allows it to bypass key Android security measures. Skygofree is capable of taking pictures, capturing video, and seizing call records, text messages, gelocation data, calendar events, and business-related information stored in device memory.

Skygofree also includes the ability to automatically record conversations and noise when an infected device enters a location specified by the person operating the malware. Another never-before-seen feature is the ability to steal WhatsApp messages by abusing the Android Accessibility Service that’s designed to help users who have disabilities or who may temporarily be unable to fully interact with a device. A third new feature: the ability to connect infected devices to Wi-Fi networks controlled by attackers.

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Low power means long range coverage for industrial sensors

By IoT Now Magazine

Andrew Brown, the executive director of Enterprise and IoT Research at Strategy Analytics, recently interviewed Matt Bacon, the marketing and communications director at Actility, to discuss the company’s activities in IoT; its network, partners and customers and its efforts in industrial markets. Actility is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance and offers low power wide area (LPWA) infrastructure with its ThingPark IoT communications platform. The platform provides LoRaWAN longrange coverage for low-power sensors used in multiple vertical industry applications

Andrew Brown: What are the key IoT applications that Actility customers are implementing in industrial environments?

Matt Bacon, the marketing and communications director at Actility

Matt Bacon: To begin with, it makes sense to explain what we do at Actility and how we help our customers in IoT. Our core product is the ThingPark communications platform, which was initially focused on LoRaWAN, but will shortly also support licensed 3GPP technologies; first LTE Cat M and then narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) for customers. With the platform, we manage data end-to-end, from the sensor via the gateway to customer applications in the cloud. We are able to handle various additional functions such as protocol translation, if required, also ensuring devices are correctly provisioned and sending their data packets end-to-end. We are not an analytics or visualisation company; we offer key ingredients in a complete IoT solution created by a range of partners. Our initial customers were network operators who chose us to build nationwide LoRaWAN networks in order for them to resell connectivity to their customers. They used ThingPark to manage the LoRaWAN component of their network.

Andrew Brown, Strategy Analytics

There are multiple applications that our customers, like KPN or Orange are enabling through connectivity for their industrial customers. For example, one industrial customer manages thousands of rat traps throughout The Netherlands. Connect them with LoRa and the traps only need to be checked and emptied when they have actually caught a rat, so there are far fewer truck rolls required, which dramatically improves the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) of the project.

Our partnership with Inmarsat has enabled the first globally available LoRaWAN IoT platform and we are supporting the company in building smart city applications in Kigali in Rwanda. In the same country, we are also working with Inmarsat and Carnegie Mellon University on a mountain tea plantation and processing facility. There, IoT will deliver agricultural monitoring such as soil moisture levels, but also precise temperature and humidity monitoring in the processing facility, which need to be monitored and controlled to ensure the best possible tea.

We also handle more traditional plant monitoring projects, such as the work we are doing with IBM Watson and Cougar Automation, a UK systems integrator, for RS Components. RS has a large warehouse with thousands of metres of conveyor belts. It ships up to 44,000 parcels a day, which are moved by conveyor belts. As a parcel drops from one belt to another, it can marginally knock the belts out of alignment. As this is repeated with thousands […]

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Cities on the edge

By Zenobia Hegde

The technologies that will empower the smart cities of the future are refreshingly free of controversy. The concept itself is an easy sell: after all, who doesn’t want buildings to be greener, energy networks more efficient, traffic congestion and pollution reduced?

So, while smart cities will require billions of pounds of investment in new technologies over the coming decades, there is an almost unanimous consensus among politicians, businesses and citizens about the benefits that it will bring, says Jackson Lee, vice president corporate development, Colt Data Centre Services.

But while money, political will and public appetite are no barriers to the development of smarter, healthier cities, there is one fundamental issue that threatens to delay our progress towards this future utopia – IT infrastructures that were designed for a “dumber”, less data-intensive age.

Data demands of the smart city

Cities are built by people, but not necessarily for them. Business, industry and profit were the main forces that drove the organic, sprawling growth of the world’s great metropolises – not its citizens’ health, happiness, and convenience.

Smart technologies, including the internet of things (IoT), promise to solve many of the eternal problems that city-dwellers have been forced to put up with, from toxic air to gridlocked streets to public safety. New services will transform the way that municipalities manage public transport, shared infrastructure, city planning, waste and recycling, lighting, smart grids, and a host of other benefits such as access to healthcare, education or local government services.

But these new services all depend on the ability to generate, process and analyse previously inconceivable volumes of data. From sensors measuring air quality around the city, to the thousands of CCTV cameras monitoring transportation systems; from smart energy grids to “intelligent” bins that tell refuse collectors when they need emptying – the smart city will be a network of computers that is constantly creating huge amount of information.

This information is the raw intelligence that goes into making the key decisions on which smart services depend. Everything from transportation systems to smart grid and industry-related applications depend on instant, high-speed, ultra-reliable connectivity between the device collecting or generating this data, and the systems which process and analyse the information. This, however, is where traditional technology infrastructure threatens to delay – or even prevent – us achieving the full benefits promised by smart cities.

Living on the Edge

The traditional cloud model made a great deal of sense. Concentrating storage and processing power in hyperscale facilities enables users to take advantage of huge economies of scale to manage intense, high-volume workloads at a manageable cost.

Unfortunately, this model works far less well for the demands of modern smart city technologies. When storage, compute and analytics are located at a centralised hub – which may not even be in the same country, let alone the same city that the data is generated – it necessarily adds a lengthy lag.

This time delay might only be measured in milliseconds, but it can still have significant knock-on effects on services and applications that rely on instant communications, such […]

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Increasing IoT value through open standards to be discussed in upcoming oneM2M webinar

By Zenobia Hegde

The importance of open standards in advancing Internet of Things (IoT) applications that use Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks will be discussed during a webinar hosted by oneM2M.

Dr. Omar Elloumi, of Nokia, chair of the oneM2M Technical Plenary, and Regional Marcom vice chair Chris Meering, of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), will explore the key findings of Boost LPWA revenue through oneM2M, a white paper published by the global IoT standards initiative last month.

Elloumi and Meering will highlight the challenges Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are facing as they look to make the most of their burgeoning IoT deployments. They will then examine how an open standards approach can increase cost-effectiveness, improve scalability and boost confidence that today’s IoT projects will be future-proof and provide value to the CSPs deploying them.

“One of the main conclusions from the white paper was that CSPs need to find ways to create not just more revenue but also more profit from their LPWA connections and application enablement provides this opportunity,” said Elloumi. “Toachieve this, oneM2M provides a single horizontal platform for all applications, breaking down silos that inhibit growth and allowing CSPs to move one level up in the IoT value chain.

This most recent white paper presents the case for how this works for LPWA networks and how it will accelerate the mass deployment of the IoT.”

Dr. Omar Elloumi

The webinar will also look at the way in which open standards support the advancement of the IoT by introducing a horizontal approach to platform management, allowing CSPs to reduce OpEX and explore opportunities for service innovation.

“The need for interoperability is what drives oneM2M’s architecture, which allows CSPs to work across vertical markets and develop a single horizontal platform for data sharing between applications,” said Meering. “By adhering to oneM2M’sapproach, CSPs can open up a whole new world of revenue opportunities and gain true value from their deployments, whilst also reducing OpEX.”

The oneM2M webinar “Boost LPWA revenue through oneM2M” takes place on Thursday, January 18 at 15:00 GMT. To register to attend, please click here.

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