By Antoinette Hodes, a Check Point Global Solutions Architect for the EMEA region and an Evangelist with the Check Point Office of the CTO.
The growth of IoT devices is transforming the way we live and work, offering unparalleled efficiency, productivity and interconnectedness. From smart homes to industrial automation, each IoT deployment scenario addresses a different use case with unique requirements and challenges. Although there are many network connection types, today we will focus mainly on cellular connections. With 5G available in many parts of the world, it is a big game changer and a hot topic. Let me quickly outline what types of network connections there are for IoT assets. We see roughly 5 types of network connections used by IoT assets and they are as follows:
- Cellular networks like LTE-M, NB-IoT, 3G, 4G and 5G
- Mesh protocols like RFID, Zigbee, Z-Wave. A mesh protocol utilizes a mesh topology where all IoT assets (called nodes in this setup) can communicate with each other to form a wireless mesh networks
- LAN, Local Area Network and PAN, Personal Area Network like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- LPWAN, Low Power WAN like LoRaWAN and Sigfox
- Satellite, used for M2M (Machine2Machine) communication. Examples are Hughes & Wedeye and Cobham
According to IoT Analytics, Telco companies made $11 billion in revenue with cellular IoT connectivity services in 2022. This growth was due examples such as 5G and 4G LTE.
So what is 5G? 5G is the fifth-generation mobile network (successor of 4G). It uses radio frequencies (also called spectrum) to carry information through the air. 5G networks are cellular networks.
4G LTE is the fourth-generation mobile technology network with LTE functionality. LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution. An example of 4G LTE is an ISP home router holding a SIM card functioning as backup solution and providing ISP redundancy.
4G and 5G cellular networks are often utilized by IoT assets. Imagine… How many “smart” IoT assets are connected in your home? And who is responsible for the security, firmware and vulnerability patch management? Have you placed your “smart assets” into a specific “untrusted” network with relevant security controls? Telcos and ISPs can offer IoT security as part of their services model, allowing the consumers to choose enablement of specific security features.
What improvements does 5G hold?
5G is an advanced wireless technology that allows faster and more efficient communication compared to 4G. Here are some of the benefits:
- Faster speeds: 5G is designed to offer much faster speeds than 4G. With 5G, users can download large files, stream high-quality video and enjoy smooth online gaming experiences.
- Lower latency: 5G has much lower latency than 4G, meaning that there is less delay in the communication. This helps to provide a more real-time experience for users, which is particularly important for applications like online gaming and virtual reality.
- More devices can connect: 5G is designed to support more devices than 4G. This means that in crowded areas, like stadiums and airports, users can expect a better connection even when many people are using their phones simultaneously.
- Improved reliability: 5G uses advanced technologies like beamforming and network slicing to help ensure that connections are more reliable, even in areas with a lot of interference or signal congestion.
- Higher capacity: With 5G, network operators can support higher levels of data traffic without sacrificing speed or quality. This means that more people can connect to the internet at the same time without experiencing a drop in performance.
- Scalability: Cellular IoT networks are highly scalable, making it easy to add new assets as the IoT infrastructure expands.
With a widespread coverage of 4G LTE in many parts of the world, consumers of IoT devices with LTE can expect to find coverage in almost all major urban areas and many rural areas. LTE provides internet coverage within minutes in places where no traditional internet connection is present; not only providing connectivity to and from IoT assets, but also connecting temporary locations, such as building plants and oil rigs. Urban IoT asset cellular examples include Smart Home, smart city, smart transport, object tracking and connected cars. Rural examples are smart grid, smart utilities, smart agriculture and smart manufacturing.
Telco companies are now adjusting their business and services model to provide: IoT managed services, vertical IoT applications, IoT asset management, in-depth data collection and analysis and much more!
The functions and usage of IoT assets are endless and extend cross verticals; from our daily living domains, to smart homes, to smart cities, and throughout healthcare environments. In the below infographic I grouped LTE use cases.
Let’s take a look at healthcare realm, as the healthcare realm is also benefiting from 5G and IoT. We are now seeing robot-assisted services, such as blood sample collection, disinfection of hospital rooms and delivery of medication.
While presenting 5G and IoT, I often use the example of a fully remote surgery over 5G. In 2019, a fully remote surgery was done using orthopedic surgery robots. The COVID-19 pandemic was a huge driver for robotic investment as well as staff shortages, social distancing protocols and supply chain constraints.
Due to ML and AI, we now have collaborative robots that are incredibly precise and accurate. RaaS, Robotics-as-a-Service is here to stay. Cellular IoT is a powerful and versatile technology that enables businesses to create efficient, cost-effective, reliable and secure IoT solutions.
So while talking IoT, ML and AI, what does the future hold for us? Does it offer an amazing future? Or frighten us with a doomsday “Grey Goo” scenario. Grey goo is a hypothetical doomsday scenario in which a self-replicating machine or nano-robot becomes out of control and proceeds to convert all matter on Earth into more of itself.
The machines would consume everything in their path, including humans, animals, buildings and trees, until there is nothing left but a gray goo-like substance. The idea of grey goo was first introduced by nanotechnology researcher Eric Drexler, in his book “Engines of Creation,” in the 1980s. While there is no evidence of the existence of grey goo, some experts warn of the potential dangers of self-replicating machines and the importance of implementing responsible regulation and ethical guidelines for developing nanotechnology. And I can’t agree more.. imagine.. we now have AI like ChatGPT…can we ask it to create such an “IoT ”self-replicating machine called an assembler?
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, emphasized the importance of the IoT, saying, “Every company will be a software company. Every company will be a data company. And every company will have these IoT devices at the edge.”
As we all know, IoT assets are designed with a focus on connectivity rather than security. Organizations sense the urgency for dedicated IoT security, as IoT assets are not only connected via the on-premises network but also to cloud instances, cellular and even satellite networks. The IoT threat landscape is dynamic, complex and massively evolving as the number of connected devices grows. As a result, there is a pressing need for improved security measures and increased awareness among consumers to prevent threats from becoming a reality.
The boundaries are fading when talking “IoT.” And with that comes a new endeavor; determining who is responsible for the security and data processed and used by the IoT asset. Mandatory regulations for IoT devices will massively improve product safety. The first manufacturers to adopt the new mandatory IoT cyber security regulations will gain a significant market advantage. IoT assets require security that can mitigate cyber attacks on the network, software and hardware surface.
For more outstanding insights from Global Solutions Architect Antoinette Hodes, please see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage. Lastly, to receive more cutting-edge cyber security news, best practices and analyses, please sign up for the CyberTalk.org newsletter.