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It’s Time for Watch Clocks to Make a Comeback




Along with all the colorful, geometric influence of Memphis design everywhere, giant wristwatch clocks were one of our favorite things about the 80s. We always wanted one, and frankly, we still do. Evidently, so did [Kothe]. But instead of some splashy Swatch-esque style, [Kothe] went the nerdy route by building a giant Casio F-91W to hang on the wall.

Not only does it look fantastic, it has the full functionality of the original from the alarm to the stopwatch to the backlit screen. Well, everything but the water resistance. The case is 3D-printed, as are the buckle and the buttons. [Kothe] might have printed the straps, but they were too big for the bed. Instead, they are made of laser-cut foam and engraved with all the details.

Inside there’s a 7″ touch display, a real-time clock module, and an Arduino Mega to make everything tick. To make each of the printed buttons work, [Kothe] cleverly extended a touch sensor module’s input pad with some copper tape. We think this could only be more awesome if it were modeled after one of Casio’s calculator watches, but that might be asking too much. Take a few seconds to watch the demo after the break.

Prefer your clocks less clock-like? Get a handle on the inner workings of this slot machine-based stunner.



Authentication In IoT: Securing the Front Door




Illustration: © IoT For All

We may not think about it much, but we truly live in a fascinating era of technology. Our devices are becoming smarter, and we aim to have them all online. The Internet of Things is thriving, boasting more connected devices than there are people on the planet.

And that’s only the beginning.

Although there is always a dark side to progress — in the case of IoT, it’s the race between the cybercriminals and development of cybersecurity, where one party still wants to be a step ahead of the other. The reasons are evident: with so many connected devices that perform such a variety of tasks, the opportunities for taking advantage of them are endless. Among the tools that can stop or slow down hackers, strong authentication is the one that’s been around for a while. Still, it has to change as well. So what is the future of authentication for the Internet of Things?

The Importance of IoT Authentication

In a typical IoT infrastructure, a vast number of interconnected and distributed devices communicate with each other. This principle makes it crucial to have a strong, reliable, and scalable authentication method in place where each IoT device is properly authenticated to ensure it’s genuine and to prevent unauthorized IoT devices from being installed on the network.

When an IoT device communicates with another peer device they need to identify each other and verify their identity to each other to establish Authentication. This is obtained through cryptographic methods that may vary in terms of complexity and level of security.

However, in an IoT infrastructure, the 2FA/MFA system can be more complex, requiring hardware tokens, separate devices or even biometrics (facial recognition, retina scan, fingerprint, etc.) to improve security. It’s essential for IoT as this system has to ensure that it’s approved to perform administrative actions for IoT devices. This is what the security depends on since many IoT devices don’t have physical User Interfaces (UIs) and must rely on administrator actions.

Challenges of IoT Authentication

Technically, there is a real challenge to initiating a secure communication between two IoT devices. This means that in case a public-key cryptographic authentication method is used, there should be a way to ensure that the public key is received by a peer IoT device belongs to the intended communication channel and that the peer IoT device can be trusted. This requires that the public key be stored securely on the device in the sense that its integrity is preserved. It must not be possible for an attacker to modify the key or to use another fake key instead The latter concerns the digital certificates which are commonly used in such a scheme.

When it comes to user experience, the beauty of IoT partially lies in the variety of devices that can be interconnected. However, that’s also the ultimate nightmare of its security, as hardware and software differences between various IoT devices make it much harder to come up with a security solution that would be applicable in every case. Piling on to this issue, manufacturers and developers of IoT devices often don’t develop a security solution for their product to reduce costs.

Secure Authentication

Authentication might be the answer if we can make it simpler and more efficient. Authentication methods implemented should be strong enough to be resilient against different attacks, such as eavesdropping/spying, replay attacks, MiTM attacks, dictionary attacks, or brute-force attacks.

Also, in IoT, it’s vital to use the same strong authentication for multiple devices that are commonly used (considering some devices have no Human Machine Interface (HMI), it could be a gesture, a GPS-location or silent authentication), and be faster and more convenient than our current 2FA/MFA processes.

To improve security, all sensitive data such as keys and biometrics should stay on the device itself. Ideally, you should be able to authenticate yourself to your device locally, and then it would validate the user online using public-key cryptography. This would eliminate the need to have any link-ability between different accounts or services, vastly improving security. FIDO authentication protocol could be the best security option to re-use.

IoT security presents a challenge, but with how IoT has been developing, cybersecurity has to be an absolute priority. Solving security concerns by securing the front door through strong and smart authentication will bring us a step closer to more fascinating technological developments.


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COVID-19 Driving Data Integration Projects in IoT




Privacy concerns have limited IoT–related data integration projects in the past, but an emphasis on public health has led to increased data sharing. 

Key takeaways from this article include the following:

  • Data fragmentation and privacy concerns continue to be barriers for Internet of Things adoption. But in an effort to protect public health, there has been an explosion in data sharing from IoT devices and smartphones. 
  • Some countries, such as South Korea, have used aggressive data collection techniques in urban environments to slow the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Privacy norms continue to play a large role in shaping contact-tracing-based data integration projects in Europe and the U.S. 

As countries across the world grapple with the novel coronavirus, there has been a significant effort to integrate input from sources, from surveillance cameras to point-of-sale systems and connected health devices. The trend has highlighted the power of Internet of Things (IoT) deployments for public data collection as well as the technology’s privacy-eroding potential. South Korea, for instance, has aggregated data from IoT devices and smartphones to create detailed logs of its citizens’ behavior. The nation has documented where residents went, how long they stayed, who accompanied them and whether they were wearing a mask.    

Part of an aggressive approach, the South Korean strategy, which includes extensive testing for the novel coronavirus, has proven to be largely effective in curbing infection without closing businesses or mandating universal quarantines. 

While the South Korean example is unique in terms of its scale, it is an example of the explosion of IoT-based data integration projects that have emerged recently. “One of the most significant, complex, far-reaching—and accelerating—trends is the rise of data sharing, particularly data from the Internet of Things,” concluded a Boston Consulting Group report on contact tracing.   

[IoT World, North America’s largest IoT event, is going virtual August 11–13 with a three-day virtual experience putting IoT, AI, 5G and edge into action across industry verticals. Register today.]

Privacy concerns, however, can thwart the efficacy of programs that merge contact-tracing smartphone app data with IoT data sources. As a result, technology-based contact tracing has been deployed sporadically in many parts of the world, limiting their impact. “The value of these contact tracing solutions depends on large-scale adoption,” said Massimo Russo, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group and coauthor of the report mentioned above.

At least 60% of a nation’s population must use a digital contact-tracing app to be effective at stopping the spread of the virus, according to Harvard Business Review. While some countries such as China have mandated the use of smartphone-based contact-tracing apps, nations that have launched voluntary apps have generally struggled to drive widespread adoption.

Several contact-tracing programs have been beset by “over extensive user data-mining or poor security practices,” as the New York Times has reported.

But the parameters for technology-based contact-tracing projects “very much depend on the local cultural context and how accepted it is to use data that can be anonymized and associated with an individual for contact-tracing purposes,” Russo said. 

Public safety tends to outweigh privacy concerns when it comes to IoT-based data integration projects in Asia, according to Marty Sprinzen, CEO of Vantiq. “But in the U.S. and Europe, privacy is a big concern,” he said.

In countries such as South Korea, there is a “recognition that the government has a sense of data responsibility, and therefore would not likely misuse the data,” said Jason Haward-Grau, a leader in KPMG’s cybersecurity practice. “But in the U.S. and Europe, in general, there’s a much bigger fear of the central government abusing its position,” he said.

In the U.S., COVID-19 is forcing a rethink regarding privacy norms and civil liberties, said Zulfikar Ramzan, chief technology officer at RSA. While a similar privacy reevaluation followed the September 11 attacks, “we have a much more robust body of law about privacy issues than we did 20-plus years ago,” Ramzan said.

The sweeping changes to U.S. surveillance laws in the early 2000s were possible, in part, because privacy remained an esoteric concept in the early days of the internet. “In the post-9/11 world, it wasn’t clear how mass surveillance would affect individuals,” Ramzan said. But in a world battling a pandemic, the privacy ramifications are clearer given the focus on individuals’ health status.

That doesn’t mean that IoT-enabled systems to protect against the novel coronavirus need to be privacy-infringing. Schools, for instance, can employ edge computing and cameras to ensure students are wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. If students flout COVID-19 rules, the system can “notify the teacher without saving images of the kids or even identify who they were,” Sprinzen said. “You identify the problem.”

But organizations that wish to use contact tracing will need to collect potentially sensitive data, and in some cases, sharing it externally. When done securely, the strategy can lead to tangible benefits. Already, schools, cities, ports and police are beginning to share data in unprecedented ways to fight COVID-19, said Sanjeet Pandit, Qualcomm’s head of smart cities. “There’s a lot of cohesion and collaboration between these organizations, which promotes or fosters better technology deployments compared to everybody working in silos,” Pandit said.


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Modernizing the Manufacturing Industry with MQTT




Many manufacturing organizations are beginning the process of modernizing their factory operations to achieve greater efficiency and flexibility. This modernization process requires a substantial upgrade of the existing software infrastructure. A cornerstone of factory modernization is the ability to break down the data silos that prevent a business from obtaining an accurate picture of their overall operation. Several factors favor the use of MQTT as the standard protocol for modernizing the messaging infrastructure of a factory:

– The MQTT protocol uses a publish/subscribe architecture
– MQTT creates interoperability between the many different systems deployed in a factory
– MQTT provides the bi-directional messaging that a scalable, reliable, and secure messaging system requires
– MQTT can easily integrate with existing security systems

Due to its performance scaling capabilities, 100% implementation of all MQTT 5 features, and professional support services the HiveMQ Enterprise MQTT broker is well suited as the MQTT platform used to operate the messaging system that is needed for modern digitized manufacturing. This whitepaper discusses the goals of modernizing the manufacturing industry and the architecture patterns for the modernization as well as how the factory can be connected using MQTT & HiveMQ.

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