IoT Sitrep

Problems and Opportunity

Problems with Cloud Based IoT

One of the biggest problems with IoT devices currently is their dependence on the Cloud for processing and storage of information.

This is predominately evident in the current smart home device market. For example, in order to deliver a video feed from a connected camera to a mobile phone anywhere in the world, device manufacturers have chosen to take the data and metadata gathered and push it back to their own Cloud backend. This presents serious privacy and end device security concerns, along with the challenge of handling and securing of the data collected. That said, there’s also another major issue with this paradigm, notably maintaining a Cloud infrastructure to host the data is extremely costly.

Currently, some of the major players in the IoT space monetize the data gathered by their smart home devices to offset the cost of delivering the service. Data is collected in bulk and access to this data is then sold to interested parties. (A recent example being access to a certain doorbell camera vendor’s data being sold to law enforcement). The collected data is also used for internal marketing purposes to more accurately predict the products a given consumer would likely purchase, as well as serve targeted advertisements to drive revenue in other areas of their business. Effectively, the IoT device serves as a loss leader to help increase the overall value of the customer without being directly profitable.

While most consumers are justifiably concerned about the use of their private data for marketing purposes, an even greater concern is the collection of data from areas of the home they consider the most private. Many people feel uncomfortable having cameras and microphones in and around their homes knowing that the video and audio gathered by these IoT devices will be sent to an external repository and potentially retained indefinitely. This lack of trust creates a barrier to consumer adoption of IoT technologies and fundamentally breaks the value proposition of the device itself. Not only are these devices expensive, and the backend services for those devices are expensive to setup and maintain, consumers feel these devices compromise their privacy, inviting strangers to watch their families for profit, in their most private space: their homes.

Expanding IoT

Despite the barriers to adoption, the IoT and smart device market is growing rapidly, possibly to ethereal asymptote. Consumers are clamoring for the latest devices to put in their homes because they see the value in being able to monitor their houses while away, conveniently lock and unlock their doors remotely, and change their indoor lighting to suit their needs or mood. However, this market would expand much faster, and with greater force, if the cost of IoT products were lower, and there were no privacy or security concerns with the devices or the data they collect. The fact of the matter is these devices enhance the quality of life, which is enough to offset some of the downsides they present. Addressing those barriers of adoption will lead to an explosive increase in consumer adoption, resulting in a true market disruption. 

In order to fully realize this vision however, the Cloud, (which serves as an impediment to delivering more affordable products and lacks the adequate security and privacy), must be severed from the equation. As previously mentioned, the Cloud is absolutely necessary under the current paradigm in order to maintain today’s business model of IoT, since a large portion of the revenue garnered by businesses doesn’t actually come from the device itself, but rather from selling the metadata gathered by those devices. In fact, it’s the monetization of the collected metadata that truly drives profitability for today’s IoT companies.

Our Vision at WhiteStar

WhiteStar’s vision for IoT is a complete market disruption for the entire IoT space, one that results in a fundamental shift away from the Cloud into edge networking and compute.

The WhiteStar Network Operating System (NOS) not only provides device manufacturers with an IoT solution that is orders of magnitude more affordable than Cloud-based platforms, but also provides the best protection for user privacy along with an overall reduction in complexity. The WhiteStar NOS is a proven technology allowing device manufacturers to connect users and devices with WhiteStar’s hybrid peer to peer network and form their own networks, via the WhiteStar Cohort Architecture, with first party trusted devices. 

In WhiteStar parlance, devices exchange unique key-pairs with each other when connecting, allowing them to be whitelisted into a relationship with other known and trusted devices and users. This permits users to communicate directly via peer to peer connection, with end-to-end cryptography, and a suite of complimentary content management tools. For the IoT space, WhiteStar’s Society mobile app allows users to create “scenes” and connect smart devices to a scene, which in turn sends real-time data directly to the user's smartphone. Allowing others to view the output from these devices is as simple as adding more human users to the scene. Furthermore, removing shared information from a human user is done by removing the user from the scene, the same way one would control a private conversation on Society.

WhiteStar allows device manufacturers to define the type of device they’re creating along with a command set and controls for their device. When adding one of these devices as a connection, the device will transmit these details to the user’s Society app which will assemble the user interface and controls for each device. This permits users to manipulate devices with a tailored user experience. WhiteStar enabled devices also understand natural language commands, allowing users to speak directly to devices in their own words. This helps to overcome the complexity of understanding how to program or operate devices while also making the devices more accessible to those with disabilities.

Disrupting the IoT Paradigm

While WhiteStar’s approach could be interpreted as a major problem for current IoT device manufacturers who rely on monetizing the data they gather, a huge advantage of leveraging WhiteStar’s hybrid peer to peer architecture is that it alleviates the need for these manufacturers to acquire technical expertise in building and maintaining a Cloud backend. It also means that no user data is ever stored in a Cloud thus removing the requirement to protect that data. This results in an order of magnitude reduction in cost to the device manufacturer allowing them to concentrate on what they do best, build IoT devices. 

Utilizing the WhiteStar NOS allows legacy device manufacturers to overcome the cost, privacy, security, and complexity barriers of adoption in the IoT space. WhiteStar’s technology simultaneously expands the size of the IoT market as well as disrupting the Cloud-based IoT device manufacturers. In doing so, a paradigm shift will occur where Cloud-based solutions will be forced to compete against newcomers in the market that are able to provide the same functionality, securely, at a fraction of the cost, with no degradation in quality of service and no increase in complexity. WhiteStar offers manufacturers a credible alternative to operating a Cloud backend with no downside and with significant benefits, making it the obvious choice for connecting IoT devices.

Creating Value as a Platform

One of the most crucial aspects of WhiteStar is how it enables third party manufacturers to create value with WhiteStar enabled devices. Rather than simply being a proprietary solution, WhiteStar functions as a platform upon which other manufacturers can build services and products, all with seamless interoperability and security. While today’s devices can certainly adapt to using the WhiteStar Network today, it’s really the devices and services of tomorrow, the ones that haven’t been thought of yet, that will truly unlock the potential of a scalable, secure and simple IoT ecosystem. 

WhiteStar’s unique capability to connect users with devices in a flexible and transient way enables novel capabilities. For example, managing the smart devices at vacation rental property would be as easy as connecting the renter’s smart phone to WhiteStar enabled smart home devices when they check in. This would allow the renter to have private and secure access to those devices for the duration of their stay. At checkout, the property owner would remove that connection, removing all information collected by those devices from the renters device. This brings value to the rental property owner, enabling a better customer experience while maintaining the privacy of the renters.

Another scenario where WhiteStar’s solution brings value is to the home security monitoring market. With WhiteStar enabled devices, a home security company can monitor all devices in a home without having to build the Cloud infrastructure to store all the data. For the homeowner it would ensure that their data is not insecurely stored in a central location. If the homeowner no longer wants to employ the monitoring company, the homeowner can simply remove the connection, which in turn removes all data shared with the monitoring company from their devices, thus preserving the homeowner’s privacy. 

WhiteStar’s overlay network is compatible with any wired or wireless network, meaning WhiteStar enabled IoT devices are appropriate in places where other devices may not work making installation straight forward. That said, there will always be a demand for professional installation, especially coupled with monitoring or more complex smart home systems.

Related White Papers

Learn more about related topics in one of the papers below: