I sucked at IoT so now you don’t have to!
Hello! For those who don’t know me, my name is Jason Burt, I have been a developer and product manager at a number of tech companies as well as took the dive into starting an IoT company called BuildPulse. I created this blog so I can document conversations and learnings from different members of the IoT community so if your building or operating an IoT product you can learn from our mistakes and successes. More on my Journey belooowww…
HOW I GOT SUCKED INTO IoT
In roughly 2013 I started a company around taking data out of building automation systems (BAS). A good friend of mine who I had studied physics with Brice had been working as a BAS installer for some time and recognized an opportunity. People running buildings were struggling to maintain them even though the building systems had data in them that would help improve the operations of those systems.
“There is a ton of useful data in there and its easy to get at”
I think thats roughly what the quote was. Anyways, I did a high level market analysis looking at how many buildings / teams are doing anything with analytics, competitor analysis looking at industry analytics that looked like they were still in the 80s, and a number of customer calls to see if the pain was real.
ITS A MARKET SO WHAT ARE THE ACTUAL PROBLEMS
“We are implementing this thing, call back in 6 months”
I called my Alma mater to see what they were using and I got the quote above. It was a problem, they thought they had a solution. But… its the classic enterprise legacy system problem vs. modern SaaS (Software as a Service). Large install times for a product that offers 99,999 features if configured properly. I called and emailed for another 3 years and got the same response.
Turns out Brice and I built a company and product from scratch faster than the integrators could connect their existing software solution…
That being said, there were a number of problems we had to overcome and were still facing when I left. From a Development perspective they fall into these basic categories.
IoT systems don’t really talk well together or with themselves
There are a number of protocols that are “standard”. Modbus, BACnet and so on. They do a great job in trying to get the industry to move in a direction to improve. Unfortunately you’re dealing with a ton of cats who have almost Zero incentive to work together.
Tackling Interoperability can be a mountain of a problem, but I will outline different tools and tricks that accelerate the process to connect to and pull data from systems.
For most teams Security is a phone call and a diagram
This one frustrated me to no end, not on implementing it but on the lack of actual audits. One of the largest issues in IoT and general IT deployments is security. Its fundamentally broken across 99% of software, not just IoT. Most security reviews are a security expert talking with you and going over a network diagram. While this is good, actual verification is lacking. A lot of this is basic security that can be automated.
Based on first hand experience of discovering existing systems with default passwords and poorly setup devices it wasn’t really surprising that one of the largest DNS attacks that did a denial of service attack was from basic IoT devices.
For security I hope to walk through how to lock down a device, whats best in data security, how to work with customer security teams to improve you system, and a number of other areas.
You cant just push a button and suddenly you have 100 new devices deployed.
So you found a problem and now you want to scale…. Well what version of software are you running, what hardware are you using, whats your device fleet look like?
There is still a long way to go in making IoT easily scalable but fortunately today you don’t have to build a device manager and data ingestion engine from scratch.
My goal is to help teams build something from nothing. So I will be walking through the whole process from scratch to finish and back again.
P.S. If there is something specific you would like to highlight let me know. Also if you have some experience in this and would like to share let me know.