IBM Introduces Industry-Specific-Watson Internet of Things Services

IBM takes aim at enabling internet of things business applications with industry-specific approaches for automotive, insurance and electronics.

IBM announced on November 21 new Watson IoT (internet of things) Consulting Solutions, including specific offerings for the automotive, electronics and insurance industries.

Jesus Mantas, GM for IBM Business Consulting explained that the goal with the new IoT Consulting solutions is to help enable organizations recognize and benefit from the business transformation benefits that IoT can help to provide.

"We wanted to create an easy way for clients to consume IoT services in an integrated way," Mantas told eWEEK. "So instead of organizations needing to buy a platform, hire consultants, put it all together and then build a business, we're putting it all together inside of an IBM stack."

The IBM IoT stack is made of multiple layers, including the physical layer with hardware as well software, security and consulting services. Bret Greenstein, Vice-President, Watson IoT at IBM added that real value for organizations from IoT is derived from business transformation. IBM has built out partnerships with multiple hardware providers including silicon vendors for chipsets used in IoT devices.

"We have provided integrations so all of that hardware can work with our platform," Greenstein told eWEEK. "We also have a set of developer tools, so that developers can connect to various forms of hardware, including our cloud services, enabling the work that our IoT practice can do, turning it all into business value for our clients."

Greenstein added that a lot of IBM's IoT efforts over the course of the past year have focused on making sure that various 'things' in IoT can connect and work with IBM's platforms. In the consumer space for IoT, ARM has emerged as a defacto standard architecture, with basic HTTP transport typically used for connectivity.

With IBM's Watson IoT Consulting Solutions the focus is on industrial and commercial needs, which are somewhat different than the consumer space.

"Industrial IoT tends to have heavier weight capabilities, but still uses similar patterns and protocols to communicate," Greenstein said.

Among the common protocols used in Industrial IoT is the MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport) messaging protocol. Greenstein added that with Industrial IoT there is also a need for more of what he referred to as edge processing.

"Industrial equipment tends to have greater computing power, industrial strength gateway in many manufacturing facilities and we can put analytics there so organizations don't have to send all their data to the cloud," Greenstein said.

With industrial IoT, Greenstein explained that IBM is taking in data via multiple mechanisms, including MQTT, HTTPS as well data streams that can be build with IBM's InfoSphere information server. He added that IBM's connectivity approach for IoT includes multiple approaches with 3G, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet as well as low power IoT networking optings including Sigfox.

"In IoT, things exist in all kinds of places that we don't control and things exist in random locations far from data centers," Greenstein said. "So we need to support to support multiple network layers and focus on protocols that work best for data."

IBM has built a common Watson IoT platform, though Greenstein emphasized that new platforms for automotive, electronics and insurance are not reference architectures. Rather IBM is building unique capabilities into each of the new industry specific platform.

For example, with insurance IBM has built-in algorithms and methods for worker safety issues, such as if a worker is not wearing safety equipment. Additionally there are specific insurance analytics that can also make use of water sensors in a home or business to see if a water leak has occurred. With the automotive IoT platform, IBM has built-in capabilities for understanding driver behavior and things that help in the safety and operation of a vehicle.

"Each industry solution has some unique research and development that went into it, to help deliver an industry specific outcome," Greenstein said.

Security in IoT is a critical area and is core part of the Watson IoT platform. Greenstein explained as there is a security dashboard which provides organization a view of all devices. There are also advanced device management capabilities so organizations will know what firmware is running and the current state of devices.
"We're doing work on security analytics, so we can detect when things aren't behaving normally," Greenstein said. "We also have professional services and an entire skill set at IBM around security and I know security is top of mind for every customer, as it should be."

Greenstein added that some of the early generations of IoT devices included firmware that couldn't be updated and passwords were directly embedded.That approach is not the right way to enable the business benefits of IoT, according to Greenstein.
"Our view is that managed devices with a clear visibility and view of all the systems is critical," Greenstein said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.