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IU's Steve Wallace to help lead Internet2 Internet of Things initiatives

When Internet2 Senior Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer Florence Hudson came to Internet2 in March, she set out to identify the community's leading interests. She then formed working groups in three key areas – Internet of Things (IoT), trust and security, and large distributed data – and charged the groups with engaging the community and collaborating with each other. She called on Steve Wallace’s expertise to help lead the IoT initiative.

IoT aims to connect devices, systems, and services that were once standalone. This interconnection of embedded devices and smart objects is expected to enable advanced applications like the smart grid. Wallace offers an explanation from Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It: 'Cars are computers we ride in, and planes are nothing more than flying Solaris boxes attached to bucketfuls of industrial control systems.'

"So far," says Wallace, "many things are computers with something wrapped around them—like microwaves, thermostats, toothbrushes, phones, light systems, or cars. IoT is a transition from being standalone to being connected, and the Internet2 community has a range of goals for it. One theme we see in these goals is creating ecosystems that provide maximum utility within the constraints of suitable security and privacy."

Wallace sees the value of IoT being able to instrument things for science (he recently submitted an NSF proposal for securely instrumenting research data) and for waterways, smart grids, and smart buildings.

"For example," says Wallace, "the power grid today is based on load models like the size of neighborhoods. These load models dictate the infrastructure. But because they don't have a lot of telemetry, utilities can't optimize, and users can't optimize. A smart grid could potentially provide greater utility to both providers and users. Maybe a user could manage load better at home or at a factory. The Internet2 working group wants to contribute to creating better ecosystems."

"Florence [Hudson] has a lot of contacts in the commercial sector who are rapidly transitioning to IoT," says Wallace. "They already have systems in the field and are transitioning from more closed systems to more connected systems. Their use cases are sometimes more detailed. It’s tough to integrate sensors and devices within a large city—they might be under the control of different departments, some might be very old, and some might be new. IoT was born from a need for better connectedness."

In October, Wallace will co-lead a meeting of the new IoT Innovation Working Group at the Internet2 Technology Exchange. The annual Technology Exchange is a premier technical event for the Internet2 community to "share their expertise in a venue designed for the cross-pollination of ideas."

Wallace is co-chair of the new working group. His role will be to help organize the community, collect use cases, find common themes, and look for opportunities. He says the IoT, trust and security, and large distributed data projects are all interrelated. They regularly convene joint meetings, and the co-chairs also meet to set agendas. "We’re collecting ideas and a diverse set of use cases," says Wallace.

The working group’s use cases will inform their opportunities. They want to identify common threads, so Internet2 members have chances to collaborate.

"Multiple universities have projects related to the smart grid, and researchers, network, and commercial partners are interested in creating products for it. We could develop prototypes that connect researchers to the commercial world—tech transfer," says Wallace. "Another role of the working group is finding common elements, maybe a common underlying service, focus on that, and help drive innovation in the Internet2 community."

"Innovation has value and improves something in society," says Wallace. "A paper clip is an innovation, or a new genetic or medical test. Florence's role in part is to focus the community to produce innovations or at the very least contribute to them. That’s where the working groups come in. IoT has the potential for tremendous value and innovation."