Mr. Mandler, IoTaaS 2015: ‘The IoT realm is about to explode’

On top of being a Research Staff Member at the Distributed Middleware group at the Haifa Research Lab, Mr. Benjamin Mandler is also the project and technical coordinator of the EU funded project COMPOSE, creating an IoT platform geared towards the easy creation of IoT applications. His professional experience focuses on distributed software systems research, design, and development. His main areas of expertise include Storage, as well as High Availability and Group Communication Systems. He has led several projects through their entire lifecycle and is the General Chair of IoTaaS 2015, the 2nd International Conference on IoT as a Service, which we have talked to him about.

Benjamin Mandler, General Chair of IoTaaS 2015
Benjamin Mandler, General Chair of IoTaaS 2015

What will the main focus of IoTaaS 2015 be and why?

The main focus of IoTaaS 2015 is to serve as a melting pot, to fuse together the interests of all the different stakeholders, so we come out with a homogeneous dish that caters to the tastes of everyone involved. The IoT realm is about to take off in a big way, but there are several issues still holding it back. One of the main issues is the lack of unified vision among the different stakeholders. There are many kinds of players involved, and most of them will be seriously influenced by the IoT revolution. At the moment each player sees the IoT arena from its own perspective. I believe that if we grab the points of views of the different stakeholders and put them side by side, we won’t obtain a coherent picture which is pleasant to the eye, but rather an agglomeration of completely different styles. Thus, if we want to tame the eruption of the IoT, and make sure we get it right the first time, rather than having to fix a lot of issues the second time around, it is high time that people meet, discuss, and start understanding the different points of view. We hope to attract researchers, developers, EU funded projects, industrial players, Telcos, city council representatives, and policy makers from the EU. Once we put every one into the same room we can “lose“ the key until white smoke comes out of the chimney.

Why is the ‘everything as a service’ approach important for the adoption of IoT applications?

When dealing with IoT applications we enter the world of extreme scalability. This is one of the main challenges preventing the IoT from moving forward. We are facing a level of scalability that has not been encountered before; at least not by “traditional” IT platforms and services. The more successful this field becomes, the more mature it is, the more severe the whirlpool effect will cause the scalability issues to become. This will be the cue that researchers were waiting for, to take their extreme scalability studies and algorithms out of their drawers and whiteboards, and move them into commercial solutions. When dealing with such a scale the “everything as a service” becomes extremely important, since these are dimensions that are difficult to handle otherwise. To achieve success, we need all participating components to behave “as a service” and make sure there are clear and, preferably, standardized interfaces for anyone wishing to make use of a system component. All components that want to be a part of the IoT game should conform to this approach. They should be made in a way that is easily digestible by other players and, naturally, should be network-accessible and cloud-ready.

The conference aims to foster collaboration between different stakeholders. What – if there are any – are the main challenges hampering communication between IoT researchers and industry service providers?

IoT researchers and service providers are in this boat together, and they need to try and paddle in sync. This causes one of the points of friction – the IoT researchers want to move forward at high speed and, indeed, this is a field in which movement has been rapidly initiated. On the other hand, the industry service providers want to move forward as fast as they can but with care. In this field, “with care” means a long time. The service providers focus more on the issues hampering the forward movement, while researchers focus on the great potential of moving along with the technological trends. Indeed, there are many difficult issues that need to be solved before the service providers walk hand in hand with the researchers. One such topic, for example, revolves around security and privacy. At the moment, it seems that a lot of the service providers are sitting on the fence, but most of them still haven’t decided to hop over. Many of them are not too keen on being the first ones to the market, because they don’t want to get it wrong the first time. The investments for entry are large, but due to their potentially revolutionary nature, the benefits may be huge for whoever gets it right. Another issue that traditionally concerns the service providers more than the researchers is that of business models. It still is not clear what a feasible and beneficial business model in an IoT world would be. That’s a question that needs to be answered by the service providers before they address required investments and changes in the way things are done. The greater the revolution, the bigger the drift in the first stages between research and industry. I believe that the IoT will lead to a rather large revolution, thus it will take time before the interests of research and industry re-align.