But once they do get connected, another problem arises -- security. "The real-time vendors are worried about someone hijacking turbines, so they're working on security," notes Kristian Steenstrup, analyst for Gartner.
"I have a lot of confidence in the IT space, but no one has it all figured out yet," adds Smith at NI. "Security is the biggest challenge we have in front of us, and it is being treated as such."
"There is no firmly established practice for the secure development and deployment of embedded systems," complains Chris Rommel, analyst at VDC Research. "Seventy percent of the engineers we surveyed recently said their projects had security requirements, but only 30% said that their organizations were doing anything different in terms of security. The two factors that got in the way were cost and time-to-market constraints."
Dan O'Dowd, founder and CEO of Green Hills Software, boasts that his firm's RTOS, Integrity, has never been hacked and has no known vulnerabilities. "But we spent a thousand dollars per line to develop the security-relevant portions. First we make it secure and then we make everything else, while others make it cool, add features, and then try to make it secure -- and that never works," he says.
"Everyone is afraid of being hacked, and, yes, they are right to be afraid," adds Campbell. "Of course, the easiest way to remain secure is to not connect the machine to anything." (And even that tactic isn't as failproof as it used to be, as researchers are learning.) Barring that, private networks unconnected to the public Internet will probably be popular with corporate users of the Internet of Things systems, he predicts.
With assured security or without, sources agree that the confluence of powerful yet inexpensive real-time components makes the Internet of Things an inevitability -- some are calling it the Internet of Everything.
"The most important thing to realize is that this is the future," says Soley. "We want to get there in a reasonable amount of time, so we need interoperability and we need standards -- and so we need to collaborate."
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