My ice cream has melted what do I do?

The great IoT security gold rush of 2016 started on October 19th, when the publicly available DYN DNS servers were subject to a DDOS attack, that may or may not have included malicious IoT devices. Since that attack I’ve seen several articles published talking about IoT security.

First off, we need to be careful. There are many fish to fry here, and picking the first one is hard. Security is critical, important and should be one of the top considerations. But it should only be one of the top considerations. It is important that we consider the reality of everything that has to happen. Security is neither the chocolate sauce nor the whipped cream of an Ice Cream Sundae. It is in fact, the bowl. Secure and protecting the Ice Cream from its inevitable decline (melting and providing the consumer with a delightful sticky awful mess). The bowl represents the security. The spoon is the user interface and finally the various toppings and actual ice cream are the reason people come to the ice cream shop.

The Ice Cream is best served in the bowl. As a parent, I can tell you the cone problem actually is much worse than people tell you. It is a mess. Cones, are replaceable security components however that fit well with the concept of mobility. So, the cone represents mobile security. I have for a long time heard many people talk about the concepts of MDM (mobile device management) but they always speak of containers, HTML 5 type or remote device control. The cone is our mobile security solution that we need to evolve.

Let’s consider the melting ice cream our security breach. The cone has two distinct weak points as far as holding ice cream. The first is the tip or base (sugar cone or waffle) that once soggy allows liquid to escape. The bowl (traditional network or cloud) actually catches the majority of the melted Ice Cream and therefore has reduced risk) We can overload the bowl, which will cause data leakage but for the most part the bowl is more secure than the cone.

As the world moves closer to the cone and away from the bowl we need to figure out how we can create removable cone and removable bowl security. By removable I mean that the security module of the solution can be updated quickly. I can, if needed replace my bowl or cone without worrying about the contents melting, being exposed to something (someone sneezing perhaps) or other risks that make it impossible to enjoy my ice cream.

To me the easy answer is two staged. Either the concept of a temporary security solution that encompasses the ice cream during the transfer or a new container that replaces the existing container without pause. The reason for this is cost over time. Mobile isn’t just a tablet or a phone. It is all of the IoT devices that are carried, moved or used on the go. Static IoT devices are more like the ice cream sundae, they don’t move. So, we have a clear delineation of security within the concept of IoT.

You can secure everything. You have to balance the reality of applying a bowl to a mobile device (it won’t work effectively) or trying to improve your cones so that they don’t leak (also something that may not be a good use of money). Or you could perfect non-melting ice cream, that only melts in the presence of a specific chemical (with say the makeup of human saliva).

Reality is the minute information leaves your ice cream bowl, it is at risk. The additional risk that organizations incur is the reality of security hardware. If I cannot replace the security stance of my IoT farm, I am at risk. If it isn’t easy to replace or upgrade security, organizations will lose sight of security updates. It’s called configuration drift. It happens frequently. Where devices are out of alignment with standards and don’t get upgraded. They end up on an exception list and a human being has to go from device to device updating them. Time becomes the enemy, and you end up with a lot more melted Ice Cream in your environment.

Modular IoT and Mobile phone security is a simple answer the industry can quickly embrace and extend. That and locking IMEI chips so that once a phone is stolen and it is reported, that IMEI can never connect to the cellular network again. Making the stolen device useless.

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Carry baby wipes in case of Ice Cream melting!

Wandering the reality of IoT, kits and crowdfunding…

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Sometimes it is the little things that matter. In the case of IoT (CPS) devices the little ones are often the only thing that matters. From small cameras to unique sensors IoT devices are expanding rapidly. In fact, at a rate that is amazing frankly.

Why talk about that rate now? It is not to once again declare that I believe the analysts under estimated the number of deployed and deploying IoT devices. It is more a realization that the world is evolving and technology, once a catalyst for that change is now the driver of the change.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently with a series of IoT device kits. Two of them, Littlebits and Tiny Lab are impressive in what you get and what you can do, quickly. Personally, I am a gadget person, which you may have gotten from my blog by Osmosis, but just in case I am stating it. The Littlebits kits really let you explore what you think is possible.

That got me thinking, not about the rate of IoT but instead around the concepts of what is possible now. By possible now I mean what I can grab, deploy and use quickly. I looked over my last 10 cool tech blogs and that’s when the trend started to hit me, the reality curve.

I published a series of blogs about innovation more than 2 years ago. In those blogs, I talked about the shift from old world manufacturing innovation to new world innovation. Where the concept of crowd funding was changing the very nature of innovation.

Scott’s Crowdfunding Rule: If you back something that is a variation of something that has been done before you are backing a low-risk project. If it is something that has never been done before than be patient, supporting and don’t threaten to sue. The further you are away from basecamp the less complaining and more understanding the backer should be.

As innovation evolves, there are sticky areas that cause issues. One of the sticky areas right now is the reality of manufacturing. The reality of manufacturing is cost. That is the driver for the manufacturer. When something costs X and they are only going to get X+1 after retooling and running the process they aren’t likely to rush. Manufacturers make money on the 3rd run, 4th run and so on. The first run of anything they make less. So, their incentive is to run the longer part runs whenever possible. Certainly, they will reach out and offer crowd funding campaigns good pricing, but the value for them is in the long runs.

That is a place where I’ve seen campaign after campaign fall short. Estimating the time to actual retool and build their great gadgets. It takes more time than you think.

I have pushed, cajoled and argued with both Kickstarter and Indiegogo for more than 2 years now on the concept of Superbackers. First, I do not believe you can be a SuperBacker if you have ever once posted a comment threatening to sue, report a campaign or any other form of threatening. Superbackers should be as professional as the campaign. If the campaign fails to deliver than the SuperBacker should report them to Kickstarter or Indiegogo quietly. Not loudly and in public. There are many campaigns I have backed that have not delivered. It makes me sad to say the least, but it is the reality of running on the cutting edge. Your feet get cut at times.

If you back, be nice.

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SuperBacker

4th (and final) in my alternative energy series…

Image result for Home solarThis, is my 4th and last post in my alternative energy series. Why is it the last? Well frankly I am interested in a lot of things, this is just one. I may come back to this series later, I have in the past also posted about the concepts, ideas and dreams that make up Transactive energy.

First off, the goal is the creation of Microgrid, maybe not at the hosue level, but certainly within a neighborhood. Sharing the power generated by the sun will greatly reduce the reliance on fossil fuel power plants. This in turn over time (the more global solar the more impact) impact the production of greenhouse gases. In particular, the HOCO compound briefly produced in the production of carbon fuels and ultimately the cause of climate change.

(Not by the way a naturally produced chemical reaction in the quantifies needed to create the problem that is climate change today).

First post solar savings

Second post the solar decision (or wind decision)

Third post adding a backup or whole home power storage and provision system

Your solar or wind implementation depending upon your situation, helps reduce your carbon impact. We’ve removed 9.7 tons of carbon from the world by having our solar array for the past 14 months. Being green actually feels good.

Image result for home wind turbineThat said there is still the reality of night time and no wind situations as I discussed yesterday. Embarking on a reduced reliance household involves more steps that a wind turbine or a solar array as I talked about yesterday and the day before. The links above go to the three previous articles in this series. The intent of the series is to talk about what we’ve saved, how we decided and finally our generator, the last piece of our Microgrid.

What is a Microgrid you ask? That is any group of buildings, houses, or single house that can and does maintain its own infrastructure for producing the power consumed in that location. As we move forward into the brave new world of Transactive Energy we will see an equalization of the power produced and the power consumed. Where the power company takes the power, you produce in your home Microgrid and shares it with another customer’s local to you. You get credited for the amount of power you produce that you share.

So, to end my series Why Alternative Energy? Why a Microgrid and why consider a form of whole home battery, generator or other system? Why? Well the answer is complex and easy. The easy answer is you can save money. Currently by having a leased solar system on my roof, I am saving 70 to 120 dollars per month (depends on season). Roughly over the course of a year around 780 dollars that I am not sending to a power company. That is the first reason, selfishly I save money.

The second reason has to do with hurricanes. We get the remnants of hurricanes in the DC area, since moving here a little over 5 years ago, we’ve had 8 times where our power was out for more than 8 hours. The system, based on the number of people around us, takes time to repair. The last two times our generator kicked on once, our solar array kept us going without needing the generator. Meanwhile we continued going on. Nothing was impacted by no power, because like the wild and crazy people we are, we had power!

Image result for climate changeFinally, there is the growing issue of climate change. The more we reduce now before it is too late, the better off our world will be. Personally, I think there should be a law that EVERY NEW large building should have a solar array on it. Period. No question. No argument. No permit if you don’t plan on having a solar array. Why not offset large buildings as much as we can. Then, pass the house bill that died last year so that hoaxes cannot limit solar or wind turbines, period. Leased, purchased or paying for all solar arrays should get a tax break. Why? The home owner is taking the long-term view towards our planet, they deserve a break.

The three reasons have science, numbers and reality to back them up. You don’t add to the consumption woes of the power company on really hot days. In fact, on really hot sunny days you will produce more energy than you consume.

Thinking solar, thinking wind, think Microgrid and then breathe. Because you are helping reduce the risk of future generations looking longingly out the window because it isn’t safe to go outdoors.

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solar fan, Microgrid owner

The other side of home solar, what to do when the sun don’t shine!

(Or, if you have a wind turbine what to do when the wind don’t blow) The reality of climate change is one of the huge drivers for us having a solar array on the roof. A recent NIST article sharing the science of climate change cemented my position even further. But beyond the science there is a selfish reason as well.

We live in a metropolitan area of a large city. I am sure you are thinking, so do a lot of people. Since moving to this larger area, we’ve had four major power outages. I define a major power outage as literally more than 10 hours of no power. Based on the amount of air in your house and depending upon the season, you can very quickly raise the temperature in your hosue by 5 or more degrees, or you can drop the temperature by 5 or more degrees in that time period.

Solar Arrays on your roof give you sunlight protection from brownouts. They free you from reliance on the power grid. Now, solar arrays don’t work at night so you still need another form of power. There are many options. I am not advocating the complete move away from connection here, just to make sure you can stay connected when the grid is stretched thin.

There are days that are peak usage days. Those are the days you get a solar array, wind turbine and a backup generator for. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine (at night it never shines) and times wind doesn’t blow. So, to remain secure in knowing that your home won’t lose power for days or many hours the solar array, wind turbine and some form of backup generator.

SolarCity recently released their new battery backup system for new home installations. Yes, there is an added cost for the batteries (the same battery system in the Tesla cars) but you then have peace of mind, power is always available. The other option you have is a home generator.

Home generators are interesting, they come in two distinct forms. The first form is portable you can take it with you. You have to start it, and frankly it has to be outside. The second is an auto-on generator that sits outside your house and automatically turns on when the power is gone. There is a 3-7 second delay so make sure you have a UPS (uninterruptable power supply) between your electronics and the wall. That way if you are watching there is no interruption of service.

There is a third kind of generator that fits between the two above, that being a solar generator. You can buy one, charge it with the solar panel and then use it when there is an outage. Each of the systems has a value proposition. The advantage for most home owners of actually having a whole home generator is the reality of wiring.

Portable generators require some way to connect to your electronics. They also tend to be smaller than a whole home generator (the larger the generator, the harder it is for it to be portable). Personally, I know, if I were looking for a house today I would make sure it was already wired for a whole home generator. Having one means you never have to worry about power again. Portable generators are awesome, but you have to have the wiring in place as well.

We are currently using a Generac Whole Home generator. The unit is installed in our back yard, it is loud when it tests itself, but not as loud as a whole home generator. Our house was wired for a generator when we bought the hosue (the previous owner ran his business from the basement for a while so we have overkill on wiring.) Although the previous owner committed one of the worst mistakes with a generator, placing the generator in a shed. Never put a gas-powered unit in an enclosed space. You are just asking for CO to fill your house.

The coolest think about the Generac system, beyond the fact that it kicks on automatically is that it has a load system. It won’t power on devices once you reach the peak load. You can also designate which devices have to have power. In our hosue it’s the heating/cooling system and the washer and dryer. In one particularly long power outage (3 days) my wife had to go to the Laundromat. That was, in her words the worst day ever.

Home energy production is the future. A solar array gives you a chance to reduce the impact of your family on the environment and, per the NIST study at the link above, help reduce the impact of humans on the overall global environment.

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I am carbon down, power up!

Questions on how, why and what to do for home Solar installs…

Yesterday I talked about the value of using solar power at your home, now. I got a great series of questions (one right after the other) fired at me via email from a long-time reader. She asked the following questions and I, as I often do, decided to share both the excellent questions and the ok answers I provided to them.

Q: What are the options for solar at my house?

A: There are two options you have. The first is to either pay upfront or finance the implementation of a solar panel array on your roof. The cost of this is dependent on two huge factors, how much sun is on your roof and how much power you will need to generate. The second option is to enter an agreement with one of the lease companies that provide Solar Power on your roof, for a small monthly fee based on the KW’s you use.

Q: Can I disconnect from the power grid and stop paying the electric company? (This is a stock image, it is not my house).

A: You can, but… So, first off if you go Solar, it only works when the sun is shining. You can do a combined Solar and Wind system, but still no sun or wind and you have no power. You can do backup batteries which would allow you to reduce the pull of your power company, but effectively the easy answer is you still need the power company.

You can, install a home generator and a Solar Array, so that you are no longer bound to the provided (power company) on any one day or if there is an outage you have power at your house. But staying on the grid is a good idea. It is always smart of have a backup plan.

Q: My HOA is really hard to work with. They have to approve the project before it starts. How can I get this approved?

A: First off, it depends on your state. In some states, they have passed laws that prohibit an HOA from preventing Solar Arrays on home owner’s roofs. In some areas, HOA’s have won court cases against owners so be careful before you start. The US Congress failed to enact a law that would have prevented HOA’s from prohibiting Solar Arrays in the US, but that bill died a horrible death without being passed. So, check your state. Some have laws on your side, some do not. The value of Solar increases the Value of your home, more so in the future than now. But having solar, and therefore cheaper available power for your home, makes your home more valuable.

Q: Won’t it raise the temperature in my attic?

A: No, actually this will reduce by the number of arrays on your roof, the amount of sunlight that actually makes it to your roof and therefore is able to transfer energy to your attic. Solar panels are not insulation but they do reduce the overall heat transfer from your roof to your attic.

To bring all of this tougher I spent a year reviewing and evaluating my options. I consider purchasing and I consider leasing a solar system. I decided on Solar City. Why? Well there is the 5-year option that they give you (after 5 years you can buy the system from them and never pay for day time power again). They, Solar City, has an offline or battery system coming in 2017 for existing homes. That means you will have an array of batteries (just like in the Tesla) that will provide power for your home in the night and low solar days. You will still need the grid but less so. For me the upfront cost of the system measured against the tax rebates and other considerations just didn’t make financial sense.

Overall, our satisfaction with Solar City is high. They do a great job installing, don’t leave a mess and once you are up and running. Things are awesome!

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Home Solar Fan

Why Solar? Why now? Save money, save the environment. Why not Solar now?

When we bought our home, there was a woodstove in the house. My father had a woodstove in his house on the farm (it was in the wrong part of the hosue honestly). This one is sitting in the middle of our living/family room (the previous owner had made the basement family room into a true home theater with blackout curtains and blackout paint on the walls). The wood stove actually heats most of the hosue (other than the basement). The basement stays relatively warm due to my technology that runs all the time (routers etc). I wish now, that the woodstove was actually in the fireplace cut out in the basement as it would heat the entire hosue. As it is, on days that get down into the 30’s with day’s in the high 60’s we can leave the furnace off and heat the house with the wood stove.

So, for roughly 300 bucks in firewood I can cut my power bill by roughly 500 or more dollars per year (my gut is probably way more than 500). Add to that the reality of non-snow covered solar panels and I can cut my overall power bill by 1000 or more per year. That is after subtracting the cost of the solar installation and firewood. That is sadly without trying to save. If we were trying to save there are a number of other things we could reduce.

Now, if we look at the heat produced by the woodstove, we lose a percentage of that because it is in the middle of the house not the basement. The same is true of solar – we lose the major production mid-day because more is produced than we consume. That enters the future world of Transactive energy where energy produced becomes energy paid for. A study released in August 2016 found that there was more solar power than coal power produced in the US as of 2016. So, President Obama’s dedication and investment in solar power is beginning to pay off.

Still on nights when it is cold outside, a nice warm fire makes a difference. That and having one of my mother’s couch quilts. Before solar my average power bills in the summer are in the table below – with the new bills to compare.

Season

Before Solar (woodstove only in winter

After Solar (still using wood stove)

Spring

Gas 45 Electric 120

Gas 45 Electric 80

Summer

Gas 20 Electric 350

Gas 20 Electric 250 (worst month)

Fall

Gas 60 electric 150

Gas 60 Electric 90

Winter

Gas 150 Electric 150

Gas 150 Electric 90

So far total monthly savings: 120 dollars in spring. 300 dollars in the summer. 180 dollars in the fall and 180 dollars in the winter – 780 dollars per year just having solar in savings.

The path to a better tomorrow lies through Transactive Energy. Good part of the path does. We still have issues that clean energy doesn’t solve.

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Transactive Energy Fan!

There are times that I wish I was still teaching. CSTEAM is one of those things that reminds me of what could have been…

There are times I miss teaching – right now it’s looking at the art of the possible with IoT devices. In particular, the capabilities you can offer students in the classroom with Raspberry PI and Littlebits kits. Potential is achieved not just because it exists but because it can be produced and developed quickly and/or easily. I taught a summer technology class in the day’s where our 20 meg HyperCard stack on Dinosaurs took 20 floppies and lots of swapping to load. I can build an IoT camera with more memory that that Macintosh SE had all those years ago. And that camera is smaller than a dollar bill in total size.

The concept of STEAM for education, well I believe in CSTEAM (connected Science technology engineering art and math) is beyond amazing right now. The kits from Littlebits are so easy to use and integrate quickly. You can quickly integrate Raspberry PI instances and build compute and low level hardware programming, quickly and easily. This is not the realm of rocket scientists or companies with massive R&D budgets. You can get started in this space for less than 100 dollars. (US).

This of course carries on a dream I had as a former educator. One that my father had first, and passed on to me. The concept of getting science more integrated into education. Beyond science, adding the components of engineering, technology and math to build out and deliver a holistic view of skills kids will need as they embark on the edge of the almost nearly information age.

I added the C to STEAM. Why? Because I believe that connection is a component of what needs to be educated today. It is not just the connection of social media. It is beyond that; connection is a huge component of the future information age. What is connected, what will be connected and later what should have been connected all along. Connection isn’t just the social handshake of “liking” something on social media. It is the connection of people to resources beyond where they are. In my book The Syncverse I talked about this concept. I expanded the concept further in my book Inter-Generational Knowledge Transfer. All of the books leading (links below) towards the concept of easily moving information from where it is to where it needs to be.

The Internet of Things, or Cyber Physical Systems as NIST calls them, opens the door for much more exploration much earlier. Yes, there are risks. One of the realities of technology is that bad actors do take control. Hackers as we call them, seek to control IoT devices to use them as bots in attacks and for other processing purposes. The good news about Hackers is they expose weakness. The bad news is there are more holes than patches at times.

My recommendation is that elementary schools create disconnected sand boxes for young children to consider and play with. That those sand boxes are then shared with older students who consider ways to secure and improve the security of the devices created. Allow for the freedom of exploration safely without forcing rules.

Then use the application of rules as a teaching model for older students. Make the Internet of Things an exploration and a lesson in how to secure many deployed devices. Take STEAM, add the C and you have CSTEAM build around IoT/CPS and security.

That is when I miss teaching. The art of the possible is so much greater now than it was 25 years ago when I left the classroom. Certainly, there was more I could have done then. But now, I could do so much more. Imagine lettings young 2nd and 3rd graders loose creating devices to change the world. Then asking 10th graders and 12th graders to secure those devices. To take them and with the 2nd and 3rd graders launch Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. To build the brave new world, starting with CSTEAM as early as we can. Today is the only day you have. Tomorrow is a promise, but not a guarantee. We need to start building the future much earlier.  It would usher in the information age that much faster than we are going to do with our current systems…

The Syncverse

Inter-Generational Knowledge Transfer

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CSTEAM is the future.