Domesticate the #IoT as cyber-physical systems

This article is a continuation of “#IoT as a system of digital contracts” article ( see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2016/08/iot-as-system-of-digital-contracts.html ).

1 Introduction

The recent IoT-based DDOS attack confirmed the urgent necessity for more serious and systemic integration of the IoT into our civilisation. At present, many devices from the IoT “world” act as wild animals thus being dangerous.

Each member in our civilisation has to follow many rules & regulations & laws depending on contexts and his/her roles as citizen, husband/wife, father/mother, driver, employee, etc. Those rules and laws are wrapped as, usually, time-bound contracts. Just using a taxi is a short-time contract with its rules for a passenger and a driver.

IoT as cyber-physical systems must follow some rules & regulations & laws to become a very useful member of our civilisation. The famous example of such laws is “The three laws of robotics”.

Let us apply this practice of contract-based rules & regulations & laws to the Internet of Things – let us teach Things to follow their contracts thus domesticate Things.

To behave correctly, the IoT needs following digital contracts ( see “Digital-contract-as-a-process enables business in the digital world” http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2016/07/digital-contract-as-process-enables.html ). A digital contract is an explicit and machine-executable process between several business-parties, primarily, Things, Services and People.

2 External digital contracts

For example, a future household fridge will have, as minimum, five types of external contract simultaneously:
  • with People who are living a particular household;
  • with a producer of this fridge;
  • with a service company for maintenance of this fridge;
  • with some online shops to order various food, and 
  • with some other Things within a particular household to achieve together some goals of energy consumption.
The fulfillment of some of those contracts requires the usage of the Internet. Thus, the Fridge must be able to “demonstrate” to the in-house network Router that the Fridge has rights to exchange data with some Internet-based services. Any data exchange with other internet-based services will be prohibited by the Router.

3 Internal digital contracts

In addition, being a cyber-physical system, a Thing must follow many internal contracts. Governance of all software components must be carried out as contracts for requesting a change, approval of a change, etc. Actually, all the typical IT governance and operations processes are already well-defined in COBIT, ITIL and IT4IT. They, being designed for IT departments, have to be scaled-down to the needs of Things. Even a minimalistic patch-management processes will be a huge improvement.

4 Implementation considerations

The implementation of digital contracts can be simplified by the blockchain technology (as the best, so far, records storage) which provides integrity and traceability (see “Beauty of #blockchain - doveryai, no proveryai (trust but verify)” http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2016/10/beauty-of-blockchain-doveryai-no.html ).

All the digital contracts, separate tasks, software components, messages, documents, workflows are notarized by blockchain.

Considering that, capabilities of particular Things may be rather different, some kind of a “majordomo” Service may be necessary to execute various digital contracts; Things will be participants in their workflows.

Also, in complex households some coordination between various digital contracts must be carried out (e.g. no preventative maintenance during receptions). This is a natural job for a “majordomo” Service. Obviously, it has its own digital contracts with the People who are living a particular household.

5 Conclusion

The proposed use of digital contracts, explicit governance and blockchain can make an impression that it will increase the complexity of IoT. Fortunately, this is not correct, because although more components will be necessary, the links between them become explicit.

In accordance with the Cynefin framework (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_Framework ), explicit linking allows progressing:

- from “Complex” situation (in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance)

- to “Complicated” situation (in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge).

Of course, a lot of painful standardisation and regulatory work is necessary ahead, but, in accordance with a Russian proverb “volkov boyat'sya — v les ne khodit'”, no pain no gain.

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