Companies that manufacture Things that will make up the Internet of Things (IoT) don't have the expertise required to “do the infrastructure piece,” Dave Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Ayla Networks, warned a packed room of attendees during a panel at the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas.

sxsw-interactive-logo-2IoT workshops seemed to be everywhere at this year’s SXSW Interactive, with at least 39 panels devoted to or touching on the ins and outs of the IoT. In “Network all the Things: What About Infrastructure?” Moor Insights’ Analyst Mike Krell moderated the infrastructure discussion among Friedman and fellow panelists Ron Sege, CEO and chairman of Echelon Corporation; and Menko Deroos, CEO and co-founder of Xicato.

Friedman’s remarks prompted some follow-up questions for this blog:

Q: What’s missing, from your point of view, in IoT infrastructure?

A: A unified view. To me, ‘IoT infrastructure’ isn’t any particular piece of technology or applications. Think of IoT infrastructure like you’d think about Salesforce: It needs to bring together all the elements you need and let them work together seamlessly, as a complete and unified entity. That way, you’re able to use the IoT to power your business. I also believe strongly that an IoT infrastructure must be configurable, so it can adapt over time and to suit the needs of any particular business.

Q: How does Ayla help customers implement an IoT infrastructure?

A: We remove friction for our customers. By leveraging our IoT platform, they don’t have to know how to do networking, or security, or certificates, or big data, or push notifications, or anything. We’re making it really easy. You can use the Ayla platform to build products for the IoT, launch them, learn from them, iterate them, and make better and better products over time. And in the end, it’s better products that will allow companies to compete more successfully in their markets.

Q: Security is a big concern for everyone. How do you address that?

A: When we hear about security holes in the IoT, it’s not because SSL (secure socket layer) somehow stopped working. It’s because so many of the ‘things’ being connected don’t have the processing power to build in the kind of security we’re accustomed to for PCs or phones. These devices don’t have operating systems, and they’re too small to support operating system-level security measures. Manufacturers are forced to release devices that lack the appropriate level of security, but that’s not acceptable. You need real security, but it’s very hard to make a light, or a motion detector, or a door lock as secure as your computer. The solutions have to be able to refresh security certificates and keys, and do all of the things we know is good hygiene for security. And those are some of the capabilities built into the Ayla platform.

Q: what would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions that people might have about the IOT today?

A: The reality is, it’s a new market, so none of us have a crystal ball around what a consumer really wants from a connected air conditioner, and how that might connect to utilities or other clouds. So when manufacturers build products for the IoT themselves, they make them purpose-built for what they thought it needed at the time. Later, when they realize that things have changed, they’re stuck because what they’ve built doesn’t change easily.

Q: What’s the end game in the IoT?

A: The Internet of Things is all about data: collecting it, managing it, making sense of it and eventually using it to make better business and product decisions. Manufacturers that have feedback loops, because they have connected their products, will win over their competitors.

Ayla provides entry to the IoT for companies of all kinds. By providing the infrastructure, the IoT platform, they need, they can spend their time figuring out how to use the data or keep improving their products. In the end, we make it simpler for them to deliver more value to their end customers.