Navigating the intelligent edge: answers to top questions

Posted on 23 September, 2019

Principal Program Manager, Azure IoT

Over the past ten years, Microsoft has seen embedded IoT devices get progressively smarter and more connected, running software intelligence near the point where the data is being generated within a network. And having memory and compute capabilities at the intelligent edge solves multiple conundrums related to connectivity, bandwidth, latencies, and privacy/security.

Of course, each device that connects to a network brings the challenge of how to secure, provision, and manage them. It raises issues of privacy requirements, data regulations, bandwidth, and transfer protocols. And when you have thousands of devices connecting to each other and broader systems like the cloud, all this can get very complex, very quickly.

Here are some of the most frequent questions around the intelligent edge and examples of how Azure solutions can help simplify securing, provisioning, and managing it. To hear more in-depth thoughts on this topic, join Olivier Bloch on October 10 as he speaks at the IoT in Action event in Santa Clara.
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Securing the intelligent edge

“How do I ensure the devices that are connected are the ones they say they are, and that they are authenticating to the back end and securing data in an encrypted way?”

Each device that gets installed on a network provides one more potential network doorway for bad actors. No one wants their car radio, scale, or vending machine hacked. No one wants customer data stolen. We’ve already seen too much of that in the news. Securing the intelligent edge is rightfully a key concern for customers interested in IoT technology.

The key is to start simple by building on top of solutions that have addressed these important concerns. Microsoft intelligent edge and intelligent cloud solutions have been designed to complement each other, which makes it much easier to create secure IoT solutions that you can trust.

Azure Sphere is a great place to start. It provides a turnkey IoT solution that builds on decades of Microsoft experience, ensuring comprehensive, multi-layer security from the multipoint control unit (MCU) to the operating system to the cloud.

It begins with Azure Sphere-certified MCUs from our hardware partners, with Microsoft hardware root of trust embedded into the silicone. The operating system (OS) provides in-depth defense that guards against hackers and enables automated OS and security updates. The Azure Sphere Security Service safeguards every device with seven properties of highly secured, internet-connected devices. Azure Sphere only runs signed, authentic software, reducing risk of malware or application tampering. Even if you have devices that are already installed, they can be secured with Azure Sphere guardian modules, with little or no redesign required.

Provisioning and managing the intelligent edge

“Connecting one device manually to the cloud is part of the story. But what if I need to provision and then manage a whole bunch of devices at scale?”

You want to ensure devices are easy to provision, update, and manage. You want to be able to roll out new devices, and when the time comes, retire devices. You want to provision and manage devices like you would a fleet of PCs without having to manually update software and firmware.

Again, Microsoft has solutions that simplify all of this.

Azure IoT Hub enables you to connect, manage, and scale devices to the edge with per-device authentication and scaled provisioning. Azure IoT Edge, which is an intelligent edge runtime managed and configured from Azure IoT Hub, enables you to deploy cloud workloads to run on edge devices using standard containers. IoT Edge secures the communications between IoT applications and your edge devices, enabling you to power and remotely configure the devices. Built-in device management and provisioning capabilities enable you to connect and manage devices at scale.

To implement scaled provisioning, Azure IoT Hub is paired with the Device Provisioning Service (DPS) which streamlines the enrollment process by allowing you to register and provision all your devices to IoT Hub without any human intervention. DPS takes advantage of hardware-secured modules where secure seeds are planted by silicon manufacturers and confidential compute is possible, all to establish a trusted connection and authentication with a global endpoint (DPS). This, in turn, can be configured to not only provide IoT Hub device identity and credentials back to devices, but it also can deliver a first configuration at provisioning time. It’s a powerful and scalable way to manage IoT devices during their whole life cycle from the first connection to retirement, including transfers of ownership.

Learn more about the intelligent edge at an IoT in Action event

Microsoft continues to innovate with solutions that help streamline and simplify securing, provisioning, and managing the intelligent edge. To learn more about how you can best leverage this technology, be sure to register for the upcoming Santa Clara IoT in Action event on October 10. As part of the event, I will be leading a panel discussion focused on how customers and partners are simplifying IoT and solving industry problems. 

If you can’t make it to the Santa Clara event, there will also be one-day events held in cities around the world, including Warsaw, Frankfurt, Toronto, Auckland, Taipei, Shenzhen, and more. These events are a valuable opportunity to get all your questions answered and build connections with potential IoT partners. Through interactive sessions, Microsoft will share how various solutions and accelerators can help simplify IoT so you can get secure solutions out the door faster and more cost effectively.

Prefer a virtual event? Browse the IoT in Action webinar series which features IoT industry experts discussing real-life solution use cases. You can also get started on further advancing your technical IoT skills by watching the IoT Show, joining the IoT Tech Community, and learning at IoT School.