IEEE Talks IoT: Vincenzo Piuri

vincenzo piuriVincenzo Piuri is a professor of computer engineering at the Università degli Studi di Milano. His research interests include intelligent systems, machine learning, industrial applications, pattern analysis and recognition, intelligent measurement systems, the theory and industrial applications of neural networks, signal and image processing, biometrics, and digital- and signal-processing architectures. An IEEE member, he was 2015 IEEE Vice-President Technical Activities and co-chair of the 2015 IEEE World Forum on Internet of Things. Piuri is an expert of IoT and some related technologies and talks about the need for interdisciplinary collaboration and new design methodologies to create successful products and applications.

Question: How critical is collaboration for developing IoT technologies and getting adoption?

Vincenzo Piuri: The development of technologies for IoT applications really requires collaboration since the infrastructure is based on different technologies, and as a consequence, it’s very interdisciplinary. It's difficult to have a single person be an expert on all components of IoT. We must have both the experts of the individual technologies that compose the IoT environment, and the experts of the various applications to make it possible to create significant solutions and products. Collaborating is essential.

Question: What would be an example of this collaboration in the real world?

Piuri: If you are monitoring a distributed healthcare environment for patients who are at home that interacts with components in hospitals, you need to have experts who understand the sensors that collect the biometric information from the human body continuously in real time. You also need to have experts in the areas of automation, as well as communications infrastructure. You need to have techniques for feature extraction, knowledge management, and data mining to understand what is actually happening to the patient. You need experts from a technological point of view and experts in the field of medicine. Other examples are smart cities, where collaboration from experts in different disciplines, including engineering, is essential for creating a successful IoT application to facilitate the daily life of people and the effective management of the city services.

Question: Outside of the technical area, what disciplines are important to design IoT technologies and applications? Is there any kind of other discipline or skill set that are not as well used as they could be?

Piuri: Depending on the specific application being envisioned, you need to leverage the specific application domain knowledge related to it. And maybe it's not just one domain. If we are considering environmental monitoring to understand if the environment is protected and safe, you may need experts in the areas of chemical engineering, civil engineering, transportation, energy and biology. And you definitely need some expertise in management since you need to manage complex systems. That includes risk management, and a good understanding of law, because if you have an infrastructure that is pervasive where people are present you will have issues related to liability, as well as issues related to privacy and data protection.

Question: How important is the role of government?

Piuri: The involvement of government bodies becomes very important to ensure the appropriate framework and law to protect citizens who are interacting in this kind of environment. It's also necessary to have an entrepreneurial background and set of skills to really be able to develop and market a new product in an effective way. Government may be extremely helpful in developing an appropriate legislative framework that facilitates the deployment of innovative IoT-based solutions.

Question: Collaboration involves bringing people together to discuss various issues around IoT. What were some of the highlights of 2015 IEEE World Forum on IoT?

Piuri: It was an exciting event and we significantly increased the number of attendees from all over the world. We had several significant contributions around the integration of IoT in cloud infrastructures, and even more importantly, the creation of intelligent systems based on IoT infrastructure. Since these kinds of technologies are able to analyze data and detect patterns in a distributed manner, it’s possible to distribute computation and, as a result, reduce communications requirements, as well as ensure higher reliability and continuity of services. This will allow decentralization of systems operations so that if a part is failing, the remaining parts continue to work. Having an intelligent system in which we can distribute the information processing helps to reduce power consumption of the overall system. The conference also supported the continuous need for education and allowed people to stay up to date in the broader IoT field, especially if they are coming from specific technological areas.

Question: Looking ahead to the next event, what do you think will be the focus and how will you follow up?

Piuri: In 2016 we will see new technologies and new design methodologies. And since this is a very interdisciplinary area, we need to have a comprehensive view of the design of these kind of systems. We will see many new applications addressing a variety of needs of citizens, industries and government. The basic technologies are mature enough, but the bigger problem is that it's necessary to integrate the technology and standardize some of these technologies in order to build an application in the easiest way by using standard components and standard interfaces. Standardization will play an increasingly important role. We also need to make more knowledge available to people working in the field, including students and researchers who may be interested in expanding their competences.

Question: Are we coming up with better methods to build the IoT applications? We talk about IoT in large-scale terms, but are there benefits to starting on a small scale?

Piuri: The great advantage of IoT is that as a pervasive infrastructure it can grow in a modular way, but to do this, it’s essential to standardize some aspects, such as the interconnection and protocols, for example, to make it easier for industry and entrepreneurs to create applications. They should be able to pick components off the shelf, both hardware and software, and be confident they can be integrated into a complex system. But because there are so many different technologies, we do not have yet a complete, comprehensive design methodology. We are addressing the various parts with the methodologies related to the specific component. To address the significant interdisciplinary nature and complexity of IoT applications, we need to create global design methodologies.

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