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Insecure IoT networks for medical data? Easily fixed, shrugs Arqiva

Vodafone chips in: 'We'll soon do IoT networks too!'

Bored cat on computer, photo via Shutterstock
This cat is not impressed with Arqiva. Pic: Shutterstock

LPWAN Forum Transmitting medical data over an unsecured network? No problem, we can build security around it. This was the suggestion of Arqiva’s Ian Stewart at the LPWAN Forum in London this morning.

Speaking on behalf of French outfit Sigfox’s UK reseller Arqiva during a panel discussion about the merits of proprietary and open cellular network standards for the Internet of Things, Stewart was extolling the virtues of Sigfox’s connectivity kit for the IoT.

Arqiva's head of IoT channel sales said the costs associated with IoT deployments had historically put off a lot of companies, but Sigfox’s “incredibly cheap” kit was – surprise, surprise – the answer to unlocking a number of potential medical applications.

Deploring current tech in this field, he said: “It needs sensors in the patient’s home or on equipment that needs a SIM in and of itself.” He added that this means buying more expensive hardware. "The SIM needs to be provisioned, connected to a gateway… The total cost is significant. It doesn’t scale with the cost of the alternative, which is the human social worker.”

As an alternative to splashing all this cash, he suggested status updates about the patient, gathered from IoT sensors in their homes, could be sent as data over Sigfox’s network as provided by Arqiva.

Earlier in the panel session, Stewart had answered an audience member’s question as to whether “Sigfox packets are transmitted insecure as standard” by saying: “Yes, but we can build security in around those packets.”

Tracy Hopkins of the LoRa Alliance also spoke about how LoRaWAN will shortly include “passive and active roaming” features for geo-locating IoT devices, a capability which she said had been demonstrated in Belgium with the Proximus mobile operator.

“The standard is carrier-grade, including various levels of security at the device, gateway and network server levels,” she said.

Third panellist Adam Armer, business development and innovation manager at Vodafone’s IoT arm, made a hopeful pitch for the carrier’s Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) standard, which despite promises from the UK network operator hasn't actually been deployed anywhere in its final form, though trial networks have been rolled out in Spain. Taking this little stumbling block in his stride, Armer repeated Vodafone’s pledges about deployment by Q1 2017 in the Netherlands via a software upgrade to its existing mobile phone masts.

“It plays well with all other technologies and hardware manufacturers have been using [the standard] for years,” he said.

El Reg’s feeling is that while most IoT users have been stiffly ignoring Voda, the low cost of NB-IoT deployment and therefore low prices for customers may prove to be the tipping factor in a few years as the IoT standards bunfight rolls on. ®

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