The Interknot: Unintended Consequences of Internetworking Different Kinds of Networks (15 March 2011)

Part of the Real Time Club/British Computer Society 2011 Network Security Winter of Discontent

The “Internet of Things” has become a common buzz phrase. In this catchy vision, it is imagined that we connect objects in the real world (sensors, actuators) to the Internet in the same way that we have connected input/output devices that humans use to the vast information system that is the Web and the Cloud. Objects such as temperature and air sensors, home appliances, cars, and entire existing other types of networks such as rail and air transport systems, and power grids, are all seamlessly interconnected in an harmonious firmament. At least that is the vision.

However, each of these networks (domestic appliances, factory production lines, power, transportation) has its own disciplines. Each has developed a set of methods to build stable, safe, affordable controls, crucially, in isolation from other systems. The Internet has its own culture and discipline, but it is somewhat more open than the communities of scientists, engineers and operators in those other networks to which utilities and infrastructure providers are accustomed. Opening up the other networks by Internet-enabling them is very promising. It is also fraught with incredible risks.

In this talk, Prof. Jon Crowcroft will discuss 2 or 3 examples of cutural, technical, and operational risks associated with connecting individial cars as well as transportation systems and power grids, to and via the Internet. He will also point out that these risks can be averted with appropriate mutual education between the communities that work on these very different networks.

Professor Jon Crowcroft

Jon Crowcroft is the Marconi Professor of Networked Systems in the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge. He is the Principal Investigator in the Computer Lab for the EU Social Networks project, the EPSRC-funded Horizon Digital Economy project, the EPSRC-funded project on federated sensor nets project FRESNEL (in collaboration with Oxford University), and a new 5-year project towards a Carbon Neutral Internet (in collaboration with Leeds University). Prior to Cambridge, Jon was professor of networked systems at UCL in the Computer Science Department. He has supervised over 45 PhD students and over 150 Masters students. Jon is a Fellow of the ACM, the British Computer Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the IEE and the IEEE.