Jeremy Hitchcock

IoT device classification for better management

Billions of new devices in the home have created a big headache for home owners, consumer electronic companies, service providers, and IT solution providers.  Not only are an estimated 40% of IoT devices not ever properly setup, the management paradigm for IoT requires a different approach from BYOD and other corporate devices. Here’s an inside look on how Minim tackles IoT management for homes.

Some devices have screens and keyboards where you can configure a device.  Some devices have a display that can show a status update or the current settings of a device.  There are devices that have no indicator lights and no indicators!

We have developed five different tiers of classification for how an IoT device might be controlled on a network.  This is important as there are expectations of zero-configuration for consumer electronic devices.  Also, devices may need quality of assurance for applications that have a high sensitivity to jitter, or you may want to prevent certain users (I think of my own kids) from hogging all the bandwidth.  

IoT device classification (5 categories)

Unidentified

This is the first level of IoT management.  IoT devices show up unmanaged and unidentified.  The network isn't smart about whether it's a medical device or a streaming box or anything else.

Identified

The next step is to identify a device on the network.  We see Comcast XFi starting to do this. (Minim is a lot further ahead).  For each MAC address, you can tell the device’s hardware and software.

"Minim"-ed

Now that you've fingerprinted and identified the device, you can do a lot more.  Is it a VoIP phone?  Then, provide priority to the voice stream because audio is highly sensitive to latency.  Is it a 4K TV?  Then, ensure there’s enough bandwidth to stream a full video stream.  At this point, the network is aware of the network flows specific to an IoT device.

Affiliated

Going one step further, make the network aware more deeply about the application.  This generally requires some bi-directional communication.  For example, many IP set top boxes have diagnostics from which you can pull data.  When the network is able to get those per device statistics or even control the device, then it's application aware, too.

Managed

The deepest of integration and management involves bi-directional communication on both sides.  This might be checking the actual CPU, ensuring that the device is cryptographically running secure hardware.

At heart, this is a big data problem.  Once you've seen 1,000 Nest cameras, you know what the 1,001th is going to do.  Then, you can decide how to balance that device with the rest of the network to make the home WiFi experience better.