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​Dell positions itself as essential IoT infrastructure provider

With the company merger now complete, Dell EMC wants to cement itself as the leading infrastructure provider in the age of the Internet of Things.

By 2020, analyst firm IDC has predicted that there will be 212 billion devices connected to the internet, known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Networking giant Cisco has estimated this number is more likely to sit at around 12.2 billion, while Gartner believes 6.4 billion devices is a fairer approximation.

Whatever the number, Dell EMC director of OEM Solutions for Asia North and Oceania Mauro Favero told ZDNet that he is confident it is going to be large, considering the total already sits at around 13 billion devices.

According to Favero, the beginning of the IoT explosion meant organisations had to ask themselves where they wanted to be moving forward in the new era of digital transformation.

"Of course Dell was one of them, Microsoft is another. They had to redefine themselves in the cloud, that's where they want to be, Azure is their big thing," Favero explained.

"Dell obviously came from the PC world, high-end servers, and so forth, and was known for PCs and will continue to do PCs, but essentially, we had to ask ourselves what do we want to be in this new age. And it made the most sense for Dell to be an essential infrastructure company in the digital era."

Dell made the decision to focus on providing the infrastructure and the compute power to businesses and startups that want to focus on innovation at the front end, but Favero said Dell does not just provide the background equipment; it also provides devices at the very forefront or edge of the IoT, where data is being collected.

He explained that previously, smaller companies did not have access to a lot of computing power, applications, analytics tools, and so forth, noting that today, startups and the like can essentially rent the computing power they need, providing smaller players with a huge advantage and thus being a huge driver for IoT.

Although the technology is at a business' disposal, Favero said not many are quite sure what to do with it yet.

"You see a few companies that come up with revolutionary ideas that can really take advantage of it, you know, Uber, Airbnb, they figured out what to do with the technology," he said. "You collect data, you send it off, and someone else can pick it up very quickly."

He said understanding what to do with the IoT and its resulting data will take time, as even though by 2020 there will be countless devices, businesses are still unclear on how to use it to their advantage and change their business model.

Speaking of the way GE has been focusing on integrating its software applications with its equipment, currently embedding software into the likes of aircraft engines to run equipment more efficiently, Favero said that even the big companies are redefining their focus in the IoT age.

"If you think that itself isn't too revolutionary, it's just predictive maintenance; what's more revolutionary about it is what GE can do with that once they collect all the data."

One area, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, that Dell is heavily involved in from an IoT perspective is surveillance and security.

"It's huge, and it's just getting bigger and bigger," Favero said of the growing industry.

"Unfortunately, with the terror attacks, governments want to do everything they can to keep their people safe and their cities safe, so the spending in that area is enormous right now.

"We're supplying many companies with the computing power that they need to capture the images, process the images, and to capture the signals from the sensors."

In South Korea, Dell is currently working with development firm Innodep on a CCTV surveillance project that harnesses and analyses metadata to provide better public security systems.

"They're really going one step beyond, for example if you walk into a room, first of all the door opens, the temperature changes because a human being is inside, the humidity changes etc, they measure all kinds of things to make sure they have a pretty good picture of what's happening in that room at that time, and then they correlate it to be able to say, 'I think we have a breach here, or a guard should go and check something'," Favero said.

"All of this is possible with technology these days, and it's pretty fascinating, really.

"We are not aware of how much we're actually being tracked."

Dell, in partnership with chip giant Intel, opened an IoT lab in Singapore earlier this year to provide a platform for customers in Asia Pacific and Japan to test proof-of-concept IoT products.

Customers have access to Dell's technical consultants while its IoT industry partners, such as developers and independent software vendors, are able build new products based on Intel and Dell's IoT technologies.

"This facility will focus on enabling intelligent devices and gateways, speeding up the connection of legacy systems to the cloud," Dell said said at the time.

Earlier this month, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) IoT working group published a report to guide designers and developers on basic security measures it believes must be incorporated throughout the development process of IoT devices.

The report says adding interconnectivity between devices and existing network infrastructures opens up new attack vectors that many will attempt to exploit.

According to Brian Russell, chair of the CSA IoT Working Group, an IoT system is only as secure as its weakest link.

"It is often heard in our industry that securing IoT products and systems is an insurmountable effort," he said. "We hope to empower developers and organisations with the ability to create a security strategy that will help mitigate the most pressing threats to both consumer and business IoT products."