“An IoT platform has to be reliable”

24.06.2020 – Oliver Schneider, Netzwoche

Interview in Netzwoche magazine, 17.06.2020

Belimo is an industrial firm that has been investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) since 2015. Daniel Albrecht, Head of Development Software, talks about the current state of the art, explains what an IoT platform should deliver and discusses the topic of security.

What projects are you currently working on?
Daniel Albrecht: Belimo is the global market leader in the production of components for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Our roadmap is full of development projects for new products and updating generations of existing products. One example I’d like to mention here is the fourth generation of the Belimo Energy Valve, one of our flagship products. This valve is an intelligent fitting that enables essential energy savings in buildings.

How does Belimo deploy the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Well, our products work perfectly well without the IoT, but it adds value for our customers. For instance, it enables simple access to business data via OpenAPI, as well as support and automation for building startup procedures. We can use data analytics to learn a great deal about the actual operating conditions of our products and, thus, constantly refine and optimise them.

Daniel Albrecht

“State-of-the-art technolo­gies, futureproofing and independent hosting are important parameters when evaluating a platform solution.”

Daniel Albrecht Head of Development Software, Belimo Automation AG

What standard functionality should an IoT platform be able to deliver?
First and foremost, an IoT platform has to be reliable and ensure high uptime. The platform should also be able to grow in lockstep with the number of devices that are connected. In other words, it has to be scaleable without impairing performance. Security and data protection must be guaranteed at all times, of course.

What special functionality do you require besides this?
Here we could perhaps mention that when a device’s uplink is interrupted, we buffer data so that nothing gets lost. A lot of our devices are not permanently connected to the cloud – they update at intervals via a smartphone app during service interactions. There are all sorts of exciting issues here to do with syncing and data consistency.

How do you go about procuring an IoT platform?
Belimo has been investing in the IoT since 2015. We started small and were initially learning by doing. A competent software partner was important for us as we were entirely dependent on their expertise. We have enjoyed a long and sustainable partnership with Ergon. State-of-the-art technologies, futureproofing and independent hosting are important parameters when evaluating a platform solution.

Do you operate your IoT platform as an on-premises solution, in the cloud, or as a hybrid?
We run the IoT platform in the cloud. It offers more options and flexibility as far as infrastructure is concerned. We don’t have to worry about hosting issues and can focus our resources on refining the IoT platform.

Cybersecurity is often neglected as in issue in the IoT. How do you ensure that your systems are resilient against attack?
We take cybersecurity very seriously and security is an integral element of every expansion stage. Our devices’ communications with the cloud are encrypted using cutting-edge technologies and the cloud will only accept a connection with a device that has been registered ex works. For our cybersecurity, we work in partnership with specialists who audit our system regularly. Penetration tests are also carried out on our devices and cloud services.

Protecting personal data is an important aspect of the IoT. What is Belimo’s approach here?
It’s critical to us that our clients’ personal data are protected in compliance with the law. Just as with security, we are constantly investing in data protection. Carrying out reviews with lawyers to identify and plug any potential holes is also part and parcel of our expansion procedures.