Earlier predictions that we'd soon see 50 billion devices connected via the Internet of Things might have proved overly optimistic, but the billions of IoT machines already online pose a dual problem, according to Intel.

One, deploying devices at scale -- for example, 10,000 "smart" light bulbs at a time -- can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. And, two, ensuring that IoT devices and data are secure is challenging.

Intel today launched a new offering it said can solve both those challenges: Intel Secure Device Onboard (SDO). Unveiled at the IoT Solutions World Congress taking place Oct. 3-5 in Barcelona, Intel SDO is being offered on an as-a-service basis to IoT platform providers.

The SDO service not only automates and accelerates IoT device onboarding, but uses authentication and encryption technologies to help those devices operate securely, Intel said.

'Zero Touch' Provisioning

Using a "zero touch" model for provisioning, Intel SDO allows multiple devices at a time to dynamically discover a company's IoT platform details for automatic registration and configuration. The service also uses Intel's Enhanced Privacy ID to authenticate devices anonymously and set up encrypted communications.

The growing use of IoT devices has raised security concerns, as studies and reports show they can be prone to remote hacking and used to launch widespread malware attacks. Recent incidents have involved vulnerable devices ranging from baby monitors and drive-through car Relevant Products/Services washes to Segways and even Internet-connected fish tanks.

"Shipping default credentials, error-prone human authentication of headless devices, and potentially vulnerable software updates represent fundamental risks to IoT that grow the surface area available for attacks like the Mirai Botnet," Rick Echevarria, vice president of Intel's software and services group, wrote in a blog post yesterday. "That is why the IoT industry needs to automate security and leverage the protections that hardware can deliver. Given the sheer volume of IoT devices (Gartner predicts there will be 20 billion by 2020), security automation is essential to turning the tide."

Weatherford, one company taking part in an Intel SDO pilot program, has tested the service with controllers and wireless sensors used in oil and gas production. According to Intel, Weatherford said it could eventually use the service to manage as many as 870,000 sensor data points for 290,000 wells.

Promoting Blockchain with Oracle

Intel today also launched a "National IoT Strategy Dialogue" aimed at helping the U.S. become "the global IoT leader for decades to come." The report calls for developing and implementing a national IoT strategy, coordinating development of IoT standards and regulations both domestically and internationally, and creating incentives to invest in secure, data-driven infrastructure.

"The report marks the culmination of 16 months of technology industry collaboration, including extensive outreach to a range of federal government stakeholders for their input on advancing IoT policy," according to Marjorie Dickman, Intel's global director and associate general counsel for automated driving and IoT policy. The goal is "solving important societal challenges and driving US competitiveness for years to come," she said.

Meanwhile, another technology from Intel is being used to provide cloud-based blockchain services to enterprise users. Yesterday, at Oracle's OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, which runs Oct. 1-5, Intel announced that its Xeon Scalable processors are helping to power Oracle's Blockchain Cloud Service.

Blockchain services use distributed ledger technologies to provide confidential recording and verification for a variety of different online transactions.

Working together through the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger project, Intel and Oracle plan to continue developing ways to simplify transactions via both blockchain and traditional databases, manage transaction privacy, and promote security for blockchain-enabled smart contracts.

In Memoriam

Intel today also announced that former CEO Paul Otellini, 66, died yesterday in his sleep. A native San Franciscan who joined Intel in 1974, Otellini in 1989 became chief of staff to then-CEO Andy Grove and served as chief operating officer from 2002 to 2005. He was named CEO in 2005, and held that position until retiring in 2013.

According to Intel, the organization "generated more revenue during his eight-year tenure as CEO than it did during the company's previous 45 years." As CEO, Otellini also helped expand Intel's business partnerships, acquisitions, and market positions in security, software, and mobile communications, Intel said. Otellini is survived by his wife, Sandy; his son, Patrick; and his daughter, Alexis.