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IoT FAQs

Last Updated: 4/25/2017

What are you looking for in a solution?

We are looking for a “tool” that consumers can deploy to guard against security vulnerabilities in software on the Internet of Things (“IoT”) devices in their homes. The tool would, at a minimum, help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software. Contestants can also have their tool include additional features, such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default or easy-to-guess passwords.

What do I have to submit?

An abstract (a title and a brief text description) explaining how the tool functions, which will be made public and should be easy for the public to understand.

A link to your short video that must be publicly available on YouTube.com or Vimeo.com and demonstrate how the tool works.

A detailed explanation (written description) of the tool that enables judges to evaluate how well it works, how user-friendly it is, and how scalable it is, including how the tool will avoid or mitigate any additional security risks that it itself might introduce into the consumer’s home.

Please see the Submission and Judging Criteria in the Rules for details of what is required.

What do you mean by software updates?

The Rules refer to unpatched or out-of-date software of IoT devices in the home, and the need for getting software updates. We are using the term “software” to include, where applicable, both device software and firmware, not just software that may be running on a device.

What form does the solution have to take?

The contest Rules do not require any particular format. The solution must be a technical solution, rather than a policy or legal solution. As the Judging Criteria in the Rules state, a tool might be a physical device, such as one that the consumer adds to his or her home network, or it might be an app or cloud-based service, or a dashboard or other user interface.

Do I need to make a fully functional prototype?

The Rules do not require a fully functional prototype. The contestant can make a prototype or use mock-ups or other means to show in the video how the tool would work. As the criteria explains, the submission must provide sufficient material for evaluation of how well the tool works, how user-friendly it is, and how scalable it is. It is up to contestants how to do that. The rules note that submission material may include a detailed description; pseudocode; a description of algorithms and/or formulas; or material (such as diagrams) to show how the tool would function. The submission should include a description of testing methodology and results of any tests of the tool’s effectiveness, and should also discuss a strategy for development and deployment.

What is the difference between the Wildcard option and the Optional items?

Under the “Submission Content Requirements” in the Rules, there is a Wildcard option (C(i)(b)) that allows a contestant to skip the four components specified in C(i)(a) and, instead, demonstrate how the contestant’s tool would work and argue for the superiority of their tool based on its level of innovation and impact on IoT security in the home. However, any Wildcard solution must still be a technical solution to address vulnerabilities caused by unpatched or out-of-date software of IoT devices in the home.

At the end of the “Submission Content Requirements,” the Rules note that contestants can try to obtain bonus points by also addressing other ways to help consumers guard against broader security vulnerabilities in IoT device software in their homes (C(iv)). Those are options that a contestant might include, in addition to – not instead of – the solution to address vulnerabilities caused by unpatched or out-of-date software of IoT devices in the home.

What if I have a question?

You can email your questions to iothomeinspector@ftc.gov and we will try to respond and update the FAQs with questions that have general applicability.

When will you announce the winners?

We intend to announce prize winner(s) on or about July 27, 2017, and the results will be made available on the Contest Website.

Are there any limitations On who is eligible to compete?

Yes. Be sure to read the Rules for eligibility restrictions, including that a prize can only be awarded to individuals and teams of individuals who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

Are there any limitations to the number of individuals who can form one team?

No.

Can we add team members after we register?

Yes.  You can add team members to an existing team. The team representative must update the team’s Registration Form by the submission deadline to add the new team member’s name.

After registering as an individual, can I change my mind and switch my registration to be part of a team?

Contestants who initially register as individuals may enter their submission as part of a team if they (1) submit an updated registration form to indicate that they are part of a team; (2) their team representative submits (or updates) a registration form indicating that the individual is part of the team; and (3) all updated registration forms or newly submitted registration forms are submitted by the submission deadline of 12:00 p.m. E.D.T. on May 22, 2017.

CAN I LINK TO EXTRA MATERIAL?

No, 15 pages (the page limit for your explanation) is 15 pages.  Judges will not consider any other material (e.g. links to github etc.).

I AM HAVING TROUBLE DOWNLOADING THE REGISTRATION FORM.

We had a few wrinkles with earlier versions of the form, but we think it is fixed.  If you are still having problems, let us know by emailing iothomeinspector@ftc.gov.  It will help us respond faster if you put “Registration Form” in the subject line.

WHAT IF I EMAILED MY SUBMISSION AND REALIZED IT DIDN’T HAVE ONE OF THE PARTS REQUIRED OR I HADN’T MET THE REQUIREMENTS FOR EACH PART LISTED IN THE OFFICIAL RULES?

All parts of the Submission (title, abstract, link to the publicly posted video, and the detailed explanation) must be submitted together in a single email.  We also suggest that the email includes also the required Registration Form/s for each individual.  If you realize after you submit that your Submission didn’t have everything required by the rules, submit again and indicate in your subject line “Corrected Submission.”  Any Submission that does not have all of its parts will not be considered for a prize.  Please see Section 4 of the Official Rules for a comprehensive list of Contest Submission requirements (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/contests/iot-rules#Submission), including the requirements for each part (title, abstract, link to the video, and detailed explanation paper).