The twenty first century commenced with the rise in the use of internet. In year 2000, the internet comprised of 51 percent of information transfer in the telecommunications which soon surged to 97 percent in 2007. Though the internet began its humble journey interconnecting computers across the world and raise to dominate the telecommunication sector, the idea of internet is now bound to extend beyond computers and leap beyond telecommunications. From internet of computers, this century is going to be an era of Internet of Things (IoT).
The ‘Internet of Things’ seems to have been heard before and there must be some questions lingering in your engineering mind.
– What is Internet of Things (IOT) ?
– Why is it trending ?
– How IOT is going to impact in future?
– Which organizations are developing the IOT technologies and what are their interests?
– What IOT means to a developer?
– What hardware, software and services fall into IOT?
– What are the major challenges in the path of IOT?
For further increasing your appetite, it would be worth mentioning that IOT, Cloud Services, Big Data etc. are things related to each other.
This tutorial is a modest attempt to answer some of these questions. Through this tutorial, IOT will be viewed through different perspectives like from the point of view of users, businesses, developers and service providers. The hardware and software involved in IOT will be examined. The importance and impact of the IOT will be illustrated with real life examples and the challenges in the development of IOT will be examined. So, get ready for a joyride. Let’s go.
What is IOT ?
The Internet is now omnipresent and ever-present. By the year 2016, 47 percent of the world population has been connected to the internet. The smart phones and smart gadgets have a greater contribution to this. In the form of smart phones, now everyone is having a portable and internet connected computer in her pocket. With thousands of apps in use, internet has become a day to day phenomenon and a must have in the modern life. With the rise of ‘Internet of Things’, now not just the computers and smart phones, every possible thing that we use is going to get IT-enabled.
The term “Internet of things” has been defined by different organizations in many different ways. There are many organizations which are working towards developing standards and technologies for IOT. Let us look at definitions of IOT dictated by some of these standard organizations to have a brief insight into it.
According to ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union), IOT is defined as: A global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies.
According to IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), IOT is defined as: A network of items – each embedded with sensors – which are connected to the internet.
According to ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute): Machine-to-Machine communications is the communication between two or more entities that does not necessarily need any direct human interventions. M2M services intend to automate decision and communication process.
According to OASIS (The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), IOT is defined as: The System defined where the Internet is connected to the physical world via ubiquitous sensors.
These definitions are globally accepted standard definitions. For a common man, the above definitions can be a little tricky to understand. So for a common understanding, a simple definition of IOT can be as follow –
“The Internet of things refers to integration of IT infrastructure with the physical world where almost all the devices & appliances i.e. things that we use, are connected to (internet) network.”
So, with such integration of information technology, everything of day to day use becomes inter-connected as well as connected to the internet. Like the home appliances could be controlled and operated by a smart phone, the security cameras and locks can be accessed from anywhere in the world, an umbrella can sense the weather conditions and alert that it must be taken before going outside, the medicine caps start blinking indicating that it’s time to take dosage etc. So, basically every common article of use (like home appliances, cars, vehicles, energy grids, health gadgets and every possible commodity in day to day use) is embedded with software intelligence, is interconnected and connected to internet platforms which makes these common objects smarter, better and intelligent in their own way.
Fig. 1: Image showing Concept of Internet of Things
These common objects become smart and intelligent by IT enablement. These need to be integrated with an IT infrastructure where they can use internet to send, receive and communicate information. All these things under the umbrella of IOT are not general purpose computers, smart phones or tablets. These are daily use objects with embedded electronics which let them function intelligently by sensing or collecting information from the physical world, other devices or IT platforms (Clouds). These things serve specific purposes for which they have embedded electronics, sensors and connectivity with other devices or cloud platforms.
The purpose of IOT is not solved only by connecting things with internet. The things must be able to interact with the physical world. For interaction with the physical world, these things are provided sensors and actuators. The sensors and actuators are devices that help in interacting with the physical environment. The sensors collect data from their surroundings like a temperature sensor senses the temperature of the surrounding environ-ment. Similarly, GPS location receiver and accelerometer in a smart phone are also sensors. A washing machine has water level sensor and a refrigera-tor has a thermostat to sense the temperature of its freezer. There are un-countable examples of sensors. The actuators are devices that are respon-sible for moving or controlling a mechanism of a system like the tempera-ture controller in an air conditioner is an actuator.
The IOT objects after sensing and collecting data through sensors, send it to the edge of a network or cloud. The objects can be connected to the cloud/network through a variety of interfaces like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, GPRS or Ethernet. At the cloud servers, the data is stored and then pro-cessed. The processing can be as simple as checking if the read tempera-ture is within the acceptable range defined by the user or not.
The data is processed at the cloud server for decision making. Like if the temperature read by the sensor is greater than normal temperature, air conditioners must switch on. The decision must be realized in the physical world with the help of actuators. This can be done either automatically by directly controlling the AC through the cloud server or sending an alert to the user that she needs to switch on the AC.
The sensors, network interfaces, cloud servers and actuators all together form the core infrastructure of an IOT framework. These are the building blocks of IOT which can make the most common objects of human use IT enabled.
Fig. 2: Image showing Internet of Things Communication Model
Why IOT is trending?
The IOT is seen as fourth industrial revolution in line. The third industrial revolution came with information technology and its use for automating the production. And, now the fourth industrial revolution is set to come with internet technology and its use in uncountable methods and applications. The human life is going to be much smarter and easy with the notion of ‘Everything Anywhere Always Connected’.
IOT will be People IT
Like take a simple example. Suppose you are gone out of station so you had locked your home. In your absence, your parents come to visit you but they find your home locked. Now suppose if your home is automated with IOT and you can access the door locks of your house through internet, from a far off place, you can open door locks so your parents can stay there even at your absence. This is going to be the power of IOT and how it can leverage the lifestyle of people.
The IOT deems to be people IT where common people can access information world with smart gadgets and get their various personal and professional requirements fulfilled in a flash of a second. This can happen with ubiquitous connectivity, smart digitization of everyday objects and responsive real time information infrastructure.
Big Data in Play
IOT presents a technological concept where every common thing is integrated with internet and has smart embedded electronics for better and enhanced functioning. Secondly, it envisions the everyday used objects to connect with cloud services with which they could exchange data in real time.
With any cloud platform, there will be billions of devices connected and trillions of sensors will be collecting information from around the world. This will be a massive data coming from passive, active and fog devices. This opens up another domain of big data analytics.
The data collected by IOT devices will be useful to the businesses for acquiring business information and adapting business operation models for better Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE). The IOT era products will be connected with different service platforms which will have adaptive applications to improve and customize user experience. There are many service architectures like Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), Resource Oriented Architecture (ROA), Model Driven Architecture (MDA), Event Driven Architecture (EDA) and Micro Services Architecture (MSA) under development to encompass the wide scope, data variety and variability and scalability of IOT systems.
At the same time the enhanced consumer experience will be well abstracted, so that, the implementation of the services utilized by an IOT device will remain hidden from the end user.
IOT at Enterprise Level
Any IOT platform will be integrated with all enterprise scale applications so that the production and services could be sophisticated and made adaptive to the highest order. For example, the production lines in a manufacturing plant will be integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Knowledge Management (KM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications. With such integration, the production from the factory could be best optimized to utilize resources at best, increase or decrease production according to customer demand and supply feasibility and products could be improved or customized with real time customer feedback.
IOT as Next Generation Web
The initial web (Web 1.0) was developed to read information. This evolved into web 2.0 which was a social web and not merely meant to read but also write information. The IOT will evolve the web to web 3.0 where information will not only be read, written but also linked to multiple sources, services and applications. This will be a semantic web which will deliver relevant and right information through automated searches. It will not stop here and will take the web to next version – Web 4.0 where information could be extracted and delivered in real time with concurrent relevance and actionable insights.
The global industry has lot of expectations with IOT. According to a recent report, wearable technologies will be a big part of the consumer IOT. Around 80 million wearable devices were shipped worldwide in 2015. The count is expected to cross 214 million by 2019 as claimed by IDC. There are already many startups in the market like IOTEX Systems, Leaf Wearable, Salted Venture etc which are working on IOT wearable technology. Like Leaf Wearable is working towards developing smart jewelry for women safety. Another startup Cicret is working towards developing a touch and projection based bracelet which will be a great alternative to traditional smart phones.
In the coming days, the price of connecting IOT devices will be very cheap — as little as 50 cents per month in some cases. The low cost will come from the minimal transmission data IOT devices will need.
According to McKinsey, IOT industry will be worth up to $11 trillion by 2025, and according to Cisco it will be even more to around $19 trillion at that time. No matter which is right, companies will have lots of opportunities to make money from this huge market. Nearly $6 trillion will be spent on IOT solutions over the next five years.
The governments around the world are focused on increasing productivity, decreasing costs, and improving the quality of life in their countries.The public sector will be the second-largest adopters of IOT ecosystems.
The IOT will be beneficial for all – creators, industries, businesses and consumers. Everyone will be benefitted one or the other way.
Understanding IOT as a Developer
The development of IOT systems is a complex task. It may involve two or more aspects described below –
Smart Devices – The IOT devices are smart devices which may have one or more sensors and actuators embedded in them. The sensors and actuators could be interfaced through a controller or processor. The device must have a wired or wireless communication interface to connect with other devices or internet.
Machine to Machine Communication – The machine to machine communication is primary feature of the IOT devices. Any IOT device needs to interact with other devices, electronic tags, stickers, smart phones, gadgets or computers. The communication technologies are also going through tremendous transformation to meet the communication requirements of IOT devices by boosting data transfer rates and enabling data communication to multiple channels simultaneously. For a ubiquitous Device to Device (D2D) integration, standard bodies, government departments, telecom and IT companies, service providers, system integrators and businesses have come together to materialize IOT ecosystems. In such ecosystem, a myriad of embedded devices will be networked together and interacting through multiple channels at high data speed.
Device to Cloud Integration – The IOT devices can get service enabled only through connecting to one or more service interfaces. This requires device to cloud (D2C) integration. By connecting to different service interfaces, the IOT devices can expose and request their functionalities. By web and cloud enablement, the devices can serve as service providing entities where the actual implementation of the service is hidden behind the service interface. Many devices can team up and coordinate together to accomplish tasks efficiently and in sync. Also, by device to cloud integration, large number of devices can be maintained, monitored, updated and operated through a common platform. For efficient Device to Cloud integration, Open Service Gateway Initiative (OSGi) model is under development and will prove to be a transformational milestone in the realization of IOT ecosystems.
There are already numerous device specific cloud platforms and dedicated networks scattered across the globe serving millions of IOT devices. Different cloud architectures are developing for device specific applications, big data analytics, critical operations and smart phone services. No doubt, device to Cloud Integration is the most vital aspect of any IOT system without which it even not categorize under IOT paradigm.
Platform as a Service – The true power of IOT can be featured only through cloud based integrated platforms. The typical Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions need to be optimized and enhanced for IOT so that they could manage millions of devices, collect and exchange data in real time , manage purpose specific interactions between plethora of devices and can successfully integrate with enterprise applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Knowledge Management (KM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Cloud to Cloud Integration – The cloud service providers (CSP) have their cloud centers located in geographically diverse locations. The typical data centers are evolving to cloud centers by implementing cloud centric platforms and practices. The new emerging cloud centers may be providing cloud infrastructure, platform and applications all together or may be simply providing a cloud infrastructure only. Some of the popular cloud management platforms include VMware solutions, OpenStack Distributions, Apache Cloudstack, BMC software, Citrix Cloud, Rackware, IBM Bluemix Cloud, Microsoft Cloud, Cisco Systems, Oracle Enterprise Manager etc. These platforms integrate internal and external systems to manage multi-cloud services. The platforms are responsible for integrating on premises cloud with private hosted clouds, public cloud services (like Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services etc.), Enterprise Management Systems and Service Automation Applications. In the emerging trend, same cloud services are being provided by multiple CSPs with different Service Level Agreements and Operational Level Agreements. So, this requires a need for cloud orchestration where multiple clouds and services could be exploited and aggregated to generate a composite data, process, service or application. For enabling cloud orchestration, dedicated software solutions called Cloud Service Brokers (CSBs) are now developing.
IOT Technologies –
There are many prominent technologies that will play a greater role in the development of future IOT systems. Some of these technologies are –
Electronic Miniaturization – The development of micro and nano scale electronic components and circuits will enable embedding electronics to more and more objects. So, the future integrated circuits are going play a primary role in the development of IOT systems.
Digitization – The digitization of as many objects as possible with help of tags, stickers, beacons, chips, controllers, wearables, implants and sensors is going to help a lot in the realization of true IOT ecosystems.
Communication technologies – The future communication technologies like 5G, Low Power Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), RFID, LoRa WAN etc will make device to device and device to cloud communication much faster and efficient.
Clouds and Big Data – The IOT ecosystems will be dealing with a massive scale of data and will be conducting knowledge engineering at real time. So, big data analytics and data mining practices will play a vital role in the functioning of IOT systems.
The IOT is going to emerge in the form of global ecosystems due to their scalability and versatility. The IOT will add plethora of sensors and actuators to the existing connected world of computers and communication devices. The IOT systems are evolving with purpose and can be obviously simplified only by application domains. By application, there could be following IOT ecosystems –
– Industrial Internet of Things
– Consumer Internet of Things
– Social Internet of Things
– Semantic Internet of Things
– Cognitive Internet of Things
Industrial Internet of Things – The manufacturing companies are fast adopting IOT. The IOT is enabling manufacturing equipments to communicate in real time for detecting manufacturing failures, improving efficiency and increasing production. The data collected from equipments can be utilized to improve and enhance products, better automation and improve resource planning. The IOT is enabling to embed cutting edge technologies in products like natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence that will greatly enhance the customer experience in future. Some of the emerging industrial IOT systems include AWS IOT and AutoDesk SeeControl.
Consumer Internet of Things – In this IOT ecosystem, the products manufactured by companies are envisioned as digital assets. The products offered to consumers will have advanced human interface electronics and applications to interact and receive feedback with customers. The next generation products will be enabled to monitor customer behavior and adapt services and applications accordingly. The devices will come with biometric identification systems so they will be used only by authenticated users only. The data collected from the consumer devices will not only enable adaptation of services and applications but also to improve revenue models, supply chain and product quality.
Social Internet of Things – With the help of IOT, the next generation gadgets and smart phones will be more context aware, adaptive and reliable enabling better social networking through different applications.
Semantic Internet of Things – The device to device integration is an essential feature of IOT. The more number of devices and many ways they can talk to each other, better IOT systems can be developed. Like if cars, people and parking spaces can have some kind of communication, the transport resources and time of people can be more efficiently managed. Also, the transport resources will become easily accessible and traceable. For such context aware communication among people and devices, semantic technology is required. Such semantic technology would include semantic annotations, ontologies, resource description frameworks etc. In a semantic IOT ecosystem, heterogeneous devices are able to communicate with each other and their users with high degree of interoperability resulting into an integrated experience of variety of devices.
Cognitive Internet of Things – With the integration of natural language processing, image analytics, video analytics, text analytics and machine learning, an IOT ecosystem where devices will be equipped with great sensing ability and artificial intelligence can be developed.
Real Life IOT Applications –
The IOT will becomes highly important because it will be helping people to dramatically improve the way they live, work and learn. The IOT has arrived with a highly believable promise of giving individuals few more hours by automating tasks & boosting productivity of business by making better use of data. In short, IOT is allowing us to become more proactive and less reactive.
Internet of things has found application in every Industry and sector like smart homes, smart buildings, travel and transportations, healthcare, retail, poultry & farming etc. The industrial Internet of things is also changing automation & logistics.
Fig. 3: Image showing Internet of Things Ecosystem
Some of the popular IOT applications are as follow –
1) Smart Home – Home Area Networks (HAN) and Smart homes are becom-ing the new trend. Almost everyone wants his/her home to be fully auto-mated with most of the domestic operations done without any human in-tervention. There are many companies & startups which are working over smart home IOT products. The aim of these companies is to provide low cost products which would be capable of intelligently managing time and energy resources. Another dimension in which smart home products are under development belongs to home security and access control systems. The companies like Philips, Haier, Nest, Ecobee, Ring, August are deemed to become household brands delivering smart home IOT products and solu-tions.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/NjYTzvAVozo]
2) Wearable Devices – After smart phones, the new rage is for smart weara-bles. Smart jewelry, bracelets, smart watches, bands and even clothes will be the new fashion. These wearable devices are installed with sensors and software which collect data and information about the users. This data is later pre-processed to extract essential insights about the user. These de-vices in wearable category broadly cover fitness, health, telecommunica-tion and entertainment requirements. The pre-requisite from internet of things technology for wearable applications is to be ultra-low power and small sized. The wearables has grown an explosive demand in the past few years. The companies like Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, Huawei, Blend Style & function, IOTEX, Leaf wearable, Salted venture etc. are developing the IOT based wearable products.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/h8-TAqzYrno]
3) Smart City – Smart City is the new concept of modern cities evolved through IOT. Smart surveillance, automated transportation, smart energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environment conservation through electronic monitoring all are examples of internet of things applications for smart cities. The concept of smart cities has been quickly adopted by the governments and various public sector organiza-tions are now working with IOT vendors and IT companies to make cities smarter.
Smart Cities intends to solve the major problems faced by the people living in the cities such as pollution, traffic control, shortage of water and power etc. The sensors and web applications will play a major role in smart city solutions. Evreka, Bigbelly etc. are some companies providing smart city so-lutions and services.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/Br5aJa6MkBc]
4) Smart Grids – The concept of smart grid is becoming very popular all over the world. Power grids of the future will not only be smart enough but also highly reliable. Suppose, if one are able to save 20% of her money by saving on electricity bill of the house, It will be a lot of saving in a year. The consumers can also adjust the consumption of energy through prepaid en-ergy recharges. The IOT concept of Smart Grids include smart metering, use efficient smart appliances, renewable energy resources and energy effi-cient resources. The basic concept behind the smart grids is to gather the data in an automated fashion remotely and analyze the behavior of elec-tricity consumers and suppliers for improving efficiency, reliability and economics of the electricity use.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/JwRTpWZReJk]
5) Industrial Internet – The Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) or Industrial Internet will revolutionize the manufacturing process. It will include appli-cations for tracking goods, real time information exchange about the direc-tory of goods among suppliers and retailers and automated delivery to in-crease the Industry supply chain efficiency. According to GE, the improve-ment in industrial productivity by IOT will generate $10 trillion to $15 tril-lion in GDP worldwide over next 15 years.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/8NGzrtK7eV0]
6) Connected Cars – With connected car technology, the vehicles will be able to optimize their operation in an automated fashion using sensor technology. The cars will be able to communicate with each other in order to avoid accidents. The cars could also communicate with parking sensors to find availability and assistance for correct parking. Most large auto mak-ers as well as some startups are working on connected car solutions. Ma-jor brands like Tesla, BMW, Apple, Google etc. are currently working in this field.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/0HxZuQ0woLY]
7) IoT in Agriculture – As the world’s population is increasing day by day, demand for food supply is also increasing. Governments are helping farm-ers to use advanced techniques and research to increase food production. Smart farming is one of the fastest growing fields in IOT. The IOT sensors will provide the information about crop yielding, rainfall, pest infestation and soil nutrition to the farmers for improving the farming techniques and get the productive output.
[Video URL: https://youtu.be/q0FnMD2_0Fw]
8) Smart Retail – In today’s scenario, Smart retail is playing a key role in the retail sector of IOT market. Smart retail systems will provide a healthy op-portunity for the retailers to connect with the consumers to provide the commodities as per the customer requirement. The retailers could interact with customers through smart phones. Beacon technology will play a major role in smart retail IOT. Using Beacon technology, retailers can know their customers in a better way and can serve their customers according to their specific needs. They can also track customer’s path through a store and improve store architecture.
[Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTGw_hAjTZc]
Why IoT is so challenging?
The development of a successful IOT application is not an easy task due to multiple challenges. These challenges include: mobility, reliability, scalability, management, availability, interoperability, security and privacy. Some of these challenges are described below –
1) Device Management – Gartner estimates that besides smart phones, tablets & PC, more than 25 billion “things” will be connected to the In-ternet by 2020. The number of sensors, devices & gateways will be ex-tremely large and they will be spread over large geographical dispersed locations. Ensuring that the devices are completely automated & re-motely manageable is a challenge.
Managing all the devices and keeping an eye on failures, configurations and monitoring the performance and security of such large number of devices is definitely a challenge of IOT. The service providers will need to manage fault, configurations, performance and security of their inter-connected devices, and accountability for each aspect will be their ma-jor responsibility.
2) Hardware challenge – Today, the major key challenge in terms of hardware is the price and availability of the required hardware. This is one of the main reasons of preventing most of the companies and end users from having more “connected objects”. Some of the major con-cern for hardware are:
– Battery life: Most of the IOT devices will be battery operated. Also, these devices will require to remain connected with the internet all times. So, they will be constantly consuming power. The develop-ment of better batteries and management of battery power is a major hardware challenge in the development of IOT products.
–Hardware size: It is important for IOT devices to be compact and small. So, their size need to be optimized with currently available integrated electronics to suit their purpose, use and application.
3) Interoperability – Interoperability means that heterogeneous devices and protocols need to be able to inter-work with each other. This is chal-lenging due to the large number of different platforms used in IOT sys-tems. Interoperability should be handled by both the application devel-opers and the device manufacturers in order to deliver the services re-gardless of the platform or hardware specifications of the IOT device.
4) Data security & privacy – The data sent out from sensor to the net-work can be user’s personal data and that needs to be protected from unauthorized access. The users must have all the authorized rights and policies to access their data personally which must not be shared with any third party. Though the user herself should have the right of sharing the data to wherever she wants. As the market is adapting IOT day by day, security and privacy is becoming a major concern for the users. The users obviously want to share the data privately because there are also number of hackers and eavesdroppers who would like to access their private data unethically. There should be authentication, authorization & transportation layer security to access the data personally otherwise the data will be directly exposed to various kind of attackers.
5) Addressing and identification – Since millions of smart things will be connected to the Internet, they will have to be identified through a unique address, on the basis of which they communicate with each other. For this, there is need for a large addressing space and unique addresses for each smart object.
In the next tutorial, a look at the IOT infrastructure will be taken.
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