One of the most exciting architectures to emerge in 2014 is Internet of Things (IoT). IoT uses the existing Internet to connect a wide range of embedded computing devices from handheld tablets and Smartphones to the modern toaster.
Although Internet of Things is a new and powerful innovation, some feel that it was an inevitable evolution. Original networks consisted of two computers connected by a peer-to-peer connection. Later Large Area Networks (LANs) interconnected many machines with a looser definition of which machines were the talkers (servers) and which were the listeners (clients) at any given time. New communications implemented network protocols wirelessly, to further increase the utility and flexibility of the connections. The advent of the Internet allowed local networks to connect to target points all over the world while distributing large amounts of data over high-bandwidth channels.
The power of modern networks enabled all sorts of applications beyond computer connection. Computers downloaded and played full high-definition movies. Teleconferences allowed businesses to connect in a way that was only previously possible through extensive travel. At the same time, the industry required much less computing power from a network resident, ushering in the use of “thin clients.” One ubiquitous example is the modern ATM system used by most banks today.
Tiny Network Objects
As thin clients evolved, the granularity of network objects shrunk even further. The modern objects comprising the IoT technology only need minimal functionality and a unique identifier. Some applications are:
- House control systems – these systems include smartplugs which control lights or other appliances, networked environmental controls, and remote entertainment system managers.
- Automobile control systems – these include vehicle diagnostics, engine control, and navigation.
- Security systems – these include monitoring cameras, proximity sensors, and control stations.
In each of these systems, IoT networking replaces the standard serial, USB, or analog-wired traditional connections and standardizes system setup across a wide range of applications. Pundits describe the evolution as “networking everything in our lives.”
Systems of Systems
Perhaps the piece de resistance of Internet of Things is the idea of systems of systems. An example can explain this idea. One system can be the traffic monitor for a city. A second system may be the network system in an automobile. Although these systems are designed independently, the common IoT architecture allows them to communicate across system boundaries. For instance, a traffic jam detected by the monitor system can inform vehicle navigation systems to direct drivers to alternate routes. This synergy between otherwise dedicated systems makes up the systems of systems concept.
IoT architects have examined the unfolding of this new technology and published an implementation landscape. They list the main drivers of IoT as business, social, and technology concerns. Along with these drivers, architects have determined the design imperatives and adoption penetration for Internet of Things. The ten decision imperatives include:
- As cloud computing reduces the complexity of IoT over the next five years, 90% of IoT devices will be hosted on standard provider platforms.
- By the year 2018, 40% of IoT related data will be stored on the network.
- Also by 2018, 60% of networked solutions now designed as proprietary will be converted to open-source services. This will generate of rush of vertical-drive IoT markets.
However, one of the ten imperatives is cautionary. It states that within three years, 50% of internet technology networks will transition from having sufficient capacity to being capacity constrained. This will be one of the major challenges in the implementation of IoT.
Signs of Loading
One of the first loading issues is that the sheer number of devices, each with a unique identifier, will overload the standard IPv4 addressing system requiring systems to transition completely to the newer IPv6.
In the absence of platform upgrades, IoT loading can also manifest in symptoms relating to capacity. Some examples of these are:
- Internet bandwidth could become limited – this situation heralds back to the days when it took minutes to download a simple file over a modem. This problem would manifest in high-bandwidth solutions such as video streaming. Streaming picture quality could be degraded, or the feed could pause altogether.
- Website loading – many modern websites download significant advertisement data along with the core content. Capacity limiting could significantly slow the time to load a webpage.
- Virtual conferences – the ability to communicate smoothly in real time could become limited, causing irritating pauses in internet conferences, or degradation of the video feed.
Capacity problems could affect the public perception of IoT. This could significantly slow adoption of this important architecture, and reduce application opportunities. Capacity limitations could even cause reduced confidence in current Internet services. This could reduce the utility of services already in place. For these reasons, clouding and hosting providers should plan for what is likely to be a large number of new IoT devices.
How Soon For IoT?
The architecture has already matured to the point of attracting big investors. In March of 2014, network giant Cisco announced a $1 billion dollar investment in IoT technologies. Software mogul Microsoft is also investing big through evolution of their Azure Cloud to specialize in IoT. Analysts have made amazing predictions for IoT revenue, including:
- Gartner: 1.9 trillion
- IDC: 7.1 trillion
- Cisco: 19 trillion
Because of the existence of the infrastructure, companies are producing IoT solutions even as we speak. Several companies have released development kits and firms have taken advantage of these design environments to rush to market with new solutions. Current IoT systems are already available for automotive, home security, and home control applications.
Hosting Provider Responses
The IDC has been monitoring IDC development and adoption, and has stated that hosting providers will need to respond to the advent of Internet of Things with an increased infrastructure. As the number of devices grows and businesses leverage the new opportunities, hosting providers can plan now to deal with the influx of network traffic. Cisco and other network manufacturers are already prepared with the necessary equipment to bring providers in line with IoT requirements. They supply the necessary information for any Internet host to understand the issues and requirements of the new Internet of Things architecture and work those requirements into their business model and operations.
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