The “Internet of Things” and cloud computing

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internet of things and cloud computingIt would be nice if I could query about my car key and find out exactly where it is through an application on my mobile or on a web browser. It would be nicer if I could do it for everything I own so that I don’t have to remember where I’ve put my stuff.

Maybe my refrigerator could send me a list of items that I need to buy. Perhaps one day my car could send me an alert on my mobile to notify me about the fuel or other fluid levels and other conditions of the car. It may sound like science fiction, but we’re not that far away from this happening. Welcome of the world of the Internet of Things” (IoT). Devices are becoming instrumented, intelligent and interconnected. This gives rise to IoT.

IoT is the fusion of the digital and physical world. In a world of IoT, millions of things or devices will be interconnected and uniquely identified on the Internet. These things will also contribute to global data traffic.

Technology enablers of the Internet of Things include:

  • Improvements in technologies like RFID, ZigBee, WiFi, LAN, WAN, 3G, LTE and so on
  • Nanotechnology and miniaturization of devices
  • Embedded intelligence in every device
  • Ubiquitous access to the Internet

Internet is evolving

The Internet of Things will be the future of the Internet. The Internet always has been a living entity. We are seeing evolution from Web 1.0 (read-only web) to Web 2.0 (read-write web) to Web 3.0 (semantic web) to Web 4.0 (symbiotic web). These days participation in the Internet mainly refers to human-human participation. However, in the era of Web 4.0, human-machine and machine-machine (M2M) will participate on the Internet in symbiosis. One would be able to uniquely identify and locate a thing on the Internet.

According to Intel, 31 billion devices and 4 billion people will be connected to the Internet by 2020. This equates to almost eight devices per person connected to the Internet in 2020.

The Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Forecast finds that there will be 1.7 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections by 2017. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36 percent from 2012 to 2017. Examples of such devices are GPS systems in cars; asset tracking devices; smart home, security and automation appliances; a variety of systems in healthcare and so on. This report also finds that data usage per M2M module will grow from 64 MB in 2012 to 330 MB per month in 2017.

The information presented above makes it clear that there will be a huge influx of data from connected devices in the near future. Data generated by these devices will also be unpredictable in nature. It will impose a big challenge for the IT infrastructure to tackle this sheer volume of data. A conventional IT system will crumble under this tremendous pressure.

Cloud computing: Infrastructure to support the Internet of Things

A dynamic and elastic IT infrastructure like cloud computing will be the only option to support this massive and unpredictable data. Cloud provides automated provisioning or deprovisioning of IT resources without human intervention. To users, cloud provides the illusion of infinite computing resources.

Cloud will empower IoT by providing elastic computing power, storage and networking. The massive data generated from IoT can be analyzed in the cloud with big data solutions to gain insights and patterns of usage and behavior of machines and humans. This business intelligence in turn allows us to predict forthcoming growth in data demand and deploy additional resources accordingly. This is called predictive cloud provisioning.

IBM deployed this solution in the Australian Open 2013 to predict demand forecasts of data and traffic by combining a number of factors and technologies. Additional cloud infrastructure could thus be deployed well ahead of a future surge in demand. More information can be found in my blog post “Sports fanatic cloud – Episode 1: Australian Open.”

Similarly, cloud computing along with big data solutions will be able to tackle the unpredictable data influx in the world of Internet of Things. I believe cloud will be de facto standard for the Internet of Things.

Our planet is getting smarter. Devices are becoming intelligent, instrumented and interconnected. I am sure you are looking forward to a planet where the Internet of Things will provide a better quality of life. Let me know what you think about it. If you have concerns or interesting examples to share, you can comment here or connect with me on Twitter @shamimshossain.

Senior Managing Consultant at GBS Cloud Centre of Competence

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