Call it a buzzword, hype, talk of the town, new kid on the block, the in thing, well the Internet of Things (IoT) is all things that can be made to talk to internet. It boils down to things providing data of some sort that can be used to perform different types of analysis. IoT is an abstract concept that can be perceived as any ‘thing’ around us that can be turned into a productive machine or device so much so, that it can provide information useful enough for humans to perform different types of analysis. For IoT, data is the key. Simple illustrations could be reading a whether temperature from a specific location and making it available to an application to perform further analysis, a vehicle mileage meter showing the distance covered, a medicine bottle cap beeps to indicate the time to have pills etc. You could devise plethora of such use cases that can have things acting as sensors and data emitters. The IoT is not just about one thing or one object, it's about different connected objects that can perform an automated virtual task and capture for you some array of data. We humans then use this data to take it to its logical and meaningful conclusion. Imagine a world where everything (physical things) around us starts talking to us. Not robots! but talking through data.
How a Typical IOT Concept is Implemented
It can be implemented through the use of micro-controllers that can have sensors and actuators built on integrated circuits. There will be low level API written in Java or C or any other language to control the circuitry. The data is captured and then exported to DB or remotely transferred to cloud for further analysis.
The above image is just one possible implementation. There could be different ways and approaches, depending upon sophistication and applied engineering, to build a chip controller that can be embedded in real world objects around us.
IoT, Big Data, and Cloud
IoT when applied in an industry like Retail or Manufacturing can create the possibility of generating or producing loads of data or information about the business process. A big opportunity for Big Data analyst. We could have tonnes of data coming from machines and sensors that can make life exciting and interesting for a data scientist. A very simple use case of Weather sensors, providing information about weather temperatures across locations. Imagine, the concept of IOT when implemented in big industries where automation very naturally fits the scheme of things, you could have terabytes of data possibly generated in a day that can further create avenues for developers, data scientist, research analyst to provide intelligence to this raw data.
Another befitting area is the cloud. Cloud computing has been a big boon recently. With cost effective cloud services and solutions, the IOT market is only going to leap bound. We have modern datacenters equipped with providing the concept of elasticity and on demand provisioning makes it all interesting to port your IOT workloads to the cloud. The trilogy of IOT, Big Data and Cloud will make a perfect ecosystem that will change the dynamics of IT.
Security Challenges with IOT
IOT devices are often connected to Web, making them more vulnerable to malicious attack from hackers. This can lead to data theft which can be disastrous to businesses. With IOT, we are dealing with network of connected smart devices. Data captured from smart sensors are wired across to applications for performing both real time and trend analysis. Each device potentially would have an IP enabled connectivity to external system on the Web that can open rich doors for snoopers. Smart devices needs to be built with smart security controls layered around communication protocols.
Start With IoT at Home
Popular micro-controller offerings by Raspberry Pi and Arduino can be perfect devices to kick start IOT at home. They are cheap and easily available. The stack includes a single board with built-in sensors and actuators and software tool kit to drive the circuitry and capture data to a console. It also has built-in WiFi chip for wireless communication. These micro-controllers are built on ARM processors. There is another tool known as Particle Photon that can be used to build IOT. It is based on WiFi and provides you the cloud connectivity. Some of the other alternatives single boards one can use are: BeagleBone Black, Next Unit of Computing (NUC) from Intel, Intel Galileo Gen 2, Banana Pi and pcDuino.
There are plenty of technology semantics around IOT. What this article covered is just a brief on what IOT is all about. As I deep dive, will share across more thoughts on this evolving concept. So someday when you take a walk down the street, don’t get shaken up if the pole beside you yells ‘Hey! you look awesome!’