Cloud Services are the Future of the IoT

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The Internet of Things (IoT) is composed of an assortment of connected devices, but without cloud computing services, these devices wouldn’t have much more functionality than the standard household device. This is due to the fact that the cloud allows devices to outsource the analysis and storage of any data that is collected through their connected sensors. The cloud’s internet-based computing methods act as the brain for IoT devices, removing the boundaries of inter-device, memory and space constrictions.

The IoT is growing at an exponential rate, making cloud services more important than they have ever been before. In order for the cloud infrastructure to accommodate for the mass amount of data being stored and transferred within the cloud, it will need to be developed at a rate similar to IoT technology. The cloud was designed on the very basis of being able to store information remotely, making it the optimum environment for the interconnectivity of internet-enabled devices. If the IoT industry plans to succeed, it is critical that the significance of cloud services is unanimously recognized.

There are many benefits offered by the cloud that would enhance the world of smart technology. The ingenious decision to move the serious data processing functionality of these devices to the cloud has opened the door for further technological advancements. Using the cloud for big data storage and analytics has done two main things that have helped enable the accelerated development of IoT technology. The first thing it does is enable devices to be smaller and use less power, making them much easier to integrate within any home environment. The second is that it makes it possible to continuously update the firmware as needed, which removes the burden from consumers and allows devices to be used for longer periods of time.

The overall accessibility and user-friendliness of IoT devices can be accredited to the power of the cloud. Having devices that every consumer can deploy within their smart homes is definitely a positive for the IoT. That being said, the cloud is able to do so much more for smart technology than simply make it easier for consumers to use devices. Creating a network of devices is entirely dependent upon having a reliable method of communication. The implementation of cloud infrastructure in IoT devices enables the ability to utilize multiple devices in a single network, while communicating simultaneously. Once multiple devices are communicating within the same cloud, the information and data that is collected for individual devices can be accessed by all devices, thus establishing a more synchronized system.

This always available, web-based service is a perfect vehicle for helping the IoT thrive. Current cloud infrastructure isn’t quite large enough to support the expected rise in IoT devices over the next couple of years. That being said, more advanced cloud infrastructures are being developed to help compensate for the influx of connected technology. As the network of devices continue to grow, it will be crucial that the capabilities of the cloud are maintained as it is truly the only technology available that is equipped for storing and analyzing this much data.

Expediting IoT Growth with Blockchain

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer/Marketing

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been developed with a centralized communication model as an integral part of its infrastructure. The cloud acts as the centerpiece for IoT communication, allowing devices to communicate, store and process data, and connect through the internet. However, cloud technology will be unable to sustain the sheer amount of data that is being processed with the growing IoT. Blockchain technology can be used to create a more decentralized communication model, helping alleviate the discrepancies of privacy, communication, and scalability for the IoT.

Cloud technology is great for introducing the power and potential deployments of IoT. In a TechCrunch article, the issues of future cloud applications are captured perfectly when author Ben Dickson states, “cloud servers will remain a bottleneck and point of failure that can disrupt the entire network.” The issue is that IoT ecosystems are expanding at an unprecedented rate; the resources that need to be allocated for maintaining the cloud will not be enough to nurture the growth of this technology. The cloud may be the IoT solution at this point in its development, but the costs and demands of processing that much data will become a nuisance. There needs to be an improved system for handling the heavy traffic of smart technology.

Blockchain technology is the answer the IoT industry has been searching for. Blockchain is a Machine to Machine (M2M) communication platform that enables devices to act as nodes and communicate with each other, removing the stress of storing everything in a central server. This innovative technology can help track and monitor the vast quantities of connected deices, allowing for devices to be able to coordinate their transactions directly with other devices. This can help cut down on the expenses of maintaining the enormous cloud networks and data centers.

One way to further understand the blockchain approach is to examine common network topologies. Utilizing the cloud as the centerpiece for IoT infrastructure is essentially creating a star network configuration. This means that each devices is acting as a node that is connected to a central device. The nodes cannot communicate directly; they can only communicate through the central device. The issue with this is that if there is a single point of failure, particularly the central device, the entire network goes down. Blockchain technology enables the network to resemble more of a mesh network configuration. This essentially means that every node is connected to each other and can communicate without going through a central device. This does create some redundancy within a network, but it this could be a more reliable solution for the IoT.

Decentralizing the communication model of the IoT can be an important step in establishing a reliable network for devices to operate within. The security of the IoT would also be improved due to the fact that there is no central point the information has to go through, removing the possibility of data being intercepted at the central device. Even though this technology is very promising, it does not come without problems. Setting up these networks is much more complex than setting up one that runs through the cloud. Once these networks are setup, there comes the issue of creating them on a scale where billions of devices can communicate directly with each other. The future of this technology is unclear due to these roadblocks, but the potential ability to have a seamless network with M2M communication is ideal for the development of the IoT.

5 Points to Remember for Engaging Citizens with the Internet of Things

When examining the process of the implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) within city environments, people often focus on the technical aspects. There are five main themes in order to successfully adopt IoT technology on a large scale. The five themes for an operational IoT include:

  1. Leverage existing physical infrastructure
  2. Engage the local data ecosystem (i.e., partner with local researchers or non-profits)
  3. Employ a clear data management strategy
  4. Address security and privacy concerns with transparency
  5. Turn collected data into action

Despite the importance of the technical aspects of the IoT, it is also important to examine the non-technical aspects because it deals with the consumers that will actually be using the technology. One of the best ways to further advance technical products is by engaging with residents. This allows implementers to gather support for a projects as well as gain insight about how to make a project much more effective. Utilizing residents as a resource for developing the adoption of IoT technology should not be overlooked, regardless of how complex a project may seem. Residents can often provide new information or insight on things that haven’t been considered yet.

There are many ways to go about creating engagement efforts. One example is the Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup), which is a group consisting of Chicago residents who are paid to test various civic websites and applications. These groups can be used as ways to engage with residents, which can lead to further development of any IoT projects. Civic engagement through groups such as the CUTGroup have allowed for technological improvements and should be seen as a tool rather than a hindrance.

In order for cities to capitalize on the future of the IoT, they will need to value the interaction between implementers and residents. Collecting feedback and information about how residents interact with technology is much more valuable than simply informing residents of how a technology works. This means that residents should not only be informed, but be able to interact with implementers and raise any questions or concerns they have. With technological growth in mind, the non-technical aspects of the IoT are just as important as the technical aspect.

Read the full article: http://www.govtech.com/fs/5-Points-to-Remember-for-Engaging-Citizens-with-the-Internet-of-Things.html

Sensor modules prove IoT darlings, rounding up billions

The Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining a lot of traction as the importance of high-tech sensor modules are being focused on as an integral part of smart technology. The funding in these sensors have increased in a manner that is nearly three times larger than in the past decade. This means that more developers and consumers are realizing the limitless potential of sensors and what they mean for the IoT. A lot of devices currently have sensors, but if a device is able to actually act on the data collected through sensors, technology will be substantially more powerful and efficient.

North America is leading the push for sensor innovation, but the investment in other areas around the globe are still increasing in number. Companies like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and IBM are investing billions of dollars in an effort to further develop sensor technology. It is clear that the future of the IoT is in the hands of sensor modules.

Read more: http://readwrite.com/2016/07/25/now-hear-sensor-modules-draw-4-3b-iot-investment-dt4/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=sumome_share

Connectivity of the Internet of Things

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), connectivity is crucial to keep in mind due to the fact that smart technology is completely reliant upon communication. There are various communication protocols and network infrastructures that can alter the way IoT technology is used as well as its level of operation.

Network topology is important to understand because it changes the way communication protocols are used. The main IoT network topologies consist of Point to Point (P2P), Star, Mesh, and Hybrid. P2P is a link between two endpoints that allow devices to communicate on a dedicated channel. Star network configurations include multiple nodes that connect to a central device; each node can’t directly communicate with each other, only through the central device. These networks are easy to setup but if the central device fails than the network will fail. Mesh networks consist of multiple nodes, each connecting to each other. This can be used for establishing consistent connection but there is a high amount of redundancy. Hybrid networks are simply combinations of different topologies, but they are often very complex and expensive to setup.

The different communication protocols can be utilized in an effort to maximize efficiency and optimize IoT technology for any environment. The common types of communication protocols include Wi-Fi, Thread, ZigBee, Bluetooth, RFID, and NFC.

Wi-Fi: This is an extremely common communication protocol that is essentially everywhere in our lives. Wi-Fi makes it extremely easy to add/remove devices, has a lot of range, and is able to penetrate walls and other obstacles. That being said, there is lower bandwidth due to the lack of wired connection, and Wi-Fi networks are not the most secure. It is perfect for saving power and having quick and efficient communication. Wi-Fi is a star-based network; the communication goes from various wireless nodes to the wireless access point (WAP).

Thread: Thread is a communication protocol that is very reliable, consumes minimum power, and enables machine to machine (M2M) communication. In fact, it was designed for the purpose of connected home applications. The Thread protocol can use three main device types including border routers, sleepy end devices, and routers/router-eligible end devices. It is primarily based on IP, making it extremely simple to connect with other IP-based networks. Unlike Wi-Fi, if a single point goes out, the whole network won’t go down; it supports a full mesh-based topology. It is also a very secure communication protocol. However, it is not very good for DIY consumer installation in homes due to its complexity.

ZigBee: ZigBee is very similar to Thread as it is created by an alliance of several companies in an effort to maximize home and industrial automation. It fulfils the requirements of a mesh network, but can support star and tree topologies as well. The three main devices defined in ZigBee protocol are different than Threads, they include ZigBee coordinator, router, and end device. It is essentially the same thing as Thread, but it does come with some additional features. ZigBee RF4CE was developed to be a universal remote for the smart home, and ZigBee Green Power is a mode that ensure extremely low power consumption. A downside of this protocol is the fact that it has short range and low data speeds.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth utilizes the 2.4GHz spectrum in the ISM band. It is an ad-hoc type of network, thus enabling M2M communications. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the current type being used within the IoT world, but there are three different branches of Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth Classic is the traditional type of Bluetooth, which has a higher throughput and is primarily used for transmitting files. Bluetooth Smart is essentially the same thing as BLE. It transmits information and was developed for applications with low-duty cycles. It is also important to note that Bluetooth Smart cannot communicate with Bluetooth Classic. Bluetooth SmartReady is the last classification type; these devices are essentially the devices that act as hubs, such as computers and phones. This type of Bluetooth supports both Classic and Smart.

RFID: Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is used as a communication method for being able to identify and track various devices wirelessly. This is an extremely simple communication method that can be used for a wide range of applications. RFID tags are able to read and write information and can be either passive or active. If they are active, they have an on-board power source, giving them more range and the ability to search for a reader. Passive tags don’t have an internal power source but can be activated when touched against a reader. Readers are purely used for receiving information from tags.

NFC: Near-Field Communication (NFC) is a communication protocol similar to RFID, but there are several things that differentiate the two. NFC-enabled devices are able to communicate information from one device to another simply by tapping the two device together. This is particularly useful in smartphone technology because it reduces the amount of time and effort in connecting devices. NFC is an extremely short-range communication method, but it is probably the most power efficient protocol. NFC devices can either be the initiator (the device that starts the communication) or a target (the device that receives information from the initiator).

The IoT is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, making it more important than ever to understand the best applications of various communication protocols. Some of them are designed with the IoT in mind, while others are not. As the technology continues to grow, it is reasonable to expect more efficient uses of existing protocols in addition to more powerful, new protocols.

For more information: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/connectivity-of-the-internet-of-things

Cloud Services are the Future of the IoT

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The Internet of Things (IoT) is composed of an assortment of connected devices, but without cloud computing services, these devices wouldn’t have much more functionality than the standard household device. This is because the cloud allows devices to outsource the analysis and storage of any data that is collected through their connected sensors. The cloud’s internet-based computing methods act as the brain for IoT devices, removing the boundaries of inter-device, memory and space constrictions.

The IoT is growing at an exponential rate, making cloud services more important than they have ever been before. In order for the cloud infrastructure to accommodate for the mass amount of data being stored and transferred within the cloud, it will need to be developed at a rate similar to IoT technology. The cloud was designed on the very basis of being able to store information remotely, making it the optimum environment for the interconnectivity of internet-enabled devices. If the IoT industry plans to succeed, it is critical that the significance of cloud services is recognized.

There are many benefits offered by the cloud that would enhance the world of smart technology. The ingenious decision to move the serious data processing functionality of these devices to the cloud has opened the door for further technological advancements. Using the cloud for big data storage and analytics has done two main things that have helped enable the accelerated development of IoT technology. The first thing it does is enable devices to be smaller and use less power, making them much easier to integrate within any home environment. The second is that it makes it possible to continuously update the firmware as needed, which removes the burden from consumers and allows devices to be used for longer periods of time.

The overall accessibility and user-friendliness of IoT devices can be accredited to the power of the cloud. Having devices that every consumer can deploy within their smart homes is definitely a positive for the IoT. That being said, the cloud is able to do so much more for smart technology than simply make it easier for consumers to use devices. Creating a network of devices is entirely dependent upon having a reliable method of communication. The implementation of cloud infrastructure in IoT devices enables the ability to utilize multiple devices in a single network, while communicating simultaneously. Once multiple devices are communicating within the same cloud, the information and data that is collected can be accessed by all devices, thus establishing a more synchronized system.

This always available, web-based service is a perfect vehicle for helping the IoT thrive. Current cloud infrastructure isn’t quite large enough to support the expected rise in IoT devices over the next couple of years. That being said, more advanced cloud infrastructures are being developed to help compensate for the influx of connected technology. As the network of devices continue to grow, it will be crucial that the capabilities of the cloud are maintained as it is truly the only technology available that is equipped for storing and analyzing all the data created by the IoT.

Smart Cities Are No Longer Optional

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The invasion of connectivity has influenced large cities around the globe to embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) as the all-purpose solution for improving the quality of life. As the population of people living in cities continues to grow, the multitude of wasted resources will increase from an already large amount. In order to support the changing infrastructure of city life, smart technology needs to be further implemented in the form of devices and vehicles in order to reduce the consumption of valuable resources such as energy, gas, and water.

Smart technology has barely reached its threshold of possibilities at this point in time. There has only been a handful of European and American cities that have begun to implement new technology. That being said, the success of combining IoT technology with the physical city infrastructure in the few existing smart cities has provided cities stuck in the past with overwhelming evidence of how the lives of citizens can be vastly improved with smart technology. The issue is not in cities not being able to access the technology; there are several industry leading companies such as Cisco, Intel, Siemens, and many more, that are creating smart solutions with innovative technological advancements. It is a matter of cities being willing to take a leap of faith towards a future full of efficient and cost-effective solutions.

The municipalities that have already embraced the IoT have drastically enhanced the quality of city life while reducing spending and easing the pain of city congestion. There are a couple of great examples of how cities in the United States have implemented this technology. San Francisco has begun to integrate sensors into their streets and parking spots to help drivers avoid traffic and find open parking spaces quickly. San Antonio has smart LED streetlights, which can alter their brightness levels in instances of fog or rain to improve the road visibility for drivers. These are among the many innovations that are making cities easier to navigate and live in while improving existing safety standards.

As more cities begin to adopt the features of what has been deemed an IoT revolution, it will be important that there are standards in place. These standards will make the most innovative tech much more synonymous solutions in cities around the globe, which will assist in distinguishing solutions that work from solutions that don’t. Ken Briodagh, writer for the IoT Evolution, describes the need for standards:

“As each city seeks to address its most pressing needs, or move toward the implementation that has the most potential for success, the leaders need to start working together with each other to share knowledge and intelligence about these projects so the successful ones can be replicated and the failures won’t be” (Read more: iotevolutionworld.com).

As IoT technology starts to become a more central part of city infrastructure, standards will begin to develop at a much more successful rate. Converting a city into a smart city will not happen overnight. It is unrealistic to expect the immediate integration of smart technology around the world, but what can be expected is cities seeking solutions in IoT for their specific and pressing needs. As time goes on there will be a global peak in the production of IoT devices; if cities continue to have success in improving the quality of life with smart technology, then the widespread adoption of the smart city is an inevitable, but necessary step in creating a more resource-efficient society.

The Internet of Things is Transforming the Political Landscape

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The nature of political campaigning is changing rapidly as the intrusion of the Internet of Things (IoT) within popular culture continues to expand at a rapid rate. In the past, the infrastructure of political campaigns was heavily based on polling, surveys, door-to-door campaigning, and cold calls. These methods were deemed very effective among politicians at the time, but in the modern era, relying on these tactics as a means to learn more about voters is a waste of time and resources. IoT technology has changed the way voters interact with the government as more information about their habits and beliefs will be tracked and analyzed with the sensors built into this technology.

One of the first politicians to take full advantage of the technological advancements within society was Barack Obama in his 2008 campaign. Even though he didn’t use the IoT directly, he utilized social media in similar way to how the IoT can be utilized. Obama’s campaign team collected and analyzed an abundance of data from various social media sites in order to learn who to target their messages toward and where to send them. The success of this campaign with the use of online data analysis has caused the IoT to become a valuable political tool.

The most relevant use of IoT technology within a political campaign can be the ability to gather lots of data. In a Politico article about IoT and politics, author Phil Howard states, “instead of small survey samples with noticeable error margins and carefully worded questions, the device networks will generate many details about our lives — all the time.” The room for error in data collection is significantly reduced and the efficiency is vastly improved using big data analysis. The IoT is always connected and always gathering data to be analyzed, which will provide the government and politicians with a completely accurate collection of voter behaviors and attitudes.

The ability for political campaigns to understand the real-world behavior of voters will be beneficial for both citizens and politicians. The politicians will be able to fully understand the current needs of citizens and anticipate what they will want in the future. The more data citizens produce, the more their needs will be brought to attention by politicians. Instead of politicians trying to guess what citizens want, the precise data that is collected will be beneficial for both parties in fulfilling their needs.

The IoT is removing a significant amount of the direct interaction between political campaigns and voters. Some of the old campaigning methods will be rendered useless with networks of internet-enabled devices collecting mass quantities of behavioral voter data. The infrastructure of political campaigning has transformed from an “act then observe” approach, to an “observe then act” approach. Politicians will be actively trying to meet the needs of voters based off of data that is collected through the IoT. The IoT allows politicians to have a thorough understanding of voter desires and needs, which will revolutionize the political process.

What Interoperability Means for the Internet of Things

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The Internet of Things (IoT) is reliant upon connection, making communication one of the most rudimentary functions of internet-enabled technology. Interoperability opens up endless opportunities for IoT devices as it ensures that devices will be able to communicate with each other and store data in a central location. The IoT will be able to fulfil its promises of convenience and functionality if multiple devices can be controlled simultaneously while being able to communicate and transfer data with each other.

A majority of the companies that are manufacturing IoT technology are trying to create platforms and devices that will be accepted as the “industry leading solution.” However, this culture within the IoT industry has led to a large assortment of devices that have to be controlled as separate entities and from different apps. The fact of the matter is that consumers simply don’t want to have 50 different devices, each with their own app, that operate independently of each other. The growth of the industry will be limited until manufacturers begin to collaborate in developing devices that will work together within the same network.

Manufacturers clearly understand that interoperability is a necessity for the IoT to continue to grow. So why hasn’t a standardized control system been created? The answer is simple: money and brand recognition. Each company wants to be the one that develops the ultimate “hub” for controlling IoT technology as it will come with a major payout. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means it will take more time to reach seamless interoperability than it would if there were more collaborative efforts. That being said, there are still some open-source initiatives to create interoperability that have shown signs of promise such as Qualcomm’s AllSeen Alliance.

When it comes to the individual corporations that are trying to create hubs for controlling smart technology, it appears that Apple is on the verge of creating total interoperability for HomeKit products. The upgraded Apple operating system, iOS10, has transformed the way HomeKit is used with its addition of the Home app. This app allows for any HomeKit device to be controlled from a central location. This means that instead of going to an app for each manufacturer, all devices can be controlled in the hub Apple has integrated within their new operating system. Companies like Google and Microsoft have also created similar smart home platforms, but they don’t quite offer this level of interoperability and don’t seem to have as much traction in the consumer world. These developments in HomeKit are great strides in achieving interoperability within the IoT.

Even though HomeKit has achieved a previously unseen level of interoperability, it still isn’t quite what consumers want in terms of creating a smart home that is completely connected. This is because HomeKit products are the only products that can communicate and operate within this network, thus limiting the device integration to Apple approved devices. This isn’t a bad thing for Apple because many other tech giants are trying to create this same level of interoperability for their respective smart home platforms. At this point in time, this segregated version of interoperability is the best consumers will get until these large corporations put their differences aside.

The current trends within the IoT industry are unlikely to change anytime soon due to the fact that smart home technology is still in the late stages of its infancy. As technology becomes more advanced and more efficient, consumers will begin to demand networks that are more connected, with devices that are able to communicate and operate in harmony. The interoperability provided in Apple HomeKit is a significant advancement from previous systems and is an innovative solution at this point in time. It will be interesting to see if large IoT businesses will be willing to work together in an effort to create a centralized hub that can control and communicate with any type of smart device.

IPv6 and The Internet of Things

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

A majority of the tech industry has come to accept that the Internet of Things (IoT) will increase in size by the year 2020, enabling around 30 billion internet-connected devices. Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) was the first internet protocol to be released for public use. When it was released, it only allocated enough address spaces to accommodate for just over 4 billion devices, which is clearly not even close to enough space at this point in time. Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), which is the most recent internet protocol, is the perfect solution for the IoT as it extends the number of address spaces to roughly 340 undecillion.

The IPv6 can essentially provide every person on Earth with around 4,000 usable IP addresses, which is more than enough space to sustain the expected IoT growth. Due to the limited size of the IPv4, implementing IPv6 as the new standard for internet connectivity is inevitable. When IPv4 began to run out of address space, Network Address Translation (NAT) was developed to enable different devices to share the same public IP address. At the time, this was a very innovative solution that compensated for the unexpected expansion of the internet. However, many devices that are being developed today utilize an IPv6 address space. Even though converting any IPv4 addresses to IPv6 may be cumbersome, it is only a matter of time before IPv6 is universally accepted, rendering IPv4 infrastructures completely useless.

What does this have to do with the IoT? The most important thing to consider is that upgrading from IPv4 to IPv6 will require end-to-end encryption and a stronger authentication process. This is because using NAT creates a middleman in the device communication, removing the ability to have more secure machine to machine (M2M) communication. IoT devices are heavily reliant upon robust and secure communication as the data collected by device sensors can include sensitive information. IPv6 will enable safe M2M communication and allow for the IoT to continue to expand at its expected, exponential rate. There can still be some security risks with IPv6, but it is a significant advancement in comparison to IPv4.

Security aside, IPv6 could be the solution for multi-protocol interoperability between different devices. This is due to the fact that it includes a very large address space, allowing for the internet to be extended to any device. IPv6 utilizes auto-configuration, which is used to establish a link-local address. It can then use its Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) to check if the address is unused and unique before it saves it. This is a major upgrade for the IoT because IPv6 completes its address conflict detection before actually using the address itself, which IPv4 did not do.

When it comes to things such as mobility and scalability, IPv6 is well equipped to handle the plethora of IoT devices that will soon be creating networks within homes and cities. This upgraded internet protocol brings more functionality and more security than IPv4 could offer, while ensure every device will have a unique IP address. As the IoT world continues to expand at such a rapid pace, its dependency on IPv6 is an unavoidable step in creating seamless device interoperability and communication.