Internet of Things (IoT)

The spectacular massive adoption of the Internet by our modern societies made the cyber world ubiquitous (Social networks, tablets, smartphone, 4G, 5G, etc…) in our live and even changed our ways of life. That adoption was backed and coupled with an intertwined phenomenon; adoption of open hardware platforms (Arduino, Raspberry Pi [except the primary chip], etc…) and Hardware price reduction. This process is called today convergence between the real world and the cyber world.

What is it?

You may find many definitions for the term IoT. Furthermore, the definition may change with time. That is why I going to use a stable and a generic definition to encompass the meaning without losing tether on reality over time. So, I am going to adapt the definition given by Gartner (a technology forecast company):

The network of objects (virtual and/or physical) having abilities (e.g: using embedded technologies) to communicate and interact with their internal states or the external environment.

The rationale?

The raison d’être of the IoT was to make life easier using automation (smart cars having smart tires, smart objects, smart cities, etc…). But with the advent of analytics (big data to name a few…), the purposes are changing from enhancing productivity to gravitate around creating new business models and generating new revenue streams.

Architecture

The IoT architecture is shaped around 4 tiers:

- Clients: terminals that allow to monitor and control remotely the devices

- Cloud services: collect, store and process data transmitted by the devices

- Gateways: enable Internet access for the devices

- Things: sensors and actuators in the real world (smart objects, light sensors, motion sensors, environmental sensors, etc…)

The Internet of Things architecture

From a semantic view, Things ought to be configured once (at most) then forgotten in their environment during all their life’s span. Otherwise, they are not going to be handy. Hence, the Things autonomy is a key point; in other words, the battery’s life matters :)

So, between the Things and the Gateway tiers, we should use a wireless communication protocol (to access the media). That protocol should addresses mainly two issues reduce power consumption and secure information exchange (in regards to the nature of wireless communications).

For the time being, 6 standards (in fact, pleas of standards exist) are being considered: IEEE 802.15.4 (a radio international open standard), 6LoWPan (backed by Cisco), Wifi Halow (promoted by the Wifi Alliance), ZigBee, Thread and Weave.

Wifi Halow should be considered apart because it defines its own radio protocol.

Both of ZigBee and 6LoWPan are based on IEEE 802.15.4. But, ZigBee is not royalty free.

Thread is based on 6LoWPan. It is closed documentation (membership’s fee is required to have access to specifications) but royalty free.

Google Weave is based on a proprietary protocol. But it is backed by Google. Also, Google Weave is intended to be used by things running Brillo (the IoT-specific OS created by Google).

To ponder

In my opinion, I think that to be successful. The IoT should be built using open international standards to allow interoperability between differents vendors. The development of the Internet since 1979 is a good example.

At last (and not at least), we should be more concerned about our privacy. I saw people over the Internet publishing and sharing personal details about themselves (heartbeat pace over the day, consumed meals, shopping list, etc…).

So, if you are going to publicly share this kind of information. You should think 1 million times before doing so. Because, no one can predict precisely what will be the impact after collecting, consolidating and analyzing the data.

We should be heedful about safety. In a technology-reliant society, we are already at the dawn of the age of Industry 4.0. Smart and connected objects will become more and more common. By common, I mean connected toasters, connected fridges, connected watches, connected houses, connected cities. In a word, we are becoming more and more exposed to new threats. So, we ought to look before we leap.

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