Recently a new technology buzz word has come to light, the Internet of Thing or IoT. It is all the rage. Everyone is getting on the bandwagon Microsoft, Google, Apple, you name it they are probably trying to figure out how to take get a piece of the $300 billion in 2020 by Gartner estimates. At the beginning of the year I wrote a series of posts on ubiquitous computing. IoT definitely falls into ubiquitous computing. Here are those earlier post:
I am going to continue on with my exploration of the Internet of Things. I want to explore all facets from the over all architecture to individual “things” and everything in between.
Is it Really the Internet
When most people hear IoT they think of all the home automation products that they can talk to through their phones. Enterprises think of all the sensors they have distributed throughout their network that are providing them data. Potentially there will be billion upon billions of “Things”, most of which will never directly access the internet. Home owners don’t want random strangers control the temperature of their house and enterprises don’t want their sensor data exposed to the public. Maybe it should be called the Intranet of Things instead!
This is where you will hear people say “Well I can set my thermostat while I am not on my home network.” True, you can, but you usually do that through an application. You don’t directly talk to the “Things” in your ecosystem. I will show you this in the future when I do a post dedicated to architecture.
Let’s get back to talking about the internet. First off have billions of “Things” on the internet would be impossible. IPv4 couldn’t handle that. Obviously IPv6 could but that poses different challenges that I will address in a minute. Could you imagine all that traffic floating around on the wire? If you thought Netflix took up bandwidth what would happen if these billions of devices, some of which transmit data every millisecond, were flooding the wire with their data?
One of the principals of IoT is having actionable data. For years we have had “Things” that have provided data, so why all of a sudden is IoT hot? We now have the computing power to aggregate, analyze and visualize all the data that is produced making it actionable. So having devices flooding the network with data that is not actionable. IoT is about making “neighborhoods” of “Things” that talk to each other but are actionable in that neighborhood. I put neighborhoods in quotes because enterprise “neighborhoods” can span globally.
Security is another concern with billions of “Things” on the public internet. Like I said before you don’t want to have just anyone controlling the temperature of your house. Keep the devices in your “neighborhood” will help prevent unauthorized access. I will address security again when in my architecture discussion. Security has another challenge, the “Things” themselves.
Think about the “Things” themselves. Most of these devices have minimal memory, processing power, and battery life. They don’t have a security stack as well as an IP stack. Most sensors transmit bits of data. It doesn’t make sense to surround a few bits of data from a sensors with the bytes of overhead for an IPv6 packet and do that a couple a times a second. That is why other protocols, that are not normally associate with the internet, are involved. I will cover those in a future post.
Much More to Come
There is a lot of confusion around what IoT is. Hopefully you can see from this brief discussion around the I in IoT, that there is much more to cover.