Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) concept is currently very used within the field of information and communication technologies (ICT). A lot is said and written about the IoT, but often this concept is difficult to understand and categorize. The reason for it is that the IoT concept is related to almost all fields of human activity, and is, therefore, large. So here I will try “briefly” and clearly summarize the most significant knowledge related to this concept.

IoT Definition

There are many definitions of the notion of the Internet of things and is therefore often difficult to understand the importance of this concept. From my point of view is the most eloquent the following definition [Internet of things in 2020, Internet of Things]

The “Internet of Things” means a network of linked objects (things) that are uniquely addressable with the fact that this network is based on standardized communication protocols that allow the exchange and sharing of data and information, whose analysis it will be possible to achieve a higher added value.

Network: The word network, may not represent only Internet (as one could suggest from notion IoT) – hence the worldwide system of interconnected computer networks, in which computers communicate with each other by using the family of protocols TCP/IP. However, it may mean a local network (LAN), where things can communicate, but with a use of the Internet for the sharing of the results. The network ensures connectivity.

Thing: The thing from the perspective of IoT is an inanimate object (physical or virtual) that contains electronics, software, and sensors (actuators), which are used to collect certain quantity or quantities and provides the ability to serve an individual purpose. It is, therefore, a device (a system), which autonomously provides data (personal computer, that does not provide the data does not represent a thing from the perspective of IoT), which are shared by wire or wirelessly with other things or systems. The paradox, however, is that thing is not a core of the Internet of Things, but a DATA generated by these things are.

The Internet of things, therefore, represents a concept within which physical and virtual objects (things) exchange data over the Internet. Things (systems) may be in the context of the Internet of things arbitrarily linked together to achieve higher goals (new functionality, more complex tasks, etc.).

The current status of IoT

The term “Internet of things” was used for the first time in Mr. Kevin Ashton’s presentation in 1999. The presentation pointed out that almost all of the data on the Internet are created by humans and what a better perception of the world we would have gained by use of connected sensors and data sharing between systems.

Another significant milestone from the perspective of the IoT was the period between the years 2008 and 2009, when, according to the Cisco estimate, the number of devices (in general) connected to the Internet exceeds the number of the world’s population. Therefore, just between the years 2008 and 2009 is dated the emergence of the Internet of Things.

Among first devices connected to the Internet belonged computers. Then smartphones and tablets started to be connected. Today things are connected to the Internet (examples provided below).

Figure 1: Internet of things was born between the years 2008 and 2009 [source: Cisco IBSG, April 2011]

It is the assumption that roughly 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet in the year 2020. That means about two times more than today (2015). For an idea, it is about six to seven devices for every human on Earth. Things will form about one-half of all devices (25 billion) from the perspective of the Internet of Things (according to server Gartner), so without the computers, tablets and smartphones.

There is the assumption that the worldwide market for IoT (contains the infrastructure, equipment, platforms, analytical tools and applications) will be in the order of $ 1 trillion in the year 2020 (approx. 2 * 10^ 12 dollars), i.e. three times today’s values. In the Czech Republic, this number will be around $ 1 billion (approx. 1 x 10^ 9 dollars), i.e. double today’s value.

The value of investments that are currently invested by companies to the Internet of things varies in the millions to billions of dollars. Among the most notable companies that most invested in IoT belongs, by server IoT Analytics, the American companies IBM, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and Apple (in that order). In the Czech Republic, it is the assumption that the largest investments will be to the monitoring of road freight transport, management of the industrial production, asset management, monitoring home security. The clear conclusion can be drawn from the previous text.

IOT represents a tremendous potential in the search for new opportunities.

Goal of IoT

The aim of the IoT is to link equipment, systems and services to provide more data that can be converted into the information and then information into knowledge that could then be applied. IoT systems will be able to make decisions based on gained knowledge and consequently carry out autonomous actions.

Simply said, the more devices will be able to provide data about the real world, the more data for analysis will be available, and that could lead to more knowledge that we could gain and then use. This increase of knowledge will allow achieving progress in that domain, and as a result, this could lead to progress for the whole humanity. Whether it will be the simplification of everyday life (CIoT = Consumer IoT = consumer internet of things) or more efficient use of resources (IIoT = Industrial IoT = Industrial Internet of Things). More efficient use of resources, and thus achieving significant savings will be the primary reason for investing into the IoT (mainly into the IIoT).

We can say that IoT is an evolution of the Internet, where data sharing will be allowed among various connected devices, systems and networks within different domains. Such data sharing will be possible anytime and anywhere (in the case, of course, if it is physically possible, and between the nodes link exists and authentication and authorization was performed).

IoT requirements

The main requirements on the IoT are based on the above objectives. IoT architecture must allow to

  • collect data/information/knowledge,
  • store data/information/knowledge,
  • analyze data/information/knowledge,
  • share results.

Architecture must meet strict requirements on

  • security.

Also, there are some additional minor requirements, like for example, interoperable and efficient data transfer and sharing. Those require a proper choice of an appropriate communication standard and data model (see page Integration). Another requirement on the IoT systems is the processing of large volumes of heterogeneous data generated by devices connected to the IoT system. It is also necessary to achieve semantic interoperability (see page Integration) to be able to combine and compose (merge) data, information and knowledge.

From the perspective of the final solution (from the user’s perspective) there is also important that the solution should be readily deployable, easily integrable with other applications and systems, and also, a clear organization and presentation of the processed data should be achieved.

Directions of the IoT

Two main directions have formed within IoT. These are

  • industrial internet of things (Industrial IoT)
  • consumer internet of things (Consumer IoT)

Figure 2: The main directions of the IoT

Industrial IoT:

A segment of the Internet of Things that focuses on the key or critical tasks. It is based on the M2M (machine to machine) and extends it to provide a possibility of data analysis, e.g. in a cloud (see Cloud computing). This segment is related to IoT devices and systems, which are used in industries such as industrial automation, transportation industry, energy industry and healthcare. The primary focus of this segment of the Internet of Things is to gain more efficient use of resources, reduction of operating costs, productivity improvement and security improvement for workers, system downtime prevention by monitoring and well-timed preventive maintenance. All this is going to lead to the achievement of significant savings and hence the return of investments. This segment of the IoT will be dominant.

Consumer IoT:

A Segment of the Internet of things, which focuses on the consumer. In particular consumer devices, appliances, IT and telecommunications equipment and others that allow simplifying everyday life through home automation, smart devices (washing machine, TV, refrigerator, lighting, etc.) or by using a wearable electronics (wearables). The primary focus of this segment of the Internet of things is to increase the user experience.

The following illustration depicts the properties of the individual segments.

Figure 3: The properties of the IoT segments

IoT environment characteristics

The Foundation of the entire IoT is the DATA.

A little theory. The data represent the raw data (e.g. “1234”). By assigning meaning to the data (using the relations) information is created (e.g. “1234” is the password). Knowledge is created by putting the information into the context (e.g. password “1234” is my password). Then by applying the knowledge, wisdom comes up (e.g., using the password “1234” to log on to my phone, but it could be easily my laptop – who knows).

It is the assumption that IoT will generate up to 33 ZB (approx. 33 * 1000^7 bytes = 33 * 10^21 bytes) of data each month (source Cisco) in 2018. From this volume of data, only “small” portion (up to 8 ZB) will be forwarded to the cloud for storage and subsequent analysis. These large volumes of data can be “really” marked as BIG DATA.

The collection, storage, analysis and sharing of data/information/knowledge must ensure the architecture of an IoT system.

Each architecture of an IoT system consists of basic building blocks (components) that are:

  • Hardware,
  • Middleware,
  • Software.

As hardware, we can mark all the physical things that generate data, and then communication and computing infrastructure and data storages (private, public, hybrid, community).

Middleware is software, which overlaps the heterogeneity of applications, operating systems, communication systems and hardware in a distributed system by providing a unified interface to applications. Middleware enables the linking of the individual elements of the IoT system and enables collection, storage of data and also sharing of the results between the different systems (e.g., by cloud storage service).

Finally, software is used (over the obtained data) for analysis of acquired data, composing and combining large volumes of heterogeneous data and a creation of information and knowledge (data fusion). The results of the data processing (fusion) may lead to an automatic or semi-automatic influence over the situation or, at least, to support in decision-making and business processes. The software will also be used for presentation of the results. Cloud-based services for analysis and presentation will be essential for most IoT solution.

IoT topology

The link between the elements of the IoT system will always be dependent on the system purpose. There are several ways in which the elements can be linked together, and how communication takes place between them. Communication may, usually in combination, take place

  • Between devices to each other (Fog Computing)
  • From devices to the cloud
  • Between clouds

Communication between devices (things) will be used in systems where the use of Cloud services for storage, evaluation and sharing of data is not satisfactory for a given solution. This situation can occur, for example, in cases where there is not sufficient capacity of communication links for sending all the data to the cloud or the sending of large amounts of data is simply financially expensive. In some cases, it is important that the IoT system works as well in the case of limited, temporary, unstable or broker connection to the cloud. This topology is also used within a time critical systems (real time and near real time) where is unacceptable to send data to the cloud for analysis and then send the results back. For some other solutions, there is also not suitable to use centralized cloud-based solutions and such systems are using the decentralized Fog computing instead, where devices (things) communicate directly with each other (peer-to-peer). Fog computing, therefore, complement Cloud Computing mainly by adding the possibility to carry out the collection, storage, analysis, and sharing closer to devices and their data (local processing). Fog computing makes it possible to achieve better scalability, reliability, and faster system response and reduce costs. This approach is used within Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in particular, where an emphasis is on reliability and defined systems responses. The results of the data processing are then forwarded to the cloud.

Figure 4: Fog computing, cloud computing within the IoT.

Communication from the device to the cloud is often used in the context of the Consumer Internet of Things (CIoT), where there is not put such emphasis on speed of response and the possible failure of the connection does not have a severe impact. The cloud (cloud-based services and applications and cloud storage) in this case may be public, private, hybrid or community.

Communication between Clouds will be used in the case of need for sharing of data across different domains. Thus, for example, between private and public Cloud.

Figure 5: The difference between the Fog and the Cloud

IoT Applications

There are a lot of examples of IoT applications, and new solutions are emerging every day. Here are some examples from several categories (list of categories is not definitive and examples could be possibly added).

Industrial Internet of Things:

  • industrial automation
    • Automatic Diagnostics of devices and the monitoring of their state with the possibility of warning of any faults
    • Secure areas against unauthorized entry to ensure safety
    • Detection of explosive and hazardous substances
  • transport industry
    • Self-driving cars
    • Quality control of transport – vibrations monitoring, strokes detection or opening detection
    • Tracking and location of items, e.g. in large warehouses
  • energy industry
    • monitoring and control of energy consumption
  • health care
    • Monitoring the conditions of patients – health monitoring of patients in hospitals or elderly people living at home
    • Falls detection
  • Smart cities (e.g., Barcelona, Chicago, Hamburg, Nice, Písek…)

World urbanization (or the concentration of population in cities) is still rising and currently is about 54% with 2.05% grow every year (according to „The World Factbook“). That means that global urban population today (2015) exceeds the number of inhabitants of the villages. Urbanization of Czech Republic is around 75%, which means that only a quarter of the Czech population lives in villages.

  • Easier parking – monitoring of parking spaces for easy to find free parking space
  • Reduction of traffic congestion – traffic monitoring that allows suggesting an optimal route. This will also reduce the amount of emissions.
  • Intelligent Lighting – Lighting that responds to the presence of objects and climatic conditions will allow energy conservation.
  • A smart collection of municipal waste – detection of the full capacity of containers, will allow optimizing the collection of waste.
  • Smart roads – roads, providing information and warning messages informing about the climatic conditions and accidents on the road.
  • Increase the security of population and reduction of criminality.
  • Smart building – a building that allows conservation of energy by intelligent heating and lighting.

Consumer Internet of Things (CIoT):

  • Smart Home – the remote control of appliances for greater comfort or energy conservation. Furthermore, the detection of open doors and windows to prevent from thieves. Monitoring the consumption of electricity and water for the possibility to achieve savings.
  • Smart shopping –applications that will allow advising a buyer during shopping e.g. according to the customer’s habits, preferences, or a size, or by the presence of allergic substances, or the expiry time.
  • Payments for goods and services using NFC in mobile or wearable electronics.

IoT issues

The creation of IoT system brings along certain problems that need to be addressed. Among the most significant belong, in particular:

  • Interoperability – one of the most serious problems is interoperability, i.e. the ability of things (systems, applications, units or organizations) to provide data to other things and accept and use data from them for effective joint activity. Problems with interoperability within IoT are based on the fact that things are often created by different entities and, therefore, use different communication mechanisms and different data models. So interoperability is usually not achieved. To achieve interoperability, the usage of standards is necessary, and wherever it is possible, for communication as well for data models. Integration and interoperability issues are described in details in the article devoted to Integration.
  • Security – security in the IoT system cannot be omitted in any way. IOT system must support a security features for end nodes, as well for the transfer and sharing of data. Security issues can be authentication (verification of identity), authorization (permission to use a particular data source), communication encryption, the use of a digital signature for integrity and non-repudiation of data transfer and more.

Other factors that can hinder the development of IoT have been identified in the article Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services as follows (among others):

  • Uncertain return of investments
  • Necessity to invest the high price in upgrading an existing facilities
  • Ignorance of current technologies and trends in building distributed systems

The solution of these technological problems with the adoption of IIoT tries to address Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). The consortium was founded in the year 2014 and today it consists of more than 170 companies (2015) and among the founding companies belong IBM, CISCO, GE, Intel, AT&T. The aim of this consortium is to create and validate the common architecture suitable for Industrial Internet of Things, which will allow communication between things (sensors, systems, and applications), but also the transfer of results to the cloud, shall ensure the interoperability between different manufacturers and will allow its deployment in the various sectors. This consortium has proposed a reference architecture for Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial Internet Reference Architecture – IIRA), that represents an open, standards-based architecture suitable for Industrial Internet of Things.

Conclusion:

This article was in “brief” devoted to the concept of the Internet of Things, whose goal is to link equipment, systems and services to provide more data that can be then converted into information and knowledge that can then be applied.

Connecting individual elements of the Internet of Things and the collection, storage and sharing of results between different systems, which is provided by middleware, is the necessary but not sufficient condition for an emergence of the Internet of Things. Other crucial aspects for the emergence of the Internet of Things is also a necessity to achieve interoperability between cooperating systems and safety. Then it will be possible to analyze the data, and use the results. Another prerequisite for the emergence of the IoT is a cooperation between the suppliers of the elements that are connected to the Internet of Things. Such collaboration will lead to an integration of various data and information to create new information, or achieve new goals.

The Internet of things is divided into two segments, namely on the Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT, IIoT) and the Consumer Internet of Things (Consumer IoT, CIoT). It will be the IIoT that will quickly get ahead of the CIoT. It is for the reason that IIoT represents in many fields a critical infrastructure, and its introduction will bring greater efficiency, the newly-added value, or will produce significant savings. On the other hand, the CIoT will be perceived as the simplification of everyday life or improvement of a standard of living rather that would be vital.

The applications of IIoT it is possible to see for example in industrial automation, transportation industry, energy industry, health care, or in the context of smart cities. The applications of CIoT would be for example in smart homes, smart shopping or in using wearable electronics.

That is not true that it would not be possible to introduce the Internet of Things a few years ago, but now came the right time thanks to the quick and low-cost Internet and thanks to the cheap parts and devices that will allow the creation of things, and thus provide the data for the IoT.

IoT nowadays is not only a vision of the future or just an idea on paper. IoT is already being implemented, and this is the direction where the world of IT will go.

5 comments to “Internet of Things”

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  1. Výborný článek,

    žádám jen doplnit praktickými příklady použití, které je možno realizovat v ČR už nyní. Nebo bylo doposud realizováno v oblasti IoT při zkušebním provozu.

    Díky

    Petr

    • Díky, Petře, za kompliment.
      Analýza trhu, která by se zabývala vytvářenými a existujícími řešeními by byla určitě velmi zajímává.
      Nicméně rozsah této analýzy by byl velký a já jsem takovou analýzu (zatím) neprováděl.
      Poskytnu tedy alespoň odkaz na zajímavý článek, který se zabývá problémem chybějících reálných projektů (příkladů, případů užití) a poskytuje seznam nejvýznamějších českých firem zabývajících se IoT a Industry 4.0 – The Most Influential Czech Internet of Things & Industry 4.0 Companies in 2017, který byl publikován na LinkedInu.

  2. Dobrý den,
    chtěla jsem se Vás zeptat, zda Vám nebude vadit, když použijeme několik Vašich definicí na náš web do “IoT slovníku”?

    děkuji za odpověď

    Vondráčková

    p. s. web ještě není oficiálně spuštěný, spouštíme 20. 10.

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