Welcome!

IoT Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict, Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff

Related Topics: Web 2.0, Java, .NET, Linux, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal, IoT Expo

Web 2.0: Article

The Rise of Things, Internet of Things

The screens in our lives will slowly start to take a back seat to a model of computing that operates off the context we generate

End-user computing devices have followed a trajectory of faster, smaller, and cheaper for several decades: adding better connectivity, more natural interfaces, but largely remaining a device with a screen and human input device. This model is breaking down as computation and connectivity collide with ordinary real-world things. These things often have existing physical methods of interacting with them that we culturally don't want to change or no interface at all.

I've been involved with devices for much of my professional career, starting with television set top boxes at Microsoft for the better part of a decade, then working in mobile as part of the Android team at Google, and most recently in the Internet of Things at Nest Labs before rejoining Microsoft as part of our platform strategy team. In my current role, one of my focus areas has been to think about so called Internet of Things and what that means for the industry, for Microsoft, and for enterprises and consumers.

It's clear to me that the future of computing lies in these things. The screens in our lives will slowly start to take a back seat to a model of computing that operates off of the context that we generate. In this sense, computing will take a much more active role in our lives but at the same time much more invisible. That said there are substantial challenges in getting from where we are today to this future, and I thought I'd survey those problems and potential solutions.


Connectivity

In the broader Internet, we've started to think about connectivity as a given. The pervasiveness of networks and the consolidation of the industry around cellular standards like LTE and wireless standards like 802.11 mean that, for our computing devices, we are almost always connected and the design of applications has shifted from primarily offline to primarily online to match this.

One of the key challenges in the Internet of Things is that it doesn't fit cleanly into this. The existing set of wireless and cellular standards are wholly unsuited for long longevity battery use - they are designed for devices, like our computer or phone, that are always or frequently connected to a power plug.

A door lock is a good example of a real-world device. It isn't connected to a power plug. While one solution could be to change or charge the batteries in your door lock once a month so that it can use Wi-Fi, when you step back and realize that there are hundreds of these devices in the home, it's clear that this would quickly limit our desire to manage more than a handful of these in our houses.

Rethinking then how we connect these devices is one of the key challenges facing the industry. There are a number of efforts to solve this, including new protocols like Zigbee, but the most promising of these are the efforts to create highly efficient variants of existing protocols like 802.11 with 802.11ah or Bluetooth with Bluetooth Low Energy (now branded Bluetooth Smart). These technologies hold the promise to overcome rapid power consumption in these devices.

In many ways, Bluetooth Smart is already here. As part of the Bluetooth 4.0 spec, it has piggybacked its way into many of the latest Bluetooth chipsets and from a software platform perspective (Windows 8, iOS, and Android platforms all include support for it). Given this, it is starting to become prevalent with the latest wave of devices. It also promises multi-year battery life levels of efficiency and provides an abstraction mechanism for exposing data and control through its characteristics and services. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bluetooth Smart move front and center in 2014 as it gains critical mass as a key way of bridging to these real-world things.

Applications
The simplicity of these devices implies that what it means to be an application will also change. In this world, applications shift from being something with a user interface that runs on our devices and backed by the cloud to a model where an application analyzes the context provided by potentially a large number of these devices. The application will begin to present itself less on a screen and more in the state changes in the real world. These applications will not run on any one of these devices but between them.

Message Based
One potential model for this that we are experimenting with at Microsoft is a messaging-based approach. You can conceptually think about this as "Twitter for devices" where devices and applications communicate using messages through a message broker. The schema for these messages is well known among the principals in the system, enabling applications and devices to communicate that otherwise have no knowledge of each other.

This is a key advantage because devices in this new world are shifting from being consumption and creation devices to devices that provide context and control. A messaging-based approach allows you to leverage the message stream from one of these devices for multiple applications without correspondingly taxing this device with multiple requests for state. For example, a proximity sensor in your office hallway provides very interesting context for a security application for the building but is equally interesting to an application that uses them to make dynamic climate control decisions. A messaging model enables this with one set of state. It also provides a clean archiving and auditing model, enabling you to look back over this data two years later, for instance, when you want to build an occupancy model for your building across all of its proximity sensors.

Management
The quantity and sensitivity of these devices will also mean that we need to rethink how we manage them and their data streams.

We currently manage an increasingly large number of computing devices in our lives, and while application stores have made it easier for us to install and upgrade applications and operating systems, we still spend a significant amount of time managing our devices.

As we increase the number of devices by an order of magnitude, we won't be able to provide this same level of love and care for every device in our lives. These devices are going to need to be largely autonomous. One of the core challenges of Internet of Things will be building the infrastructure to enable this level of autonomy.

Highly Distributed
Our current conception of devices working with services is largely a two-tier model. For many applications that require precise control, the 200ms latency involved in doing a round-trip from a home in Oklahoma to a data center in Virginia where multiple devices' message streams are combined may be too much. This means that applications that require this level of low latency will need to execute much closer to the edge. That said, there are many applications that will require the computational capacity and flexibility that only a larger public or private cloud data center can provide. One of the key challenges we face is providing a single abstraction for developers such that both these classes of application use the same interfaces and the infrastructure is smart enough to satisfy them transparently.

The data streams involved in the Internet of Things are also typically highly sensitive, either in the context that they provide on us or the sensitivity of the equipment that they control. One of the things we must demand as individuals and enterprises is control on what set of data we send to a centralized public cloud versus retain within systems under our control.

I believe these factors will drive a distributed approach to the Internet of Things, where applications move to the data instead the current direction of all of our data moving to the applications in the public cloud. At Microsoft we are currently experimenting with this hybrid approach, where there are several hierarchical tiers of increasing computation and storage as you go toward the cloud. Applications and data in this model flow between these tiers to the appropriate level that balances computational, latency, and privacy concerns. This distributed approach is also another key reason that an immutable messaging-based approach makes sense - it enables you to replicate these message streams between these tiers in the system while applying permission-based controls to filter them down to the messages you are comfortable sharing with another application or computational tier.

Big Data
One thing that is clear is that the volume of data that is generated from these much more numerous devices will be staggering. For example, capturing all of the data from a single car's lifetime in an enterprise fleet requires upwards of 100GB on a relatively spacious once-a-second resolution. For an enterprise like Avis, which has on the order of 150,000 cars, this means managing nearly 15PB of information over the lifetime of one generation of cars.

As an industry we have established batch algorithms and platforms like map/reduce and Hadoop and newer near real-time platforms like Storm to process these large streams of information - but these still require substantial data science and DevOps investments to operate, which put them out of the reach of smaller organizations. A key challenge is making it easier to run data pipelines that operate on the context these devices generate and building abstractions that make them easier to develop for and to use with existing information worker tools.

First Steps
We are at the very beginning of this transformation and are all still trying to get our heads around the right model that solves the problems in this space. Although I've posed a number of potential solutions in this post, you should take these more as strawmen to start a discussion than any concrete recommendation. I'd love to talk with you if working on any problems in this space - feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or @timpark on Twitter.

More Stories By Tim Park

Tim Park is Director, Platform Strategy at Microsoft. He helps to set the direction of Microsoft platforms internally with a focus on the startup and open source communities. He has over 15 years of application development experience across client and server from work at Microsoft and two startups (WebTV Networks and Nest Labs).

As global advocate for the startup and open source community within Microsoft, Park evangelizes the product needs of startups and open source communities within Microsoft across client and cloud and help these communities understand what Microsoft has to offer them in terms of platforms, programs, and partnerships

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories from IoT Journal
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, will describe how to revolutionize your architecture and create an integrated, interoperable, reliable system of thousands of devices. Using real-world examples, James will discuss the transformative process taken by companies in moving from a two-tier to a three-tier topology for IoT implementations.
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the “Internet of Things” (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, will discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of data, and how to best approach deploying an IoT solution that will drive results.
I write and study often on the subject of digital transformation - the digital transformation of industries, markets, products, business models, etc. In brief, digital transformation is about the impact that collected and analyzed data can have when used to enhance business processes and workflows. If Amazon knows your preferences for particular books and films based upon captured data, then they can apply analytics to predict related books and films that you may like. This improves sales. This is a simple example, but let me tell you what I learned yesterday in sunny and warm San Francisco about more complex applications.
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, will discuss the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. The presentation will also discuss how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics to discuss are barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold.
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things’ get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What’s driving this increase? The growth in volume is largely attributed to the rollout of new services and applications along with expanding migration to the cloud and traffic spikes. The Internet of Things will also place a strain on DNS services. Are you ready for this surge of new services and applications along with potential DNS threats?
Building low cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, will provide an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He will also provide examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He will review the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power such wearable devices.
Where historically app development would require developers to manage device functionality, application environment and application logic, today new platforms are emerging that are IoT focused and arm developers with cloud based connectivity and communications, development, monitoring, management and analytics tools. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies, will explore how to rapidly prototype using IoT cloud platforms and choose the right platform to match application requirements, security and privacy needs, data management capabilities and development tools.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Erik Lagerway, Co-founder of Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services to the modern P2P RTC era of OTT cloud assisted services.
We were in contact recently with Shrikant Pattathil (pictured below), Executive Vice President of Harbinger Systems. Here are some of his thoughts about healthcare, the IoT, and disruption: IoT Journal: Healthcare, with all of its systems and dataflows, seems an ideal area for IoT solutions. What is Harbinger Systems doing in this area? Shrikant Pattathil: Being a service provider we work with many product development companies who are building new IoT-based applications to solve problems that plague the healthcare industry. For example, there is a need for applications to manage your medicine dosage, seek help, and notify your care provider. IoT Journal: And how do you go about addressing these problems? Shrikant: We are approaching IoT from mobile and cloud perspective. These are our key strengths. We are helping product companies in IoT space to quickly build the mobile interfaces for their product offerings. We are also helping them to place the data on the cloud in a secure way, so that they can truly exploit the benefits of IoT. IoT Journal: What are the advantages of the IoT here? Cost? Better care? What sorts of metrics can be applied, and are there intangibles as ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, more manufacturers will embed sensors in their products and connect them to the Internet to monitor their performance and offer pro-active maintenance services. As a result, engineers who know how to incorporate software and networking into their mechanical designs will become more in demand.
Launched this June at the Javits Center in New York City with over 6,000 delegate attendance, the largest IoT event in the world, 2nd international Internet of @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara ConventionCenter in Santa Clara, California with estimated 7,000 plus attendance over three days. @ThingsExpo is co-located with 15th international Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world. In 2014, more than 200 companies will be present at the @ThingsExpo show floor, including global players, and hottest new technology pioneers.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With “smart” appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user’s habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can’t be addressed without the kinds of agile software development and infrastructure approaches pioneered by the DevOps movement.
As the Internet of Things gains momentum, the focus has been on securing billions of IoT devices and the servers that orchestrate their connectivity. However, the greatest security and authentication risks reside within the communications among devices and servers. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, will discuss the top 10 challenges in securing IoT communications that, unsolved, render it impossible to deliver a secure IoT rollout. Learn the requirements for a ubiquitous, secure, bi-directional communication protocol for IoT. Specific design patterns to deliver secure device updates, as well as comprehensive solutions for malware defense and security credential management will also be shared.
The worldwide cellular network will be the backbone of the future IoT, and the telecom industry is clamoring to get on board as more than just a data pipe. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Evan McGee, CTO of Ring Plus, Inc., to discuss what service operators can offer that would benefit IoT entrepreneurs, inventors, and consumers. Evan McGee is the CTO of RingPlus, a leading innovative U.S. MVNO and wireless enabler. His focus is on combining web technologies with traditional telecom to create a new breed of unified communication that is easily accessible to the general consumer. With over a decade of experience in telecom and associated technologies, Evan is demonstrating the power of OSS to further human and machine-to-machine innovation.
Whether you're a startup or a 100 year old enterprise, the Internet of Things offers a variety of new capabilities for your business. IoT style solutions can help you get closer your customers, launch new product lines and take over an industry. Some companies are dipping their toes in, but many have already taken the plunge, all while dramatic new capabilities continue to emerge. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Reid Carlberg, Senior Director, Developer Evangelism at salesforce.com, to discuss real-world use cases, patterns and opportunities you can harness today.