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What to expect from the Internet of Things (IoT)

By: Francisco Fernandes, Solutions Architect, Hewlett Packard Company (Brazil)

 

Open door to the future.jpgIn my last blog I talked about how uncertainty could be a problem for IT and that companies must always look toward the future and anticipate possible impacts. Anyone who does that will be adding the Internet of Things (IoT) in their list. Like Cloud Computing (the utility model for which was first introduced by John McCarthy in the 60´s), the IoT is not something new. It was proposed by Kevin Aston back in 1999, at MIT. At that time, he created a global standard system for RFID and other sensors, which later became known as the Internet of Things or a network where objects were connected through different kinds of sensors. 

 

The Internet of Things definition is simple: everything talks to everything through sensors in a shared network. Simple, but complex. The beauty is not to have my house talking to me, but having my house learning my habits and knowing when I usually arrive home from work, and monitor me through my GPS to turn on the air conditioning in time for the house to be cooled to my preferred temperature. The data itself needs to be collected and transmitted, but it also must be actionable. Whit this short introduction, here are some challenges that must be addressed when living amongst the Internet of Things:

 

Sensors

Sensors are key to the IoT. It will determine what can be part of it. For anything to be part of the internet (or their private network), they must be live. Sensorizing a gadget is relatively simple, and creating new ones to interact with people is more than a trend today. But what about objects that are not electronic or even powered, or too small? Here's where nanotechnology will help. In machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, one or both machines can actually not be machines, but objects sensorized and powered to collect and share relevant information. What if your chair you are sitting in had a sensor to collect information like the chair’s expected life span, utilization habits, bad ways to sit (which could be reported to your doctor) and material fatigue – and all that happening without any intervention? In this example, information is being sent to someone or an application to be stored and used whenever needed. This is the area that still needs standards within which to operate and a robust solution that can be used commercially to reduce implementation costs.

 

Big Data

Sensors are vital to generating useful data, but the amount of data is another issue. Sensors in a commercial jet engine generate 20 terabytes of information every hour. There are about 28,000 commercial aircraft flights over US skies per day with an average flight duration of 2.5 hours each.  Assuming two data-generating engines per plane, they would generate more than 1 million Petabytes in a year. And we are just talking about aircraft engines. Of course, not all this data will be transmitted or shared. It will be used to make decisions in flight and afterwards to help with maintenance and risk identification. But the fact is that adding things generating information, no matter how much, will increase the need for data processing and storage. If social media is generating 1.8 Tb of data every minute, the IoT would dramatically increase that number. It will impact not only storage and processing power, but bandwidth as well.

 

Connectivity

If we think of a smartphone as just another "thing” and that sensors in it are generating information shared with other “things” through applications, we already have things using the Internet to communicate and share information. In some cases, it will be necessary to create a segregated Internet for your things, like a VPN. More than that, when things need to communicate among themselves, features like Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC will increasingly be needed to provide access without really having an Internet type of connection. As technology evolves, new ways to interact will need to be created so an exponentially growing number of “things” can remotely communicate with each other. Cars talking to other cars while in motion is a good example. In this case, fast and prompt decisions will have to be made to avoid accidents. Cars can also interact with the police, street lanes, lights, traffic warnings, enhance the driving experience and make sure the car is complaint with the law.

 

Security

With the potential for a volume of connections that cannot be measured today, the Internet of Things also brings with it a concerns about security. If we will live in an automated world where machines will interact with us all the time: at home, in the car or with each other – and with you via your smartphones, all those connections must be secured. I am not talking about private data, but any data anywhere -  like having someone hacking your baby monitor to spy on what you are doing. The current proliferation of new, innovative mobile device solutions is making the issue of security a reality today.

 

So how do we deal with this challenge? It depends on how the IoT will evolve. For the machines and devices we already have, there are plenty of security alternatives in the same way there is always someone trying to learn new ways to hack them. But the main concern relies on a large number of devices flooding the market, which could bring a countless number of connection alternatives.   All of them must be tested from a security standpoint.

 

Your business now

Even with these and other upcoming challenges, the IoT concept is already changing the way some products are being designed and built to deliver the user a different experience. House automation is not something new. But it's something that still has room to grow. While it's not possible to sensorize everything, anyone can take available gadgets to accelerate innovation and enable new opportunities.

 

My next blog will talk about why the New Style of IT is required for IoT solutions.

 

Previous blogs by Francisco Fernandes:

Related links: 

 About the author

 

Francisco photo - new - cropped.jpgFrancisco Fernandes, Solution Architect, Hewlett Packard Company (Brazil)

Francisco is a solutions architect and an applications modernization expert with more than 20 years of experience working on applications in multiple industries including banking, financial services, telecom, and healthcare. He joined HP in 2002 and is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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About the Author
Solutions Architect working at HP since 2002 with focus on Applications Modernization, located at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


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