The Internet of Things (IoT) seems to have been “around the corner” for the last few years, with discussions of how the toaster will be able to talk to the bread bin to see if there is enough sourdough to meet the humans’ breakfast needs, and for the car to be able to report back to the manufacturer that it could really do with some new gear oil, please, as it is feeling a little dirty.
The main thing holding the IoT back has been a mix of cost (who wants to embed a $10 sensor into a $5 piece of equipment?) and standards (how should data be formatted in order that the billions of connected items can all speak a lingua franca?).
However, costs are falling, and xml and other data formatting standards are chipping away at the latter issue. Could we finally be ready for the IoT to become a reality?
Certainly, with the likes of Google Glass and other wearable technology, we seem to be well on the way to the IoT being there in some form today — is there something that will prevent it from accelerating and becoming ubiquitous?
Here’s what Quocirca’s analysts believe are the three most pressing issues:
- Chattiness — consider a smart electrical grid network. Every electrical item within a house or business premise is part of the IoT, reporting back to utility providers information on usage. This data can also be used by remote monitors who can advise when an item is about to breakdown based on monitoring current draw, for example, or by the house or business owner who wants to be able to see just what power is being drawn at any one time, and apply controls. This is great — except for the volumes of small data packets flying around all over the place. Such high volume chatter could bring networks to their knees.
- Security — opening up so many connected devices to the internet could provide more vectors of attack for blackhats. You probably wouldn’t be that bothered if someone broke into the data from your fridge and found that you had a secret stash of chocolate bars, but you may be a bit more worried if the data from your CCTV security systems was compromised.
- Value — although pretty much anything can be connected to the internet, is there any real value in doing so? Lighting, heating, entertainment systems, cookers and so on may make sense where a householder can get them set just as needed while they return from work is one thing — an internet connected toilet seat (as can be obtained from Japan) may not offer quite so much obvious value.
If the IoT is to be implemented as an anything-connected-to-anything mesh, we can expect it to be a complete mess and for problems to occur all over the place. If instead we “hub” the IoT, with a house having intelligent machines that aggregate and filter the data to identify what is a real event and what is just noise, then far less traffic will need to be transported over the public internet and security can be applied at a more value-based level against only the data that needs it.
This may involve the use of programmable micro-computers, such as the Raspberry Pi, and will also require embedded data filtering along the line of data leak prevention (DLP), as seen from the likes of Symantec and CA, and contextually-aware security from the likes of LogRhythm and EMC/RSA can help in dealing with IoT data in a more local environment.
Combine this with intelligent routing and WAN compression, and the data volumes start to look a little more controllable.
If left uncontrolled, the IoT will be a case of pouring more data into a sea of similar data and trying to make sense of it. By applying intelligent hubs, the data is more akin to being added to a small tub: this is easier to deal with, and only what is really important then needs to be let out through the plug into the greater internet sea.
Image credit: anasararojas (flickr)