The Future of IoT for Business Applications
Future of IoT for Business Applications
Executive Order Corp IoT Documentation – by Steven Woodward
Implementing an IoT Solution for Business
IoT Scalability and Solutions for Business
“Internet of Things” is a set of technology that has gradually and sometimes almost imperceptibly begin to affect us all in conducting business. Any specific device application combination of sensors and devices will create significant long-term changes that can make our business operations easier, more productive and more informed.
The installation cost of IoT sensors, cameras and controls in offices and plants has come down dramatically in the past few years and is still dropping. IoT wireless transmission is eliminating the need for signal wires and I/O cards, battery power eliminating is the need for power cables, and non-intrusive installation eliminating the need for cutting, drilling, welding. Importantly, there is no need to shut down your current SCADA/plant or office automation to deploy these IoT sensors and controls. They simply augment your existing controls and process. IoT is poised to change the way we conduct business in many areas.
We start our Edge Computing custom engagements for IoT with one simple question. “If you knew the state of everything in your enterprise and you could reason over top of this data, what business case problems could you solve?” Our mission is to make sure that you can know the state of everything of all your devices and that you can reason on top of the data so that you can truly solve your business problems, and provide enhance customer service.
An Internet of Things application deployment has to either increase business revenue or reduce business costs (or both), otherwise there’s no reason for a company to pursue it. Either of these objectives can provide a return on investment. Solving business problems better through information and knowledge are some of the factors which will pave the way for digital transformation (DX) with including Industrial IoT (IIoT). It’s up to the product manager to determine the specific goals and measurements of this ROI.
Digital Transformation drivers for IoT projects can be greater efficiencies, more consistent control over processes, visibility into patterns or opportunities, gaining competitive features that can meet customer requirements and an increase in profit. As you build your IoT business model, these factors will weigh in differently depending on your product needs and your industry.
IoT is Technology Impact for Business
What is IoT for Business
The Internet of Things envisions a world where both ordinary and exotic devices are connected wirelessly to the internet and to each other. This means devices that do not already have a network connection may have one added in the future when it is logical and appropriate to do so.
For example, an IoT device could be a temperature gauge, a location sensor, a device measuring humidity, or a vibration detector. One or all of these sensors then could be attached to manufacturing machinery, and the data transmitted would help a business track the machine’s operations. This data could track required maintenance, improve production efficiencies, reduce downtime, increase safety, and more. Plus, IoT devices can provide information on the ambient environment of the manufacturing space, such as the temperature, pollution, and other conditions near the machinery, which can be particularly relevant for remote installations.
Most IoT projects are motivated by a need to reduce operating costs or increase revenue. Occasionally, legislation compels companies to deploy IoT applications that support a new law’s data needs. Mobility is an obvious factor driving cellular adoption in markets like transportation. Desire for competitive features will inspire IoT applications in consumer high-tech. But whatever the specific purpose, connected IoT devices can give your business the data and information needed to streamline workflows, predict necessary maintenance, analyze usage patterns, automate manufacturing, and more.
By many indicators, M2M seems a lot like IoT. The difference, however, is that M2M is a solution that optimizes existing operations functionality through automation, while IoT transforms the functionality into new business capabilities via analytics. Hence, M2M can be thought of as a sub-set of IoT.
Though initially not built as a sub-set of anything, M2M technologies represent closed, point-to-point communications between machines or between machine and management systems, without the need of human intervention. M2M devices, enabling bidirectional remote monitoring and transfer of data, consist of a sensor or an RFID tag and a communication module. Machine-to-machine devices, as the industrial precursors to the IoT, can include items ranging from in-house / in-office machinery, such as printers or scanners to manufacturing equipment, including heavy machinery. But don’t assume that the IoT will replace M2M.
M2M use cases include telemetry; traffic control; security; tracking and tracing; machinery maintenance and control; metering; manufacturing and facility management; as well as a multitude of additional applications.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things goes beyond the scope of M2M, encompassing and surpassing it in functionality by adding devices and electronic equipment with embedded sensors, control systems, and processors that enable communication across a multi-node open network of objects.
An Internet of Things ‘thing’ can refer to a connected medical device, a biochip transponder for livestock, a solar panel, a connected automobile with sensors that alert the driver to a myriad of possible issues (fuel, tire pressure, need for maintenance, and more), or any object, outfitted with sensors, that has the ability to gather and transfer data over a network. The meaning and application of the term IoT will continue to evolve as new connected technologies emerge. For many, IoT means connecting parts of the supply chain, increasing proficiency and outcomes, and providing indicators about product environments. For others, IoT is about life-changing insights via wearables, medical adherence, or household security. The possibilities just keep growing.
IoT use cases are widespread, limited only by our ability to connect certain devices. But that, too, is changing rapidly. IoT applications already in production include connected cars, smart cities (water / gas meters, lighting, traffic / parking, waste management, and more), patient monitoring, wearables, agriculture, and energy. IoT use cases in the future will be limited only by our own imagination, anything is possible.
Connected for Data
The Internet of Things is the next logical step in the story of a connected world. At the heart of the IoT is data—the ability to collect it, analyze it, and react to it, so as to create new revenue streams, new value. The IoT combines the technologies found in M2M and earlier data telemetry terms and expands them with an even greater accumulation of data and inferences.
The IoT is comprised of four key elements:
People – Using end-nodes connected to the internet to share information and activities. Examples include social networks, health, and fitness sensors, among others.
Things – Physical sensors, devices, actuators, and other items generating data or receiving information from other sources. Examples include smart things, lights, thermostats and home automation gadgets.
Data – Raw data analyzed and processed into useful information to enable intelligent decisions and control mechanisms. An example includes temperature logs converted into an average number of high-temperature.
Processes – Leveraging connectivity among data, things, and people to add value. An example of this includes the use of smart fitness devices and social networks.
The IoT establishes an end-to-end ecosystem, including technologies, processes, and concepts employed across all connectivity use cases.
Impact for Business and Consumers
The concepts of the IoT and M2M are inherently subject to the confusion surrounding limitations associated with meanings, use cases, and adoption.
While there are not yet comprehensive standards and regulations for IoT from appropriate authorities, these concepts will continue to evolve in response to technology innovation, changing consumer trends, and varied marketing tactics. Businesses evaluating the promise and potential of connectivity offerings will have to dig into the specifics of each situation instead of establishing conclusions based solely on the proposed labels of IoT or M2M.
As new as the Internet of Things may seem, many network-connected devices already are in use all around us. You probably have heard of smart cities or smart grids – these are just a few of the IoT systems aimed at both everyday consumers and large-scale enterprises. IoT innovation is taking place in a wide range of industries, locations, and types of business. IoT creativity will be unlimited, as the technology largely exists – although it may not be readily available everywhere as of yet.
Enterprise IoT Applications
To date, most industrial uses of IoT have been for preventive maintenance. These applications detect when a machine has variations in vibration, temperature, speed, or other metrics so as to signal that they might require maintenance.
But using IoT for preventative maintenance was just a start. This didn’t fully tap into the ability of network-connected devices to talk to each other, thus letting them work together. For example, a business could use a central monitoring hub, or even an engineer with a smartphone, to reach out to the machine and make changes on the device, or deliver new instructions. More and more enterprises are realizing that these communications can create greater efficiencies and reduce production costs far beyond IoT systems aimed at simple maintenance functions.
The fleet industry was one of the earliest to adopt IoT because of its many benefits. IoT-enabled trucks, ships, and vans can be tracked and managed in a more efficient manner, thereby allowing visibility across the transportation ecosystem. Fleet telematics allow the exchange of information between a commercial vehicle fleet and a central dispatching office. Now, the physical health of a vehicle can be checked at a fraction of the cost and in real time.
IoT Use Cases Technologies
IoT Use Cases
We are a connected world. We now communicate with machines, with systems, with people. That instantaneous connection, driven by real-time data, opens up opportunities for businesses and individuals in ways not even imagined just a few years ago. With IoT, the opportunities are endless. We will outline just some of the use cases in which IoT can influence outcomes, enhance business efficiencies and opportunities, and improve lives.
Renewable Solar Energy
Companies operating in the most remote locations, with products purpose-built for off-grid, rural, and often hostile environments, require a reliable global mobile network that provides consistent connectivity worldwide to enable effortless remote monitoring of solar energy systems. To overcome these many life-critical, energy-delivery issues, there is significant need for reliable GSM and CDMA connectivity to deliver functional, energy saving solutions.
It is estimated that many of the global population, do not have current access to electricity, with many more people living with an electricity supply described as poor quality or unreliable. To address these issues, a solar-powered system can be deployed on a simple plug-and-play basis, without the need to reconfigure to use local network settings.
Advanced IoT connectivity enables energy provider networks to overcome critical issues, such as interrupted services, security breaches, and high implementation and maintenance costs.
Fleet managers need real-time intelligence to solve transportation issues before they become costly mistakes. They require a connected data transport solution, combined with IoT analytics, to reduce time-to-market processes, resolve troubleshooting issues, and bring down the total cost of ownership. It is only with real-time business intelligence data that retailers and manufacturers can acquire a comprehensive view of their transportation ecosystem.
The global trucking industry is undergoing enormous change. Older vehicles are being replaced with “smart trucks” using IoT systems with cellular and satellite communications technologies to transmit essential information for management of fleet operations.
Commercial fleet programs are becoming more complex―beyond the original simple needs to manage inventory, location, routing, and fuel costs, they now face requirements for mission-critical reliability, cross-region connectivity, and innovative market differentiation.
Long-haul fleet management providers require onboard computing and fleet communications to deliver better business outcomes. On-board solutions require highly reliable, real-time, always-on cellular network connectivity, which might require multiple carriers to meet the full-coverage needs of fleet customers wherever they reside and drive.
As the commercial fleet sector becomes even more competitive, fleet owners and operators are seeking more reliable connections―with flexible rate plans and seamless coverage―across many geographic areas and remote locations.
Car makers have been honing in on the monetization of vehicle data. This desire to monetize involves data from internal applications (diagnostics, customer relationship management, and marketing) and external applications (usage-based insurance, traffic information). This requires more complex systems for extracting, storing, normalizing, and preserving or deleting data.
Most cars are equipped with wireless connections, car companies have learned that it is not enough to build a telecommunications module into the vehicle. The entire system supporting that connection has to be properly designed and maintained for the connected car proposition to be viable.
Today, connected cars are using IoT to connect everything from engine diagnostics, to GPS location data, to actual driving behaviors, to infotainment systems. Modern connected car systems are expected to be always-on and, increasingly, will be asked to support autonomous driving and safety applications, such as collision avoidance.
Wireless connectivity, today and into the future, will be expected to maintain continuous connections with increasing demands on the communication of vehicle data and software updates; secure both real-time and historical vehicle data; provide customizable end-user dashboards so as to share data from the vehicle tracking system with end users and customers; and greater insights leading to a safer and more efficient driving experience.
The future of fully autonomous driving is interwoven with the communication technologies in development to make this a practical reality. While the requirements of instantaneous action, such as accident avoidance, means that the cars must process sensor data extremely rapidly―local to the vehicle―other capabilities will be enabled by faster cellular technologies.
For example, updates for general traffic conditions beyond the range of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) radio technology, as well as dynamic updates for road changes (repair work, hazards), can be enabled by the advent of faster cellular technologies.
Leasing / Ride Sharing / Asset Management
In many parts of the world, transportation is a huge hurdle. Traffic, costs, and vehicle availability all come into play. To alleviate some of these issues, ride-sharing companies are rapidly expanding globally, trying to fill the need of moving people in urban areas.
In many countries, drivers want to lease vehicles so they can create their own ride-sharing business driving for a specific brand. This creates a significant risk of loss of the leased asset due to theft, lack of payment, or hijacking. Additional loss can come from misuse of the vehicle.
In order to protect their investments, ride sharing companies need to track all their vehicles, many of which are leased to individual drivers. Companies need data on driver performance and access to vehicle metrics regarding whether the leased vehicle is being used for another service or whether the driver is paying leasing fees. In such cases, ride-sharing companies also need the ability to remotely disable the vehicle before harm can be done to a company or its reputation.
Key to all this is reliable monitoring and tracking connectivity so that data is collected in a timely manner. Poor quality of IoT devices and slow response times to problem management scenarios are situations that also need attention.
Today, ride-sharing companies can install a tracking device in their vehicles, which ensures constant monitoring of vehicle location; insights to driver performance metrics; vehicle metrics; auto-immobilize functionality if the driver is late paying leasing charges or if the vehicle is reported stolen or tampered with; or to halt activities if the driver is using the vehicle for unauthorized purposes. This comprehensive IoT asset management solution allows ride-sharing enterprises to retrieve any vehicle operating outside of company guidelines and to protect its investment in a costly asset.
The healthcare industry shows great promise as IoT-driven systems and applications are improving access to care, increasing the quality of care, while, at the same time, reducing its overall cost. Today, it is one of the fastest growing IoT sectors, with a large number of startups developing new medical sensors, transporting the data to care providers, and achieving the desired health improvement outcomes.
It has been estimated that most of the global economic impact of the IoT revolution will occur in healthcare, more than any other sector. And IoT-driven companies can gain a competitive edge in that sector—specifically in areas such as user experience, operational costs efficiencies, and global expansion.
Cellular connectivity and IoT solutions enable medical device manufacturers and healthcare providers to achieve the highest levels of patient engagement and medical adherence, with the lowest cost, regardless of global location.
New IoT technologies are changing the way health services are delivered, allowing recipients to remain in their homes to receive care and avoid costly hospital stays. Companies are expanding in-home services, providing solutions for independent living specifically tailored to disabled populations nationwide. With that in mind, more and more state and federal healthcare agencies encourage in-home care programs as a vital way to deliver efficiencies and reduce costs.
An IoT system could proactively alert patients and caregivers to changes in behavioral patterns by communicating with multiple sensors to observe activities of daily living. Text, email, or phone alerts can be generated by a single event, an intersection of multiple events, or by inactivity. Components, such as motion-sensors, door / window contacts, and bed pressure pads, alert caretakers to falls, wandering, or changes in sleep patterns. An IoT-enabled system could help residents remain independent with environmental controls that operate beds, lights, TVs, doors, and more via tablet or voice activation.
As another example of IoT serving the healthcare sector, a pillbox dispenser that uses cellular and IoT technologies to provide real-time medical management solutions. The pillbox, designed to work in diverse environments, has a rechargeable, longer-life battery, which allows the device to be used for extended periods without the need of an external power source.
With IoT connectivity, enables clients, pharmaceutical businesses, doctors, and healthcare organizations around the world to improve medication adherence management. A remote doctor making a house call via IoT is an ultimate goal for the medical industry.
Virtually every aspect of city operations can be made smarter through IoT—from embedded roadway devices to advanced lighting to waste management. That means there is unlimited potential for IoT providers to deliver a variety of solutions to meet the ever-increasing demands for efficiency and cost reduction.
The human migration to cities now is a global trend that research indicates will continue for the foreseeable future. While this shift has enhanced the economic well-being of millions, it also has placed incredible demands on infrastructure and the quality of life of the inhabitants of large, ever growing cities.
A “smart city” may sound futuristic, but at its heart, the idea is quite simple and traditional—smart cities bring together current and new technologies, infrastructure, and government to benefit people’s quality of life. Smart cities bring together current and new technologies, infrastructure, and government to benefit people’s quality of life.
Smart city solutions introduce tremendous new capabilities, giving municipalities the ability to remotely monitor, manage, and control devices using IoT technology. These tools help citizens create new insights and actionable information from massive streams of real-time data.
IoT enables traditional cities to become ‘smart’ by incorporating ecosystems that offer remarkable efficiencies, cost savings, and advanced resource management via automation and connectivity.
Financial / Insurance
In the recent past, vehicle telematics that insurance companies cared about involved risk assessment, vehicle performance, reports, mobile apps, and APIs. Today’s insurance provides a multitude of new views into driver and driving characteristics. With sensors and devices absorbing data at an unprecedented rate, insurance now also covers accident reconstruction, false claims identification, overall claims management, driver coaching, alerts and notifications, actuarial support, vehicle immobilization, asset protection, usage-based insurance (UBI), and a lot more.
As our world becomes increasingly digital and connected, customer and business expectations for insurance are evolving. A platform-based, highly scalable solution enables insurers to offer value-added services that simplify the insurance process and radically improve customer satisfaction.
• Claims Management: Quickly process claims and identify possible fraud. Reduce fraud and claims while speeding up the entire claims process.
• Customer Management: Maximize customer value through targeted up-sell, cross-sell opportunities. Attract more low-risk customers.
• Renewals Management: Identify customers with high propensity to lapse for targeted collection. Increase customer retention.
• Sales Force Management: Identify agents with high potential.
• Pricing & Risk Management: Conduct risk-based pricing for better profitability. Gain a higher percentage of low-risk drivers. Reduce underwriting costs. Provide customer premium savings.
The IoT enhances the interaction frequency with customers and provides value through information and knowledge creation.
Bottom line—IoT data usage can impact services by providing insights to risk assessment, loss control, driver behavior, product pricing, and much more.
How to Implement an IoT Solution
Supply Chain Management – Bill of Materials
Supply chain management refers to planning for the flow of materials and services into and out of the business, and managing all the goods required to make your IoT deployment happen. If your company is building its own IoT devices from scratch, you’ll have many materials, parts, and suppliers to account for. If you’re assembling devices from ready-made components, you can reduce the number of suppliers. However, even if you buy a complete, off-the-shelf device, it still requires sourcing, testing, and managing supply and demand.
Cellular Operations and Communications
The service provider must be able to deliver several essential requirements for the project, including reliable network connectivity, robust service agreements, effective application integration, cost management tools, and flexible rate plans. Make sure your provider can deliver on these prerequisites, if they cannot, shop around to find the right partner.
To help you select the ultimate service provider with the capacity to manage a successful deployment, you may want to look into these questions of a cellular carrier during the selection process.
• Make sure you won’t be hit with hidden costs from your cellular operator that drive up your IoT service bill or additional cost, like activation fees.
• Traditional operators only optimize their cellular coverage based on their cost of delivery, and they always prefer to use their own towers, even if the coverage they provide is weak or intermittent. A carrier-agnostic provider, like H2O, can expand coverage where needed, and will offer the strongest signal, regardless of operator, with no interruption in service.
• Cellular carriers with remote, real-time troubleshooting capabilities can save you significant costs. Also, an operator with a network operations center support team that deals only with IoT-related issues is going to be more knowledgeable about your devices and connectivity issues.
• A network dedicated solely to IoT traffic won’t experience the delays caused by crowds of consumer handsets. The lower latency of an IoT-dedicated network means you’ll be able to rely on mission-critical transmissions to get through the first time.
• When managing IoT services, it often makes more sense to go with a pay-per-use plan than with a per-device or fixed-data plan. Pay-per-use is most cost effective for lower-usage device profiles. If your devices have higher-usage levels—10 MB or more—a per-device data plan is your best option.
These are some concerns your company should consider when choosing a cellular operator. You’ll want a service provider that suits your business needs and can support your IoT project over the long term.
Cloud System Selection
Often, the large number of devices that typically are deployed for an IoT application necessitates the use of a commercial cloud service that provides the performance and high-availability capability required by the application.
This requires customers to carefully ascertain whether the cloud provider has the right tools, cost models, and support for their needs. The right questions are not always clear since some aspect of their service or cost model may be appropriate until a certain size threshold is reached. This “scaling challenge” often is one of the most difficult areas of assessing what is possible.
Consider the following when assessing your cloud selection.
• Can the cloud provider assist you in simulating the costs for your application transport, storage, and analysis needs? If the costs do not meet expectations, the return on investment for the application could fall short and lead to an unsuccessful deployment.
• In some countries, there are regulations that require that data must not cross past national boundaries and the presence of a local data center may be critical to operating within the regulations of that country. Indeed, an absence of a cloud data center in a vital market may preclude the selection of that provider.
• Do your software engineers and operations personnel have the expertise to develop and maintain cloud solutions for your IoT application? Sometimes, the selection of a cloud provider is guided by the available personnel within your company who have experience with that provider. It may be necessary, however, to hire additional resources or use an IoT platform vendor who can guide you to the best possible solution.
Many companies attempt to provide a platform for IoT solutions. This appears to be an area where it is possible to find hundreds of companies purporting to provide “IoT platforms”. In this noisy environment, it is difficult to assess what the capabilities and features of the platform are, let alone how well they would fit for the requirements of your specific IoT deployment.
Given the large variety of possible IoT applications in many different types of markets and businesses, and the large number of available platforms, it is tough to determine the best one for your needs. Yet, it is important to make the best selection as early as possible, since the wrong selection at the early phase of any IoT application deployment could significantly impact and delay the project.
Network Operation Service Level Agreement
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) you negotiate with the operator defines the scope of your contract with the operator. This is where your business defines its relationship with its network provider, so it’s important to specify what will keep your IoT deployment running.
Things to consider in your SLA include.
• What are the expectations for your connectivity? How reliable is the operator’s network historically?
• What are the geographic restrictions of the operator’s network, if any? Some carriers may not guarantee service at all towers or all sections of particular metro areas.
• How long will it take the operator’s customer support to acknowledge and then take care of a problem?
When entering into an SLA, make sure the agreement is realistic, actionable, measurable, calculated, well-defined, mutually exclusive, and completely exhaustive in covering all aspects of concerned networking services.
Devices must be approved or certified to run on the operator’s network. For this certification, the focus generally is on testing the cellular behavior of the device.
One example of this might be the behavior of the retry algorithm used by the device if it fails to connect to the application server in your data center. A continuous retry by thousands of devices at the same time could overload the operator’s network. Implementing a random back-off algorithm, and testing it prior to certification dictates better device behavior.
Operator certification also provides an opportunity to use the application host server software to perform additional tests that stress the interaction between the device and the server. Unusual scenarios, such as delayed responses from the server (that might be observed during congestion or server scaling), can be used to see if a device handles them gracefully.
In certain markets, such as the healthcare industry, additional regulations for device performance in medical environments and data privacy rules may apply. Additional certification may be required by standards organizations, regulatory agencies (such as the Federal Communications Commission, or even your customers, particularly if there is end-user integration. Each company deploying such IoT applications must determine how to best meet all the regulations that apply to them.
Normal Operation Considerations
Here are a few of the concerns to be dealt with when IoT devices are deployed.
• What is the definition of “normal”? What are the baseline transmission patterns and server performance measurements?
• What happens if the IoT device can’t connect to the cloud platform? In addition to having a random back-off retry algorithm, what will the device do with its data? Remember that stale data would be inaccurate when transmitted too late. The device needs to know when to generate an alarm.
• What should a mobile IoT device do if it loses its cell signal? The device needs to know when it is appropriate to hold the data in its queue and retry later.
The range of normal operations will vary for each deployment, so you’ll need to set initial parameters for all aspects of the program. Then you can track performance against this baseline moving forward.
IoT Scalability and Alternative Technologies
What is IoT Scalability
In the context of IoT, scalability is the ability to grow the application, the solution, and the platform to keep up with the projected growth in the number of devices, the data traffic from these devices, the applications servers that process and store the received data, the real-time (or near real-time) streaming data alert systems, the pattern and predictive analytics, etc.
Successful organizations plan for the entire application lifecycle—from development to operation to scaling to end-of-life.
Essentially, this is the ability of the IoT ecosystem, both for any given application and all such applications in general, to grow at the same rate as the predictions—to make them a reality rather than hype. The demand for IoT applications, devices, and services will continue to grow exponentially, and companies with connected devices will need to scale resources accordingly. For example, most IoT platforms let the customers rapidly provision cellular devices for service at volume. Requests are not sent in by humans; rather, automated systems make the provisioning requests, and automated systems process these requests.
IoT Device Resource Requirements
Many companies run into difficulty after deploying their first few hundred or thousands of IoT devices. This is not totally surprising because planning for scalability is difficult and involves many factors, both technological and business related.
Sometimes, systems and processes simply reach design capacity, and it is time-consuming and costly to change the architecture of the solution or add capacity. Or the cost of operations becomes higher than expected or planned for, which has a deep impact on smaller companies and startups that are resource constrained. Successful organizations plan for the entire application lifecycle―from development to operation to scaling to end-of-life.
The predictions for deployed numbers of devices can be enormous. This has created a need to change some of the resources used for IoT applications. Computing resources also can be scalable, particularly if the device traffic and application processing can be stored and processed. New database technologies have been deployed that are far more expandable than the traditional databases used in the past three or four decades for data processing.
IoT Cloud Computing
Cloud computing technologies have provided a scalable solution for storing and processing the data gathered by IoT devices.
Since the numbers of devices are growing rapidly, systems to process the data must grow equally fast. Adding capacity at private data centers is not easy for most companies, since purchasing the physical space, providing for additional power and cooling, increasing the network bandwidth and throughput, installing the computing systems, etc., can take significant effort and time.
Commercial cloud computing suppliers excel at this task. It’s their business to provide the compute resources, network bandwidth, and general facilities for exactly this growth purpose. Customers using cloud services can “spin up” resources as needed, in step with their IoT application growth.
IoT End-of-Life Management
Many IoT devices have an end-of-life that must be managed. The in-service period generally is much longer than the typical period we expect for electronic devices and consumer cellphones today, particularly for industrial applications. But, once the end-of-life of a device is reached, its removal from service must be managed to avoid tying up resources.
For example, in cellular networks, devices have a number that identifies them to the network for operational, accounting, and authentication purposes. In CDMA, this is the Mobile Identification Number (MIN), International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), or Mobile Directory Number (MDN). In GSM, this may be the IMSI or the Mobile Station ISDN (MSISDN).
These numbers are assigned from an allocated range, or number pool, and create a resource that must be managed. Ideally, these assigned numbers then are re-used when devices are removed from service permanently.
Devices removed from business service still may have a presence on the networks and impact performance if they still are electronically operational. For example, cellular devices used in automotive applications can be removed from service but still could attempt to “register” on the cellular network every time the vehicle is turned on and off.
It is important for devices to have an ability to be turned off— permanently or temporarily—with code in the software of the device that can be executed remotely. This would allow the application servers to properly remove the device from service and, in the case of permanent removal, allow the device resources (such as the numbers in the device) to be re-used for other devices or applications.
IoT Scalability and Connectivity
When building scalability into an IoT deployment, selecting the appropriate network connectivity is crucial. The range of available data transport technologies for IoT devices is varied, and new options are becoming available. When planning for scalability, it’s important to understand the current choices and what’s on the horizon. However, this decision is largely dependent on the type of application.
The first question to be resolved is whether the application is fixed or mobile.
For simplicity, IoT applications can be classified into two categories: those that are fixed (immobile) at one location and those that are in motion while providing the function of the application. These two categories have differing characteristics that affect the specific network selection and implementation for the transport of data from devices.
In fixed location applications:
- The devices are installed at a single location.
- They generally do not move during the normal day-to-day operation of the applications (although they could be re-installed at some other location during their lifetime).
- During this operation, they generally are in a single service boundary.
- The devices often use wired networks in deployments where easy wired solutions are available.
- Wireless networks also are used, however, since network wiring may not be convenient or available.
- The solutions may be hybrid―using short-range wireless to reach a gateway that uses a cellular or wired connection to connect to the servers.
Fixed location devices often are wired. This could be with a Local Area Network (LAN), such as Ethernet using IP protocols.
Older deployments used dial-up telephone lines to reach a remote server directly or connect to the internet, and cable modem connections are used where available (also using IP protocols).
In physically mobile applications:
- The devices are installed on moving objects to provide the functionality of the IoT application.
- They physically move from one place to another during the normal operation of the applications.
- During this operation, they often traverse multiple service boundaries (for example, cellular switch boundaries).
- Using some form of long-range wireless network is natural and required.
- In this category, using cellular or satellite networks is quite common.
- For some applications that must transmit while traversing service boundaries, the technology must be a Wide Area Network (WAN) with mobility management.
For short-range data transmissions, where using a wired solution may not be practical, wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, etc., are quite popular. These are common industry standards for which low-cost implementations of the wireless radio and their protocols are available in integrated circuits. The low cost of these short-range wireless technologies enables using them directly within sensors.
These short-range wireless technologies generally are quite limited in range—from a few meters to a few hundred meters. If the data needs to go further, the short-range communication typically is sent to a gateway that then connects to the servers using cellular, cable, or some other IP network transport.
For medium-range wireless transports, typical implementations of IoT solutions use cellular for communication to a nearby tower (generally within a few miles) that then backhauls the data into the internet or a remote server.
When cellular is not available, such as on ocean-bound ships or remote geographies with low human presence, long-range satellite data services provide a global reach for devices to communicate to a distant server program for that IoT application.
Whichever of these two categories the implementation falls into, fixed or mobile, will drive the selection of the network and communications path for the application.
Wired Data Connections
Wired connections typically are used for fixed location IoT applications. For reaching a server, the cost of the transport is “shared” with general internet access. For many device deployments, this is a very low-cost solution, since the ISP generally does not charge a metered rate—i.e., the often fairly low amount of data sent by the devices at a fixed location does not trigger a high transport cost.
With wired connections, the overall service requires an ISP service or another LAN. The quality of the service and general network availability also depends on the ISP. If it is not able to provide continuous service, some mission-critical applications may experience problems with outages.
Cellular and Satellite Connectivity
Service coverage and availability for cellular and satellite generally are excellent. Even in developing countries, cellular service usually is available wherever people live and along major highways.
If cellular is not available, as in truly remote locations such as an ocean-bound ships or in mountain regions, the coverage from satellite data services is excellent, although some of the satellite services may have relatively higher latencies (the time for a data packet to traverse end-to-end) than other technologies. Coverage inside “urban canyons” with tall buildings usually is difficult for satellite data services, but this is where cellular services can excel. If required, a hybrid cellular / satellite device, with multiple radios, can provide truly global data access.
In both cellular and satellite, the cost of the radio can be high relative to the rest of the device, and the radios generally consume substantially more electrical energy to transmit—the communications range is relatively long. For example, it would not be practical to equip low-cost sensors or simple IoT application devices with cellular or satellite transports. These would be far better served by short-range wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
There is one other concern with cellular technologies―the longevity of deployment is driven by smartphone users. Thus, the technologies evolve relatively rapidly and devices using cellular services must be replaced after some period of time—longer than typical smartphone user turnover, but less than older traditional wired technologies.
In many IoT applications, short-range wireless data technologies, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or ZigBee, are in common use. For certain consumer IoT applications (such as fitness application devices) that only transmit to a nearby smartphone, using Bluetooth and low-power Wi-Fi are common choices. These allow the users to gather data via applications on their smartphone. The need to further transmit the data to central servers for processing is not a paramount requirement but can be done with ease from the smartphone, if necessary.
Short-range wireless is relatively low-energy, so battery-powered devices are designed and deployed easily. In some low-use applications, the battery may last for months or years before it needs to be replaced. This is a key advantage over cellular and satellite applications that require far more frequent energy replacements (for example, using rechargeable batteries that might last a few days).
For many home and business applications, a gateway that provides one or more short-range wireless technologies for deployed sensors and low-power, low-cost, data transmitters are ideal for a number of IoT applications. The gateway communicates to the application servers using cellular or wired ISP connections.
Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN)
Recently, the need for low-cost, low-power applications that offer longer transmission ranges (between 2 to 20 miles) has seen the development of a number of new technologies and services competing for the large-scale deployment of consumer and industrial IoT devices and applications.
Some of these are the proprietary LPWAN technologies and include the commercial data service networks by Sigfox and its licensees in some countries in Europe and elsewhere (and some cities. Similar (but not identical) data transports for IoT include the technologies developed and deployed by Ingenu and Nwave.
The open standards effort by the LoRa Alliance primarily is geared to private network deployments rather than public data networks, although companies also are engaged in deploying LoRa for public access. A number of cellular operators have opted to deploy LPWAN technologies for public access by IoT applications.
The proprietary LPWAN technologies currently use unlicensed wireless spectrum at various standard frequencies. So, they may experience congestion and interference, and have technology and data rate limitations that are solved in different ways. For some transports, the data rate and message sizes are low enough that a simple approach to overcome the congestion problems is possible, although the data mostly is one-way (from the device) for low-power use. Others provide more complex data encoding to reach the tower networks, leading to more expensive radio solutions that may work for some IoT solutions, but not necessarily for all.
Fifth Generation (5G) Cellular
The first draft of 5G specifications were released in December 2017 but, even before that, work already was underway. The official final 5G higher data rate standards are available in most major cities, some point releases have been created in outline areas, particularly for fixed wireless and for the New Radio standards. The official standards for 5G services will include a requirement to accommodate large-scale deployments of IoT applications and devices.
Overall, 5G requirements will provide:
- The transport of 1000x more data volumes than smartphone users are using today.
- More than 10x to 100x the number of connected devices in use today.
- Dramatically lower latency (for end-to-end data packets) below a few milliseconds.
- Projected 10x longer battery life for low-power devices―up to 10 years.
The 5G specifications incorporate various LPWAN network capabilities for IoT devices.
The Future of IoT Platforms
IoT Platforms for Business
Often, the ability of a company to deploy an IoT application is limited by the expertise and capability resources available to it. Engineering talent is difficult to find, and a complete IoT solution may require significant software and systems development. Experience has shown that this can lead to long schedules for deployment, which can be problematic for a variety of reasons: the company may miss the product target window, the project may be more expensive than expected, management may lose confidence in the IoT application, or future support and maintenance may tie up resources and make the IoT application fail to achieve its objectives.
In IoT, to get from the device sensors to the networks gathering data, you need an IoT platform expert like Executive Order Corp. These days, everybody claims to have the best, the fastest, the most secure, the most adaptable platform. But, the bottom line is you need the experience that Executive Order Corp can provide.
IoT platforms combine many of the tools needed to manage a deployment― from device management to data prediction and insights―into one service.
Thus, it often is best to use a platform where much of the development and operational work is done by a supplier like Executive Order Corp who has the necessary expertise and available capability and capacity to support the company. Executive Order Corp provides the “platform” that allows the customer to focus on the objectives and development of the application rather than the mechanics of an implementation. Some platforms also may provide core capabilities of transport networks, data storage, and analytics functions that can be used more rapidly than building in-house. The supplier like Executive Order Corp can support and maintain the platform in the future, including changes to support new services and new technologies.
To source the best solution for your deployment, look at both your company’s immediate needs, as well as for long-term deployment requirements. You will need partner like Executive Order Corp to work with you to deliver your requirement for your future needs. These include scalability, ease of use, security, cost, third-party software integration, and additional functionality as you grow your allocations.
IoT Platform Layers and Services
Executive Order Corp provides service for these four layers of IoT platforms
Connectivity Management, Device Management, Data Management and Analytics, and Application Development. It is important to look at all four layers, along with an overarching layer of Security.
This layer of an IoT platform includes the connectivity types supported, the network protocols that are available to devices, the coverage and footprint of the connectivity (whether it is regional, national, or global), the device provisioning and subscription management, and rate, usage, and billing management.
The IoT Device Management platform can offer elements for automatic discovery of new devices and their configuration, device health monitoring and updates, library support for a diverse set of devices, scalability to allow growth, and edge analytics where the platform processes data and potentially takes action at the device and / or gateways.
Data Management and Analytics
The Data Management and Analytics platform can offer data storage capabilities (including cloud services and data centers), orchestration for disparate sources of data, analysis and visualization tools, and advanced analytics (such as predictive analytics).
The Application Development platform may offer tools for the development and deployment of applications, including dashboards and portals, application programming interfaces (API) to the dashboard, data and cloud computing services for critical functions, and modeling and simulation tools to enable application development without actual deployment.
Any Security platform that is expected to work with an IoT application must provide services for access, authentication, and authorization of a device (or groups of devices) for the user (or multiple users), content protection via data encryption, and key management, as well as gateway security protection and management (including updates).
Executive Order Corp Solving business problems with technology for the Future
We provide a comprehensive & flexible range of technology services to our clients
We are software product engineering experts with over 20+ years of experience delivering the technologies, software architectures, processes and people critical to delivering success.
Executive Order Cloud Computing AI IoT Edge Computing Consulting
We start our Cloud Computing Edge Computing custom engagements with one simple question.
“If you knew the state of everything in your enterprise and you could reason over top of this data, what business case problems could you solve?”
Our mission is to make sure that you can know the state of everything of all your IoT devices in your enterprise and that you can reason on top of this data, so that you can truly solve your business problems and provide enhance customer service through AI IoT. – Steven Woodward
About Executive Corporation Atlanta
Founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1978, Executive Order Corp was established to provide Project Consulting, Custom Applications, Professional Services, and Software Development to our corporate clients. We provide their clients with exemplary products and professional software consulting services.
Professional Consultant-Principal Architect and Software Engineer for Java, IoT Edge Computing, Senior Enterprise Architect for BPMN BRMS Drools, Arduino, Raspberry Pi and M2M AI-IoT Embedded Devices.
Executive Order Corporation is a leading provider of technology that helps global companies design, develop, deploy, and integrate software applications. Delivering best-in-class solutions dedicated interoperability, we allow enterprises of all sizes to move toward IoT, Edge Computing and web-based computing, while continuing to leverage the benefits of legacy systems.
CONTACT: Executive Order Corporation – Atlanta
Telephone: (770) 998-3900