An Army of Fridges

Posted on: December 2, 2016 by Andy Wallace

Public awareness of the Internet of Things was already on the increase before an army of fridges, baby monitors and video cameras recently brought down Twitter, CNN and Netflix, courtesy of the Mirai Botnet.

It feels very much as if a tipping point has now been reached, as wearable sensors measure our walk to work and connected or driverless cars are beginning to seem less like science fiction for those of us with a more sedentary commute. In the home, there are a growing number of connected objects that allow us to automate the watering of our plants, opening of window blinds or the temperature of our homes. And let’s not forget the teenager with an Arduino device whose pot plant Tweets him when it wants to be watered.

In Ascent Journey 2018 we identified this trend and acknowledged the importance of IoT for the future, but new challenges are beginning to emerge.

For example, while today’s IoT connectivity often relies on ‘The Cloud’, the growing importance of local object-to-object communications for critical processes is calling for a rethink of the way devices participate in the IoT ecosystem.

In turn, the need for rapid, tactical decisions requires a redistribution of the intelligence required to ensure the system’s autonomy, robustness and manageability. Objects also need to be able to exchange data locally very quickly using a wide variety of networking technologies. Imagine for example, those driverless cars as they begin to talk to the traffic signals in their vicinity. Red, Amber, Green and Error 404 Page Not Found are probably not the correct 4 options for a Stop Light.

These challenges lead to a tension between the growing need to distribute the intelligence as close to the object as possible or within the object itself and the limited networking, computing and energy capabilities available to most IoT connected devices. So there is a need for an Intelligent Gateway to address this gap in the overall system architecture.

Intelligent IoT Gateways can help objects discover one another and exchange information. They will have greater processing power and can be guided by a set of business rules which in turn would be provided by a central source. Or a widely distributed one, come to think about it. We have blogged often on the site about the emergence of deep learning and the move from the centre to ‘The Edge’ . These new capabilities will allow the Intelligent IoT Gateway to host virtualized computing functions and assist sets of objects in their mutual operation.

IoT Gateways and their associated objects, whether transient (like cars) or permanent (like traffic lights), will evolve into IoT “Micro Clouds”; autonomous systems that constitute Internet of Things applications. Also they will provide a means to protect the data against unintended use, manage software updates and address a host of other non-functional requirements.

By 2020, IoT Micro Clouds will be a key component of the ecosystem, and a battlefield between telecommunications operators, object manufacturers and Internet giants vying for control of the IoT world. Let’s hope that they all try to learn each other’s languages.

In 2020, the IoT ecosystem will be quite different from what we see today. Whilst we currently experience a set of isolated silos that connect objects to a vendor-specific cloud platform for data retrieval, in the future we expect this ecosystem to be less vertically integrated, instead forming a web of interconnected systems where objects and gateways will be able to interact using open standard protocols.

This shift will have a technical impact for certain, but more importantly it has the potential to be hugely positive for both commercial organisations and public services alike as this new spirit of openness allows start-up businesses to compete with established commercial giants, allows citizens to make their voices heard and blurs the boundaries between central control and local self-organisation.

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About Andy Wallace
Head of Client Innovation, UK&I and member of the Scientific Community
Andy Wallace is Head of Client Innovation with Atos UK&I and a member of the Atos Scientific Community. With over 30 years experience in the IT Industry, Andy has delivered large and complex projects for customers in Financial Services, Energy and Public Sector clients in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. Andy has specific interests in AI, Blockchain, The Internet of Things and all things to do with Digital Business Transformation.

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