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Elements Of IoT

  • For anyone working in IT, the Internet of Things is trend that can't be ignored. IoT dominates headlines with catchy stories about connected refrigerators and wearable tech, along with sensational estimates for the oncoming number of connected devices.

    Cisco, for example, predicts the number of connected devices will rise from 25 billion in 2015 to 50 billion by 2020. Garter's IoT estimates are a less dramatic -- the research firm expects by 2020 the IoT will include 26 billion units -- but impressive nonetheless.

    What gets less attention is the underlying technology for all these connected devices. Here, we look at some of the top use cases for IoT and the associated infrastructure and network components that IT pros can expect to build and install.

    Technologies such as wireless mesh networks, for instance, will get more attention as organizations build out support for the IoT. We also examine some challenges that IoT raises, such as increased storage demands and new data security concerns.

    (Image: jefferb/Pixabay)

  • Industrial IoT

    Welcome to Industry 4.0: The convergence of network architecture and smart manufacturing systems. By enabling data sharing and removing boundaries across the factory floor, industrial firms are seeing improved equipment efficiency, market agility, and labor productivity. The industrial IoT infrastructure starts with a converged network, which helps reduce downtime and enables remote access. Networking and connectivity software provides visibility into equipment, while integrated production systems provide plant-wide visibility. To increase overall equipment effectiveness, manufacturers can use open standards to connect with sensor-level networks that can detect equipment failures and issue real-time notifications. Image: Lauren Wellicome

  • Utility grid

    By helping to reduce energy loss, increase efficiency, and optimize energy demand distribution, a smart grid can help ensure the future energy supply. A smart grid includes smart meters, which measure energy and enable two-way communication, as well as an in-home display or gateway by which smart meters deliver consumption information. In addition to the piece that measures energy consumption, meters include several radios or power-line communications (PLC) solutions as well as pre-payment and near-field communication functions. The type of connection required for smart meters largely depends on the country and nature of the grid. No single connectivity solution fits all deployments, so they often require a large portfolio of smart meters that can go from wired to wireless and sometimes both combined. Image: Christian Haugen

  • Healthcare networks and sensors

    Of all the use cases for the IoT, healthcare is perhaps the most notable. From wireless tracking devices on critical equipment for improving response times to wireless sensors monitoring environmental variables that ensure proper storage of biological products, the IoT offers myriad opportunities to improve patient care and lower costs. Most of the technological development in this area is occurring on the device and analysis side. However, healthcare organizations will need to beef up their network infrastructure in order to accommodate the sensors and data they transmit. Image: Philip Dean

  • Wireless mesh networks

    Hard wiring billions of geographically dispersed things to the Internet will be virtually impossible. Thats where a wireless mesh network comes in. Deployed using common WiFi components, a wireless mesh network is an ad-hoc network that allows devices to connect independently. Wireless access points and in-range devices transmit data from node to node, and route data back to the wired network. Each additional node makes the network more efficient, however additional infrastructure (such as routers and gateways) are necessary for Internet access or data collection. Image: Rob Pongsajapan

  • Smart cities

    When applied to metropolitan areas, the IoT can mean less traffic congestion, safer streets, and reduced energy consumption. Sensors can be added to virtually anything: streetlights, traffic lights, garbage receptacles, parking meters, bus stop benches, and art installations. These sensors communicate over wireless. In the case of something like streetlights, it makes sense to install a mesh network so that one node can gather and transmit the information from many sensors. The key, however, to making a city smart will be the applications. Apps that gather information from the smart infrastructure and translate it into actionable advice -- such as Parking is available on 6th Avenue -- can transform peoples lives. Image: Steve Arnold

  • Connected homes

    The connected home may still seem a thing of the future, but the technology is here and services are available now. Key components include broadband networks for the back-end connection, home networks to distribute the connection, mobile apps to remotely control devices, and communication protocols, like the ZigBee Alliance standards. Service providers leverage this infrastructure to deliver home automation and remote control services, while manufacturers like Whirlpool and Samsung are adding connectivity to their home appliances. Image: Sven

  • Data centers

    The explosion of connected devices will mean a number of new challenges for the data center, according to Gartner. For example, inbound data center bandwidth requirements will increase as massive amounts of sensor data are transmitted to the data center for processing. The demand for storage capacity will also increase, along with the need to meet various security requirements for personal, consumer-driven data and enterprise big data. Given the amount of data collected from geographically distributed sources, it wont make sense to transfer all data to a single data center. Instead, Gartner says organizations will have to aggregate data in multiple distributed mini data centers where initial processing can occur. Relevant data will then be forwarded to a central site for additional processing. Image: Sean Ellis

  • Security

    When devices and systems like insulin pumps and HVAC are connected over an insecure network, the security threats are fairly obvious. Whether intentional or not, a failure can have catastrophic consequences and put lives at risk. According to a report from Beecham Research, IoT technologies must be built from the bottom up with security in mind and this means changing the way we think about security. Extended lifecycles of the devices, low processing power, and the potential inaccessibility of connected devices must all be taken into account. While most IoT technology providers are encrypting data, thats just a start. The industry needs methods for confirming identity, authentication and authorization that are interoperable across vendors and various communication technologies. Image: Yuri Samoilov

  • Separate, low-bandwidth IoT network

    Theres no doubt that increased traffic from billions of connected devices and the data they generate is bound to impact Internet bandwidth. These concerns are driving the development of a separate, low-bandwidth network by IoT connectivity company Sigfox. The 915 megahertz frequency network is being rolled out in San Francisco, as well as the U.K., France, Netherlands, Russia and Spain. There is concern, however, that a separate IoT network could stunt interoperability.Image: Simon Cockell