Cloud optimize

The cloud is fundamental to the Internet of Things

Thoran Rodrigues explains why the cloud is integral to further expansion of machine-to-machine technology.

The concept of the Internet of Things relates to the ever growing number of objects that, in addition to containing internal sensors and processors, are also directly connected to the web, streaming their data online. While home automation is probably the "top of mind" application for this concept - the refrigerator that orders milk from the grocery store whenever its running out - the scope is, in fact, much larger. We could have toys that interact with each other independently, offices that automatically order new supplies as needed, without our intervention, even sensors on our clothing and bodies streaming our health data to our doctors in real time. This kind of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is at the crux of the Internet of Things.

For the full potential of the Internet of Things to be realized, however, cloud computing is fundamental. The whole idea behind the connected objects is that the data they collect is mostly streamed online, so that applications can gather, parse, and act on this data efficiently. Going back to our example refrigerator, it's not the refrigerator itself that orders the milk from the grocery store. The refrigerator streams all of its data, from current grocery levels to your historical rate of consumption, to an application, which reads and parses this data. Then, taking into account other factors, such as your current grocery budget and how long it takes for the milk to arrive at your house, it decides whether to make the purchase. The cloud is the natural home for these applications.

An ocean of data

If all of our day-to-day objects are to receive every kind of sensor imaginable, the sheer number of data points being generated will be staggering. The Internet of Things, therefore, brings with it all the problems related to storing and parsing this data that we're familiar with, except on a much larger scale. And it's not only a matter of volume, but also of the speed at which this data will be generated. Sensors generate much more data and at a much higher rate than most commercial applications.

To handle both the volume and the speed, cloud-based solutions are fundamental. The cloud provides us the ability to dynamically provision storage resources as our needs grow, and to do so in an automated manner, so that human intervention is no longer necessary. It also gives us access to virtual storage, either through cloud database clusters or through virtualized physical storage that can have its capacity adjusted without downtime, as well as access to a huge pool of storage resources, beyond anything we could have locally.

The second problem with all this data is how to process it, a problem that comes in two flavors. The first one is the real time processing of each data point from each different object as it comes in. The second is extracting useful information from the collection of all available data points, and correlating the information from different objects to add real value to the stored data.

While real time processing seems simple enough - receive the data, parse it, do something with it - it actually isn't. Let's go back to the connected refrigerator, and imagine that it sends a data packet with information about what items were removed or stored every time a person opens the door. If we assume that there are somewhere around 2 billion refrigerators in the world and that people open their refrigerator doors four times per day, that's 8 billion data packets per day. That adds up to almost 100 thousand packets per second, on average, which is a lot. To make matters worse, these points would probably be concentrated at certain hours of the day (the morning and the evening, mostly), so that if we were to provision processing capacity based on peak loads, a lot of the infrastructure would go to waste.

Once the real time processing is done, we get into the second problem, of how to extract useful information from the stored data beyond the individual transaction level. It's good for you if your refrigerator automatically orders your groceries, but it's even better for the manufacturer if they know that refrigerators from a certain region are more prone to overheating, or that refrigerators with a certain kind of grocery wear out faster. To extract this kind of information from the stored data, we'll need to leverage all the Big Data solutions we have today (and some that are yet to appear).

The cloud is uniquely well suited to handle both problems. In the first case, cloud computing allows for the dynamic allocation (and de-allocation) of processing resources, enabling an application that needed to parse refrigerator data in real time to handle all the data volumes and to optimize its own infrastructure costs. In the second, the cloud goes hand-in-hand with Big Data solutions, for much the same reasons.

So, while the Internet of Things may change the overall architecture of the cloud, the cloud as we know it today is essential to enable this change. Cloud computing, in the sense of virtualized computing resources that can be dynamically allocated by applications themselves, without human interference, isn't going anywhere. The Internet of Things will only make it grow.

About

After working for a database company for 8 years, Thoran Rodrigues took the opportunity to open a cloud services company. For two years his company has been providing services for several of the largest e-commerce companies in Brazil, and over this t...

10 comments
Kevin917
Kevin917

If it is supposed to be the world. Just sayin.

Tolmaci
Tolmaci

This is a drive by various vendors impose yet another layer or middleman that can charge you for a service. Then they can use your data to data mine and sell the information. All you are seen as is a consumer and they have yet another product they want to sell to you.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Why is this good for me? " ItÂ’s good for you if your refrigerator automatically orders your groceries."

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

very little effect on the cloud itself as M2M is not a useful cloud technology due to the high costs in most of the world (per MB download / upload rates make it expensive), IP address issues, and bandwidth issues; then you get to add in privacy and hacking security concerns. However, for use in a local area network for monitoring manufacturing process, patients and movements within a campus area, this would be a great advantage as all the cloud concerns are gone or reduced.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Who said any of this is good for you? It's good for the grocery and the milk producer. All the rest is sugar coating.

Selena Frye
Selena Frye

The refrigerator example is only one of the oldest, simplest analogies in explaining M2M technology -- it gets across the concept of machines talking to each other, taking an action -- all without human intervention. I don't think Thoran is suggesting that intelligent fridges are going to make the world a better place! Here is a great example of M2M in action and doing something that would be very hard to monitor otherwise: Tracking trees: How M2M is being used to prevent deforestation in Brazil http://gigaom.com/2013/01/17/tracking-trees-how-m2m-is-being-used-to-prevent-deforestation-in-brazil

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

It saves you having to do it. Just like Face Book and Twitter allow you to tell the world the colour of your underwear and the size of the last dump that you had. Your Fridge will be able to reorder replacments for what's gone off while remaining unused and your Toaster will be capable of ordering bread when it feels the need or after making so many slices of Toast. After all a Smart Toaster was designed and exists to be Smart and save you time with the Mundane things that so many people can not be bothered with. Also you'll have no security at all so it increases Good Behaviour as all your wrong doings will be on Public Display for all to see so you'll not do anything wrong. Just like that guy from Face Book tells you that his offering is good because it encourages you to not do anything wrong. When you are Perfect you have no need to worry about anything bad happening to you as those Nasty Bad People will avoid you like the Plague and go after the easier targets. [b]Honest.[/b] Its also better if you dont think about things like this as it taxes your brain too much so just leave it to your Fridge to keep enough food in the house to keep you feed. Of course when your Talking Toaster starts to annoy you because it continually wants to cook you some toast you can resort to the Analog Baseball Bat and smash it up completely, but then you would have to remember to order your bread so you can have some toast. [/Magical Laughter] Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Back in the days when I was a kid watching The Jettisons all of this was in common use. The Robot House Keeper was woken/activated by the alarm clock and started doing whatever it was that it did while the people got up out of bed which had been told by the Alarm Clock that's it's time to get up, the wardrobe was readied for the victim to enter and their food was prepared. The cat was even allowed back in after being locked out for the night. Effectively the house came to life and did it's [b]Thing[/b] without the need for Human Intervention and all was controlled by the various machines used in the building. Col

JamesRL
JamesRL

Better than the refridgerator is the vending machine example. A man owns 50 vending machines, and has a route where he goes machine to machine restocking as needed. But he doesn't know except from experience, which machines more urgently need filling, and he doesn't know which items are out of stock. Those vending machines could easily send information to a central server(in his stock room) and an app on the server create a pick list for replacements and even a route to make the best use of his time.