Collaboration

Will the Internet of Things be the end of cloud computing?

Nick Hardiman peers into the future of the Internet of Things. What changes will this evolving model bring?

The modern Internet is millions of networks containing billions of hosts. The hosts are computers -- small personal computers, big enterprise-size computers, and embedded computers. Digital cameras, MP3 players, and car electronics contain computers, but they are not usually hosts on the Internet. With the rise of IPv6, that will change. New devices will be hosts on the Internet. The Internet of Things is coming.

I recently spoke to Ron Vetter of the IEEE Computer Society. Here's how he puts it: "The ‘Internet of Things' has to do with the large number of devices (things) that are currently or will be shortly connected to the Internet. The proliferation of smart sensors will greatly increase the number of things connected as well as the kind of information and control that will be available. For example, think about what happens when we connect most of our home appliances, HVAC controls, entertainment devices, etc. to the Internet. The quantity of information will explode, as will concerns for privacy and security."

Vetter is referring to sensors of all shapes and sizes, from anemometers to watt meters (no, there are no sensors starting with Z), which will continuously produce oceans of data. Home automation will finally leave the land of geeks and enter the mainstream, when all of these "things" go online.

"Advances and standardization in computer networking and low cost hardware have contributed to moving machine-to-machine communication forward," said Vetter.

The Internet of Things will talk to us, but they will spend more time talking to each other. These M2M (Machine to Machine) communications will happen wirelessly. Many people rely on M2M communications by using a Bluetooth headset, making a payment with their mobile phone or - for the early adopters with money to burn - subscribing to a 4G network.

The technology required to power the Internet of Things is already here, but some of it needs improvement. Networking devices are already here -- no office is complete without a network containing printers, wi-fi routers, and mobile phones. The networking protocol IPv6 is already here, with its trillions of addresses ready for use, although it is only sparsely deployed so far. Low cost production, antenna design, and battery life could do with improvement. Privacy controls, green technology, and Thing management will need a lot of work.

Centralization and distribution

The Internet of Things will lead to de-centralization. It could lead to the end of cloud computing.

As innovation brings sweeping reform, the computer world swings from one model to another. Anyone who has worked in an enterprise for a few years has seen a couple of re-organizations. They know how work is merged and centralized one year, then split and distributed a couple years later, and then it's back to merging and centralizing.

Way back in the 1950s, the installed computer base was thousands of room-size machines, scattered around the world's public institutions and public enterprises. The work of each organization was centralized, because it had to be. No-one had invented distributed computing yet.

The 1980s brought personal computers to the general public. A new software market appeared, distributing computing power to individuals. Mainframes and dumb terminals were replaced with clever desktop machines.

The current trend is centralization - replacing the local computer room with remote cloud services. The clever desktop machine is being replaced with the mobile device - the modern equivalent of the dumb terminal.

The future is another wave of distribution. When everything in the Internet of Things talks to everything else, where will the center be?

Utopia or dystopia

As we build the Internet of Things in the coming years, new types of work and even new industries will spring up that don't currently exist. Who will make all the Things? What will stop hackers switching the lights on and off in a million homes? When the Internet of Things is producing its ocean of data, where can we store it?  And how do we use it?

There will be moral questions to answer in addition to the technical build. Will our lives get better, when the Internet of Things brings us unprecedented insights into the workings of the world? Or will it strip away the remains of our privacy, reporting everything we do to others? Getting it right will require a more holistic approach from the IT industry.

The momentum of the Internet of Things is now building. The Internet changed our lives, and the Internet of Things will change us again.

About

Nick Hardiman builds and maintains the infrastructure required to run Internet services. Nick deals with the lower layers of the Internet - the machines, networks, operating systems, and applications. Nick's job stops there, and he hands over to the ...

21 comments
azharamir
azharamir

I am unsure on what factors this conclusion has been arrived at. Looks like even writing technical articles has become personal marketing strategy. Being an architect its important not to make statements without supporting data. Cloud and Big data will an key factors for success of IOT

Harrier68
Harrier68

First, the cloud is essential for the Internet of things. Things are still "ours" and identity will be in the cloud for accessibility and ease of integration. Second, the biggest barrier to the Internet of things is mobile carriers. House-bound objects are modestly interesting, but with few exceptions like Nest, they are trivial or banal. However, connecting things to the Internet wirelessly outside the home (your vehicle, children, keys!) is super-interesting. Unfortunately, the carriers are years behind in allowing unlimited devices on an account or easily integrating. I have a mobile antenna and transmitter/receiver in my Nissan Leaf (for CarWings), however it is useless to me. Why isn't my car a wireless device on my account?

jamvaru
jamvaru

At some point all these little computers that don't do much right now, like mp3 players and cell phones and dvd players in cars, will be hooked up to the web and not only host media or act as internet hubs but will be part of a greater cloud computer potentially unlimited in size and scope, except for the limits of mankind's development in space and time. One could have all their little devices networked in a shared computing environment, like the hurd is supposed to be, and open their system to use by the outside world, for a fee, of course, or perhaps a discount at amazon/starbucks/apple.

aardvark92
aardvark92

that if anything, the "Internet of things" would lead to an [i]increase[/i] in cloud computing. The more devices we've got connected, the more need we will have for a neutral storage space.

jgraber
jgraber

The mainframe did not disappear when the PC arrived. The PC did not disappear when the cloud arrived. The mobile device is not dumb but another "thing".

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

It's his toaster calling to complain that his refrigerator ordered the wrong size poptart. Then his dishwasher gets on the line bitching about his not scraphing the plates clean before he loads her; and can he please get a different flavor dishwasher soap? Finally, his Roomba2020 comes on and says that he's tired of cleaning up after his cat; he's quitting and going to work for the lady down the street.

SMB5657
SMB5657

Cloud computing is accessible virtualized processing using unnamed hardware resources with a fixed client. As professional infrastructure designers, we have over the last 32 years added layers upon layers of interfaces, communication layers and processing layers always with the goal to isolate the end user from being tied (configured) to specific hardware and software. Why, to make operation of computing resources easier, faster and more reliable. When I started we had to learn BAL (basic assembler language) to make (program) a computer process information. Then we added JCL (Job Control Language) to group programs together. Then we invented COBOL, Fortran and other "languages" which were layered on BAL and so on. We added communication layers, dasd control layers (hard and soft), USB, IPv4, SNMP, SMTP etc... All just layers of what I call the infrastructure pyramid. Each layer built upon the last. The only difference is that this pyramid will never be completed because the base layers continue to grow as we add new functions and uses for the infrastructure to process thus providing the impetus to make it easier and more affordable to use. Cloud computing as it exists today will change but not end. Virtualization of computing resources will just be pushed down a layer in the pyramid being replaced by a new command and control layer to mitigate the impact of the influx of devices onto the global network. Change is a constant, how we deal with change are the variables.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

After all cloud computing has barely started. .... Sheesh

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

wonder what the hell happened to the bandwidth and why the Internet is do damn slow. I can understand having electrical and electronic devices with a small processor and an IP address capability, but they should be for internal household network use only so they can be easily controlled from a central point. As such the fridge could be used to note what's wanted as the day goes on and at the end of the week it's sent to the main computer for review and email to the grocery story (if you want to shop that way). But none of these devices should talk direct to the Internet.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

Since any society places value on what it's doing... it's that simple. Still, we don't place value on recycling or cleanup and then whine incessantly about pollution (the leading cause of the arguable concept called "climate change")...

tsteele
tsteele

Technology is cyclical just like business, the economy and the weather. The centralized/de-centralized technology cycle has been going on since the first "data processors". The move to the cloud was often touted as a return to "centralized computing". It should come as no surprise that there is already a decentralized computing model on the horizon. I'm not convinced "The Internet of Things" is necessarily it, but it is only a matter of time before the entire technological world returns to a decentralized model (after which another "centralized" model will eventually take its place).

radleym
radleym

Why do you guys always try to frame things as either/or? There is absolutely no basis for the argument that my fridge talking to my grocery store will lmpact my use of cloud computing. Try being balanced for a change instead of trying to spark flame wars by pitting two concepts against each other.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

That's only true till you Upload them to someones Cloud and then what was once ours become theirs. All you have to do to prove that is look at Tweeber for Twits and the Picture Sharing Company in the last week. A perfect example of not reading the Terms of Use and believing that these places are there for your benefit. :^0 Col

Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk

I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little tired of the doomsday talk. It appears to me that tech writers view the future with suspicion, distrust and fear. They cannot look at the normal development and evolution of ideas and systems without quaking in their boots. Maybe they're afraid they'll lose their jobs when it becomes clear that their little minds are not capable of keeping up with the rest of the world. I welcome the changes coming, but don't see it threatening the Internet as we know it any time soon.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Actually I do see a potential problem. Making the Internet so tied into Normal Life leaves us all exposed to potential problems when things go wrong. As things stand today how many people pick up the phone at the shops ring home to find out what they need to buy? Yes it's convenient but way too often convenience brings it's own problems of removing the need to Think or shock horror write it in a List of things to buy. When your local Fencing Contractor digs a post hole and tears up the Optical Fibre Cable taking the Network down in the area no one will get anything and they'll be running to stand in line to sue because they didn't have any cold water in their fridges. Then there is the whole Talking Toaster thing where it is constantly trying to force Toast down your thought because that is what it does and when itÂ’s not being used it can not comprehend why it exists. Col

spdragoo
spdragoo

Not to mention that he tries to develop a sense of humor (as noted with the toilet issues). It's definitely a cautionary tale for anyone, both at the enterprise & personal level, as the colony's administration took the "super-cheap" route of hooking everything up through the one computer: payroll records (including the administration's "snitches" & informants), communications (regular & secure), all utilities (sewage, water, electricity, telephone), transportation (all tube trains, plus spaceship navigation aids, were computer controlled), news & information...& most importantly life support. Sure, the "lifers" tended to have independent "dumb" systems to manage life support, water & power in their own homes & warrens, but the admin areas were 100% dependent on "Mike" (aka "Mycroft Holmes", as he was a HOLMES-series supercomputer). Which is why I will *never* install a thermostat that can be remotely controlled over the Internet. If I need to adjust the temperature, I can do it when I'm physically at home -- or simply save money by changing clothes to match the temperature in the house (hello, it's wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere; instead of cranking the heat up so that you can sit around in a T-shirt & shorts, try wearing a sweater & jeans to keep warm... or better yet, buy a nice fleece robe or blanket to keep warm under).

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

It very much reminds me of a Blocked Toilet on a QUANTAS Plane. The Pilot insisted that the Tech blow out the loo on the opposite side to clear the blockage so the plane could return to service immediately. While the Pilot was supervising at the Blocked end the apprentice blew out the other loo and covered the Pilot and everything on that side of the aircraft with the waste matter that was causing the blockage and a lot of the contents of the Sullage Tank. Needless to say the Pilot didn't take the plane back to service and needed a change of clothes. Took about 3 weeks to clean the plane out and the smell to go away. :D Col

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

They have a huge central computer that becomes self aware, and it becomes friendly with the freeborn rebels in the moon penal colony. However, everything in the Warden's complex is connected to the computer. At one point the computer even back-flushes the Warden's toilets. Messy if in use at the time.

Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk

Well, yes, there's that, especially the Talking Toaster, which is a little scary come to think about it. I already resent all the beeping and stuff that comes at me all day long. I remember a move called Dark Star in which one of the planet busters went coo-coo crazy and had to be talked out of detonating on board. The human had to convince the bomb of its nonexistence by teaching it a branch of philosophy. It was LOL funny, but kind of serious too.