1/25/2016

Lots to Consider with Internet of Things

Let's say I ran a vending machine company.  10 vending machines, each one selling candy bars.  Every day, I'd make the rounds, stocking them, collecting change and dollar bills, fixing machines as needed.  Making sure the energy supply was good and connected.  And refunding any change to people who lost money in the machine.

Sure would be nice to perform these tasks remotely.  Through sensors.  I could ping the machine, ever so often, make sure it's functioning.  Check to see what version of software was running.  Perform diagnostics, make sure no issues.  Pull the money from the machine as its deposited, perhaps through credit cards instead of real money.  Run reports to see peak activity hours and popular brands.  Would save on gas money, driving to and from each location.  Save on resources as I wouldn't have technicians and stocking people, etc.  Collect the information from decentralized machines, collect, maintain and control things remotely, store data centrally, constant communication with multiple devices.

That's one way to look at the Internet of Things.  Instead of vending machines, perhaps sensors in your car, washing machine, lawn mower, air conditioner, sweater, tennis racket.  Anything really.  The internet of anything and everything.

Data would flow in, from the sensor, through a well defined protocol, continuously, mini messages with limited data, streaming in and collected, looking for patterns, anomalies, and activating alerts or triggers when criteria met.  Sensor down, send message to perform diagnostic or reboot.  Detecting malfunction in washing machine, initiate call to home owner, warranty people and schedule repair man.  Also, check data, is this issue common?  Was there a recall on the unit?  How many other affected?  Initiate email to vendor, inform widespread issue with product x, recall unit?

All this can be done unassisted, without the intervention of humans.  Automation is key.  A continuous loop of information, tightly secured, over the internet, through predefined protocol.

What are some sore points?  Internet connection.  Security.  Sensors that break or malfunction or outdated.  Operating systems not having latest patches.  Bottlenecks on the central server that collects millions of data packets per second.  Bugs in the software along any point in the chain.  People snooping the data, exposing sensitive information, exposing entry access points to "things" or networks, reporting wrong information, outages.

What about vendors who don't secure their sensors correctly.  Or not having enough or the correct software developers to support rise in IoT?  How about the complexity of layers, as in hardware devices, software code, vendor products, software package options.  Who's going to create these decoupled, decentralized systems and who's going to maintain them after they've been in production for 5 years and everything is outdated?  How much will it cost to upgrade everything to latest standards and protocols?

Lots to consider when thinking about the Internet of Things.  Sensors.  Devices.  Power supply.  Internet connection.  Communication between server hub and things.  Volume of data.  Storage and backup of data.  Software creation and maintenance.  Warranties, SLAs, patches, upgrades.  Maintenance, repair and downtime costs.

Who owns the system?  Because it crosses so many layers.  DBA?  Software developer/architect?  Network people?  Cloud people?  Sensor manufacture?  Security people?  Does the business own it?

Only thing, the IoT plane just pulled from the gate.  Now approaching the runway.  Got clearance for takeoff.  Let's hope for a smooth ride.

Bloom Consulting Since Year 2000