Each day we hear more and more people speaking about ‘Internet devices,’ and there are many articles about the ‘IoT’ appearing on news sites each day, but it seems not many people really know what this mysterious ‘IoT’ abbreviation stands for. We will give you a quick sneak peek on what the IoT is, why it is so important, and what’s under the hood, and in the next article we will discuss how IoT-related data is managed and what the best way to manage it is, because here at DB Best, we’re all about data management!
IoT stands for “Internet of Things.” The ‘father’ of the concept of the IoT, Rob van Kranenburg, defined it as a single network connecting real-world and virtual objects around us, claiming that all of the analog and digital worlds can be combined into a single interconnected system. The Internet of Things is not just a lot of different instruments and sensors connected to each other using communication channels that have Internet access; it is a closer integration of the real and virtual worlds in which communication is done between people and devices.
It is expected that in the future ‘things’ will become active participants in business, information, and social processes, where they can interact and communicate with each other by sharing information about the environment while responding to and influencing the processes occurring in the environment without human intervention.
According to Rob van Kranenburg, the Internet of Things is a four-layer scheme:
- Level 1 is associated with the identification of each object.
- Level 2 is a service for the needs of consumers (it can be regarded as its own network of ‘things,’ such as a ‘smart home’).
- Level 3 is the urbanization of city life. This is the concept of a ‘smart city,’ where all the information that concerns the residents of this city contracts to a specific residential area in your house and neighboring houses.
- Level 4 is an entire planet connected through the Internet of Things.
In other words, the Internet of Things can be viewed as a network of networks within which smaller networks form bigger ones
Who is using it? And where?
All over the world, people are using the Internet of Things at home and on the go without even realizing it. In sales, transportation, medicine, sports, banking, construction, and more, the Internet of Things is being implemented to make all of lives more convenient and fluid. Mobile devices or special sensors monitor the movement of ships and trucks to transport companies, devices analyze what products sell better depending where they are placed in the store, and the working modes of machinery in factories are adjusted depending on changing conditions.
DB Best is always on the edge of technology, so we have helmed several IoT research projects, such as research on Apple Watch, to determine, does current state of WatchOS allows to use it for corporate needs.
The Internet of Things is often used to care for the sick in hospitals, and DB Best has such a project in a healthcare field too. We’ve taken an active part in development of application companion for “CoHero” project, a progressive IoT device, aimed on to helping people with asthma take their medicine on time and track their overall health condition. The app gathers all patient health parameters, such as lung capacity, peak expiratory flow, volume that has been exhaled at the end of the first second of forced expiration and uses this information to give the most accurate advice. Later on, data from thousands of patients can help in prognosing future health conditions of other sick people. Here is the example of an companion app for CoHero device.
There are many other industries that IoT can extend and revolutionize, and DB Best is ready to help lead the way!
Technologies and Issues
Communication and interaction between devices need a common language, like in real life, between humans. Cisco has partially solved this problem, by performing a technical analysis, which showed that the IP could be adapted to the requirements of a new type of networks.
In this case, the ‘Internet of Things’ will receive the same benefits as the standard Internet: interoperability, scalability, and single common language capable of making a complex array of public and private networks into a single global communications network.
In the case of the IoT, the IP is just a means of communication for devices. But unfortunately, there is still no common and standardized language.
The Internet of Things usually relates to the development of two technologies: radio frequency identification (RFID) and wireless sensor networks.
RFID is a method to automatically identify objects by means of radio signals that are read from or written to the data stored in the so-called transponders, or RFID-tags.
This technology is well suited for tracking objects and obtaining small amounts of information from them. For example, if products have been equipped with RFID-tags, we can use our phones to check composition and and even remotely check what we need to buy while in the grocery store.
Wireless sensor networks
A wireless sensor network is a distributed, self-organizing network of multiple sensors and actuators connected to each other via radio. Moreover, the coverage area of such a network can range from a few meters to several kilometers due to the ability to relay messages from one element to another.
This technology is used to solve many practical problems related to monitoring, control, logistics, and so on.
Problems and shortcomings
A major problem today is the lack of standardization in the Internet of Things, which makes it difficult to integrate proposed solutions into the market and in many ways is holding back the emergence of new ones.
As for the full functioning of such a network requires the autonomy of all ‘things,’ i.e. sensors must learn to get energy from the environment, rather than working on batteries, as is happening now.
The presence of a huge network that controls all the world, the global open data, and other features can have negative consequences.
Another issue is that databases need to adopt and meet these new IoT requirements with greater data processing agility, multiple analytical tools (including real-time analytics), and aligned and consistent views of the data. Relational database management systems will still be present, but their impact will be lesser, with more NoSQL databases ruling heterogeneous data gathered from various ‘things.’ We will talk about database solutions in the second part of our research.
Security is another IoT issue that is often overlooked. In the IoT, everything becomes its virtual counterpart. Thus, in addition to the physical security of the objects, there are information security issues, the importance of which is directly proportional to the number of ‘things.’ The use of wireless data transmission techniques opens up endless opportunities for attackers. To assess the scale of the problem, one must imagine how many vulnerabilities make use of RFID tags on products, such as consumer goods. Anyone can get any information at all stages of the logistics, from producer to store. When you exit the store, anyone can learn the content of your shopping cart and use the data. Therefore, we need methods of cryptography and physical protection. At the same time, there are numerous problems associated with the protection of individual rights and other issues.
The formation of a single info-communications environment and the institutionalization of mass services dictate the need for developing common standards for information and communication services in the Internet of Things. Such standards are essential both for consumers and service providers so we can achieve technological neutrality for the huge variety of technical standards that have emerged over the past few years.
The first standards to be developed must be for the provision of socially important services, such as e-government, e-education, e-health, and e-commerce, as well as for critical services on which people depend, such as individual assistance in the event of emergency and rescue services.
You now have a basic understanding of the Internet of Things. Now that you know the rudimentary concepts and technologies that ‘things’ rely on to connect to the Internet, you should be ready for our next article on issues related to the organization of databases for the Internet of Things.