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Internet of Things Tutorial: Introduction


 
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In the first of a series of posts, a set of Internet of Things technologies and applications are presented. Following posts will expand on these topics in tutorial form. Get an introduction to IoT here.



By John Soldatos, Internet of Things and Smart Cities Expert.

The Internet-of-Things (IoT) is gradually becoming one of the most prominent ICT technologies that underpin our society, through enabling the orchestration and coordination of a large number of physical and virtual Internet-Connected-Objects (ICO) towards human-centric services in a variety of sectors including logistics, trade, industry, smart cities and ambient assisted living. In a series of post, I will be presenting a set of internet-of-things technologies and applications in the form of a series of tutorial in nature post. The present post is the first introductory one.

For over a decade after the introduction of the term Internet-of-Things, different organizations and working groups have been providing various definitions. For example:

  1. ITU-T  (as part of ITU-T Y.2060) defines IoT as: “A global infrastructure for the Information Society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on, existing and evolving, interoperable information and communication technologies.”
  2. The EU and more specifically the EU Projects Research Cluster in the Internet of Things (IERC) gives the following definition: "A dynamic global network infrastructure with self-configuring capabilities based on standard and interoperable communication protocols where physical and virtual “things” have identities, physical attributes, and virtual personalities and use intelligent interfaces, and are seamlessly integrated into the information network."

Independently of the defintion, the exploitation and coordination of ICOs data and services is enabling a large number of novel human centric applications (e.g., Smart Cities & Communities, IoT in Healthcare, IoT in Manufacturing & Logistics, IoT Platforms & Ecosystems).

The IoT paradigm is enabling the vision of pervasive & ubiquitous computing, which was back in the 90's envisaged to be a direct consequence of the rapid prolifration of computing devices. Indeed, following the era of super-computing (where a few fat computing systems served many users (many-to-one)) and the era of personal-computing (where each user had its own personal device (one-to-one), we are already in the era where each human individual enjoys services based on multiple internet-connected computing devices (such as laptops, mobile devices, multi-purpose sensors, home gateways). Hence, the IoT revolution is indeed propelled by  the exponential increase of the number of connected devices, which is (according to CISCO) estimated to reach 50 billion devices in 2020. This will mean that each of the estimated 7.8 billion people on the planet will use on average more than six devices. Nowadays, we have already crossed the point (back in 2005) where the number of people around the globe was equal to the number of internet connected devices.

The proliferation of internet-connected-objects, empowers interactions both between devices and things, but also between things and people, thus providing unprecedented application opportunities. Indeed, people can directly connect to things (such as mobile phones, electronic health records etc..)  via wearable sensors such  as motion sensors, ECG (electrocardiogram) sensor and smart textiles. Likewise, things connect to each other e.g., as part wireless sensors networks (WSN), but also as part of a WSN's interaction with other devices (gateways, mobile devices etc.). As another example car sensors, connect to intelligent transport systems and with sensors from other vehicles. These interactions are in most cases empowered by heterogeneous networking infrastructures, which provide ubiquitous high-quality connectivity, such as 4G/5G infrastructures.

Along with the term internet-of-things, several similar/analogous technologies and terms have been introduced. These include for example:

  1. M2M (Machine-to-Machine).
  2. IoE (Internet of Everything).
  3. Cloud of Things.
  4. Web of Things.
  5. Cyber Physical Systems (CPS).
  6. USN (Ubiquitous Sensor Networks.

All these terms are very relevant (and in most cases overlapping) to IoT. Nevertheless, they have also subtle (but sometimes important) differences from IoT. We will illustrate these terms and their differences from IoT in following posts. In gerenal there are different viewpoints for IoT, and ΙοΤ experts approach IoT from different angles. For example:

  1. The "Things-Oriented" viewpoint focuses on technologies for the representation and use of the things e.g., RFID (Radion-Frequency Identification),  NFC (Near Field Communications), WSN (Wireless Sensor Networks), Things connectivity technologies etc.
  2. The "Internet-Oriented" viewpoint focuses on the internet and web aspects of IoT, such as the web-of-things layer for simplifying application development, IPv6 for internet connectivity and identification etc.
  3. The "Semantics-Oriented" viewpoint focuses technologies for accessing and leveraging  the semantics of IoT data and services based on semantic web technologies, reasoning technologies etc.

Independently of one's viewpoint about IoT and IoT technologies, any non-trivial IoT system is expected to comprise the following elements:

  • Sensors and Actuators.
  • Communication infrastructure between servers or server platforms.
  • Server/Middleware Platforms.
  • Data Analytics Engines.
  • Apps (iOS, Android, Web).

These elements are evident in the functional viewpoints of the various architectural frameworks that have been introduced for IoT, and which we will be presented in following posts.

IoT is gradually becoming very closely affiliated with cloud computing infrastructures and BigData infrastructures (including data analytics frameworks). These infrastructures provide IoT applications with the means of leveraging the scalability, capacity and reliability of the cloud, along with the data processing and analysis capabilities of Big Data systems. In later posts we will be discussing both IoT/cloud integration and the topical subject of IoT analytics (including mining of IoT data streams). However, we will start with an illustrations of the "things"-oriented technologies  that underpin IoT, such as RFID and WSN.

Further Reading & Study:

1) There are a number of videos illustrating the IoT videos and introducing some motivating functionalities. Some of these are listed below:

2) One can read about the different viewpoints of IoT at: Atzori et al. / Computer Networks 54 (2010) 2787–2805

3) The IoT/Cloud integration is explained at: Gubbi et al. / Future Generation Computer Systems 29 (2013) 1645–1660

4) The IERC cluster books provide a wealth of information about IoT. The most recent book (authored in 2015) is titled"Building the Hyperconnected Society - IoT Research and Innovation Value Chains, Ecosystems and Markets - IERC Cluster Book 2015.

Bio: John Soldatos is an Internet of Things and Smart Cities expert, as well as an experienced ICT & business consultant. He is the author of the book Building Blocks for IoT Analytics.

Original. Reposted with permission.

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