Internet of Things tamed with the Cloud
The Internet of Things (IoT) is described in many ways. Some may call it an “ecosystem”, others say it’s a network of dedicated objects that essentially “talk” to each other, but whatever you call it, in short, the Internet of Things is all of the things connected to — and by — the Internet. And although it sounds very simple, it’s not. Take our imagined version of a “smart office”, below.
Many of these things are obviously connected to the Internet. Phones, computers, and the alarm system are all “online”. However, these things are also connected to each other through the Internet. The lights, alarm systems, entry systems, window blinds, and thermostats are now connecting with your smartphone, which allows you, or anyone with access, to remotely control them. They can even be enabled to control each other! So when the keyless entry system or the motion sensors detect someone moving around in the building, the air conditioners hum to life and the lights illuminate the space — on their own. Even the planters have become communicative, letting you know when the office plants need water. And all of this is just a small example of one office.
The supply chain is taking advantage of the Internet of Things, as well. According to McKinsey, incorporating machines that can schedule their own maintenance has been shown to reduce maintenance costs by as much as 40% and cut unplanned downtime by 50%. On the customer side, data being gathered at the point of sale and through in-store monitoring systems, inventory management devices, and apps are enabling companies to predict buying habits of individual customers which lets them make more super-personalized product and service suggestions.
In the next few years, businesses will really have to hit the ground running. Not only equipping their products with the connected services customers will come to expect, but also making sure their stores, offices, and warehouses have the connected equipment that will help them keep up with new demands. Of course, there are a few concerns that seem always to come up whenever we talk about the Internet of Things.
How the Cloud Makes the Internet of Things Manageable
Security and Privacy
Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Samsung have all developed platforms to help businesses manage their Things. And because these companies are in the business of data, their efforts to keep that data secure will always be on the forefront of the industry.
A more centralized platform also gives greater control over privacy. The cloud may not discourage collecting private data, but it can make it easier to control who has access to it, how securely it is stored, and how it gets used.
Data Storage and Analysis
The amount of data created and available from the Internet of Things is unprecedented and for companies to take advantage, they are going to need a lot of space to store and maintain it plus a lot of power to house and process it. Cloud storage provides a reliable, secure, and expandable option while Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings
continually provide growing options for analysis.
There are a lot of channels for devices to connect to the Internet and each other. Unfortunately, most of those devices operate on a single channel, which can prevent them from communicating in ways that could be more useful. The information they transmit gathers in a single-device app, and that is where the usefulness ends. But as these
technologies become more sophisticated, they will become more and more adaptable and soon they will be made to interface with custom software designed to help make those communications more useful.
Energy and Bandwidth
The ability to monitor the amount of energy and bandwidth actually being used helps to identify areas where there may be waste and thus, eliminate them. The reality, though, is that most Internet of Things devices use very little bandwidth to operate. It is the transmitting of data that may require a bump in connection. Connecting devices on a cloud platform
allows for a reduction in redundancies in data transmission, which may help with this issue.
On the energy side, the cloud may not help you get around the need for more outlets, but it can eliminate the need for more servers, which are one of the largest consumers of energy in any office. The datacenters that make the cloud possible are huge consumers of power, but they also have huge resources at their disposal to make the generation of
that power cleaner and its use more efficient. This helps reduce the environmental impact and the cost of the energy needed to power your connected Things.
The cloud is flexible and that means that, even with a total physical loss at your warehouse or office, your workers can keep working at other locations and still have access to the entire business.
Centralized control puts the technology at your disposal, making it the useful tool it is meant to be. The clear picture the cloud can provide of our technology may keep us from feeling like we need an A.I. smarter than us to keep it all up and running. If not, at least it could reduce the number of plugs we need to pull when it all goes to hell.