Introduction to Internet of Things (IoT)

This topic will cover the introduction to the Internet of things, it’s components and security challenges in IoT ecosystems.

Definition of Internet of Things

The IoT or Internet of things is a system consisting of networks of sensors and smart objects. The purpose of the IoT system is to interconnect all “Things” in such a way as to make them programmable, intelligent and capable of interacting with humans.

How would you define IoT?

Internet of Things is a network of smart things or objects connected to the internet. They should be uniquely addressable, programmable and accessible over the internet.

Below are few examples of popular use cases of IoT,

Industry 4.0 – IoT is playing an important role in supply chain monitoring and maintenance of industrial devices.  E.g. Devices that require frequent repair will be monitored by sensors to prevent failures which results in saving money and reputation. 

Smart Cities – The applications in the context of Air and water pollution monitoring and purification, spotlighting of the streets and smart parking systems.

Smart Farming – IoT devices are also applied in agriculture to optimize the irrigation of crops for healthy harvest. 

Home Automation – IoT based smart home devices can be controlled using an app or voice commands from remote locations. We can also schedule the automated actions..

Autonomous Transport – Autonomous vehicles are connected to share information from the on-board sensors, parking detectors, traffic sensors and then Cloud computing services will use all this information to provide value added services to self-driving vehicles.

Smart Healthcare – It helps in remote monitoring, unleashing the potential to keep patients safe, healthy and deliver better care. 

Smart Retail – IoT devices are used to obtain data about customers needs and habits in real time. This enables retailers to predict customers’ behavior and provide them customized experience.

Achieving the IoT ecosystem

The following 2 steps are required to achieve the IoT ecosystem.

1. IoT devices must be integrated with software.

2. All the components need to be made available to be used together as a system. 

Components of an IoT ecosystem

There are 6 components of an IoT ecosystem which is described as follows

1. IoT devices

IoT devices such as sensors and actuators are capable of communicating data in response to a query. These devices will be controlled externally or perform intelligent actions on their own using the data collected from these devices. These are often called smart objects or smart things. E.g. Sensors and actuators

2. IoT Area Network

This provides connectivity between IoT devices and IoT gateways.  E.g. Bluetooth. Wearables sending data to smartphones over bluetooth. Here, bluetooth acts as an IoT area network.

3. IoT gateways

This is an important component in the entire IoT ecosystem. It connects IoT devices to the internet. It enables protocol translation. Ensures IoT device interworking. It also acts as a local data processing unit. 

4. Core Network

It provides the communication between IoT gateways and applications running on the cloud. 

5. IoT applications

It contains middleware where all the sensor data will be processed.  E.g. This application can help to determine if the parking position is empty or not. 

6. Cloud Platforms

There are multiple cloud platforms available for IoT ecosystems that help in data processing service for the long term data storage. E.g. Google Cloud Platform, AWS, Azure

Limitations of the IoT devices

The following are the limitations of the IoT devices: 

1. End devices generate a large amount of data and thus it is overwhelming for an end device to store and process.

2. The devices are resource constrained with limited RAM and storage.

Overcoming the limitations

This gap can be filled by cloud services for the Internet of things. There are different types of cloud services and they are described below

  • Platform as a service (PaaS) :

The cloud provider offers a framework where you can write scripts and programs in different languages to process the data stored on the cloud provider or process the data accumulated from the device.

  • Software as a service (SaaS) :

Is a cloud service that offers access to the software running on the cloud. It takes some data as input, performs necessary processing and provides the desired output. 

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) :

The service providers rent out the service space. There is a lot of flexibility to the end user where he can create a virtual machine from the resources offered and build a solution from scratch.  This is for the advanced users having experience with servers and virtual machines. They can offer devices as well as cloud space to offer an end to end solution. 

Offerings from cloud platforms

Cloud platforms normally have following, 

– Ability to access the data remotely

– Ability to accumulate the data from the devices and store it. 

– Offer an application framework that can be used to build an application on the platform in order to process the data.

– Extends the programmability through available APIs which can be used  to push the data onto the cloud platform.

– Offers rule engines which can trigger the action when the data received from the device meeting certain criteria.

Data driven decision making from the data collected from IoT devices.

Security challenges

Below are some of the security challenges in an IoT systems,

Stealing the information about the different things like exact location of the device. 

– IoT data leak can reveal personal information, choices and habits.

– Taking the control of smart appliances.

Disrupting life services. 

Addressing the security challenges

Following measures should be taken in order to mitigate the security risks,

– Incorporate the security by design which is not there in many IoT applications.

– Strong privacy policies.

– Secure communication, encrypted data and storage.

– Follow OWASP recommendations.

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