The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, caused quite a stir in 2014. The buzz has gotten louder throughout 2015, as proponents hail the arrival of smart-everything and naysayers warn of web host and server overloads. In the midst of this ongoing debate, changes are already taking place to prepare for a future that includes more of everything IoT. In this post, learn more about how IoT continues to unfold and some potential scenarios for its future.
The Internet of Things is not actually a “thing” on its own. Rather, it is made up of several elements all working together to create intelligence where none existed previously.
Here is a basic snapshot of what it takes to bring any IoT infrastructure to life:
- Sensors. Embedded sensors have the capability to link nearly any device to the IoT infrastructure.
- Device(s). Toasters, coffeemakers, thermostats, security systems – all of these and more are fair game to be wrapped into an IoT framework with the addition of sensors.
- A centralizing control device. Whether a smart phone, a standalone remote system, a laptop or tablet or another device, the central control device gives the user the ability to manage the IoT both on-site and remotely.
- Web host server. The web host server provides the capacity that permits any IoT to maintain connectivity and communication.
IoT and Big Data
So why all the concern about IoT systems overloading existing server capacity? As it turns out, emerging IoT systems are capable of generating tremendous volumes of big data. This big data is not glamorous – so not glamorous, in fact, that some pundits term it “junk data” or “data exhaust.”
However, this data exhaust can be quite valuable in the right hands that are using the right analysis tools. In fact, this very mundane and continual data stream just might be hiding the key to unlocking a whole new perspective on how humans act, interact, think, choose, decide and live. Seen from this context, the applications for such data could be limitless in science, business, education and other fields.
All of which has fueled a growing desire to capture, access and analyze it, which requires more server capacity than ever before. This is fundamentally where the concern about IoT overloading server systems is stemming from – it is no longer just about sensor-enabled devices communicating and connecting, but about the trail of data exhaust fumes their chatter leaves behind.
How the Cloud is Coping with IoT to Date
To date, the projections about IoT overloading server capacity are just that – projections. But they are the kind of pending projections it doesn’t pay to ignore, because their consequences will be here all too soon.
Aside from the relatively low number of homes and businesses that are wired for IoT from the ground up, most IoT systems in use today are hosted through cloud-based servers simply because this allows for after-the-fact sensor embeds and system expansion. While implementing in-house wiring may solve some server overload issues in the future, this approach simply isn’t practical for IoT’s potential long-term.
So what can overload a cloud-based server with – theoretically – infinite expansion potential? The answer boils down to two issues: centralization and bandwidth.
- Centralization. Centralization refers to the structure of most cloud-based server systems. Everything is managed through one central cyber-location (called a “data center” or “server”). In this way, cloud-based solutions are not so different from their wired counterparts.
- Bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the amount of real-time traffic that any server can sustain without service interruption at any given moment in time. The more bandwidth requests a server system receives all at once, the less responsive (i.e. slower) it is likely to become. In time, buffering or even outages can result.
If you picture a neighborhood of 10 houses all using the same cloud-based server, imagine just one of those houses has an IoT system enabled. So the load on the server is fairly light. But then the other nine houses get IoT systems of their own and start using the server too. Now the server is coping with 10 houses’ worth of IoT sensor-enabled devices all chatting with the other devices in their 10 respective systems.
This is one potential future scenario that could describe the Internet of things and hosting if servers don’t address centralization and bandwidth in a timely fashion.
The Future of Hosted IoT
Luckily, mega-companies like Amazon are already pointing the way towards a workable solution. Amazon uses a series of decentralized data centers in different regions and each is equipped with multiple availability zones to guard against server overload and outages.
This is important because inadequate bandwidth is not the only reason a server can become less responsive. Weather, maintenance and other issues can also cause buffering, outages and other irritating bandwidth issues. Breaking up the responsibility between multiple data centers with multiple availability zones in multiple regions shares the burden in case any one server is impacted for any reason.
The Cloud Versus the Fog
One way the cloud has already begun to transform in response to the burden of increased traffic has been dubbed “the Fog.” By incorporating routers and hubs to capture, store and process the big data that is being continually transmitted within each IoT system, the central burden on the cloud server is reduced – dispersed, if you will, to low-lying “fog” outposts that sit in between the central control internet device and its system of sensor-enabled things.
So while it is not yet possible to fully predict just what the future holds for the Internet of things and hosting, what IS clear is that tech-savvy inventors, investors and entities are already mobilizing to ensure that they will be competitively positioned when the future – and its ever-increasing demand for IoT-based systems – arrives.