"Is This IoT?" - learn not to call the Internet of Things everything
Every week, some top IT-company announces that it is investing millions (and even billions) in the study and development of the Internet of Things - and each such press release is accompanied by a new definition of what Internet Of Things is.
For people far from the development, the Internet of Things is the same “curse” as the blockchain, machine learning and Big Data, and in the explanations “for dummies” about what an IoT is, use either primitive household examples about coffee makers or futuristic fantasy concepts of “smart cities” that even Ostap Bender would envy with his stories about intergalactic chess tournaments in Vasyuki. But even among the developers there are discrepancies - it seems that at each of the conferences devoted to IoT, I heard a new version with regards to what the Internet of Things is. Even at the same conference, representatives of serious companies like Microsoft, Rostelecom, or Huawei talk about completely different things - not to mention the small players in the IoT market.
In this article I will try to separate the wheat from the chaff, IoT - from telematics and Big Data, and get to the bottom of the essence of the Internet of Things. Enjoy your reading.
“The Internet of Things is ...” What to write after the dash?
From the point of view of technology, IoT is a four-tier system: connected devices (sensors, sensors, terminals), the networks over which they interact, IoT platforms and end-user applications. At the same time, the first two levels cannot be excluded from the structure, the platform in the solution is variable, the client interface is still everywhere, but in the future, it is possible that the application level and other additional elements in the management will disappear. The interaction will be reduced to a backend application that will analyze the actions of a person — and on the basis of this analysis, form interaction with the end devices without additional pressing of buttons. For example, the “smart home” system will know what time (and how much brightness) the host usually turns on the light, by what time to warm up the dinner and what time to turn on the TV, because homeowner's favorite series begins. All this will work on the basis of the templates stored in the base of the system, and it will form these actions without human intervention. The activities of developers and users will be reduced to control, either through the application or through the mechanical execution of actions.
But back to the present. IoT can also be decomposed into stages: taking testimony, making decisions based on these readings, and corrective action. Some developers believe that only that IoT product is considered to be full-fledged, in which the system takes on certain solutions, and not just controlled from the outside. That is, a truly “smart home” is when you enter a room, and the climate in a room changes depending on your body temperature and pulse, information about which was read from a fitness tracker. However, not all players of the IoT market agree with the last statement: although the introduction of such a restriction would eliminate those unscrupulous manufacturers of IT solutions that only replaced the button on the remote with a button in a mobile application.
"Yes, I did it 25 years ago!". Are those who say that the Internet of Things is the new name of the old technology right?
The beginnings of telematics (from which IoT subsequently grew) originated as early as the beginning of the 20th century (remember Tesla's experiments) - and since then they have evolved, moreover, evolutionary and non-linear. Among the things that precede the Internet are technology and trends, including SCAD, automated process control systems, and machine interaction (M2M).
It all started with local solutions that allowed automating something by installing communication (wired or using short-range channels) between the units: automatic warning system, automatic opening and closing of gates, monitoring, etc. Technically, the structure was the same: the glands, collecting information, transmitting it from the outside and executing commands, networks, as well as the systems that aggregated it, contained the business logic and application layer. But at first it was a specific, expensive niche story. Previously, automation was available only in a limited number of areas and only for enterprises with a large budget.
At the same time, in engineering, from time to time, quantitative and qualitative changes accumulate, which cause qualitative changes in the business. In each of the components of the future IoT-architecture (hardware, networks, server) for several decades there have been significant changes. Devices have become smaller in size, their cost has decreased significantly, many models have significantly increased battery life - powerful built-in batteries now allow devices to work up to 10 years without connecting to power. The market can now consume sensors in the billions - and apply them in areas in which it was previously impossible. So,
There are also new networks (5G, Lo-Ra, NB-IoT) that can provide high bandwidth and energy efficiency of data exchange. So servers are constantly evolving, their capacities (according to “Moore's Law”) multiply their capacities every two years, software transformations have been added to this, IoT platforms have appeared, Big Data is being developed ... All this makes it possible to solve new business tasks (for example , to engage in predictive analysis), to create new types of business (such as car sharing) and, most importantly, to apply all this in companies of a smaller scale and with lower costs.
Telematics before the aforementioned changes consisted of simply receiving information and transmitting it to a specific computer, so in the minds of potential customers it is associated with something obsolete, expensive and severely limited in functionality. IoT is the next step in the chain after telematics, it can perform its tasks - but also includes a much wider range of possibilities. In turn, everything progressive should be denoted by a new term. Recall TV manufacturers - all of these are Full HD, 4K, Ultra HD and so on. In fact, these are just the stages of the development of image transmission quality technologies - but to emphasize the difference between the picture in the old and new models, the technologies are given new names. Thus, the term IoT was created and popularized, first of all, to protect the new evolution of technology in the eyes of customers and investors. At the same time, the concept of IoT does not have any rigid frameworks and restrictions - if you wish, even robots on Mars, operated by NASA space centers, can be included in the Internet of Things.
So far, telematics and IoT share one market, but gradually the percentage of telematics in it will decrease. At the same time, telematics as such will not disappear, since specific clients will remain - such as military organizations isolated from the Internet.
At the level of mass consciousness, IoT is also often perceived only as a source of data for Big Data — that is, as a collection of sensors and sensors that collect information from where it could not be extracted before. In this case, it is considered that the final value is extracted at the level of network algorithms, and the Internet of Things is mistakenly considered only as an application for data collection and aggregation. However, IoT differs from telematics and Big Data by the ability not only to collect information about an object, but also to manage this object itself. The main value of the Internet Of Things is in automating processes and in the ability to manage something at the level of real-world objects, striking out from the chain of intermediary people. Although the IoT is still in close connection with neural networks and Big Data, since the latter work with data,
By the way, minimizing human participation is one of the main “tricks” of IoT, so some developers call the Internet of Things a concept for combining digital space with the real world. That is, the usual “human” Internet unites people and serves as an intermediary between them - for example, when the owner of an online store from New York contacts a buyer from Moscow. The “Internet of Things” connects a person with a real-world object directly and serves not only as a link, but also as a direct performer of commands.
Thus, IoT is not a new technology, but a new concept and a new way to utilize an existing automation technology, its democratization. The global technological revolution did not happen - therefore, it is possible to understand the engineers who, in response to news about IoT, grumble "this is so, I have been doing this for 25 years." And yes, they were engaged in similar technologies, but they also solved problems twenty-five years ago.
IoT and IIoT - the ratio of concepts
The Internet of Things market consists of a large number of simple needs that can be satisfied with the help of IoT, and ideas for the implementation of which people will pay. At the same time, practically in any market segment there are consumer goods, which always differ in characteristics from specialized products for niche professionals. Cameras for amateur shots and for professionals, knives for home and for restaurants, mini-gazelki and trucks - in fact, they are completely different, although they have the same basis and essence. At industrial enterprises, devices are needed that are able to work in special temperature, noise and other non-standard conditions, noticeably higher requirements are imposed on the quality of installation, the responsiveness of nodes, the principles of interaction between them, etc. This greatly affects the cost - and,
Essentially, a manufacturing enterprise (especially a full cycle) is a kind of “state within a state” that obeys its own laws: technical regulations, descriptions of mechanical, industrial and business processes, safety requirements, and so on. A plant or an enterprise initially represents a system of devices that interact with each other and with a person at various levels (including mechanical ones), but the share of interaction with the outside world (compared to other types of business in which IoT is used) is quite small. Formally, IIoT is part of a unified concept of the Internet of Things, while a company that specializes in “civil” IoT will find it difficult to switch to an industrial one - and vice versa. Usually, companies working with IIoT (with the exception of IT giants), limited to the creation of industrial solutions and not represented in other segments of the IoT market. So IIoT is also a conditional “specialization” of an IoT company.
The division of the Internet of Things into segments is made rather artificially - and it is more marketing than technical, the purpose of this division is to focus attention. The focus in the IIoT segment (Industrial Internet of Things, Industrial Internet of Things) from the point of view of techies is a more detailed study of the subject area (for example, machine tools), the development of specialized software and sensors. From the point of view of business, this is simply a sufficiently monetary, and at the same time specialized segment of the market.
Among the main directions of development IIoT can be noted:
- Prevention of accidents that may occur in the near future - overheating, breakdowns that have already occurred, etc.
- Predictive analysis - more efficient and careful use of resources in the long term;
- Equipment management (automation, minimization of human participation).
A little about the causes of terminological disputes
Disputes over the definition of IoT are largely related to glocalization - that is, the adaptation of global concepts and trends to local conditions. Each cultural or engineering environment tries to integrate a new trend into the framework of their usual terms - and the result is a heterogeneous “porridge”.
For example, in Germany, it is customary to pass all technical and economic innovations through the prism of industry, so instead of IoT, the terms Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution are used there, in the USA (largely from the submission of Cisco) the term “Internet Of Everything ”(more loudly, as is typical of the American market), in the rest of Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East, the concept of“ Internet Of Things ”has become most prevalent.
The main weakness of the “Internet of Things” formulation is that data packets between devices are transmitted in the same Internet space in which people communicate with each other. All web interfaces, APIs, applications, providers belong to the same Internet that live users use. And the term “Internet of Things” evokes the feeling that this is some kind of space separate from the “human Internet”, and everywhere in the world the same wires are laid out in parallel as for ordinary PCs, but intended only for communication between things.
In Russia, the concept of “cyber-physical system” was originally used, very similar to IoT: there are feedback loops, data streams, and controlled iron with a set of behavior patterns. By the way, the first Russian magistracy related to IoT is called“The Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems” - essentially the same term is duplicated in the title, for the HSE professors decided, on the one hand, to pay tribute to local Russian trends, and on the other, to use the terminology that has been established in the world.
Discussions about the definition of IoT are also aggravated by the fact that interested participants actively participate in the discussion: representatives of different types of business related to IoT. At the same time, most speakers focus or narrow the term of the Internet of Things to the subject area that they represent or in which they have the greatest competence. So, iron producers say that IoT is a combination of sensors and sensors, platform builders often reduce IoT only to software ... It’s important to look wider and remember that technology is inseparable from business and one generates another.