Everyone seems to have heard about the IoT: from school students to CEOs of large companies and government officials. Except they all have a different understanding of it: scenes from fantastic novels come to life before some people, to some it seems to be another utopia, and some are already building their own IoT systems. Let us try to understand what IoT is together with Galina Maltugueva — the scientific consultant on IoT and the author of more than 70 research papers in peer-reviewed publications.
What is IoT
The essence of the Internet of Things is the interaction of things with each other and with the outside world through the Internet. Here are some examples of interesting foreign projects in the field of the Internet of Things:
- A safe home provides round-the-clock online monitoring and, in addition, the owner can communicate with visitors from a computer or phone.
- An activity tracker continuously monitors health parameters: blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation level, fatigue, appetite, and movement activity. Thanks to this, elderly and disabled people can feel more independent and go to the hospital less often.
- Smart glasses with augmented reality technologies allow you to get additional information about the objects that a person is looking at. For example, a specialist can obtain specifications and drawings of technical devices.
- Sensors that can be swallowed enable doctors to observe the course of disease within the body and transmit data from the gastrointestinal tract;
- A smart agriculture system monitors the air, soil, weather and livestock activity.
- Smart contact lenses track the condition of the eye and help to identify diseases at an early stage.
- Motion detection systems detect movements or vibrations in bridges, dams, buildings and areas where landslides and earthquakes occur.
Components of an IoT system
The basic elements of IoT-systems are IoT-sensors that collect and transmit data. For example, the farm has systems for tracking humidity, wind force and air temperature.
After processing the data from sensors, commands are transmitted to specialized mechanisms (IoT devices) — if the sensors in the field determine that bad weather begins, the IoT-devices receive commands to close greenhouses or cancel irrigation of plants.
All IoT devices and IoT sensors are combined into an IoT system that serves to fulfill the tasks. In the example of an agricultural farm — to arrange the best care for the harvest without involving humans. Thanks to the IoT system, you can react quickly to changes in the environment, reduce the risk of human error and save resources.
Infrastructure for IoT
For an IoT system to work, it is not enough to create or buy sensors and IoT devices. You need to set up the infrastructure and solve a number of issues:
- provide power supply,
- configure communication protocols for devices,
- create hardware and software,
- set up the data collection, processing and storage center,
- configure transfer of commands to make things "react" to changes in the environment.
Problems of IoT in the industry
Most IoT sensors and IoT devices are designed for industry. Therefore, the Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT) was singled out as a separate direction. It accounts for about 45% of all IoT expenses. IoT technologies are actively used in agriculture and medicine as well.
In the industry, IoT helps to improve production efficiency. For example, in the power industry, installing sensors on equipment helps to increase its reliability and reduce costs by controlling thermal efficiency.
However, IoT faces problems that hinder its development:
- Lack of standards — they are expected from major players in the global IT-industry. Meanwhile, manufacturers are developing their own communication protocols or using wi-fi and bluetooth.
- No security guarantees — our IoT system data are not protected and may be stolen by third parties.
- Lack of technical readiness at production sites — it is necessary to change technological processes to accommodate IoT technologies.
- Limited range of IoT devices — creating specialized devices is expensive.
- The need to move the IT infrastructure (partially or completely) to clouds.
- Lack of trust in cloud technologies and the Internet of Things.
- Scarce examples of real cases — business representatives give preference to projects already launched or close to being launched.
- High cost of deploying IoT systems — the cost depends directly on the size of the system and the time frame. It will take at least 10 million rubles to launch a small project and up to 1 billion dollars for a large plant.
Virtualization — the first step to IoT
Despite the difficulties, IoT devices are being designed and IoT-systems are being built. A number of companies create software for processing data from IoT devices.
People are often afraid to start something new — much is unknown and obscure. But thanks to the actions of enterprising enthusiasts, many devices and technologies come to the world becoming a part of everyday life. The same is happening to the Internet of Things. It is always easier to start with small steps. One of these steps is to implement virtualization systems.
Using a virtualization system allows you to quickly adapt the IT environment to changing conditions that are characteristic of IoT systems.