In my last article, we discussed the role of ICT engineer in changing the traditional building of engineering services. We also learned that IP networking can connect and control almost everything in the Internet and become de-facto ruler of machine-to-machine communication.

Machine-to-machine communication allows an ICT engineer to work not only in an enterprise environment but also in a traditional industrial network, which will leads us to the fourth Industrial revolution of the 21st century. Every organization (be it Fortune 500 companies or not) must invest in IoT technologies, otherwise they will not be able to stay ahead of their competitor. Cities need to invest in digitization of their infrastructure (not only for telecommunication but also for other reasons), otherwise they will be classified as dead cities. Countries need to invest heavily to digitize the traditional industry verticals such as education, medicine, transportation, and agriculture, utility, metal, and mining sectors in order to create more jobs and improve the quality of life for their citizen.

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Without a proper ICT master plan for public health, countries like Britain and Germany will be bankrupt because of social welfare for the large number of their aged population. So make a cup of coffee or tea and concentrate for some time to understand how an ICT engineer can work in changing the way we live.

Internet of Things

According to the technology research firm Gartner, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the most hyped technological term in the world, above big data and cloud computing. The Internet of Things first proposed by Kevin Ashton, a British technologist, in 1999 when he was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There are several definition you can find for the Internet of Things from some major ICT vendors, service providers, and consulting firms.

I am sure after reading all these definition in the above figure, you think the “Internet of Things” is about the internet connectivity of physical things. But for me it’s is not about connecting things, it’s about connecting services in a common IP networking platform, where each service can talk and communicate with each other.

Internet of Everything:

Internet of Everything (IoE) is a Cisco’s version to describe the Internet of Things. Cisco sees that this is not only about connecting the physical things, it’s about connecting things, people, processes, and data for making this planet smarter and greener. In our last article we learned about Cisco’s Connected Real Estate Solutions, which is the best example of the “Internet of Everything” where traditional building services such as HVAC, lighting, surveillance, security, audio-visual, and power are connected and controlled by Internet backbone.

Evolution of Internet and Web World

The Internet has a wider meaning in our world; normal people classify Facebook, Google, Yahoo, etc., as the Internet. But in reality these are only web site (http protocol based), they simply work in the application layer of the Internet infrastructure. A company like Facebook uses Internet infrastructure to send and receive data, and also to store information about users in a cloud or specifically in a data center located in some other geographical part of world. Web world has changed a lot in last 20-23 years, from some thousands to 5 billion mobile user.

According to Cisco’s John Chamber, the Internet of Everything is the fourth major evolution of web. By Cisco’s standards, the first phase of internet was connectivity, the rise of e-commerce was the second era, the rise of social networking companies is the Internet of People, which is the third era, and the Internet of things is the fourth major evolution of the web. I prefer to say IoT is the fifth evolution of the web world, because R&D have very significant importance on today’s Internet; please check the below figure for further understanding.

In this Internet of Things era, even a fan in an HVAC system of a building can be controlled from a smart phone. The building operator can view and troubleshoot the energy usage in a remote locations. To sustain this phenomenal growth of connected devices, our current internet (physical) infrastructure must be upgrade to next level (check the below figure for further understanding).

Companies like Google are investing huge amounts of money in FTTH business to carry the traffic of businesses; they are giving 1Gbps WAN connectivity to their customer in Kansas City, USA. Developing countries like India and Africa must replace their old copper cable with fiber optic cable. This will create a huge opportunity for a young graduate to work as a telecommunication engineer, particularly as a fiber optics (ISP and OSP) engineer and transmission network engineer.

What Will We Do with the Internet of Things (IoT)?

After learning the definition and history of Internet of Things, now this is the right time to understand what we will do with the Internet of Things. For most people, the Internet means searching something in the Google search engine, which searches the database of 4000 exabytes of Information. We created the Internet only 20 years back and it has already become 4000 exabytes in size (4000 exabyte is roughly equivalent to a round trip distance to Pluto from Earth, multiplied by 80). Every connected machine will create a big chunk of data in IoT world. What will we do with this much data? And how will this affect our life?

In the figure below, I tried to give some key points regarding what we will do with IoT. As you can see, with IoT architecture, we can connect any physical things, monitor, control, and manage those things from anywhere in the world.

Please check the video link (first in the reference list) by the Irish engineer, Dr. John Barret, for a better explanation of what we will do with internet of things.

Why Is Now the Time for IoT? Enablers of IoT

The Internet of Things is not a futuristic, aspirational technology trend. It’s here today in the devices, sensors, actuators, cloud infrastructure, and business intelligence tools, such as IP-enabled building automation systems what we are using in Smart Buildings environment.

Internet of things creates more data than ever; tiny machines working in a fan of an HVAC system creates more data than a normal human does in a year. According to Microsoft, “Instead of thinking about the massive amount of data being produced, think about how one piece of data can provide value to your business.”

Unlike earlier efforts to track and control large systems, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), the Internet connection gives this shift almost limitless versatility.

A number of significant technology changes in the last couple of years enables the rise of the IoTs. These include the following (as shown in below figure):

Now you can clearly understand that technology has reached its peak point, where we can virtually connect and control everything beyond our imagination.

Why Is IoT Regarded as a Fourth Industrial Revolution?

According to consulting firm Goldman Sachs, the Internet of Things can be broken up into five key verticals of adoption: Connected Wearable Devices, Connected Cars, Connected Homes, Connected Cities, and the Industrial Internet.

From the figure below, you can understand that IoT will be implemented in almost every industry verticals. IoT will change the traditional industries like Mining, Metal, Oil & Gas, Transportation, Chemical etc.

The German government saw this as an opportunity and made a strategy to use the Internet of Things as a backbone for changing their economy. They regard the Internet of Things as the next big thing and refer to it as a fourth industrial revolution. German researchers and analysts predict that it has the potential to be equivalent of industrial revolution in 21st century. Let’s check the below figure for brief idea about the first three industrial revolution.

You can imagine the importance of the first three industry revolutions in the history of mankind. Some people say this is ridiculous: How can we match the importance of first three revolutions? In 1992, during early days of the Internet, people also never imagined about the present value of the Internet. Nobody ever imagined that e-commerce companies like Amazon will sell everything from groceries to software in a virtual store.

Traditional Industrial companies like Rockwell Automation, General Electric, and Schneider Electric are working with ICT leaders to optimize the operation cost of manufacturing, oil and gas, mining and metals, and the medical industry. IoT is bringing and collaborating on traditional operational technology (OT) and process engineering to information technology. So you can imagine that IoT will create millions of skilled and unskilled jobs, just like the previous three industrial revolution.

Let’s discuss about the economic impact of IoT in this world and see whether this will boost our stagnant economy or not.

Estimates of potential economic impact by 2020 (as tracked by the Postscapes information service) range from about US$2 trillion to more than $20 trillion.

According to Cisco Systems research, by the year 2022, the economic impacts of IoT systems can reach up to $14.4 trillion.

What Is Big Data? Why Is Big Data Analytics important to IoT?

IoT will create a huge amount of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data, which have the potential to be mined for getting information and knowledge and later can be used for decision making.

Business uses data analysts because data (facts, signs, etc.) have no meaning until we process it and extract a piece of information out of it, Information can provide us with the knowledge that we can later use to make strategic decision for their business using the wisdom they earned from the data. One good example of a data analyst is a meteorologist professional who is working for a national meteorology department to study the atmosphere and be able to forecast the weather.

In the below figure, you can see the “DIKW Pyramid” or wisdom/knowledge/information hierarchy, which uses the models below to represent structural and functional relationships between data, information, knowledge and wisdom.

To get that meaningful information from big data, we can’t rely on traditional database technique for statistical analysis; we need optimal processing (computing) power, analytics capabilities and skills.

From the above diagram you can understand that big data will be created by people and machines both. To use this data for business process, we need engineers, architects, and analysts for data acquisition and information processing.

There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. The consultancy company McKinsey predicts that by 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of bi data to make effective decisions.

Case Study: How IoT Works in Building Management Systems for Smart Buildings

We will investigate the same case study what we have used in our last article named smart building technology. As we learned previously, Cisco called this type solutions as Connected real estate solutions, where every other building engineering services will be connected and controlled by common IP networking platform.

From the above figure you will understand that, I designed the room management systems in such way, that card-in and card-out access control for the room is connected in a loop and it is connected to PCU-CAN BUS. Wall-mounted thermostats, touchscreens, temperature sensors are also connected to PCU via CAT 6 cable, and all these devices, connected to a PCU, act like input/output devices.

PCU is also connected to an automation controller device named AXU or RXIO, in the case of a dedicated controller for a room. There are dimmers for lighting control and relay control units for connecting power outlets; each of these also connected to RXIO. In a hotel environment, each room has its dedicated fan coil unit (FCU) for providing fresh air. To control this, we need a simple fan coil control unit and you may need to install a temperature sensor inside the FCU. All of these devices will get power from a small power source, which is called a transformer.

From the PCU-CAN Bus (RJ 45 connector), one CAT 6 Cable will be connected to an access layer switch (located at IDF) to provide Internet connectivity. And from the guest room all other facility services such as IPTV, IP telephony, wireless access points, and data points are also connected to the same access layer switch via a CAT 6 cable. The access layer switch is connected to a core switch via a redundant fiber uplink inside the data center. Inside the data center, RMS/BMS Server components, IPTV Head end, Security systems, IP PBX systems, and wireless controller will be connected to the core switch and all these services can be easily integrated in a common platform.

Whenever an occupant enters, the guest room lights and HVAC can be switched on and a TV can pop out to greet guests. A guests can use high-speed internet while staying inside rooms; he/she can watch the program he/she wants and can even control the lights, temperature, and background music from a touchscreen or even from his/her IPhone apps.

In this IoT-enabled world, the hotel operator will also get the real-time information about guests and can increase the revenue from interactive point-of-sale software and also reduce the building operational costs significantly by analyzing building energy usage.

I am not expecting that you will understand each and everything of room management systems. As an ICT engineer, nobody expects you to understand each piece of RMS components, but it is better to know the concept behind the each electrical automation components. Remember, in an industrial automation environment, you will find slightly different type of control systems components, but the basic concepts will remain same.

I hope, now you understand that IoT is not about connecting physical things, it’s about connecting services only.

Security Concerns—Is IoT Secure?

Security is the main obstacle for rapid development of IoT. In last decade, we have witnessed how much business can be affected by Trojan viruses and spam. Security impact on an IoT-enabled economy is very high. Researchers have shown how hacker can control your electronic car from a remote location and intruders have already hacked into a person’s pacemaker. Terrorist can hack into a country’s transportation and aviation systems, health systems, electric systems, and even military systems, and can cause significant damage to human society. If these things are not taken care of by us, then IoT will become a techno-cart term rather changing of our life.

I would urge my students and fellow professionals to work in this, to provide security in IoT architecture. It needs significant development in hardware, software, operating systems, processors, etc.

Conclusion

To achieve our ultimate goals, we the ICT professionals must work with government officials, bureaucrats, data analysts, scientists, doctors, architects, other engineering disciplines, end users, normal people, educationists, marketing professionals, etc., to create ICT awareness and study how digitization can help our economy to sustain without damaging our beautiful world. ICT may not be the direct medicine for our world, but it certainly has the tools and capabilities to change the way we live.

I would like to thank everyone for reading this article. If time permits, I will discuss more about IoT in the near future, so keep visiting the Intense School. Please use the comment box below to write your feedback and idea about IoT, as your feedback is very important to me.

References and Further Reading and Video Lists

  1. Dr. John Barret on Internet of things: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaTIt1C5R-M
  2. How IoT will change our life – Cisco Systems: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_hjAfPJeRA
  3. The IoE is the New Economy – Cisco Systems: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALL6MuFWs1A
  4. IoT what’s IoT?-Intel Explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3ur8wzzhBU
  5. IoT-Telit Systems Perspective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFqEx–b7hU
  6. A video on Internet of Things life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjYTzvAVozo
  7. The Architecture of IoT-Cisco Systems: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=co2MLqkJVXs
  8. IBM’s definition and business forecast about Big Data: http://www.ibm.com/big-data/us/en/
  9. McKinsey Big Data: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/big_data_the_next_frontier_for_innovation
  10. Cisco IoT work: http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/iot/overview.html
  11. Cisco’s IoE channel: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFT-9JpKjRTBO06vEUTM7I91AZ7_-I8XI
  12. Cisco’s IoE website: http://internetofeverything.cisco.com/
  13. Cisco’s Futuristic initiative: http://www.cisco.com/web/tomorrow-starts-here/index.html
  14. Zebra Technology’s acquisition of Motorola: http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?11682/
  15. Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group: http://www.cisco.com/ibsg/
  16. Security concerns about IoT: http://www.cisco.com/web/solutions/trends/iot/security.html
  17. 4th Industrial revolution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industry_4.0/