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Examining sensor-based IoT architecture

28 Jul 2015  | Gwyneth Saldanha

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In this example, two business objectives are achieved: first, prompt customer service – when the alarm is triggered, the homeowner is notified immediately and provided with pictures that may potentially reveal the exact nature of the security breach. This notification takes place more quickly than a human agent could have provided these services. Second, this base station-driven "30-second warning" prior to contacting the monitoring station reduces the alarm company's operating costs by minimising the amount of times live operators must deal with false alarms.


Cloud server
Cloud computing allows consumers and businesses to access massive amounts of computing power at extremely low costs by leveraging economies of scale. This eliminates the need to invest in and support expensive server hardware in-house.

The base station can send periodic "heartbeats" to the cloud server to let it know that the sensor network is alive and healthy. The server can also push down commands, configuration and software updates to the base station, and also support application-level system management and analytics software. As the business needs grow or shrink, a business can simply add or reduce their cloud computing resources without concern for equipment costs or hardware obsolescence.

One example of such a scalable data centre solution is Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is a cost-effective and scalable service that requires no upfront infrastructure investment and which minimises latency by providing servers in any or all of ten regions around the world. Amazon also takes care of the backups and hardware failover as well as elastic load balancing to ensure that sensor networks of any scale will always be able to phone home.

From a development project perspective, cloud servers enable the IoT project team to cost-effectively begin implementing a complete end-to-end IoT solution right from the development phase of the project. The cloud computing environment used during development becomes the prototype, and the prototype becomes the final product, all on the same platform.


Remote dashboard and control station
This component has been called different things by various IoT proponents, and is essentially the computing platform where data is converted into actionable business intelligence. In our security system example, the homeowner's smartphone also acts as a control station from which they can check the security status of the home, access any monitoring cameras, voice-chat with people within or outside the home, and turn the alarm system on and off. The control station on the business side would have more functionality, display more information, and can usually generate analytics as well. The core software can reside in the cloud and/ or on the business site.


Conclusion
It is clear that sensor-driven IoT architectures have been here long before the term "the Internet of Things" was a "thing." The IoT architecture described in this paper is not carved in stone by any means; for all the examples provided, a dozen others could operate differently, although usually with a similar underlying structure.

It is our hope that this article has cleared away some of the ambiguity surrounding IoT by explaining the basic architecture of a sensor-based network, and providing specific examples of how such a system can be deployed in a variety of business contexts. The Carnegie Mellon University Coke machine is a very simple example that has immediately measurable benefits. The home security system example is much more complex, but also provides much larger ROI by enabling a company to install a multi-sensor system in the home without drilling holes or running wires, reduce call centre staffing requirements, and provide the homeowner with sophisticated personal control of the system from anywhere.


References
1. The "Only" Coke Machine on the Internet. Accessed June 8, 2015.

2. Olawuyi J.O. , Mgbole Friday, "Technological Convergence" Science Journal of Physics, Volume 2012, Article ID sjp-221, 5 Pages, 2012. Accessed June 8, 2015.


About the author
Gwyneth Saldanha is the Engineering Operations Manager at Nuvation Engineering.


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