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Discover what is IoT

Discover what is IoT

Whether you arrive here without knowing anything about IoT (Internet of Things) or if you are an expert technologist in the latest technologies, before you get into the subject in more depth, let’s review what examples of IoT we can see around us:

  • IoT is that your activity bracelet sends your data to the Internet and you participate in challenges with your circle of friends.
  • IoT is a car driving autonomously
  • IoT is that your clothes change color depending on the outside temperature
  • IoT is to wear a device that alerts your doctor in case of a fall or cardiovascular accident
  • IoT is to be able to buy with your cell phone at a gas station
  • IoT is being able to turn on and off the lights in your house from your cell phone

So what is the internet of things really?

No, IoT is nothing of the sort, although in part all of those examples would be within a fully connected world. But they do not meet the most basic characteristics of the Internet of Connected Things as it is headed today. For example:

  • Things can communicate with each other directly, without having to use a cloud service.
  • Things can upload information to the cloud, but almost certainly not directly. The number of connected things is expected to be several thousand per square kilometer, so it simply would not be feasible for all of them to directly upload data to the cloud. There is also a problem of delay in communications to the cloud, which for certain IoT applications would not be acceptable. The concept of Fog Computing (computing in the fog, as an analogy of a cloud closer to the ground) appears. If you have never heard of it before, you can shut your jaw again. You will see how little by little fog starts to make more sense and that is where we will need more technology.
  • Automation. Connected things must follow the FCAPS model automatically, or at least some other automatic device management model. That is, they must be monitored, configured, detect failures, performance changes, manage usage and expenses, and all in a completely secure and automatic way. And this, dear friend, changes everything.

The fable of the lamppost and the garbage can, an example of an IoT application

When my friend JJMora sees this example I know he will remember the day I told him it was not a good example, and for which I still owe him a beer. He is one of the founders of Kolokium, a pioneer project in the promotion and implementation of Blockchain-based applications.

The thing is that Mora has had to deal, and continues to do so, with the arduous task of explaining what a blockchain is and what it can be used for, how many architectures exist, etc. To do so, he used an example in which the streetlights in a city were smart and were able to dump their consumption in a blockchain so that the data was stored securely and uncorruptible. This is a way of indicating that the whole system can function autonomously.

The lamppost

And I really didn’t like the example, but now I see that it was not only very good, but also very extensible. Suppose we put in all the streetlights of a city a smart chip that is able to:

  • Turn on and off automatically under certain lighting conditions and schedules.
  • Keeping an account of electricity consumption and transferring this data to a secure system.
  • Change color, flicker, etc. in emergency situations
  • Detect that the bulb has burned out and automatically alert the repair service, including itself in the route to be taken the next day.

All of these features, except perhaps the last one, are already being incorporated in some cities around the world.

Enter the dumpster

Let’s complicate the example a bit, let’s add the trash containers under the streetlight or between two streetlights. What if they had these capabilities:

  • Check that they have been filled and enter the collection route.
  • Alert the fire department if there is a fire inside or in its immediate vicinity. It could even alert the streetlight to flash in a special color and warn of the location of the hazard.
  • Detect what kind of garbage is inside, especially electronic items that may be highly polluting and should be retrieved separately.
  • Detect that your system has stopped working properly and is in need of repair.
  • And, here we come to the point, detect that the light of the street lamp is not so bright anymore and warn it of the failure.

This is starting to be another matter, is it okay if we close this page just with the questions we hope to answer in the blog posts?

To be discussed

  • What technical capabilities should the operator who is going to replace one of these devices have? Could he simply remove the existing one and fit a new one without any intervention?
  • How are all the devices going to be powered? The one on the street light is simple, how will the one on the container do it? It must be smart enough to know how to harness its power so it doesn’t waste it. It is not trivial.
  • How is the streetlight sure that the container is who it claims to be and not a fraud? Can I try to trigger false alerts on the streetlights to cause chaos for the maintenance or fire department?
  • How will the street light be connected to the control center, by the electric cable, and the container by a wireless network? What is the range and consumption?
  • Is it really necessary to send all consumption data to a blockchain? Could we send hourly or daily summaries? Would we send important events as well? How will that blockchain know that those data come from a legitimate streetlight or container and not from fake devices?
  • What method will we follow to change the configuration of the devices? Or the firmware? Could we have some intermediate nodes, say every 100 meters, that coordinate all these systems?
  • Could these nodes have some of the intelligence delegated and allow objects to be simpler? Would closer proximity allow shorter range wireless networks with fewer interference problems?

We hope we haven’t gone into too much detail and that I have introduced you to this new world, where, as you will have seen, we are working to give the right examples, ask the right questions and look for the right answers.