‘The connected person’: IoT, big data, and the cloud

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Today, cloud-based services typically offer corporate and small, medium enterprise customers a cost-effective and dynamic avenue to large-scale computing, with services offering infrastructure, operating systems and software. The inclusion of the developing concept of Internet of Things (IoT) will be able to provide additional information to these customers for their processing of Big Data from multiple sources such as from devices, sensor networks and social media channels. “Edge” or “fog” computing refers to capabilities being handled on the device end for improved performance. (“Edge” refers to the edge of the device and the cloud.) Proprietary variations on the concept of the IoT already produce new insights for end-users.

In the relatively near future, a standards- and cloud-enabled IoT for service providers will likely also serve “the connected person.” This is already happening to some degree via apps on mobile devices. The personalized cloud for individuals will be populated by devices, software and data that ultimately bring the world to one’s digital doorstep.

This will provide a means to access, monitor and to some extent control one’s digital world, from the home area network to the larger world. Cloud-enabled IoT and associated Big Data processing has implications for healthcare, education, transportation, personal finance – all the industry verticals served today by the Internet. In this vision, cloud-based hardware in conjunction with cloud-based software will capture, share, route, process and visualize information.

3D printing is a good use case to illustrate this point. Information might be drawn from data and software in the cloud and transmitted to a physical machine to create an object. Another use case is wearable medical devices that connect through the cloud to monitoring software for access by medical personnel. This information may be correlated with datasets created from various Big Data sources, e.g., genomic data, clinical drug studies, epidemiological histories. But the concept applies to people obtaining services from nearly any industry vertical, e.g., finance, retail, transportation, education, entertainment. Several IEEE societies are working on various elements of these efforts, perhaps most notably the IEEE Computing Society’s Cloud Computing Initiative, the IEEE IoT Initiative, and the IEEE Big Data Initiative.   

The single most important foundation needed to achieve this vision is the development of pertinent standards. In fact, several efforts are already underway by the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA). This is an open, transparent, collaborative effort that requires the broadest possible participation for the best results. If you are involved in cloud- , IoT- or Big Data-related technology, participation in the standards development process provides an opportunity to shape that standard and see more clearly the future direction of a standard and the technology it enables.

In the big picture, standards ensure interoperability, which grows markets, producing economies of scale. Economies of scale bring down costs and, thus, prices, leading to further market growth.

Work on IEEE Project P2301 – Guide for Cloud Portability and Interoperability Profiles (CPIP) is ongoing as you read this blog. The purpose of this guide is to assist cloud computing vendors and users in developing, building and using standards-based cloud computing products and services, which should lead to increased portability and interoperability, and growth in the cloud computing adoption rate.  

IEEE Project P2302 – Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation (SIIF) is now underway. This standard creates an economy amongst cloud providers that is transparent to users and applications, which provides for a dynamic infrastructure that can support evolving business models. Users will benefit from the freedom to being able to more easily distribute resources and applications among different cloud providers.

IEEE Project P2303 - Standard for Adaptive Management of Cloud Computing Environments was approved in 2015. Because of the dynamic nature of cloud resources to be provided to customers, the traditional monolithic nature of management systems is no longer appropriate. Instead for cloud services, it is important to have a management structure that is modular and can be adapted to specific dynamic cloud configurations desired by customers. The working group has scheduled its kickoff meeting Dec 18 which will be led by its working leader Joel Fleck.

IEEE Project P2413 – Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things (IoT) represents another important effort in this area. The architectural framework defined in this standard will promote cross-domain interaction, aid system interoperability and functional compatibility, and further fuel the growth of the IoT market. The adoption of a unified approach to the development of IoT systems will reduce industry fragmentation and create a critical mass of multi-stakeholder activities around the world.

Security- and privacy-related standards requirements are being developed under the Quadruple Trust Sub-Working Group of P2413. Quadruple Trust refers to security, privacy, protection, and safety.

Challenges of integration and scale remain unplumbed in this developing scenario. How disparate technologies will converge, what integration issues remain unforeseen and the behavior of such wide-ranging, global networks at scale will need to be understood.

The concept of IoT and Big Data processing enabled by cloud technology is an exciting challenge for technologists and it offers myriad business opportunities. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that the IEEE’s over 400,000 members worldwide pursue a mission to develop “technology for the benefit of humanity.” These technologies should not create greater disparities in the existing digital divide between the haves and the have-nots. Indeed, there are benefits to the developing world. Sensors can provide information on rainfall, soil characteristics for farming. Market information and current and historical prices can also be provided for selling of products.

The expected growth in cloud-based IoT has implications for energy consumption and environmental sustainability, as the innocuous-sounding “cloud” is really made possible by massive, energy-dependent server farms. That’s why IEEE is simultaneously tackling “Green ICT,” which seeks ways to achieve highly efficient computing and integrate renewable energy sources to power the cloud.

(Article features contributions from Sri Chandrasekaran, Director Standards and Technology, IEEE India)

Do you think IEEE’s standards will be vital in achieving the “Connected Person”? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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