Cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are already an integral part of our lives. As we move towards a more connected world, we are only going to see a greater adoption of these two technologies because of the apparent benefits they bring to our lives.
So, what's really IoT and cloud computing?
Just as a quick rundown:
IoT is a collection of IT systems, devices, and real-world objects that communicate with each other to automate many of the mundane tasks we do. For example, if you run out of milk, you have to head to the nearest store. With IoT, your refrigerator can monitor the milk levels, and when it gets below a threshold point, it communicates it to your mobile device, that in turn, orders it for you. Sounds cool, right? IoT can simplify our life greatly, so we can focus on the things we love.
Cloud computing, on the other hand, is a technology that allows you to store and manage your programs and data over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive. This way, you can access data from any location and device just when you want them.
Entering the next era
In the past, the focus was more on using cloud computing and IoT as separate technologies. However, while implementing practical solutions based on these technologies, IT professionals and researchers got a better understanding of their limitations. While IoT has concerns regarding reliability, performance, and privacy, the nature of cloud computing made it difficult to integrate it into everyday objects. Further, IoT is limited in terms of storage and computing capability, but is pervasive and includes real world things while cloud computing is a centralized virtual resource that comes with unlimited storage and computing capability.
In many ways, one technology has partial solutions for the limitation of the other, and this led researchers to delve more into the prospect of combining the two. Soon, they found that both cloud computing and IoT are interrelated and dependent on each other, as their limitations and benefits are complementary. Thus, a new paradigm combining IoT and cloud computing was created, and it was aptly named Cloud IoT.
Cloud IoT provides plenty of opportunities
It taps into the power of both technologies, and at the same time, negates their drawbacks. For example, cloud can use IoT to expand its scope of operations to real world things, and to have a more practical application of its vast potential. Likewise, IoT can use cloud as an intermediate layer to conceal the complexities of operations in applications. Thus, the features of both cloud computing and IoT are complementary, so it's only natural that they are brought together, to make it easier for us to tap into the advantages of both.
Cloud IoT is also likely to be the driver of future data-centric applications. Since our life is going to revolve around tons of data, it makes sense to have a technology that eases this process of data collection, storage, analysis, and use. IoT has the capability to collect large sets of unstructured and semi-structured data from different devices and sensors, and the cloud can store and analyze this data at astronomical speeds to provide meaningful insights for the end user. As a result, IoT can be extended to any application, regardless of the amount of data it generates, as cloud takes care of data handling and processing. Further, the computed data can be accessed from any device and location due to cloud's distributed infrastructure. Thus, cloud enables IoT to be extended to any application, and IoT helps applications to make the most of cloud's potential. These aspects make IoT and cloud computing the perfect partners for a data-driven world.
Practical Applications of Cloud IoT
Below are some practical applications where cloud computing and IoT can be used together to deliver better performance:
It's almost impossible to create a smart city without combining the capabilities of both IoT and cloud computing. There are many aspects to a smart city, such as smart lighting, smart grids, and more, that need both these technologies. For example, Birmingham is experimenting with smart streetlights, where the lights will turn on when there is noise or movement, and will turn off automatically when there is no activity. Sensors attached to street lights will monitor this movement, and will communicate with each other through IoT while the information collected about movements will be stored in the cloud for processing. The city mayor can know the status of the street lights right from his or her mobile device or laptop, and can stay on top of their performance.
In another example, San Francisco, Vancouver and a German city called Bamberg are looking to use 3D visualizations to better plan and create sustainable cities. To this end, they are looking to tap into the potential of Cloud IoT to aid communication between devices, data collection, storage, processing, and access.
At a time when climate change is becoming an existential threat, environmental monitoring takes on a new meaning. It is no longer about statistics that tell you how much of forested area was cleared or the highest and lowest temperatures of a region. Rather, it is about collecting data from different sensors placed at strategic locations to get a more meaningful picture of the causes. Cloud IoT helps environmental monitoring by collecting, storing, and analyzing vast amounts of data in different formats, with an intent to identify meaningful insights in real-time. Further, IoT makes it possible for these different sensors to communicate with each other, and this enhances our ability to learn more about climate change and the specific triggers for a particular natural event. Based on this information, national governments can come up with appropriate policies to handle environmental threats.
Healthcare is another area where Cloud IoT can make a huge difference, as it can collect and analyze real-time critical data within the shortest period of time. It can also have a positive impact on a multitude of areas such as reducing Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI) , improving the efficiency of medical and nonmedical staff, increasing the accuracy of surgical procedures, enhancing the speed and accuracy of sample analysis, and increasing compliance.
Upgrades to domestic gadgets
Imagine if our car or refrigerator can be upgraded automatically, just like our smartphones and TVs? How cool and convenient would that be?
Cloud IoT makes this convenience a reality by moving data away from the device, and storing it in the cloud. This way, upgrades are easy, and there is a longer term value to a device.
To conclude, the implementation of IoT and cloud computing as separate technologies comes with a lot of limitations due to their specific features. But when combined, they complement each other well and help to overcome each other's shortcomings. In fact, this combined power of cloud and IoT, often called as Cloud IoT, provide virtually unlimited potential to solve many of the pressing problems we face today. The above practical applications are a testimony to the potential of Cloud IoT, and gives us a glimpse into the future as we strive to create a better world for posterity. Undoubtedly, IoT and cloud computing are the perfect partners for tomorrow's data-centric world.