As a centerpiece of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is unfolding before our eyes, the Internet of Things is becoming ever more essential in a growing number of sectors. There are already billions of devices in offices, factories, and production plants worldwide, with the ability to connect to the Internet, communicate and self-coordinate; while their functionalities are expanding by the day. Therein lies a potential for automation and increased productivity, the realization of which will soon enough become mandatory for those who seek to keep up with the competition.
However, organizations making their first steps in tapping into these opportunities, are often held back by the infrastructure commitments entailed by the automated orchestration of thousands of devices. This is especially true in cases in which such equipment is dispersed globally and\or performs mission-critical tasks.
Since IoT applications, like most network technologies, depend on size and throughput to deliver their goods, organizations may find it challenging to “get their feet wet” before committing to capital-intensive decisions that may have long-lasting consequences. Luckily, the times in which such paradigm-shifting maneuvers had to be bootstrapped from scratch to have significant impact are over. Below we demonstrate how leveraging Cloud platforms could allow anyone to tap into the IoT, quickly and with no strings attached.
Cloud-based “IoT as a Service”
As it is the case with computation, storage, and other traditional cloud-based services, launching an IoT network in the Cloud allows organizations a degree of elasticity that removes the most painful barriers to enter. The most obvious of which are of course Cost, Scalability, and Flexibility. However, while often overlooked, Security and Data-Access concerns are also major reasons to consider launching a cloud-based IoT operation.
Cost – Building an on-premises IoT infrastructure from scratch involves considerable up-front investments which initially may be hard to justify from a business perspective. As with anything network-related, IoT projects tend to start small and grow over time. Cloud-platforms’ pay-as-you-go models are tailor-made for such cases: As long as workloads are small, so are payments, which grow proportionally with the magnitude of the operation.
Scalability – Scaling complex IoT solutions up or out may be a difficult task, involving the purchasing of new hardware, on-boarding and configuring it. This can take days to weeks while with the elasticity of the cloud, a new resource can be provisioned in minutes or even seconds, sometimes by the virtue of a simple API call. Respectively, cloud platforms also enable you to quickly scale down and in when the resources are not required anymore.
Security – While on first glance it may appear that keeping everything on premise with in-house guarded SCADA centers is the safest way to go, it should be kept in mind that cloud service providers are amongst the most highly secured entities on the planet. Cloud-providers don’t only invest massive resources in securing their platforms, they also provide tools for monitoring, logging security events, and performing security updates over the air to remote devices. Very large organizations may have their reasons to go-solo for security reasons, but it should be remembered that out-competing the security provided by the Cloud is not an easy task.
Data Access – One of the main reasons to process your IoT workload in the cloud is the ability to access data in real-time. Data that is stored on-premise may limit the number of consumers that can access it in parallel, while certain consumers may be excluded from access altogether. On Cloud IoT platforms, on the other hand, data can be made available for a huge number of consumers in real time from almost anywhere. Additionally, data can be pre-processed and pre-filtered, so that only relevant data will be revealed to whom it may concern.
In short, IoT in the Cloud shifts most of the heavy lifting to the well-established shoulders of the Cloud provider, allowing the client to take care of their actual business, while shortening their often crucial Go-to-Market time.
Building your IoT solution on AWS
When it comes to fully integrated IoT solutions that cover customers from the edge to the Cloud and that are proven at scale, AWS is probably the most encompassing solution. AWS IoT integrates seamlessly with other AWS services, offers the fastest AI modeling on the market, and brings together data management and rich analytics.
The centerpiece of the AWS IoT offering is called AWS IoT Core and provides all the components needed to roll out and connect IoT infrastructure as fully managed services. AWS IoT Core is an extensive toolbox; below are its main features:
- Message Broker: Message Broker is the heart of any IoT workload, enabling both – devices and applications to exchange messages between them. It provides a fully managed pub/sub message broker that can automatically scale with message volume, and thus securly support a huge number of communicating devices.
- Device Gateway: The Device Gateway functions as the entry point for IoT devices communicating over MQTT, WebSockets, and HTTP, and connects them to the AWS cloud.
- Device Management: Device Management allows users to register and manage devices to centrally administer them on AWS. Users can generate a device certificate, associate a policy to it, and add device attributes such as their locations and tags using Device registry. Additionally, devices can be consolidated into groups for easier, and more logical management.
- Rules Engine: To help parse IoT-derived data before it reaches centralized applications, AWS’ IoT Rules Engine supports an SQL-like query syntax to parse and filter received data, and execute actions accordingly. Rules Engine can be easily integrated with other AWS services such as Lambda, Elastic Search, Kinesis, SNS and more.
- Device Shadow: The Device Shadow functionality of the IoT Core maintains persistent information about a device state which can be accessed by other applications even if the IoT device providing the data is offline. This provides asynchronous communication with the device. For instance, if the device should display a green light, using the Device Shadow, an application can get the device’s current state, and change it, in this example to a red light, without being directly connected to the device. Changes are reflected in the AWS cloud instantaneously.
AWS IoT is an ever-evolving service. New additions to AWS IoT have been announced recently at re:Invent 2020. You can read about the most interesting ones here.
Relying on these tools, and many more, AWS supports IoT use cases by providing infrastructural elements that cater for every aspect of IoT-based data collection, analysis, and presentation. AllCloud has assisted many customers, including Netafim, a global leader in precision irrigation systems, to deploy and run their infrastructure on AWS. If you want to discover what AWS IoT can do for your organization, contact us.