It seems that today, there is discussion in many sectors of the economy around what the “Internet of Things” (IoT) can do to transform the way we work and live. In brief, the IoT is about networking “things” like devices and even life-forms so that information may be collected from these things over time and form the basis for analysis and decisions.
IoT inevitably involves sensors, wireless technology of some description, a cloud to aggregate data, and analytics to create insights from this data. Many people have encountered this business paradigm in their personal lives, whether it is through wearable fitness trackers (maybe you are counting steps, and then uploading that information to an App on your smart-phone or into the cloud), your internet-connected NEST thermostat or household security system, or your networked smart TV. These are consumer examples of the IoT phenomenon, and collectively are described as the wearables or Smart Home sub-segments.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is commercial application of this business model, and is about gathering sensor-sourced data from business processes in order to make better business decisions. Does this sound familiar? Zedi has been offering solutions like this to the upstream Oil & Gas sector for the past 15 years. In some circles, it has been labelled Digital Oil Field, but in principle, it is really an application of this broader business phenomenon that is also manifesting itself in running municipal infrastructure (“Smart” Cities), agriculture (“Smart or Precision” Agriculture), or manufacturing.
As a result of this phenomenon, many companies claim to have an IoT “Platform”. There is not an established definition around what this means, and so there are a range of capabilities and reference architectures that exist. At Zedi, we believe a good Platform should be able to do 9 things:
- Connect – securely manage connections between individual “Things” and the cloud
- Configure – allow you to remotely configure the characteristics of the “Things” i.e. how you want them to behave.
- Identify – authenticate both things and users who use the platform.
- Store – efficiently receive messages from “things” and store that information in an efficient and scalable manner
- Orchestrate – actions and decisions based on business rules you might set if certain events occur when receiving messages from “things”
- Analyze – add value to data sourced from “things” through Analytics to create new insights
- Present – insights and data visualizations in an easy-to-use application
- Perform – meet performance and capacity expectations customers have of a cloud-based service
- Interface – with other customer applications that may subscribe to some of the data sourced by the monitored “things”
Not all platforms perform all of these functions, and one notable area where many Platforms struggle is in interfacing between the world of physical things, which source the data in the first place, and the cloud platforms, which aggregate the data and from which analysis can then be done.
Zedi has solved this problem by creating a next-generation set of Gateway products call the Field Gateway 400 and Field Gateway 600. In my next blog, I will outline the role these devices play in seamlessly bridging between the world of devices and things and the applications the customer uses to visualize insights, and how the connection between the Field Gateway to the world of things will evolve with the development of some exciting new low-power wireless technologies.