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embedded world Conference 2021 DIGITAL

The Internet of Things – limited only by your imagination

28. Januar 2021, 08:00 Uhr   |  von Dirk Pesch

The Internet of Things – limited only by your imagination
© Pixabay

The Internet of Things brings together many technologies: hardware, networking, security, system and application software. How all this interacts, and where the development is heading, will be the subject of discussion at the embedded world Conference 2021 DIGITAL.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is high on everybody’s agenda. We see IoT as the key enabler to make our homes smarter, to continuously monitor our health and wellbeing, to make our cities work more efficiently, to connect our cars, and to move towards the Industry 4.0 vision. The IoT is seen as a major opportunity to drive the digitalization of a wide range of industries and public sector services. The ability to connect the physical world to digital services is driving the deployment of an ever-larger number of embedded devices. Projections about the number of Internet connected »Things« varies from between 21 billion to 75 billion devices by 2025. Covid-19 seems to have done no harm to the acceleration of IoT deployments in 2020 due to IoT Analytics [1].

While many of us see IoT as embedded devices and the data they deliver, the Internet of Things is a whole system concept. Though end devices deployed in the field are the source to gathering data on our physical environment, the right connectivity solutions, IoT platforms, cloud or edge based IoT services, security, robust software, and maintenance are also key aspects of the Internet of Things.

IoT Platforms, the Edge, and Data Analytics

A plethora of IoT platforms are out in the market, many deployed across the continuum from end device to cloud based service platform. Key aspects for IoT platforms are reliable connectivity from devices to cloud, orchestration of services, and performance, in particular for real-time services. While initially data collection and service provision from the cloud was the modus operandi in the Internet of Things, real-time performance has become increasingly important for industrial IoT services. As the cloud is often distant and connectivity to far away places incurs much delay, edge computing has increased in prominence. Data processing in the cloud or at the edge is another important topic, as devices sense and collect so much information about us and our environment. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) play a key role in extracting as much information from the data and providing smart services to the user. The ever-present blockchain concept has also become a hot topic in IoT in respect to security, trust and data provenance within IoT platforms.

Software for the Internet of Things

Developing software for the Internet of Things started off as pure embedded systems programming. This is seen by many developers as something of a black art, close to the hardware and using low level programming languages. In order to make software development for the Internet of Things more accessible, higher level languages, virtualisation and clever software development tools have found their way also here. Java for embedded devices, virtual machines and model-based software development tools are some of the innovation available to developers.

Many Internet of Things deployments have a lifetime of many years, requiring maintenance of the device deployments and software installations. Due to the sheer number and often difficult accessibility of embedded devices, over the air software updates have become the norm. This is a challenging process and can leave the system in a volatile or defunct state if something goes wrong. Getting it right is critical for the long-term success of the IoT.

Securing the Internet of Things

Security is a huge topic for all connected digital systems, none more so than the IoT. There are many stories of how hackers have used IoT devices to deploy botnets to launch all sorts of attacks such as distributed denial of service or data hacking attacks. Building secure IoT systems software is a key topic in embedded systems and IoT service development. Recently, secure elements and eSIMs have entered the embedded systems space to help authorise software and services that run on these devices. New IoT architectures have emerged that claim to have security build into their core. Also, threat models and secure communication mechanism are being developed to help dispel security worries about the IoT.

IoT Use Cases – only limited by our imagination

The IoT is only limited by our imagination. A plethora of use cases and applications already exist and every day we see a new IoT service or application emerge. The question of course is always whether the underlying business model of a new IoT application is sound and the providers and users involved can create value from it. Some of the use cases that seem to attract most interest include energy usage prediction and management, digital twins in smart manufacturing, diagnostics and prognostics, and asset management. The latter is also closely connected to device localisation, a key service provided by Internet of Things connected devices. Knowing where one’s property is located is one of the main enablers for improved logistics and asset tracking, leading to enhanced productivity and lower costs.

The above topics represent just only a small selection of what the Internet of Things is all about. IoT is a broad and truly interdisciplinary technology and at the heart of conferences such as the embedded world Conference. Topics such as those touched upon above as well as connectivity, operating systems, software engineering, embedded artificial intelligence and embedded hardware for the IoT will be presented, discussed and innovated upon at ewC in Nuremberg from 1st to 5th March 2021.

[1] https://iot-analytics.com/iot-2020-in-review/

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