Internet of Things (IoT) has definitely moved from hype to reality. More and more customers are talking about ROI benefits they have received from actual use cases implementation, after the initial experimentation phase. There is more discussion within organisations on which use case of IoT to be implemented first instead of ‘why IoT’? Whether it is a manufacturing enterprise looking for asset efficiency within the factory or an insurance organisation looking for dynamic policy creation based on sensor data received from home or a fleet operator looking for optimised route plan for his cars, the challenge thrown is, primarily, to the IoT app developer on how to create the varied apps, quickly, thus enabling value benefits from IoT.
What are the critical success factors for IoT apps to deliver the promised value?
1. Existence of an IoT platform and services: An IoT platform ensures that basic services of sensor event collection, business rules, data models, device management, device APIs and security are available to developers for creation of the IoT apps. Data from machines can be of several types, like, SCADA-based, stream-based, periodic-based, OPC-based, etc, and it is important the platform caters to these different data needs so that data collection can be done for different scenarios. For IoT app creation, one needs to add rules to events, build secure data exchange and build device control and monitoring capabilities, all of which need to be available as services for easy pick and add by the IoT developer.
2. Integration with varied IoT devices: If there are a billion devices which need to be connected, there is a dire need of a standard way of connecting and collecting data from those devices. With the multitude of networking technologies and protocols which are available today, creation of IoT apps which use these billion devices will be a Herculean task. We all know that the heterogeneity of the types of devices which exist in the market is the biggest challenge of IoT and to cater to that, we definitely need a ready set of libraries/kits for most types of devices so that it is very easy and intuitive for an IoT developer to connect the devices.
Let us see how a platform-based approach and a standard way of developing libraries/kits for types of devices make the challenge seem easy and formidable.
Introducing the concept of an IoT Recipe:
IoT Recipes are concrete examples to show developers, how IoT apps can be written for identified use cases. The concept is similar to a cooking recipe where you need ingredients and simple steps to execute before the dish is ready. In an IoT Recipe, for example, the ingredients would be the hardware device to which we need to connect to and the services on IoT Cloud Platform. The set of steps and directions would define the mechanism to make the device ready for integration with the IoT Cloud Platform Services. The IoT services would be chosen based on the requirements of the use case and the end result would be an IoT app for a use case defined by a client.
Examples of some recipes which make this understanding clearer:
1. Machine Condition Monitoring Recipe: This helps in a scenario where you need to measure the performance of a machine based on sensors which need to be instrumented on the device. In many brown field projects, the sensors need to be installed near/on existing machines and data needs to be collected through sensors. While sensors and the gateway they talk to can be integrated with IoT Clouds, machines cannot follow the same approach, but they do exist as assets in asset management systems. So an IoT app can be written to integrate the sensors to IoT Cloud and at the back end, integrated with the asset management systems. This IoT App would also need ingredient services like business rules and database services say, for example, cloudant DB and few reporting services to show the dashboards of machine monitoring.
2. Vehicle On Boarding recipe: A car is an electronic machine and there are several apps that can be written for connected car scenarios helping car owners, OEMs and fleet operators reap the benefits of IoT. The main ingredient of such an IoT recipe would be the connectivity to the car and services to manage the data. Most of the cars have OBD II (On Board Diagnostic) ports from which data of vehicle’s sub systems can be obtained. There are several OBD II devices existing in the market and with very little effort, they can be integrated to the IoT Cloud Platform, hence enabling vehicle data to be sent to IoT Cloud over GSM networks or Bluetooth. For starters, who do not have access to an OBD device, do not worry. You can use a simulator that can run in your browser to simulate vehicle events like fuel, speed of engine, GPS coordinates, etc. Hence, you can quickly create an IoT app to manage car data and integrate with more ingredient services like 1. Mobile Push notifications which will enable you to see your data on mobile phone 2. Geo Fencing service which will then enable you to get alerts when your car is nearing a coffee shop or a petrol station.
Recipes are a great way to get IoT developers started and show them how to go about creating a new application. Also, recipe creation needs to be a community-based approach such that all developers can contribute, as IoT is all about the ecosystem partners. Well, no one can do it all. Let the community grow and hobbyists, avid developers and organisations start contributing their own recipes as they discover the world of IoT and solve some real client problems. Let’s imagine, a recipe for monitoring vehicles is available and some other IoT app developer uses it to create an IoT app for managing the perishability of food cargo in trucks which, in turn, helps the farmers get the best price for their produce. Yes, a community of recipes can be great way to start proliferating IoT apps in our day-to-day lives.
IoT use cases can vary from building efficiency management, asset efficiency, remote monitoring of washing machines, pay-as-you-go insurance, energy efficiency management and all it needs is picking the right IoT services from the palette and create your own recipe!!!
- References: https://developer.ibm.com/recipes/
– By Shalini Kapoor, is Chief Architect-IoT Cloud Solutions at IBM India Labs