|Cloud services allow you to do any activity over the internet rather than on your device. / Photo by: canjoena via 123rf|
IoT is a system of devices and sensors connected to the internet, according to Daniel Bishop of tech website JaxEnter. What makes it special is the type of devices that can be connected to an IoT network. Smartphones and laptops can be connected to the system, but it also accommodates a variety of everyday objects like TV sets, toasters, fridges, cars, smoke alarms, and more.
By 2025, over 65 billion IoT devices are estimated to be plugged into the network, up from seven billion in 2018. However, the problem here is the volume of data generated by these devices. Hence, IoT should be paired with a centralized support system that will provide IoT networks with the “necessary technical resources and infrastructure.” And that system is called the cloud.
The History and Definition of the Cloud
If you’re just starting to learn about IoT, the term can be “somewhat nebulous,” said Calm McClelland of IoT for All, a platform catered to producing news about the IoT industry. In the ’70s, businesses tended to “rent time using big, mainframe computer systems.” These systems were large and costly. It did not make sense for businesses to own such systems. Hence, it was common for government agencies, universities, and large corporations to own them.
Microprocessor technology drastically reduced the size and cost of computer systems. This led to the rise of personal computers, which became popular in the 1980s. Then, businesses started to conduct in-house computations. Presently, high-speed connections are all the rage, but ironically, the trend has reversed. Businesses are starting to rent computing power from other organizations, just like in the 1970s.
They can purchase costly hardware for storage and processing in-house. However, businesses have the option to rent it in the cloud, which is a cheaper alternative. The cloud is defined as a “huge, interconnected network of powerful servers that performs services” to both businesses and people.
In the US, the largest cloud providers are Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. These giants have “huge farms of servers,” renting these servers to businesses as part of their cloud services. This approach is cost-effective for businesses as they can just pay as-needed.
On the other hand, people use the cloud for different purposes like storing your files in Google Drive, which utilizes Google’s cloud services. Even choosing to listen to songs on Spotify instead of downloading them also uses Amazon’s cloud services. Essentially, cloud services allow you to do any activity over the internet rather than on your device.
|People use the cloud for different purposes like storing your files in Google Drive, which utilizes Google’s cloud services. / Phoro by: Alexey Malkin via 123rf|
IoT and the Cloud
Storing and processing data in the cloud has had implications in IoT. Many IoT systems utilize large numbers of sensors to gather data and make intelligent decisions. The cloud can be used to aggregate data and draw insights from it. For example, a smart agriculture firm could use the cloud to compare soil moisture sensors from Kansas to Colorado after planting the same seeds. If the said firm would not use the cloud, comparing data from different locations would be harder.
Imagine having millions of sensors. Of course, it would be expensive and energy-intensive to put large amounts of computational power in each sensor. Thus, it is more practical to pass the data from the sensors to the cloud. In IoT, the brain of the system is the cloud. It’s true that sensors and devices collect data and perform actions, but the processing and analytics take place in the cloud.
Is It Necessary for IoT Networks to Have the Cloud?
Data processing and commanding could occur locally “rather than in the cloud via an internet connection.” Integrating the cloud with IoT has its benefits such as having high scalability and availability, as well as the ability to collect large amounts of time. If they don’t integrate the cloud into their IoT network, they would slow down, resulting in increased costs. The cloud is beneficial, but there are other legitimate concerns regarding its usage.
3 Issues With the Cloud
Having a centralized system can be helpful. For example, the system can recognize if there‘s a security breach in one device, prompting the system to take immediate action to safeguard all the other devices in the network. Unfortunately, centralized systems working with the cloud are vulnerable to cybersecurity issues due to their robustness. It’s a double-edged sword.
2. Data Ownership
When you store data in your companies’ cloud service, who owns it? The company or the cloud provider? This is a tricky and sensitive issue for IoT applications involving personal data like in healthcare and in smart homes.
What if the IoT application got disconnected from the internet or the cloud service crashed? For certain IoT applications like smart agriculture, technical difficulties and inoperability might not be a big deal. But for others, it could be troublesome. Surely, no one wants the lives and health of people to be jeopardized just because of a crash.
The cloud is useful and cost-effective but it’s not perfect. The security aspect of the service should be bolstered since centralized systems are more likely to be susceptible to security issues. While it is a preferred solution for businesses despite its drawbacks, they still have the right to decide whether or not to integrate the cloud into their IoT system.