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How Cloud Agnostic Hardware Could be The Future of IoT IoT is gaining popularity and can use the cloud for optimal data storage. What happens when cloud companies go out of business and shut down their IoT services?

By Ameya Shastri Pothukuchi Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We live in an increasingly connected world. Never in the history of humanity has information been so readily available. Today, it's not just people who are more connected with each other but devices that are connected with people and processes and people that are connected with devices that connect them to other people, processes and devices. It is truly a connected world — and we have information to thank for that.

The Internet of things (IoT) plays a significant role in connectedness, and today we are looking at the role of cloud-agnostic hardware in IoT. We will cover critical questions asked today in the IoT industry. That includes the benefits of cloud-agnostic hardware, how cloud-agnostic hardware affects the future of IoT and whether there is an alternative to cloud-agnostic hardware.

Related: The Internet of Things Promises a Future of Being Coddled by Your Appliances

What is the Internet of things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects embedded with sensors and other connectivity technologies connecting and exchanging data with other systems and devices through the Internet.

When you check your smartphone for the latest reports on your sleep patterns, heart rate and calories lost from your most recent exercise session, have you ever wondered how all that information is collected? Tiny yet powerful sensors and software reside within your wearable device. These are designed to manage all your fitness information, analyze it, and send it back to you as a report on your smartphone.

In an increasingly connected world, connected devices are tools to access and share critical information related to home, health, finance and even news. Smart home appliances and wearables are popularly used as singular technologies to help with everyday tasks. Experts predict that the use of connected devices as a part of an ecosystem of networked devices is rising.

Related: The Internet of Things: New Threats Emerge in a Connected World

From healthcare to power and energy to manufacturing, every industry is turning to IoT to improve operational efficiency and productivity and to create new business opportunities. IoT hardware used across industries includes accelerometers, temperature, images, light, acoustic, and pressure sensors.

Industries increasingly realize the importance of the efficient use of data and the integration of disparate systems to gain more visibility and better insights into their operations.

Does IoT require the cloud?

Technically, IoT does not require a cloud. Many data processing and commanding forms can occur locally via a simple internet connection.

Cloud agnostic hardware — sensors and devices talk to the cloud through connectivity (satellite, cellular, Wi-Fi, LPWAN, and even Bluetooth). Data collected in the cloud is processed by software that decides what action is required. For instance, whether data must be sent as an alert or, in some cases, used to adjust sensors/devices without human intervention.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Are Connecting the World With IoT

The benefits of cloud-agnostic hardware in IoT today

Industries use large numbers of sensors to collect and process data and then make intelligent decisions based on that data. The cloud is critical when containing large amounts of essential data.

For example, at NCD, we have created an IoT SDI Soil Moisture temperature EC Transmitter that uses a wireless mesh networking architecture with an SDI soil probe. The probe samples soil moisture temperature EC level in multiple locations and sends a wireless transmission to remote modems and gateways. Agricultural companies use this technology to compare soil moisture data received by sensors from various locations after planting the same seeds. Without the cloud, comparing data across several areas would be difficult.

When using several thousands of sensors without the cloud, every sensor would have to take on exceptional computation power, which would be both expensive and energy-intensive. With a cloud solution, data can pass seamlessly to the cloud via the sensors, where all the aggregated data is processed, analyzed, and acted on.

Over the years, we have witnessed cloud-agnostic hardware benefits businesses derive across industries. These include:

  • Decreased upfront and infrastructure costs
  • Pay-as-needed for storage and computing
  • Exceptionally high system scalability
  • Any-time availability
  • Lower load on battery-powered devices and sensors that leads to their increased lifespan
  • The ability to collect massive amounts of data efficiently.

Cloud Agnostic sensor is a device that can send data to any cloud service out there, Users have a choice to choose the best cloud option, or if they don't want to use the cloud, they can still use their sensors. They have complete control of their data and how it is presented.

Sharing a symbiotic relationship

Although IoT does not always depend on cloud computing, there is an undeniable symbiotic relationship between the two. Over 10 billion active IoT devices will reach 25.4 billion over the next eight years (by 2030). Simultaneously, cloud computing has experienced a steep rise, with over 94% of enterprises depending on cloud service. The total data from IoT devices alone is expected to reach 73.1 zettabytes over the next three years (by 2025). IoT applications can rely solely on the cloud to provide the tremendous power required to host and process that huge amount of data.

Upcoming challenges

As IoT deployment continues to reach new heights, there is no doubt that developers will face data hosting and processing challenges. At NCD, we have been busy understanding future IoT trends and potential concerns across industries, and here are some of them.

  1. Organizations will face challenges associated with setting up IT infrastructure.
  2. As IoT deployment continues to reach new heights, so will the need for speed in mission-critical scenarios like remote patient monitoring, environmental monitoring, connected cars, autonomous vehicles, telehealth and robotics.
  3. Latency and performance, scalability, cost, and security issues will be concerns across industries.
  4. IoT deployment will become increasingly complex as it gains popularity. A more comprehensive range of sensors, configurations, network technologies, software platforms and protocols will all add to a developer's nightmare.
  5. As IoT databases grow exponentially, so will the need for scalability. However, there will be tremendous expenses (operational costs and costs associated with managing multiple locations) associated with scalability.

There is a solution for all these problems: cloud computing and agnostic hardware. Developers will turn to various cloud architectures — hybrid clouds, public clouds, private clouds, and even multi-clouds to solve at least a significant part of their problems. For everything else, edge computing will come to the rescue.

Related: 8 Ways IoT Devices Can Improve Your Business Office

Edge and where it fits into the scheme of things

More and more new devices are connecting to the internet every second. By 2025, 152,200 new devices will connect to the internet every minute. That could cause massive performance and latency issues for time-sensitive data in the future.

Not all data is time-sensitive, but active data (for example, real-time glucose levels or heart health metrics) does not tolerate a lag. It must be delivered instantly via medical devices or sensor-enabled alarm systems. This is where edge data centers can be the saving grace. To ensure near real-time delivery of critical information, IoT developers must consider turning to edge computing architecture which uses edge data centers closer to the edge devices, thereby improving performance.

Processing data directly on edge devices is an option. Still, these devices often have minimal computing resources and are incapable of handling workloads like machine learning, AI and video analytics.

Back to the cloud

We once again look to the cloud for solutions to our future problems. And like every cloud has a silver lining, cloud predictions help us believe that cloud-agnostic hardware will undoubtedly be the key to the future of IoT. From our experience at NCD, we expect to see:

  • A surge in multi-cloud use in the IoT industry.
  • Cloud environments will provide more security to eliminate security risks.
  • Cloud computing will be used along with edge computing to take on massive data loads that edge computing cannot handle.
  • The growing demand for cloud data storage will ensure a larger storage capacity for IoT devices without the need to compromise on speed.
  • AI will continue to grow to be the pillar that supports cloud computing (data management and data insights).

No matter which way you look at it, you can't deny the critical need for the cloud in IoT and the need for cloud-agnostic hardware. Whether used in silos or with edge devices, business and industry-specific IoT devices will rely on the cloud to support large IoT ecosystems. Cloud-agnostic hardware is the way forward – it's the only way to keep up with the rapidly growing IoT industry.

Related: Three Ways IoT Is Shaping The Smart Cities Of The Future

Ameya Shastri Pothukuchi

Senior Product Manager at Microsoft

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