IoT Architecture and Core IoT Modules
The edge computing and IoT ecosphere starts with the simplest of sensors located in the remotest corners of the earth and translates analog physical effects into digital signals (the language of the Internet). Data then takes a complex journey through wired and wireless signals, various protocols, natural interference, and electromagnetic collisions, before arriving in the ether of the Internet. From there, packetized data will traverse various channels arriving at a cloud or large data center. The strength of IoT is not just one signal from one sensor, but the aggregate of hundreds, thousands, potentially millions of sensors, events, and devices.
This chapter starts with a definition of IoT versus machine-to-machine architectures. It also addresses the architect's role in building a scalable, secure, and enterprise IoT architecture. To do that, an architect must be able to speak to the value the design brings to a customer. The...
A connected ecosystem
Nearly every major technology company is investing or has invested heavily in IoT and the edge computing space. New markets and technologies have already formed (and some have collapsed or been acquired). Throughout this book, we will touch on nearly every segment in information technology, as they all have a role in IoT.
Figure 1: Example of the architectural layers of an IoT/edge computing system. This is one of the many potential configurations that must be considered by the architect. Here we show the sensor-to-cloud routes through direct communication and through edge gateways. We also highlight the functionality provided by the edge compute nodes and the cloud components.
As illustrated in the preceding figure, here are some of the components within an IoT/edge solution that we will study:
Part 1 – Sensing and power
An IoT transaction starts or ends with an event: a simple motion, a temperature change, perhaps an actuator moving on a lock. Unlike many IT devices in existence, IoT in a large part is about a physical action or event. It responds to affect a real-world attribute. Sometimes this involves considerable data being generated from a single sensor, such as auditory sensing for preventative maintenance of machinery. Other times, it's a single bit of data indicating vital health data from a patient. Whatever the case may be, sensing systems have evolved and made use of Moore's law in scaling to sub-nanometer sizes and significantly reduced costs. Part 1 explores the depths of MEMs, sensing, and other forms of low-cost edge devices from a physical and electrical point of view. The part also details the necessary power and energy systems to drive these edge machines. We can't take power for granted at the edge. Collections of billions of small...
Part 2 – Data communication
A significant portion of this book surrounds connectivity and networking. There are countless other sources that dive deep into application development, predictive analytics, and machine learning. This book too will cover those topics, but an equal amount of emphasis is given to data communications. The IoT wouldn't exist without significant technologies to move data from the remotest and most hostile environment to the largest data centers at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM. The acronym IoT contains the word Internet, and because of that, we need to dive deep into networking, communications, and even signal theory. The starting point for IoT isn't sensors or the application; it's about connectivity, as we will see throughout this book. A successful architect will understand the constraints of Internetworking from a sensor to a WAN and back again.
This communication and networking section starts with theory and mathematical...
Part 3 – Edge computing
Edge computing brings nontraditional computing power close to the sources of data. While embedded systems have existed in devices for the last 40 years, edge computing is more than a simple 8-bit microcontroller or analog-to-digital converter circuit used to display temperature. Edge computing attempts to solve critical problems as the number of connected objects and the complexity of use cases grows in the industry. For example, in IoT areas we need the following:
- Accumulate data from several sensors and provide an entry point to the Internet.
- Resolve critical real-time responses for safety-critical situations like remote surgery or automated driving.
- Solutions that can manage an overwhelming amount of processing of unstructured data like video data or even streaming of video to save on costs of transporting the data over wireless carriers and cloud providers.
Edge computing also comes in layers as we will...
Part 4 – Compute, analytics, and machine learning
At this point, we must consider what to do with the data streaming in from edge nodes into a cloud service. First, we begin by talking about the aspects of cloud architectures such as SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS systems. An architect needs to understand the data flow and typical design of cloud services (what they are and how they are used). We use OpenStack as a model of cloud design and explore the various components from ingestor engines to data lakes to analytics engines.
Understanding the constraints of cloud architectures is also important to make a good judgment on how a system will deploy and scale. An architect must also understand how latency can affect an IoT system. Alternatively, not everything belongs in the cloud. There is a measurable cost in moving all IoT data to a cloud versus processing it at the edge (edge processing) or extending cloud services downward into an edge computing device (fog computing...
Part 5 – Threat and security in IoT
We conclude the book with a survey of IoT compromises and attacks. In many cases, IoT systems will not be secured in a home, or in a company. They will be in public, in very remote areas, in moving vehicles, or even inside a person. The IoT represents the single biggest attack surface for any type of cyberattack. We have seen countless academic hacks, well-organized cyber assaults, and even nation-state security breaches with IoT devices being the target. Part 5 will detail several aspects of such breaches and the types of remediation any architect must consider when making a consumer or enterprise IoT deployment a good citizen of the Internet. We explore the proposed congressional act to secure the IoT and understand the motivation and impact of such a government mandate.
This part will checklist the typical security provisions needed for IoT, or any network component. Details of new technologies such as blockchains and software...
This book will bridge the spectrum of technologies that comprise edge computing and the IoT. In this chapter, we summarized the domains and topics covered in the book. An architect must be cognizant of the interactions between these disparate engineering disciplines to build a system that is scalable, robust, and optimized. An architect will also be called upon to provide supporting evidence that the IoT system provides a value to the end user or the customer. Here, we learned about the application of Metcalfe's and Beckstrom's laws as tools for supporting an IoT deployment.
In the next chapters, we will learn about communication from sensors and edge nodes to the Internet and cloud. First, we will examine the fundamental theory behind radio signals and systems and their constraints and limits, and then we will dive into near-range and long-range wireless communication.