Key Tips for Powering Your Connected Products with the Cloud
As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to evolve, it can transform the business scene as well as our lives. Cloud computing is the backbone of this transformation. Rapid cloud adoption has served as a springboard for many IoT applications and business models, enabling the enterprise to reduce time-to-market and cost of ownership.
With cloud computing, enterprises do not have to use great hardware or configure/manage networks and infrastructure. Cloud computing enables enterprises to scale up the foundation, as per their needs. This not only aids to speed up the development process but reduces development costs considerably. Close to half of all CIOs and IT leaders who were surveyed by the cloud-security company Bitglass reported about cost savings using cloud-based applications.
Technical Hurdles and How Cloud Comes to the Rescue
Firstly, it’s not easy to launch an IoT solution. You have to worry about how your hardware or machinery can function. This involves working with sensors, connecting the device to the internet, potentially dealing with battery life, and more. Then you have to develop the software to facilitate all of the communication and data collection. Finally, you have to deploy all of the back-end infrastructures to bring every moving part of your IoT solution together. Cloud computing helps you tackle these technical issues.
When you’re in the process of setting up your IoT hardware and software, you don’t want to have to worry about configuring networks, setting up servers, deploying databases, or performing any other infrastructure tasks. Cloud computing service providers have all of this ready in no time. You can quickly spin up virtual servers, launch a database instance, and create data pipelines to help run your IoT solution.
What’s more, there are now services dedicated explicitly to launching and managing IoT offerings. For instance, AWS’s IoT platform allows you to instantly and securely connect as well as manage these device connections, and capture and feed the collected data into other AWS technologies like S3 and Redshift for processing and analysis. Not only does this help to expedite your development process, but also reduces the development costs. Therefore, you won’t have to spend money upfront to buy and provision servers and other infrastructure. As a subscriber, you only pay for the resources that you utilize. Cloud computing providers have all of the foundations that you need, ready at their disposal, and can help speed up your development process. This enables you to get to market faster allows you to concentrate on developing the best product possible.
Build Scalable & Flexible Data Infrastructure for IoT Deployment Through Cloud
With improved connectivity and greater data penetration, IoT traffic and the number of devices are set to explode in the next few years, pointing to increased communication between devices and vast volumes of data generated. In order to manage all this, a business needs a cost-efficient way to store, process, and access data from your IoT solutions and scale resources to handle peak demand when required.
With cloud computing, you are all set for your infrastructure capacity to scale up on demand when usage increases and drop down when demand is lower. On the contrary, if you use traditional servers, you would have to buy with enough capacity upfront to account for peak times, which would continue to sit idle at times of low use and thereby subtract from your bottom line.
However, with the cloud by your side, as you add more features into your IoT solution, you can quickly scale the infrastructure to handle all of this functionality.
Take John Deere, for example, it is paving the way for farmers to leverage IoT to understand their farms better and be smarter about their output. They’ve built smart farm solutions that aid real-time monitoring, administration, and review exercises of land preparation, seeding, fertilizing, and harvesting. This is achieved by using the SeedStar Mobile application, which presents real-time, row-by-row planting performance data.
JDLink is an example of a mobile application, supporting farmers and their machinery dealers to gather fleet location, utilization, fuel efficiency, and diagnostic data for each machine remotely, in real-time.
Needless to say, all of these applications are powered by cloud computing, which can manage the fluctuating demands of farmers accessing and monitoring various amounts of data, at any given time, from any device and location. Moreover, as John Deere continues to build out its portfolio of IoT solutions, it can quickly scale its infrastructure resources to accommodate new apps and the customers that use them.
Improve Your Data Security with Cloud
With the growth of the IoT industry comes loads of security challenges. While it’s already an uphill task to secure your employees’ mobile phones, computers, and other devices. Imagine the level of difficulty it poses to secure thousands of different tools that are in the hands of unsuspecting users?
Each of these devices is the gateway to sensitive information of your customers, employees, and lines of business, and access to this data can lead to stolen identities, loss of money, and even bodily harm. Since many smart devices are interconnected, it requires a breach at a single point to gain access to an entire IoT ecosystem. Scary.
A few high-profile IoT security violations have already happened-
Chrysler had to recall 1.4 million Jeeps due to a security flaw. The Tesla Model S entertainment system security was broken, and up to 2.2 million BMW-built vehicles were vulnerable to a breach that could let hackers unlock the car doors.
A hack of VTech’s Learning Lodge app store databases disclosed the data of 6.4 million children. Also, a breach of digital video recorders and internet-connected cameras led to massive internet outages.
All of these security breaches prompted the Cloud Security Alliance to create guidelines that identify the key actions that should be taken to ensure the security of an IoT offering. IoT security starts with educating the end-user of the associated risks and how they can protect themselves. After that, the cloud can help secure the smart device itself and the backend that powers all of these devices.
Listed below are some of the recommended guidelines, that can help secure your IoT offering and how the cloud helps to expedite them.
It all starts with precise authentication of users at the device level. Every cloud services provider has an identity management solution that allows integration into your IoT solution so that users can log into their devices safely and securely. For instance, AWS has Identity and Access Management (IAM) and Cognito modules to help facilitate secure login and access. Additionally, security certificates should be issued to each device so information about potential security breaches, when it occurred, the device location, and more, can be captured and analyzed. Also, these certificates can be revoked, so the device is no longer connected to the IoT ecosystem once it has been stolen or compromised, further ensuring the security of your environment.
Firmware and Software Update Procedures
Devices with legacy firmware and software are prime targets for hackers, who know that the tools and ecosystems, without the latest security patches, are the most vulnerable. A standard process towards securing your IoT devices is to have the most recent firmware and software from day one. Cloud providers have tools and processes that allow for easy setup of software and Firmware-Over-The-Air (FOTA) updates. Also, these updates have digital certificates that inform the users about their security and authenticity.
With the amount of data that are created by smart devices, it may be challenging to identify signals of suspicious activity and separate them from all of the noise. Hackers know this, and it’s a significant reason why they target IoT environments. Thus, it’s imperative to encrypt as much data as possible that flows throughout your IoT ecosystem and is stored in your databases.
Cloud platforms can help you manage and automate the encryption process for both client and server-side. Further, it allows you to create customized encryption packages that fit your company’s security policies. Moreover, cloud security experts always stay on top of the latest threats and trends, so you don’t get hassled.
Harness the True Potential of IoT- Integration, and Interoperability
To get the best value out of your IoT solution, it’s best to seamlessly integrate the data you’re collecting from these devices with the information you have in current business applications.
For instance, if you manage a manufacturing company and are collecting uptime data from sensors on your machine, you can consolidate this information with your shipping logs to identify the impact of machine downtime on delivery times.
Often these data sets are siloed on separate servers and inaccessible to be analyzed simultaneously. The cloud comes to the rescue and can help link applications and processes, and house all of these data so they can be seamlessly integrated and analyzed, regardless of the source. Also, the cloud can support your IoT solution better integrate with the smart products built by other companies, which ultimately provides more value to your users. With the IoT industry still in its infancy, many companies are trying to build their own platform to become the market leader. This has evidently led to a lack of standards where devices from multiple manufacturers can’t communicate, or those that run on different operating systems can’t be integrated, and therefore data can’t be shared across platforms.
Fragmentation is a big problem that’s holding back the true potential of IoT, but a few companies are working on cloud solutions that alleviate issues with interoperability. For example
Intel released an IoT platform reference architecture alongside hardware and software products which aims to standardize the complex and fragmented IoT industry.
Similarly, IBM has also attempted to regulate and solve the lack of interoperability by collaborating with global alliances and working groups such as the Cloud Standards Customer Council and the Distributed Management Task Force to create standards and build a cloud environment that interoperates seamlessly with the bulk of applications, appliances, and platforms.
For IoT to reach its full potential, connectivity and communication between things, people, and processes are needed, no matter who makes the devices. Cloud computing will play a critical role in bringing it all together.