From power grids and telecommunications networks, to rail, sea, and air transport systems, infrastructure today uses millions of sensors. Gathering data from all of these sensors and using it to ensure the smooth functioning of this critical infrastructure is made possible by combining cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Cloud Internet of Things (IoT) uses cloud computing services to collect and process data from IoT devices, and to manage the devices remotely. The scalability of cloud IoT platforms enables the processing of large amounts of data, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics capabilities.
Dgtl Infra provides an in-depth overview of cloud computing for the Internet of Things (IoT), including what exactly it is and how it works. Additionally, we highlight various cloud services for IoT, examples of IoT and cloud use cases, and the major cloud platforms offering IoT services.
What is Cloud IoT?
Cloud IoT is a technology architecture that connects IoT devices to servers housed in cloud data centers. This enables real-time data analytics, allowing better, information-driven decision making, optimization, and risk mitigation. Cloud IoT also simplifies management of connected devices at-scale.
Cloud IoT is different from traditional, or non-cloud-based IoT in a few key ways:
- Data Storage: the cloud collects IoT data generated by thousands or millions of IoT sensors, with the data being stored and processed in a central location. While in other types of IoT architectures, data may be stored and processed on-premises
- Scalability: cloud IoT is highly scalable, as cloud infrastructure (compute, storage, and networking resources) can easily handle thousands of devices and process their data across large systems
- Flexibility: cloud IoT provides a high level of flexibility, as it allows devices to be added or removed as-needed, without having to reconfigure the entire system
- Maintenance: in cloud IoT, the maintenance of servers and networking equipment is handled by the cloud service provider (CSP). While in other types of IoT architectures, maintenance may be the responsibility of the end user
- Cost: cloud IoT can be more cost-effective over the long-term, as users only pay for the resources they actually consume, and users do not have to invest upfront in their own expensive compute, storage, and networking infrastructure
How Does Cloud IoT Work?
Cloud IoT connects IoT devices – which collect and transmit data – to cloud-based servers via communication protocols such as MQTT and HTTP and over wired and wireless networks. These IoT devices can be managed and controlled remotely and integrated with other cloud services.
IoT data is sourced from anywhere and everywhere, including sensors, actuators, operating systems, mobile devices, standalone applications, and analytic systems. By involving the cloud, vast amounts of IoT data can be stored and processed in a central location.
A cloud IoT system typically includes the following elements:
- IoT Devices: physical devices, such as sensors and actuators, that generate and transmit data to the cloud
- Connectivity: communication protocols and standards used to connect the IoT devices to the cloud. Examples of protocols include MQTT and HTTP, while examples of standards are Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, 5G, Zigbee, and LoRa (long range)
- Cloud Platforms: cloud service providers (CSPs) that offer infrastructure and services to connect to the IoT devices. Examples include AWS IoT and Azure IoT
- Data Storage: cloud-based storage for data generated by the IoT devices, which can be housed in repositories such as a database, data warehouse, or data lake
- Application Layer or API: cloud IoT platforms typically provide a native application – for analytics, machine learning (ML), and visualization – or application programming interface (API) – for data processing. Usually, applications offer the ability to manage and monitor the IoT devices for provisioning, software updates, and troubleshooting
- Security: measures put in place to secure the data and IoT devices, such as encryption, authentication, and access control
Example – Cloud and IoT System
To illustrate all of the above elements in action, consider the example of a wind farm. A typical wind turbine can have about 108 sensors, and the average wind farm houses roughly 150 turbines, for a total of over 16,000 sensors. The data from these sensors might be sent to the cloud for storage, via 5G cellular broadband.
Once the data is stored on cloud servers, it can be used to monitor wind turbine performance, track turbine health, and adjust operating parameters as needed. Cloud IoT platforms also help with predictive maintenance, which is useful given that wind turbines on such a wind farm would be spread across an area of over 15 square miles (39 square kilometers), and downtime could result in millions of dollars of losses per year.
At the same time, insights gleaned from the sensor data can inform decisions regarding the deployment of new turbines or upgrades to existing ones.
What are the Cloud Services for IoT?
Cloud platforms deliver a collection of capabilities that allow Internet of Things (IoT) devices to interact with cloud services, other applications, and even other IoT devices. These cloud platforms let users centrally onboard, manage, monitor, and control IoT devices.
In addition, the cloud supports services such as scalable storage, device connectivity, analytics and reporting, and identity and access management (IAM) in IoT.
Cloud IoT platforms provide scalable object storage services, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), that allow organizations to easily increase or decrease their data storage requirements. This type of flexibility is beneficial for IoT applications, as they often generate large volumes of unstructured data and must be able to store this information without sacrificing device performance.
Cloud-based IoT platforms offer straightforward, reliable, and secure connectivity at-scale between physical IoT devices and cloud services. In turn, an organization can connect thousands or millions of IoT devices to the cloud, without the need to provision or manage the requisite servers and networking equipment.
Analytics and Reporting
Cloud-based IoT platforms are equipped with powerful analytics capabilities – in combination with computing resources – that enable organizations to gain real-time insights into the large datasets that IoT devices produce. Through sophisticated algorithms, such as predictive modeling, statistical analysis, and machine learning (ML), IoT device data can be used to improve efficiency and make better, information-driven decisions.
Additionally, IoT device data can be combined with other relevant data stored in the cloud to extract meaningful insights for organizations. Furthermore, built-in data reporting features offered by cloud services allow organizations to create useful reports based on collected IoT data.
Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Security for the data generated by IoT devices can be protected in the cloud using Identity and Access Management (IAM), which is an authentication and authorization service. IAM enables organizations to grant or deny access to services and resources in the cloud for large numbers of users with different access needs.
With so much IoT data being sent to the cloud, the granularity of IAM controls allows organizations to comply with security and regulations that are relevant for storing and accessing sensitive information.
What are IoT and Cloud Technology Examples?
Examples of how IoT and cloud technology are being applied to real-world use cases include Siemens’ initiatives in smart buildings, Ecolab’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, and Otis’ solutions in elevators.
Siemens – Smart Buildings
Siemens, a multi-national industrial conglomerate, is utilizing IoT and cloud technology to enhance smart buildings. Presently, the company has 2.3 million devices connected to its cloud platform and 10,000 service technicians in the field.
For smart buildings, Siemens offers individual services for separate building functions, such as fire safety security, as well as complete building automation & energy management, and full service and maintenance of large campuses. Together, IoT and cloud technology are helping to increase building efficiency with remote maintenance and decision-making based on analytics.
Siemens’ solutions transition customers from a traditional ‘break-fix’ approach – with technicians being called on-site – to product-agnostic, data-driven services, supported by a remote Digital Service Center (DSC). An example use case of Siemens’ remote DSC is outlined below:
Southern Methodist University (SMU) – Case Study
Southern Methodist University (SMU) is a private university in Dallas, Texas, comprising 131 buildings on 234 acres with nearly 12,000 students. In-partnership with Siemens, the university is modernizing its campus-wide building automation and optimizing building performance through remote services. Specifically, these solutions include:
- Implementation of fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) across more than 80 campus buildings and integration into campus work order management system
- With support from Siemens’ remote Digital Service Center (DSC) and on-site services, cloud-based energy monitoring and analytics are processed, which drive a campus-wide continuous commissioning program
Ultimately, Southern Methodist University (SMU) was able to realize tangible benefits from implementing Siemens’ smart building solutions, which utilize IoT and cloud technology. Specifically, SMU reaped savings in the following areas:
- $2 million in operation and maintenance costs reduction
- 60% of all issues can now be resolved remotely
- $3.5 million annual budget reduction driven by analytics
Ecolab – Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Ecolab, a provider of water, hygiene, and infection prevention solutions and services, offers ECOLAB3D, a cloud-based, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform, which combines the capabilities of the cloud and IoT. Particularly, ECOLAB3D delivers real-time water treatment monitoring, allowing customers to visualize water performance issues at the enterprise, site, and asset levels to help achieve sustainability, productivity, and profitability goals.
Real-time data from Ecolab’s IoT controller, monitoring systems, smart water meters, sensors, and other systems is ingested, stored, and managed in the cloud. As shown below, this operational data, service data, and even metadata is captured at customer sites, across 40+ industries, including building services, data centers, paper, refining, and heavy industry:
Ultimately, Ecolab’s goal for its ECOLAB3D cloud and IoT solution is to help its customers, such as Exelon, increase their operating efficiency and reduce their water usage.
Otis – Elevators
Otis, one of the largest elevator and escalator manufacturing, installation, and service companies in the world, offers its Otis ONE digital service solution, which combines the capabilities of the cloud and IoT. Specifically, Otis ONE is an IoT solution that connects a customer’s elevator to the cloud to deliver remote monitoring and real-time data insights, including a range of health, diagnostic, and performance information, as well as analytics on the machine.
Data from a connected elevator’s smart sensors is used by Otis ONE to provide proactive, predictive, and transparent information to Otis’ technicians and customers. Ultimately, the company’s goal for this cloud and IoT solution is to support improved elevator uptime and service productivity. To-date, Otis ONE has improved service experience as follows:
- ~5% reduction in unplanned service call rate
- ~10% reduction in service hours per unit
Cloud Platforms for IoT
Cloud service providers (CSPs) offer a wide range of Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure, products, and services that can be fully integrated with their cloud solutions, such as IoT platform technologies, IoT wireless technologies, and edge artificial intelligence (AI) computing.
There are several providers delivering IoT cloud services, through platform as a service (PaaS) offerings, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Oracle.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers several products specifically designed for Internet of Things (IoT) applications, such as AWS IoT Core and AWS IoT Greengrass. These services enable organizations to quickly deploy their own internet-connected devices, securely manage data, and gain real-time insights into the operations.
AWS IoT Core
AWS IoT Core is the heart of AWS IoT architecture that interconnects IoT devices with AWS services and other IoT devices. The service enables organizations to securely connect, manage, and access data from connected devices over the internet via the cloud. It features analytics capabilities, device management tools, and support for numerous communication protocols – enabling organizations to gain more insight into their operations.
AWS IoT Greengrass
AWS IoT Greengrass allows users to quickly deploy code at the edge in order to process data locally, without having to send it up to the cloud. This helps reduce latency while ensuring better security as organizations can keep sensitive data away from public networks.
If users require an IoT solution with pre-built components for common use cases and want to rapidly build more simplistic IoT applications from scratch, then AWS IoT Greengrass provides an optimal solution. With its support for various machine learning (ML) tools and artificial intelligence-based analytics solutions, it delivers a platform for gaining predictive insights into customer behavior or usage trends.
Microsoft Azure’s Internet of Things platform, known as Azure IoT, is an end-to-end solution for IoT applications, allowing data analysis, device management, edge computing, and back-end operations. At the same time, security measures ensure all traffic is encrypted, while analytics tools provide organizations with greater insight into their operations.
More specifically, Azure’s Internet of Things (IoT) products include:
- Azure IoT Hub: managed service to connect, monitor, provision, and configure IoT devices from the cloud
- Azure IoT Central: user experience and application programming interface (API) surface for connecting, managing, and monitoring devices at-scale, delivering reliable data for business insights
- Azure IoT Edge: service that deploys artificial intelligence (AI) and custom logic to IoT edge devices
Cloud and IoT – Microsoft and Verizon Partnership
Microsoft and Verizon have partnered to bring the building blocks of cloud and IoT into one place, allowing users to stream asset data to the cloud. Specifically, the companies have combined Microsoft’s Azure IoT Central with Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT Platform and Critical Asset Sensor into a bundled solution that offers the following IoT infrastructure:
- IoT Devices and ThingSpace Platform: asset tracking (Cat M1) multi-sensor device captures 9 forms of data, including configuration of threshold alarms, managed via the ThingSpace IoT Platform. Examples of the sensor data captured include gyroscope, pressure, temperature, GPS, accelerometer, humidity, and light
- Network Connectivity: Verizon’s 4G/LTE network delivers secure and reliable LTE-M & NB-IoT connectivity
- Cloud Hosting: Azure IoT Central is the low-code platform for connecting, managing, and monitoring devices, which scales as users deploy their solution
- Application Templates: application-level, cloud-based analytics and pre-built templates for a variety of use cases, including artificial intelligence (AI)
Google Cloud IoT
Google Cloud offers comprehensive IoT solutions such as Google Cloud IoT Core, although the company recently announced that it would shut down its IoT Core service in August 2023.
IoT Core is Google’s managed cloud service that enables organizations to quickly connect, manage, and analyze data from edge devices over the internet. The service features security measures such as encryption and authentication, device management tools, and support for various communication protocols – including MQTT and HTTP – allowing organizations to gain more insight into their operations.
IBM Watson IoT
IBM Watson IoT is a managed cloud platform that allows for easy connection, management, and analysis of IoT devices. The service provides tools that enable IoT developers to connect and manage IoT devices, collect and analyze data, and create IoT applications.
IBM Watson IoT also integrates with other IBM Watson services such as machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and computer vision, which is artificial intelligence-driven.
Oracle IoT Cloud
Oracle Internet of Things (IoT) Cloud Service is a managed platform that facilitates easy connection, management, and analysis of IoT devices. The service offers solutions for IoT applications, is built on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), and is used across industries including for manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, and energy.