The Internet of Things (IoT) to Cloud: Computing and Communication Gateways
Vasudeva Devapura Venkatachala Rao
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Integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) with Cloud Computing is gaining importance, with the trend going on in the ubiquitous computing world to enhance productivity, cost reduction, and improve work safety protocols.
What are IoT Gateways?
Computing and communication gateways in IoT implementation play a decisive role in routing the preprocessed filtered data to cloud platforms.
But what are these IoT gateways composed of?
An IoT gateway comprises a processor, RAM, supported wireless connections, security models, operating system, and technical characteristics like I/O, GPIO, form factor, etc. This way, a gateway operates as a router, making centralized traffic management easy to control and analyze.
However, some important features of IoT gateway include scalability, connectivity, active engagements, artificial intelligence, and analyzing/sensing.
IoT communication gateways are the primary infrastructure that utilizes hundreds of protocols. IoT communication protocols help establish communication gateways from device to device or device to the cloud, ensuring secure data exchange between connected IoT devices.
The IoT protocols are mainly classified into the application (AMQP, MQTT, CoAP), transport (UDP, TCP), network (6LoWPAN, IP), datalink (LPWAN, IEEE 802.15.4 MAC), and physical layer (IEEE 802.15.4 MAC, NFC, RFID, BLE, Ethernet).
These protocols work in layers to enable communication between people and devices. The four widely used IoT communication models are a request-response model, Publisher-Subscriber Model, Push-Pull Model, and Exclusive-Pair Model. The use of these communication models is primarily dependent on the purpose of communication.
For instance, the Request-Response model is used by a client to make a request to which the servers respond. However, the aim of all communication systems is the same. But the retention of data and response to the requests are handled differently (see Exhibit 1).
IoT Gateways and their Application
Based on these communication models, IoT devices are applicable in real-world instances to transform things into a smart world. The most evident real-time IoT applications are smart homes, connected health, wearables, cars, hospitality, and farming, using artificial intelligence as a core element.
Similarly, the gateways use short wireless transmissions such as Bluetooth Low Energy, ZigBee, cellular network, WiFi, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), LoRa, etc., which are then linked to standard protocols like MQTT.
REST, CoAP, MQTT, and other standard protocols over IPv6 or IPv4 that use JSON payloads ensure its compatibility with almost every platform in the market. The most common IoT sensor is the lowly RFID tag, found in everything from store merchandise to warehouse equipment to passports to that “security” badge that gets you into your office at night.
In addition, the connection of IoT sensors or actuators with standard interfaces must not be ignored by IoT gateway designers. Despite data collection through standard interfaces, data from IoT devices are stored directly in the cloud; hence data logging is important.
On the contrary, as of June 2021, the United States has no GDPR-like national IoT cybersecurity framework or comprehensive federal law concerning the regulation of the collection and usage of personal information.
According to Statista, the number of IoT devices is predicted to increase at a growing rate of 14% by three times, jumping from 14.4 billion in 2022 to more than 29 billion in 2030 globally. The highest number of IoT device connections are found in China, i.e., approximately 5 billion devices. With that, the global IoT industry revenue is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2030.
The growth of IoT connections is worth paying attention to; despite its popularity, this wide-scale data collection and processing technology have presented us with many challenges. Data security, privacy, volume, and complexity are core problems that need to be solved in the IoT world, which is put forward by adopting Big Data. Furthermore, data produced by such devices is unstructured and complex and provides limited dataset perspectives.
Besides the IoT gateway data flow, security is one of the most predominant issues because encryption protocols in all cloud connections are critical for the integrity of uploaded data and for avoiding cybersecurity threats in remote infrastructure settings. In addition, massive issues IoT applications face because of the centralized nature of cloud platforms include processing every bit of data, storage, bandwidth issues, high latency, and network congestion.
There are many ways of implementing IoT gateways in different sectors, such as communication translation between IoT devices and data filtration. IoT improves efficiency in the computing processes, enabling an individual to make smarter yet informed decisions. Moreover, the direct flow of collected data on the cloud has reduced maintenance costs by replacing unnecessary and personalized predictive maintenance measures.
Other than the privacy concerns, the IoT communication gateways lack updating features like other smart devices. However, IoT devices are revolutionary in implementing and adopting smart living in home and professional settings. Unfortunately, some overlooked IoT threats concerning unreliable firewalls and other security issues leave the transfer of data to the cloud vulnerable to malware and represent a ransom possibility.
One reason contributing to the slow adoption of IoT gateways in wide-range industrial operations is that its data collection process is invaluable. The monitoring and management of remote systems due to the IoT gateways in real-time hold benefits, drawbacks, and challenges that need to be addressed.
Thus, some IoT security challenges for successful integration are unencrypted data storage, unsecured financial information, easy access to physical property, weak passwords and ID verification processes, and botnets and malicious IoT devices. Notwithstanding, the amount of data production is increasing at the fastest pace. The sheer volume of data produced in 2019 was approximately 18.3 zettabytes, with an expected growth of 73.1 ZB in 2025.
What Benefits Does IoT Offer?
Besides the challenges posed by IoT technology, we cannot undermine the potential benefits it offers.
McKinsey reported that about 40% of the potential benefits of IoT are obtained with the interoperability between IoT systems. Connecting devices, networking, and exchanging data are all integral components of functional IoT. Therefore, each IoT vendor must prepare its network for integration immediately. Some leading businesses worldwide have already invested in adopting IoT to cut costs and reduce energy consumption, considering IoT devices sustainable.
For instance, according to Gartner’s report, Google’s operations utilize IoT and machine learning technologies to monitor the data centers’ temperatures and other indicators. The tracking report of this data revealed that the use of IoT and machine learning provided Google with three and a half times more computing power, followed by a 15 percent cut in energy use and a 40 percent reduction in its cooling bill.
For the sake of sustainability, IoT sensors are used to monitor, track, and reduce carbon emissions. It has been predicted that smart energy will reduce carbon emissions by 85% by 2030. Despite the relatively low implementation of IoT, many organizations have cut operational costs by 4-5%.
Some companies have transformed their business models in agriculture, energy production, supply, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, etc. For example, Factory of the future by Airbus, an IIoT pioneer by Caterpillar, connected robotics by KUKA, smart robotics by ABB, etc.
Since artificial intelligence has unlocked the true IoT potential by enabling networks and devices, IoT is more likely to be a sorely essential element in helping the world learn from their past decisions in improving life and prioritizing retaining data privacy as a major concern. In addition, further technological advancements in IoT computing and communication gateways will likely improve industrial performance and decision-making capabilities.
About the Author
Vasudeva Devapura Venkatachala Rao is an associate director of IT delivery with more than 23 years of experience. He has wide-ranging engineering, program, and project management expertise, managing large-scale implementation across domains and technology solutions. He holds a master’s degree in computer applications and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.