Why do we need a software platform for the Internet of Things?

My team is involved in research related to the Internet of Things (IoT) in the area of Cyber-physical Systems. We have observed that IoT applications are currently built bottom-up for any given domain: starting from sensor integration, sensor networking, and sensor data collection, to sensor data storage and sensor data analytics. Smart grid monitoring, SCADA based instrumentation control in manufacturing, and vehicular telematics in transportation are good examples of stand-alone IoT deployments in various verticals.

But why are applications that are built from scratch unable to scale? Here are some reasons that we noted:

  • Huge cost of deployment: Applications developed from scratch and deployed on dedicated infrastructure cost quite a bit. Today’s IoT applications do not provide enough business value to the end user to justify such huge investments.
  • Lack of Killer Apps: There are hardly any applications that yield high return on investment (ROI).
  • Presence of Data Silos: The vertical development paradigm lets the data reside in application silos; even if data is shared, it is not ‘understood’ across verticals. It is not possible to have a ‘System of Systems’ view of the whole solution.
  • Difficulty in managing scale: There is no integrated approach towards handling the scale through optimization of sensor, network, storage and computing resources.

This is why we feel the need for a horizontal platform to develop applications for IoT. Ideally the platform should be able to:

  • Abstract the main, and common components of IoT and promote reuse, thereby reducing the application development cost and ensuring quick deployment through reduction in development time
  • Collect data from different sensors and provide application writers around the world with seamless, secure, and privacy-preserving access to the sensor data along with an easy-to-use application development environment. (To me, such ‘app-ification’ holds the key to the emergence of a ‘killer app’)
  • Not lock in data but provide semantically inter-operable data exchange across verticals, thereby facilitating development of value-adding cross-vertical apps
  • Minimize sensor energy consumption, network congestion and storage requirements, and optimize computing resources in an integrated manner

We will be discussing several aspects of our research related to the Internet of Things at the TCS Innovation Forum North America at Cincinnati. Do join us there. You can also write in your views on platforms and systems related to the Internet of Things.

Related reading:

SCADA: SCADA stands for supervisory control and data acquisition; SCADA systems gather data on and provide control of remote equipment.


About the Author

Arpan Pal
Dr Arpan Pal, Principal Scientist and Head of Research – TCS Innovation Labs, Kolkata, TCS
Dr. Arpan Pal leads TCS’ research efforts in Cyber-Physical Systems and the Internet of Things. His research interests include Sensor Signal Processing and Informatics, Speech/Audio/Video/Image Processing, M2M communications, Mobile Phone Based Sensing and Interactive Television.

He received his PhD from Aalborg University, Denmark and his B.Tech and M.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India in Electronics and Telecommunications. He is an associate editor for ACM Transactions on Embedded Computing and IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computing.

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