Introduction to the Internet of Things – From the Device to Microsoft Azure Cloud


Editor’s note: In partnership with Microsoft Press, MVPs have been contributing to an ongoing guest series on their official team blog. Today’s article is from Visual C++ MVP Alon Fliess and is the 51st in the series.

Technology advances in “Buzzwords” steps. At the beginning, there is the basic technology. It slowly evolves, and then after a few years, sometimes even many years, everything becomes connected and the world, not the early bird world, but everybody is ready to embrace that technology. This is where the big buzz begins and everybody predicts that in five to ten years the technology will generate incremental revenue exceeding hundreds of billions. With this buzz, all major companies invest in the technology and we begin seeing TV news reports and economy magazine articles about the technology, telling that the everyday life of every human being on the planet is going to change because of that technology!

Of course, I am a bit cynical, but this is exactly what is happening now with regards to the IoT – the Internet of things. The basic technology is already here for almost a decade so far. Amazon Web Services (ASW) started in 2006. Microsoft Azure is 5 years old. Devices such as those based on the Amtel AVR  controller are more than 20 years old, and the affordable Arduino family of devices used by IoT hobbyists are 10 years old. It is not (just) the technology that makes IoT what it is, but the concepts, the perception, the commitment and the challenges that the entire industry is dealing with nowadays. IoT is about the machine-to-machine (M2M) communication at scale. Vast numbers of devices using different hardware and software technologies are connected between them and to the cloud. The cloud provides many services, which can handle huge streams of data, analyze and can extract vital information about the current state of the system and can even predict future state.

So what exactly is IoT?

In one simple form, IoT is about a device that can monitor a physical character of the environment and transfer this data over the Internet to a cloud service. In a more complex form, IoT is the combination of many smart devices that can “feel” the environment, read the data, and transfer this information to a collector service in the cloud. This service has to deal with large amounts of devices and huge streams of data. Such services take in information and can extract a vital information from a live stream, or run algorithms such as those based on big-data map-reduce patterns. Services can act on historical and new data, or can provide future insight about the collected data. Services like Azure Machine Learning can use the collected data to predict future behaviors. The cloud can send commands to devices. Take for an example a system that starts the water sprinklers according to an algorithm that reads information from a group of soil moisture level sensors. Based on information that it gets from a forecast service that predicts that no rain is coming, it decides to send a command to an actuator that starts the sprinklers.

Sometimes the end device has the capabilities to communicate directly with the cloud service, and sometimes the device is cheap, weak, and has to conserve power, or has no encryption capabilities. In the latter case, a group of such weak devices is connected to a local gateway – a software that runs on a stronger local device that serves as a mediator between the local device sub-network and the cloud.

To illustrate, let us take a simple personal and fun project – which I have only recently turned into an IoT projectJ). With this project, I can control my home electrical devices such as lights, shutters, hot water boiler, and the air condition. I can use a web browser, Windows Phone or Windows 8.1 Modern application to send a command or read the current state of a device. I have other services that turn on the garden lights on sunset, or raise the shutters automatically every morning except on weekend days. I even have a service that sets the boiler according to the forecast.  Continue reading full article here

 

Thanks

I would like to thank Microsoft Azure MVP Michele Leroux Bustamante for technical reviewing and editing the article. I also would like to thank Aaron Etchin for spending the time discussing with me my ideas and the way to present them and for the patience of reviewing this and previous articles. I would like to thank the MVP team – Melissa Travers, Hande Kayadeniz Torkan and Lina Magdy for encouraging me to write and publish articles and last but not least to my wife Liat and my kids: Yarden, Saar and Adva.

 

About Alon Fliess

 

Alon Fliess is the Chief Architect & Founder of CodeValue. CodeValue is the home of software experts. We build software tools, foundations and products for the software industry. We Build OzCode – Your road to magical debugging! We offer mentoring, consulting and project development services.

About MVP Monday

The MVP Monday Series is created by Melissa Travers. In this series we work to provide readers with a guest post from an MVP every Monday. Melissa is a Community Program Manager, formerly known as MVP Lead, for Messaging and Collaboration (Exchange, Lync, Office 365 and SharePoint) and Microsoft Dynamics in the US. She began her career at Microsoft as an Exchange Support Engineer and has been working with the technical community in some capacity for almost a decade. In her spare time she enjoys going to the gym, shopping for handbags, watching period and fantasy dramas, and spending time with her children and miniature Dachshund. Melissa lives in North Carolina and works out of the Microsoft Charlotte office.

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