Managing the ‘things’ in the Internet of Things

What does a ‘thing’ need to work in IoT? An article we recently read has given us food for thought. TheHierachy of the IoT ‘thing’ needs published by Jim Hunter inTech crunch likens ‘things’ to people because they have needs that must be met to operate properly.

The best way to think about this is by looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. An IoT ‘thing’ is not a person, obviously,but adapting Maslow’s pyramid can help to realign our thinking on how IoT works.

This pyramid is like a to do list, each layer contains different asks that need to be organised in order for your ‘thing’ to work correctly.

The first layer is the very basic needs of a device – for humans its air, food and water – for a device to work properly basic needs like power and security need to be met. Without the first layer nothing above it will work and the higher you go up the pyramid the more sophisticated and useful the device becomes.

Understanding each level as part of a pyramid allows you to get the most from IoT and your smart device. This pyramid also allows you to create a robust system – allowing you to see the layers of needs and functionalities and therefore the different tools required.

Smartphones and the hierarchy of IoT needs

Smartphones demonstrate the way the pyramid works very effectively, so let’s explain the Hierachy of IoT in this way. A smartphone needs to be consistent internally first – the battery charged and internal electronics working correctly in order to run the software required. The software secures the device and can then connect to Wi-Fi or mobile data and store information which translates into apps, photos, music, emails that the user needs to access. This all sounds fairly straightforward, but there is a challenge, the challenge of flexibility. The layers above and below must be flexible to allow a user to, for example, use a phone in another country, charge it from a USB port or accept software updates.

Accepting flexibility is key to making a ‘thing’ work properly– layers aren’t silos and they must interact with each other in order for the ‘thing’ to work robustly and for information to be passed freely. If silos form then the system becomes brittle and vertically integrated. ‘Things’ must balance structure,flexibility and breadth – a big challenge.

Communicating between layers

As you can see the challenges of IoT are the huge variety in application and context, a ‘thing’ doesn’t just perform one task or have one set of needs. Each layer of functionality, as described in the article,invites many possibilities for interacting with the layers above and below. This means consistency is required to create an orderly system for managing data and communicating with the device.

The open source community are at the heart of making IoT viable,they develop new software and solutions each week to over come communications and compatibility challenges. This keeps IoT going to some extent but the amount of new data, new software and new approaches creates solutions that transfer in to more silos – not what we want!

How can we help the open source community? Accessibility is what they require – in programming languages (Python or C++ for example)which allows them to adopt, modify and create ways of working effectively.

This brings meaning to the ‘thing’, so the top level ‘ smart needs’ can be fulfilled, and then the device becomes truly useful and smart.

To give true meaning to the IoT the challenges of compatibility,communication and flexibility must be met. This pyramid offers a fantastic way of thinking that will help the open source community to keep on innovating

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