Implementing IoT with a three-tier architecture  

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If you aren't looking to the Internet of Things to connect the analog side of your business to the digital world, your organization is going to be left behind. As enterprises digitize their analog business, the number of devices accessing your business services is going to dwarf the total human population of the world.

This is going to create huge new opportunities. McKinsey estimates that the IoT market could grow up to $11 trillion dollars in the next 10 years. Adding sensors and automation to your analog business will allow you to tap new data and insights that could open up entirely new business opportunities for your organization.

The future of IoT goes beyond having connected devices sending data directly to the cloud. As IoT matures, devices are going to become more sophisticated and the data associated with those devices will become increasingly voluminous and valuable. And, in many cases, processing and reacting to this data immediately is going to become increasingly critical.

Consider the retail industry. If stores can’t gather data and take immediate action while shoppers are in their premises, data gathered from sensors within the store loses most of its value. But, sending so much data to the cloud and depending on a robust network and GPS connection in an indoor shopping mall may not be efficient. Or, consider the healthcare sector. A hospital can’t afford to stop giving care via connected medical instruments and monitors if it loses Internet access. Waiting for the Internet to come back up in this case is not an acceptable or safe option.

A three-tier architecture of devices, intelligent gateways, and datacenters can help address these challenge by driving backend datacenter and cloud functionality towards edge devices. Here are the three elements:

Devices: You need to manage and interact with a wide variety of devices that generate data and the primary point of physical interaction. These could be mobile devices, dumb devices with sensors, or more powerful devices with small computers inside them.

Intelligent Gateways: You need to implement gateways in the field. Gateways project the power of the datacenter to close proximity of devices in order to provide real time data collection, analytics, and automation for devices.

Datacenters: Then, you need to provide new capabilities in your backend datacenter or cloud to connect the digital data from devices and gateways to the rest of your enterprise and to perform longer-term analysis and business services.

The power of intelligent gateways  

You're already familiar with devices and datacenters, but gateways are a relatively new technology for IoT deployments, so let me explain some more using a hospital as an example. IoT can provide tremendous value in a healthcare setting because you can digitize and monitor all sorts of data from patients. But, could a hospital rely just on a cloud to provide all the information necessary for doctors and medical devices to take action on patients in a critical setting? What if the Internet connection goes down? What if the Internet connection is too slow or bandwidth constrained? Deploying a gateway in close physical proximity to your medical devices addresses these types of issues.

Think of a gateway as the hub that connects everything across your IoT environment. You can have all of the devices in the field talking and sending their data to the gateway, which will then automate the responses in real time. The gateway will then take all the data it's receiving, aggregate it, and communicate it back to the cloud or your data center in a consumable manner.

The value of IoT is in the data and interaction that physical devices provide the digital world. As your organization advances its IoT efforts, consider the power intelligent gateways could bring to your efforts.

Bryan Che is senior vice president, industry development at Huawei.

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