Exploring the Intimate Relationship Between the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing

10 September 2014

A Conversation with Kurt Jonckheer, General Manager, Virdata, and Vice President, Strategic Projects, Technicolor

The Internet of Things (IoT), according to one recent analysis from researchers at Gartner, will connect remote assets and provide a data stream between the asset and centralized management systems. Those assets will then be integrated into new and existing organizational processes to provide information on status, location, functionality, to stimulate innovation and an entirely new generation of digital experiences.

As this technology rapidly matures, IoT will contribute to an explosion of data that is almost impossible to conceive. But all that data will be of very little value if it cannot be captured and analyzed in real-time for utilization and monetization.

That’s why Technicolor joined forces with IBM, Amazon, NetApp, Amplab and the University of Ghent, among others, to create Virdata, a cloud-based service which provides businesses with cloud- based monitoring, management, and big data analytics services. Virdata allows organizations to enable and support any asset, device, or application aimed at harvesting the fruits of the nascent IoT and M2M (machine-to-machine) market.

In this Q&A, Kurt Jonckheer – General Manager of Virdata, and Vice President of Strategic Projects at Technicolor – discusses how IoT is opening doors for innovative new services. However, success will require new cloud-based analytics technologies as well as much faster, more robust and flexible analytical paradigms to handle the volume, complexity and “real-time nature” of the Internet of Things environment, in which distributed and parallel processing paradigms are essential.

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A Conversation with Kurt Jonckheer, General Manager, Virdata, and Vice President, Strategic Projects, Technicolor

The Internet of Things (IoT), according to one recent analysis from researchers at Gartner, will connect remote assets and provide a data stream between the asset and centralized management systems. Those assets will then be integrated into new and existing organizational processes to provide information on status, location, functionality, to stimulate innovation and an entirely new generation of digital experiences.

As this technology rapidly matures, IoT will contribute to an explosion of data that is almost impossible to conceive. But all that data will be of very little value if it cannot be captured and analyzed in real-time for utilization and monetization.

That’s why Technicolor joined forces with IBM, Amazon, NetApp, Amplab and the University of Ghent, among others, to create Virdata, a cloud-based service which provides businesses with cloud- based monitoring, management, and big data analytics services. Virdata allows organizations to enable and support any asset, device, or application aimed at harvesting the fruits of the nascent IoT and M2M (machine-to-machine) market.

In this Q&A, Kurt Jonckheer – General Manager of Virdata, and Vice President of Strategic Projects at Technicolor – discusses how IoT is opening doors for innovative new services. However, success will require new cloud-based analytics technologies as well as much faster, more robust and flexible analytical paradigms to handle the volume, complexity and “real-time nature” of the Internet of Things environment, in which distributed and parallel processing paradigms are essential.

The “Internet of Things” is now a term that rivals “Cloud Computing” in terms of the interest and excitement it is creating in both business and consumer markets. What happens when these two concepts come together?

Kurt: From my perspectives, it will be virtually impossible to view these two technological paradigms independent of each other. It is my firm belief that on one hand, IoT will transform all cloud services in the market today; going forward, on the other hand, IoT will not be able to evolve without a strong ecosystem of cloud services.

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This is especially true when we consider the implications of consumer demands for more intuitive, immersive and augmented experiences. The promise of IoT is that devices and appliances of all sorts will, without human interference, interact with each other to create a better experience for users by engaging in things like self-diagnosis, harnessing event-driven actions that enhance the human experience, or simply reduce costs in an intelligent and automated manner.

All of this can occur on a local level. But often it will require an outreach to external resource – as would be the case when an appliance indicates that a part may need to be replaced before its failure causes bigger harm to other parts of the system.
In essence, IoT-enabled assets will be publishing their status based on current state, unfolding events, or time set conditions. In this context, the cloud becomes a crucial aggregation point where all of these different pieces of information can get combined and integrated so that analytics can be run upon them.

This is where we believe an Internet of Things platform – like Virdata — can play a critical role. The platform provides a layer that facilitates the communication and provides a point for ongoing analysis that will allow these systems to generate added-value to the consumers and organizations that own connected devices.

In that respect, IoT for us is an almost organic environment that is constantly ingesting and exhaling information…almost like a data pump; it will circulate data from the field to the cloud for analysis and processing, and then send new data back to the field. It is in this cloud environment that we need to insert a very different kind of data processing layer that operates in real-time to start making immediate sense out of the conditions of devices in their localities. We believe “Lambda Architectures” with their messaging, speed, batch, and query layers are going to be essential.

It sounds like an immense “big data” challenge. You are not only dealing with huge amounts of information from a countless sources; you are also interacting with a variety of different types of content in various digital formats. How is this complexity managed?

Kurt: It is all about big data and developing an integrated strategy for understanding a combination of structured and non-structured data in real time – as well as undertaking analysis with historical data stores. Yes, this puts us into an entirely new world in terms of both scale and complexity. When scale and complexity collide with the need for devices, appliances and other assets to interact naturally with their environment, you change the nature of how analytics are traditionally performed.

While it is true that analytics in the context of distributed architectures have been around for many years, access has really been limited to only the largest of organizations. In today’s cloud computing environment, these capabilities become available to enterprises of every size – from startups to the largest companies and institutions.

This is rapidly changing how most of think about analytics. At the core, we will break with the concept of doing exclusively “batch” analysis — in which we take data away from its native place and time to perform analytical functions. More and more of us will come to have much more dynamic expectations from analytical initiatives; understanding how people and “things” change in near real time while data is in motion will become critical.

At Virdata, we have developed a way of working on stored data while simultaneously working on data-in-motion. This requires an architecture that is fundamentally different from what currently exists in more traditional enterprise legacy systems.
In an IoT environment there is simply no time to push everything to a central server for processing. Eventually, such a centralized architecture creates bottlenecks that negate the value proposition IoT is supposed to deliver.

My team was very lucky. When we started working on Virdata, we did not have to deal with traditional legacy systems. We were not constrained by the limitations that drove previous analytical designs. This allowed us to imagine new architectures that were based on harnessing the attributes of distributed systems, parallel processing engines, and in-memory processing capabilities. As our thinking has matured, we are all starting to really gain momentum, borrowing from the intellectual capital that has been leveraged to build social networks and new concepts associated with remotely monitoring assets.
It creates a much more flexible, nimble and extremely efficient paradigm for processing, analyzing and sharing the results of that analysis with all appropriate end-points in a real-time – or near real-time – environment.

Let’s bring in this concept of the immersive, augmented experiences – particularly consumer experiences. Is this ultimately about tailoring these experiences and making them unique to someone’s personal preferences and desires? And will this come from real-time, comprehensive information that only an Internet of Things architecture can deliver?

Kurt: Yes. All of us have daily lives filled with a lot of cumbersome interactions: The need to pay for parking at a garage or a meter. These things often only involve a few steps, but IoT offers alternatives that can allow devices in the car to interact automatically – and independently – with parking spot sensors. The information from that local interaction can then be transmitted to the cloud to deduct the parking fee from a bank account. This will simply allow the driver to arrive, park, return and drive away. It is one mundane activity among hundreds – perhaps even thousands – of daily events that can introduce unnecessary effort and even stress. (Trying to figure out how to pay a meter when you have no change or when there is a line at a kiosk and you are late for an appointment for instance, can cause stress.)

On a more positive note:

  • IoT can protect – as an example – our health in the ever growing global digital economy. For instance, when all of our current and upcoming mobile and wearable devices, sensors, and other embedded electronic assets are integrated with cloud-based diagnostic technologies, the results can be amazingly accurate. And the information can be made available in real time.
  • IoT can also enhance our lives by optimizing our entertainment experiences in an intuitive and automated manner, by suggesting movies or music that we are likely to enjoy most based on our mood or situation.
  • It can generate significant savings for us as individuals – and as communities – by optimizing our consumption of natural resources based on an intelligent and automatic assessment on a ‘consume-as-you-go’ basis.

IoT applications and services will therefore drive new business models, new consumption patterns. It will stimulate innovation, new economic growth, and so much more. IoT and the cloud- based resources that connect devices to powerful real-time analytical engines are rapidly evolving to truly surround each of us to create an immersive environment that will augment a rapidly growing array of our experiences.

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