IoT to IoAT: Internet of Autonomous Things devices provides solutions

Future Internet of Autonomous Things (IoAT) devices will utilize knowledge-enhanced electronic logic (KEEL) technology and may consume information from other devices or the cloud and participate in solutions they were never designed for.


Figure 1: The Internet of Autonomous Things (IoAT) is designed to query information in the cloud to think about what to do next. Courtesy: CompsimThe next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices will deliver expertise and adaptive command and control, beyond just providing information for higher level processing. Knowledge-enhanced electronic logic (KEEL) technology will play a role in accelerating the delivery of these advanced capabilities into small, low-cost devices. The big data concept is that all of the connected devices will be producing information that is consumed by some higher-level system. Potentially, there is another view.

Given that some type of controller will control these devices, many of these devices can take on new responsibilities. Gartner Inc. predicts that there will be 6.4 billion connected objects in use by 2016 and 21 billion by 2020. Rather than just producing data, these devices can perhaps take on additional roles. In the future, these devices may consume information from other devices (and the cloud) and participate in solutions they were never designed for. 

Not just collecting data

The primary objective of collecting data usually is to make better decisions. Predictions using data can prepare systems for the future by detecting change, or exerting some kind of control. Using a broader description, one might suggest that data can be collected for the purpose of controlling behavior. If the organization doesn't control systems' behavior, another organization will collect that data and use it accordingly. The common perception is that as problems become more complex, large processing engines can only handle them, or that those problems require humans-in-the-loop to interpret the complex information sets.

Another common "big data" view is that much of the information processing will be accomplished by searching for patterns of data from large data sets that are collected over time. This view is that the data is in control, so we should let the data drive the solution. Well perhaps, or perhaps not?

Some who have been around for a while look at the IoT and see nothing that is really new. Distributed control and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) products have been used in industrial automation for many years.

"Timesharing" and "cluster computing" are terms that have been associated with distributed computing. These terms are often used to define the technology-of-the-day that includes taking inputs, manipulating the data, and then distributing information to control actions or outputs.

The evolution of technology that has resulted in the IoT market has been driven by the commoditization and re-distribution of resources. Each time a shift takes place, some marketer will create a new name and claim the market.

The commoditization of processing power in microcontrollers, tied to low-cost development environments, has reduced the cost of processing information. It has also commoditized interconnectivity with consumer-based networks and protocols that have provided the infrastructure for new devices to participate in more complex applications. Additionally, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based devices have reduced the cost of sensors and actuators.

Cloud-based control solutions

Figure 2: The Internet of Autonomous Things (IoAT) allows devices to provide actionable data back to the cloud. Courtesy: CompsimCloud-based control solutions help many organizations centralize their processing deployment, which may help them manage their distributed applications.

However, there is always a "but" in this type of situation. Sometimes things go wrong. Putting all the eggs in the "cloud basket" connected by webs of open networks exposes many organizations to new risks. The new market for network security, redundant communications, and encryption has recognized the risks and offered patches to protect the user from new problems.

If a system can be hacked, it will be hacked. And given that if a system can break, it will break. And when things go wrong, they will probably go wrong at an inconvenient time.

Consider this analogy: What if there was another Earth, "Earth1," that only had one human living on it? That single human could have a billion tentacles that are connected to billions of tools. Earth1 could operate just like Earth; possibly even better, because, hypothetically, the single brain of Earth1 could manage conflicts between its tentacles and its tools (see Figure 1). However, if Earth1 had a problem and lost some of its tentacles, those functions would be completely lost. And if Earth1 forgot how to process all the information, then it would be dead in its universe.

Compare this to our Earth with its billions of humans. Each human has a brain that has its own proprietary sensors and actuators (see Figure 2). Our Earth is not dependent on any single communication link. Furthermore, it is not dependent on any single human. Our Earth benefits from groups of humans working together and it benefits from humans redistributing themselves from one collection of humans to another to address different problems. It also benefits from the ability of individual humans to continue to operate when communication links are broken.

Figure 3: Distributed expertise allows devices within the microgrid to either cooperate or self-organize its data based on the situation. Courtesy: CompsimHumans (in general) can figure out what to do if one of their tools is broken or lost. Humans can also respond to damage to other humans, as well as to bigger strategic and tactical issues. Individual humans can focus attention on specific tasks, but they know when to look beyond their assigned tasks at the "bigger picture." Humans (as a population, or groups of populations) are able to adapt (see Figure 3).

Another characteristic of humans is their ability to dispense "expertise." Expertise is more than having an ability to follow rules. Expertise is the ability to deliver judgment and reasoning. Judgment and reasoning are what allow the human to balance alternatives. They understand when to re-allocate attention when unexpected things happen. Human judgment and reasoning are used to solve more complex, inter-related problems that have conflicting objectives (solving tactical short-term goals while still considering longer term strategic objectives). It is judgment and reasoning that help humans make relative (how much) decisions, as they balance risks and rewards. 

Current state of the IoT

The general concept is that IoT devices will be generators of information. However, maybe the edge devices should also be viewed as consumers of information (using our human model). There might also be an opportunity to expand more into the actuation role and do some things locally without depending on the computer in the sky to process information.

In this case, users might avoid some of the risks associated with propagation delays and widely distributed computing. If we look at opportunities for IoT devices to behave as autonomous (or semi-autonomous) devices and redefine IoT as the Internet of Autonomous Things (IoAT), then what might the market look like? 

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