Ignore all the hype, the hoopla, the buzz – there’s no such thing as the Internet of Things, according to Jeffrey Voas.
And since Voas is a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, his opinion counts for something.
People should use the term “Network of Things,” or NoT, he told the audience at the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center’s Federal Mobile Computing Summit in October.
“You have a NoT, I have a NoT,” Voas said. “I can do science on networks … You will never build an IoT, but you will use IoT-enabled things to build a NoT.”
This may seem like just a semantics game, but Voas believes using the right term is important. A NoT can be defined, measured, and compared, while IoT is unmeasurable. “IoT is basically a standalone ‘brand’ and a catalogue of supporting technologies – IoT is not a singular technology,” he said.
Voas said there are five “primitives,” or building blocks, that comprise a NoT:
- Sensors (of course – there has to be some way to gather and generate the data);
- An aggregator, a software implementation that takes masses of raw data and turns it into intermediate, aggregated data;
- A communications channel, whether wireless, wired, verbal, or physical (e.g., a USB);
- An “eUtility,” that is, an external utility – a software or hardware product or a service such as cloud computing; and
- A decision trigger, which uses the first four elements to “create the final result needed to satisfy the purpose, specification, and requirements of a specific NoT.”
Getting to the decision trigger is the whole point of building a NoT. “You want all this stuff to come together in order for it to do something for you,” Voas said.
NIST is creating the fundamental definitions for each of these primitives, he said, such as defining its basic properties, identifying the assumptions about its role and performance, and making recommendations. For instance, “We identified 29 things you need to think about sensors for your NoT,” he said.
These definitions are critical because most agencies won’t have time to architect or test their NoTs. With distributed computing, “so much is open source. You don’t know who owns what, [so] how do you build trust into it?” he said.
By creating and adhering to standards, of course.