How many IoT devices does it take to report an Earthquake?

The Internet of Things has become huge. But it is such a huge misnomer it scares me. The internet in and of itself has, is and was comprised of things. The change is simply more communication enabled devices. I once dubbed it the Internet of Communication but you can’t use the IoC as that stands for the International Olympic Committee!

There is the broader CPS or Cyber Physical Systems that covers the two layers often missing from IoT discussions (integration and management). The two critical layers are the management and integration layers. First off because while we use the protocols and transportation systems commonly called “the internet” the chatter isn’t the same.

Windows devices, Unix and Linux devices, Android devices and iOS devices all speak different languages to shared connected printers. Printers are IoT devices. They broadcast services (printing) or (printing, scanning and faxing)to devices. It is different for the platforms listed above. So while it is an IoT device it has to be able to speak and translate information from a number of disparate sources.

The accidental printing tourist just resends the packets louder.

Reality of IoT and truly CPS is two fold for most organizations.

  1. How do I manage all of these devices.
  2. How do I connect the many devices and the information produced into a system that allows me to effectively recuse the information.

For example security cameras are motion sensitive. Why? So they monitor the world around them all the time. But they start to record when they sense motion. That way when you “check the tape” you are only viewing video of motion.

But video is an easy one. You want the motion moments. What about other events? For example if you are capturing a regional collection of sensor data. What validation data do you want? Perhaps you’ve set a voluntary accelerometer program to track seismic activity in the daily lives of people (and to monitor a specific geography for seismic activity.) What other sensor data would you want to collect at the moment of seismic activity?

Now let’s take this pretty diagram of communication and apply it to our problem collecting Seismic data in a specific region. First off there are many devices that have accelerometers. We can effectively limit the devices we collect from by saying only PC’s running Windows 10 and Cellular devices running Android Kit Kat. The application won’t work on anything else and we setup an 800 number with a recording that says just that. “Hi, if you are running the Shake and Bake application on Windows 7 it won’t work. If you are S&B on an iPhone it won’t work. Thanks for calling!” We still by the way have three distinct integration problems.

  1. The distance from the core of the seismic event of the reporting device.
  2. The type of reporting device.
  3. The quality of the accelerometer in the reporting device (beyond type cheaper laptops have cheaper accelerometers etc.).

A very smart friend of mine once pointed out that the difference between gathering information and gathering information and knowing the quality is critical. Its not just about gathering data its about knowing the quality.

Seismic events have different impacts on different people. They have different impacts based on the device and location within the device of the sensor. Finally how far you are from the event and the quality of the sensor you have drives the data.

It becomes a rather large integration problem. Once you integrate it becomes a data quality problem. After you solve those two issues you still have the variance issue with the reporting devices. (where was the device and where is the sensor) that has to be factored into the information you present.

IoT, or more properly CPS is really the communications of the internet. (COI!)


IoT, CPS, COI kinda guy