The Internet of Things (IoT) has been described as a giant network of connected things – including people!
Forbes, the United States business magazine, says – simply put – IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet and/or each other. Devices include items such as cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps and also components of machines including a jet engine of an aircraft or the drill of an oil rig.
The concept was further unpacked at UKZN’s School of Management, IT and Governance recently by Professor Virendra Bhavsar of the University of New Brunswick in Canada during a guest lecture to staff and postgraduate students.
Bhavsar, an Honorary Research Professor and founding Director of the Advanced Computational Research Laboratory (ACRL), spoke on: “The Convergence of the Internet of Things, Big Data and High Performance Computing: Challenges and Opportunities”.
His talk focused on the challenges and opportunities in selected applications and how IoT, in many applications, would result in the generation of large amounts of data.
According to Bhavsar, in some applications, the data is continuously generated as a stream, wherein the data could be volatile. ‘Such big data needs to be curated, aggregated, and analysed at different levels, often using artificial intelligence algorithms for knowledge extraction and learning. In autonomic big data computing applications, the extracted knowledge is used for planning and executing the sequence of actions necessary for the application.’
He said IoTs could be used in a wide range of fields including agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, social media, transportation and forestry. In forestry it could be used to predict weather conditions.
Bhavsar said high performance computing (HPC) was crucial in satisfying computing requirements in many high end IoT applications, and to process large data.
He added that the challenges included complex optimisation problems, security risks (eg hacking), and programming languages, software and deployment.
However, Bhavsar said there were a number of opportunities being created in the process, including advances in medical supervision, creating smart cities, competitive and strategic advantages and revolutionary breakthroughs.
Other benefits included being able to get a two-week weather forecast, opportunities for new businesses and start-ups, and high-speed low-cost networks.