Edge and Fog Computing

There’s a growing number of organisations thinking that cloud computing and the intermediate communications systems won’t eventually be able to cope with the extremely large number of IoT devices.

Computing near the IoT devices themselves, called Edge or Fog computing, will allow data to be filtered such that only pertinent data ends up in the cloud. It will also allow data to be cached when it can’t be sent yet. Also, there are classes of IoT ‘things’ that need local processing to remove the latency of otherwise using communications/cloud computing and thus provide more immediate alerts and information.

Edge devices can be the IoT devices themselves or low end devices such as Dell’s Edge gateway. They can also be intermediate gateway devices such as the Intel Edison.

An interesting prospect and opportunity for mobile developers is the use of smartphones as edge devices or even devices based on AndroidThings.

The Future of Smartphones and Apps

IDC has a new press release Smartphone Volumes Expected to Rebound in 2017 with a Five-Year Growth Rate of 3.8%, Driving Annual Shipments to 1.53 Billion by 2021.

“IDC doesn’t expect much change throughout the forecast with Android accounting for roughly 85% of smartphone shipments and Apple making up the rest.”

Despite the growth rates being low, remember these are growth rates, not shipments. A very large number of new smartphones are now being shipped every year.

What does this mean for mobile development? Dual Android/iOS app implementations will continue to be common. However, there’s a thought provoking press release at Mobile World Live (the press arm of the GSMA), where it’s suggested that consumers are tired of apps and bots might rule. I think the key word here is ‘consumers’ in that there’s currently too much emphasis on mobile and retail marketing. People are tired of retail marketing apps. Instead they want apps that do real stuff. Bots are part of this in that they can be used to more easily get things done. In the future, getting things done will increasingly involve VR, IoT, big data as well as bots. All these will need apps to implement the UI/visualisation parts. Mobile will become more of a tool rather than a retail marketing conduit.

Peak Smartphone Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Less Apps

Now that we are at ‘peak smartphone’, developers such as myself are starting to question what comes next. The answer is probably ‘more apps’.

As Gartner recently said

Much of the innovation in the mobile space isn’t taking place inside the smartphones themselves, but in the things that communicate with them. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 25 percent of new mobile apps will talk to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Most IoT devices talk to smartphones via an app or the browser. The app is usually the preferred mechanism because it provides a richer experience that also provides analysis and usage stats to backend services.

In the future the app will increasinly move from being centre stage and the central purpose to being an enabler for some other, probably more useful, purpose.

Smartphones, IoT and Consumer Interest

accentureAccenture have report Igniting Growth in Consumer Technology (PDF) that covers how smartphone sales growth is coming to an end and how IoT devices are not filling the gap.

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Price is the top barrier to purchasing IoT devices while security comes next when it comes to people’s concerns. People are also finding IoT devices difficult to use.

Accenture provide some suggestions to help prevent stalling of consumer interest. These include improving consumer experience, building security/trust and leveraging IoT to create new types of solutions. Ecosystems are partnering are ways to enable growth.

New Articles on iBeacon and Eddystone Bluetooth Beacons

beaconzoneThere are many articles on iBeacons and Eddystone that obscure or confuse what beacons actually are due to over emphasis of the business benefits or description of proprietary server side CMS features.

I have recently written several new articles for beaconzone.co.uk. The articles explain what beacons are, ways they can be used and pragmatic tips how to set them up based on past experience…

What are Beacons?
Ways to Use Beacons
iOS and Android Apps
Choosing UUID, Major, Minor and Eddystone-UID For Beacons
Choosing an Advertising Interval
Choosing the Transmitted Power
Determining Location Using Bluetooth Beacons

Also take a look at my recent article on this site on Bluetooth Beacons, iBeacons, Eddystone and IoT. You can also follow @TheBeaconZone on Twitter for the latest news on iBeacon and Eddystone.

Bluetooth Beacons, iBeacons, Eddystone and IoT

bluetoothWhat have Bluetooth Beacons, iBeacons and Eddystone to do with the Internet of Things (IoT)? What’s the role of smartphones and apps in IoT?

The IoT is the networking of physical objects such that they can be sensed or controlled remotely. The Enabling the Internet of Things article is a great primer. Ignoring for a moment the complex issues of data management, analytics, security and privacy, IoT has a connectivity problem.

The physical ‘things’ need to connect. However, they are often cost constrained and/or energy (battery) constrained and/or resource (cpu/memory) constrained so many can’t have their own WiFi. As a paper from the University of Michigan says, ‘The Internet of Things Has a Gateway Problem‘. Most current IoT solutions either implement expensive WiFi or have a separate router. The main problem with the separate router approach is that this will become impractical when a large number of things, for example in the home, become part of the IoT. You won’t want a router for each service.

Some people say Bluetooth Beacons, iBeacons and Eddystone are part of the IoT but I’d argue they strictly aren’t as current implementations don’t talk over an Internet protocol (IPv6) – yet. There’s a draft specification for IPv6 over Bluetooth LE  and the Nordic nRF51 SoC used in many iBeacons, has an SDK for IPv6 over Bluetooth® Smart.

Even with IPv6 over Bluetooth LE there’s a router problem. Something needs to forward on the IPv6 data. In Nordic’s implementation a Raspberry Pi is used as a Bluetooth Smart router. However, the good thing is only one router, per location, is needed for multiple services. Another future possibility is to use smartphones as the IPv6 router.

Another problem is the capability (cpu, memory) of current SoCs typically isn’t sufficient to run IPv6 over Bluetooth LE and the core functionality of whatever it is doing/monitoring. However, newer SoC such as Nordic’s nRF52 Series might help solve this problem.

Whether now or in the future, smartphones can be used to pass on either the data itself communicated via BLE or data wrapped via the IPv6 protocol. Smartphones are the enabling technology. Apps are also ideally placed to provide a UI to control and view local or remote IoT devices.

So what can the Bluetooth beacons do? Up to now, most uses have been in the retail and visitor spaces with an emphasis on location. However, IoT is more about sensing and control. What can beacons sense? Current beacons can sense acceleration, temperature and humidity. A conversation with Terence Eden on Twitter made me realise that current beacons already offer a bit more. Some of them have on-off switches, turning broadcasting on/off, that can be directly wired into other sensors such as door/open close sensors, other security sensors or other on/off circuits.

Future Opportunities in Mobile

gartner136Current opportunities in mobile have been driven by the huge growth in mobile device shipments. So, what types of connected devices are people using now and how is this likely to change in the next few years?

Gartner has some new research that shows that while the PC market will decline about 4% this year it will recover in 2016 and grow in 2017. However, the non-phone market of 540 million devices/yr is small compared to the mobile phone market which is 1,940 million devices/yr. By 2,107 these are expected to be 566 million/yr and 2,628 million/yr respectively.

gartnerdevices

What does this mean for developers? We have reached a period of relative stability where both the PC and phone markets have levelled off. If you develop generic apps for the PC/Mac or for mobile you can expect your market to remain about the same size for the next few years.

I believe that if you are seeking growth areas then you need to be more specialised and also look for B2B or white label opportunities. Health, insurance, retail, interfacing with IoT devices, security, cloud and big data seem to be the obvious areas.

RIoTboard Android 4.3 Board

RIoTboard is a new board that supports Android 4.3 out of the box. It’s pitched as "revolutionizing the Internet of Things" but it’s really just a single board computer. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting platform for experimentation and perhaps commercialisation.

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For more details visit the web site, the product spec, the data sheet, and the forum. Farnell, in the UK, have it available for £46.55 (about $76) + vat.