The Centre’s mission is to design a scalable infrastructure to support the Internet of Things and its applications. Existing solutions for machine-to-machine communication and for intermediation between sensors, actuators and other devices, and the associated data analysis and control algorithms, do not scale to the size needed by, for example, a smart city. Centre researchers will design the necessary framework to deliver solutions of this scale. This framework will support autonomous operation, so that the Internet of Things can be managed by the Things themselves. The framework will provide such facilities as resource discovery, authenticated data delivery, intra-network processing such as data aggregation, and data confidentiality and security, delivered via a consistent interface that hides the heterogeneity of the underlying hardware in, say, a million-node network of embedded devices. This interface will support Sensing as a Service, so that the naïve expectation that sensor data can simply be collected by ‘The Cloud’ will be met, hiding the underlying complexity behind the developed framework. Associated activities in Actuation as a Service and Networking as a Service will close the loop to allow the full realization of the Internet of Things as futurists imagine it might be, but as current practitioners in the field have shown doesn’t scale from present or immediately envisaged technology.
The key contributions of Entwine will be a scalable architecture for the deployment of IoT networked services, research into methods for zero-configuration control of same, research into approaches for the pre-processing of device data within the network, and into the security and authenticity of both the data itself and the intra-network commands used to implement zero-configuration control.
This Centre proposal is fully synergistic with educational developments within the Faculty of Engineering & Computing in DCU at undergraduate and taught postgraduate levels. It also builds on strong industry relationships that members of the Centre have with major industrial players who would be the technology suppliers for the hard, soft and smart ‘fabric’ of the Internet of Things.
A number of proprietary solutions to IoT deployment are available. These include Google’s Nest and Brillo, Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, and specialist solutions providers such as Splunk and Exosite. Most of these offer proprietary solutions. Open source initiatives include Intel’s IoTivity and the Allseen Alliance’s AllJoyn. Even where these solutions are not encumbered by hardware or OS lock-in (which fundamentally limits their scalability beyond a finite ‘ecosystem’), they overlay the existing network (typically the Internet) with their architecture, limiting the nodes of their network to being at the edges of the existing network (these being the only points where overlay functionality can conventionally be introduced). This restricts the scalability and efficiency of the deployed solution.
The approach to be taken in Entwine, in contrast, involves entwining the additional functionality required with existing router (and other middlebox) functions. This allows the infrastructural support required to be embedded in the existing network rather than overlaid upon it. This is achieved by exploiting recent and ongoing advances in Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), which allow network functionality to be injected by (trusted) third parties. SDN and NFV are receiving considerable attention in the academic community and numerous research groups internationally are engaged in this space.
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DCU is already involved in this space via the “INPUT‘” H2020 project, in which two members of the proposed centre participate. To our knowledge, the concept of enhancing SDN/NFV to scalably deliver infrastructural support for IoT applications is not being addressed elsewhere, and early occupation of this space by DCU should strengthen our position in the IoT research community.
A recent projection (“The corporate 'Internet of Things' will encompass more devices than the smartphone and tablet markets combined”, Business Insider, Feb. 25th, 2015, http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-enterprise-internet-of-things-market-2014-12) is that the Internet of Things will comprise more than 23 billion devices within five years, of which 9 billion will be enterprise IoT devices (and so feature machine-to-machine communication). For comparison, the world population is estimated by the UN to be less than 7.5 billion.
The concept of the Internet of Things has emerged from a number of technological developments. These include wireless sensor networks, home automation, wearable technology and smart metering, amongst others. None of these technological drivers prepare the industry for the scale of a true Internet of Things. The Entwine approach to providing a scalable networked infrastructure for the Internet of Things avoids the fat pipes and overlay networks which limit the number of devices in rival architectures.
The key to Entwine’s success in positioning itself in the external environment will be in establishing the Centre as a primary source of knowledge and solutions to the grand challenge ofscaling the interconnection of ‘gazillions’ of nodes in the future IoT environment. Successfully meeting this challenge will require close collaboration between Centre members to combine the required expertise in the areas of
(i) autonomous network configuration and control that leverages emerging trends in SDN and network virtualisation,
(ii) intelligent data filtering/aggregation/reduction provided through NAAS and SAAS standardised interfaces,
(iii) network security and network hardware acceleration and
(iv) appropriate integration with underlying embedded systems and sensor interfaces.
The available expertise among the Entwine membership of relevance to its mission include the following.
- Expertise in Software Defined Networks, which will enable the necessary functionality of our solutions to be imbedded within, rather than overlaid upon the existing network. This expertise is emerging from the NIC, a group within RINCE.
- Expertise in low-level FPGA hardware, which will enable the development of real-world high-speed complex network infrastructures. This expertise is also emerging from within NIC and has a strong industrial and international base.
- Expertise in Embedded Systems and Embedded Linux. Internet-attached embedded systems is an emerging technology, and we have international recognition in this space. This expertise was not formerly part of RINCE.
- Expertise in encryption, secure software development and the management of robust security services, which has particular challenges for embedded systems. This expertise was not formerly part of RINCE.
- Expertise in self-organisation of information flow in multi-layer systems which will greatly support the data aggregation research that needs to take place. This expertise arises from research work in Computer Vision and Biological Vision systems and was not formerly part of RINCE.
- Expertise in Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) with an emphasis on feedback and control. CPSs are the building blocks of an IoT network.
- Expertise in the area of Connected Health, a topic that is very closely aligned with the proposed research Centre and one of the potential application areas.
Funding for the Centre’s research will be obtained from national and European funding sources, and from industry. The affiliated staff will exploit their contacts in major multi-nationals, European agencies and standardization bodies to lobby for standardisation of the framework. This will position DCU as a central player, as the Internet of Things moves from being a plethora of disparate initiatives to being a single standardised global solution.