Category Archives: IoT

Toyota Launches Automotive Edge Computing Consortium To Address Big Data From Connected and Self Driving Cars

The age of smart connected cars and autonomous vehicles brings with it a new challenge to the automotive industry: Big Data. Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota estimates that the data volume between vehicles and the cloud will reach 10 exabytes (10.7 billion Gigabytes) per month till the year 2025, which is approximately 10,000 times larger than the present volume. This sort of big data challenge calls for Edge Computing.

This challenge brought Toyota to team up with Japanese auto parts maker Denso Corp, Japanese telecoms NTT, Intel and Ericsson to form the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium which was announced a few days ago. This consortium will

develop an ecosystem for connected cars to support emerging services such as intelligent driving and transport, creating of maps with real-time data as well as driving assistance based on cloud computing.

The consortium will use Edge Computing and network design to accommodate automotive big data in a reasonable fashion between vehicles and the cloud.

Last March Toyota showed off its first autonomous test vehicle developed entirely by Toyota Research Institute, following GoogleTeslaUber and others in the race to disrupt transportation. Even consortium member Intel announced last week starting to build a fleet of fully autonomous (level 4 SAE) test cars, based on its acquisition of Mobileye earlier this year.

Toyota states its exploration of autonomous vehicles dates back as far as 2005. Now with edge computing architecture it can also face the associated big data challenge.

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Filed under Autonomous Car, Big Data, Cloud, Edge Computing, Internet of Things, IoT

IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning Push Cloud Computing To The Edge

“The End Of Cloud Computing” – that’s the dramatic title for a talk given by Peter Levine at a16z Summit last month. Levine, a partner at Anderssen Horowitz (a16z) VC fund, worked out his investor foresight and tried to imagine the world beyond cloud computing. The result was an insightful and fluent talk, stating that the centralized cloud computing as we know it is about to be superseded by a distributed cloud inherent in a multitude of edge devices. Levine highlights the rising forces driving this change:

The Internet of Things (IoT). Though the notion of IoT has been around for a few decades it seems it’s really taking place now, and that our world will soon be inhabited by a multitude of smart cars, smart homes and smart everything, each with embedded compute, storage and networking. Levine gives a great example of a computer card found in current day’s luxury cars, containing around 100 CPUs in it. having several such cards in a car would make it a mini data center on wheels. Having thousands of such cars on the roads makes it a massive distributed data center.

smart-car-card

Big Data Analytics. The growing amount of connected devices and sensors around us constantly collecting real world input generates massive amount of data of different types, from temperature and pressure to images and videos. And that unstructured and highly variable data stream needs to be processed and analyzed in real time in order to extract insights and make decisions by the little brains of the smart devices. Just imagine your smart car approaching a stop sign, and the need to process the image input, realize the sign and make the decision to stop – all in a matter of a second or less- would you send it over to the remote cloud for the answer?

Machine Learning. While traditional computer algorithms are well suited for dealing with well-defined problem spaces, the real world has a complex, diverse and unstructured nature of data. Levine believes that endpoints will need to execute Machine Learning algorithms to decipher the data effectively and make intelligent insights and decisions to the countless number and permutations of situations that can occur in the real world.

So should Amazon, Microsoft and Google start worrying? Not really. The central cloud services will still be there, but with different focus. Levine sees the central cloud role in curating data from the edge, performing central non-real-time learning which can then be pushed back to the edge, and long-term storage and archiving of the data. In its new incarnation, the entire world becomes the domain of IT.

You can watch the recording of Levine’s full talk here.

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Google’s Self-Driving Cars To Become A Stand-Alone Business

Google is shifting gear with its self-driving car project. The project, which has been run as part of Google X research lab, has spun out into its own business unit under Google’s parent company Alphabet. According to Wall Street Journal, the car group would likely be expected to soon begin generating revenue, though not necessarily a profit at first. X chief Astro Teller told WSJ that Alphabet will likely roll out its self-driving cars incrementally over the next several years as they improve with more time on the road.

This is another move in the race to the holy grail of a fully operational autonomous car. Google keeps a special watch over Uber’s aggressive self-driving car plans, with its plans to disrupt transportation. While Google’s cars have been driving around Google’s home town in Mountain View CA and other US cities, Uber has been swinging through Pittsburgh. And they’re not alone in this race. In fact, you find surprising newcomers each day: Just today Samsung acquired U.S. auto-parts supplier Harman for $8 Billion to get onboard with connected cars, probably as part of Samsung’s Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. When the lines blur between cars, mobile and online services, when transportation is up for disruption, everyone is out for the take.

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The Uber Plan To Disrupt Transportation

Uber has become the trademark for sharing economy. It’s the proverbial social win-win formula: You want to get somewhere, a driver is heading there, so he picks you up, and earns a friendly fee on the way.

But in fact Uber’s vision isn’t really about sharing economy. In fact, the “human factor” of the drivers is pretty messy for Uber: it involves costs, labor laws, contractual engagements, assault incidents, lawsuits… Uber would rather eliminate the “human factor” altogether. It has a whole other plan for us. And the plan goes through:

Autonomous cars!

UATC-CAR-BRIDGE-16x9.jpg

Which plan? Sit back and take a quick tour into our daily lives in the (not-so-distant) future:

You don’t own a car, you consume a service. car-as-a-service. Need a ride? Just tap your smart phone/watch/skin, and a ride will come and pick you up from your GPS-detected location, and you’ll be charged just for that ride. Just like electricity or water. no need for a large capital expense for purchasing a car, and extra cost for insurance, regular checkups and fixes for a car that sits idle most of the day. you’re not in the business of car fleets, you just need a ride.

This will also disrupt the automotive industry: the car design will no longer revolve around the driving experience. there simply is no driver now, remember? the car is now a ride service robot, and the focus is shifted to the passenger’s quality of experience. Now that the rider has his hands (and attention) free, focus will shift to making the ride more informative, more entertaining, more productive, with multimedia, games, work tools, with automated analytics learning the needs of the passenger, perhaps even offering some interesting goods… reminds you a bit of Google? Why isn’t that surprising…

google-autonomous-car-prototype_100494838_h.jpg

This is not Sci Fi. This is a concrete plan taking shape as we speak. Last Thursday Uber announced acquiring Otto, an Israeli startup less than a year old headed by ex-Googlers, which provides technology that turns regular trucks into driverless (autonomous) ones. In parallel Uber announced moving into commercial stage with its autonomous cars initiative, launching a pilot in the city of Pittsburgh.

Uber isn’t the only one setting eyes on this mark. Traditional car manufacturers such as GM, Ford and Fiat (jointly with Google) have also identified the upcoming disruption and are also racing to the commercial autonomous car. In fact, just a day before Uber’s acquisition Ford announced acquiring another Israeli startup, SAIPS, as well as investing $75 Million in startup Velodyne, both aimed to boost its autonomous car project.

We’re heading to a brave new world. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

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A Tale of Two Outages Featuring Amazon, Microsoft And An Un-Smart Home

Update: Following the subsequent official announcements of Amazon and Microsoft I updated the post with more information on the outages and relevant links

Here it is again. A major outage in Amazon’s AWS data center in North Virginia takes down the cloud service in Amazon’s biggest region, and with it, taking down a multitude of cloud-based services such as Netflix, Tinder, AirBnB and Wink. This is not the first time it happens, and not even the worst. At least this time it didn’t last for days. This time it was their DynamoDB that went down and took down a host of other services, as Amazon describes in a lengthy blog post.

And Amazon is not alone in that. Microsoft today also suffered a major outage in its Skype service, which rendered the popular VoIP service unusable. In their update Skype reported the root cause was a bad configuration change:

We released a larger-than-usual configuration change, which some versions of Skype were unable to process correctly therefore disconnecting users from the network. When these users tried to reconnect, heavy traffic was created and some of you were unable to use Skype’s free services …

This time it was Microsoft’s Skype service, but we already saw how Microsoft’s Azure cloud can also suffer major outage, all on account of a configuration update.

One interesting effect was exposed due to this recent outage that is worth noting: up till now the impact was limited to online cloud services such as our movie or dating service. But now, with the penetration of the Internet of Things (IoT) to our homes, the effects of such cloud outage reach far beyond, and into our own homes and daily utilities, as nicely narrated by David Gewirtz’ piece on ZDnet, who tried voice-commanding its Amazon Echo (nicknamed “Alexa”) to turn on the lights and perform other home tasks and was left unanswered during the outage. The loss of faith in Alexas (they have 2 of them) which David described goes beyond technology realm and into psychological effects which extend beyond my field of expertise.

One conclusion could be that cloud computing is bad and should not be used. That would of course be the wrong conclusion, certainly when compared to outages in data centers. As I highlighted in the past, following simple guidelines can significantly reduce the impact of your cloud service to such infrastructure outages. If you are running a mission-critical system you may find that relying on a single cloud provider is not enough and may wish to use multi-cloud strategy to spread the risk and use disaster recovery policies between them. This will become increasingly important as the Internet of Things becomes ubiquitous in our homes and businesses, as heavily promoted by Amazon, Google, Samsung and the likes which combine IoT with their own cloud services.

One thing is for sure: if you connect your door locks to a cloud-based service – make sure you keep a copy of the good-old hard-copy key.

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Microsoft Launches New Big Data Stream Analytics Cloud Service

In the last couple of weeks we saw the fight heating up between Google and Amazon over big data in the cloud. Now Microsoft is calling the bet, announcing the general availability of its Azure Stream Analytics (ASA). The new cloud service, which was launched in public preview late last year, enables real-time stream processing of data from various sources, such as applications, devices, sensors, mobile phones or connected cars. In fact, Microsoft places strong emphasis on the use cases of the Internet of Things, a hot topic these days which Microsoft pioneered back in the 1990 but somehow managed to miss the wave, and is now trying to get back on it.

Earlier this year Microsoft bought Revolution Analytics, the company behind the open source R programming language that has become popular for statistical analysis on big data, as part of Microsoft’s effort to develop its suite of advanced analytics.

Microsoft puts emphasis, same as its competitors, on making its stream analytics service easy for development and operations, so small companies and even start-ups can get into this hot field without massive up-front investment. That while leveraging the power of the cloud to ensure transparent resilience and scalability, security and multi-tenancy.

Another interesting aspect is the built-in integration of Azure Stream Analytics with Microsoft’s Event Hubs, Microsoft’s Publish-Subscribe messaging service, which was made generally availability late last year, and is said to be able to log millions of events per second. Microsoft also targets this service for Internet of Things and telemetry ingestion use cases. This part of Microsoft’s offering is similar to Google’s Pub/Sub and Amazon’s Kinesis.

In a blog post by Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President of Information Management & Machine Learning at Microsoft, he shares customer use cases by Fujitsu, NEC and Aerocrine. Quoting Allen Ganz, Director of Business Development at NEC:

NEC has found that using the Azure IoT Services has enabled us to quickly build compelling intelligent digital signage solutions that meet our customer’s needs and help them transform their business processes

Microsoft, same as its competitors, is aiming at providing a full and organic suite to cover the full cycle of big data ingestion, processing and analytics, to cater for the proliferation of big data use cases and ventures, and especially around the Internet of Things.

You can read more on the new Azure Stream Analytics here.

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Amazon Acquires Internet of Things Startup 2lemetry

Amazon has quietly acquired the Internet of Things startup 2lemetry, which offers ThingFabric – a platform for the integration of connected devices across enterprises. Though no formal press releases clarified the details of the deal, sources at Amazon did confirm the deal to TechCrunch a few days ago. Amazon however did not share what it intends to do with the acquisition, and whether it indeed relates to 2lemetry’s IoT platform or to its retail beacon services or facial recognition technology.

2lemetry-AWS

The acquisition comes as no surprise, as 2lemetry has been exploring integration with Amazon’s cloud services (AWS) for a while now. Most recently 2lemetry’s engineering has been exploring how the AWS Lambda service works together with the MQTT IoT communications protocol (an OASIS standard) and 2lemetry’s ThingFabric. Another interesting direction for integration is with Amazon’s Kinesis big data stream processing cloud service, plugging in terabytes of data feeding in from hundreds of thousands of IoT sensors via 2lemetry’s platform.

Amazon has been trying to position its AWS cloud services with respect to the Internet of Things, with analytics services in the cloud or connected devices such as Amazon Echo. AWS mission statement says that

Amazon Web Services provides the services, security, and support to connect the Internet of Things on a global scale.

Amazon’s recent acquisition is probably a response to the moves by its public cloud competitors, most notably Google’s investment in the Internet of Things. Interesting to note that 2lemetry is part of the AllSeen Alliance open standards group for IoT. Amazon’s new arm in the AllSeen Alliance is a match to Google’s own arm in the Thread Group open standards group (via its Nest acquisition). Now awaiting Amazon’s and 2lemetry’s official statements of the joint path of the IoT in Amazon’s cloud.

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