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From self-driving cars to smart homes: a thesis explores the future of interconnected machines

  Digital lock

From smart refrigerators to digital locks and self-driving cars, the Internet of Things is in a lot of electronic devices (Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) / unsplash.com)

16/04/2021
Santiago Campillo
The paper analyses the challenges to be met by Internet of Things devices and applications

Device interconnection is expanding and shows connectivity and operational capacity limitations

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is rapidly spreading across an increasingly interconnected world. As the needs for connection and computing between devices grow, so do the challenges. Ana Mara Juan Ferrer's thesis, developed in the doctoral programme in Information and Network Technologies at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), analyses the specific challenges posed by IoT Edge devices, furthering the establishment of a theory to help build an autonomous and more interconnected world.

 

What is the Internet of Things?

When you ask your voice assistant to switch on the television, when you look at your fitness tracker to see your step count or when you receive notification on your smartphone of a temperature increase at home, you are operating within the IoT paradigm. The network of networks, at this point, has become an excellent tool that connects a multitude of everyday devices, expanding the services they offer.

From smart refrigerators to digital locks and self-driving cars, the Internet of Things is in hundreds or thousands of electronic devices. The concept of IoT refers to the grouping and interconnection of devices and objects via a network, such as the Internet, where all of them can be visible and interact with each other.

The Internet of Things is present in our lives, even if we are often unaware of it. Its objective is to generally make our everyday lives easier. But, as we have already mentioned, as interconnection needs grow, so do the requirements in terms of computing and connectivity (the ability to maintain a connection of sufficient quality) necessary to keep up with the services being offered. This is where edge and cloud computing come in.

 

Edge and cloud computing: the evolution of IoT

In her project, Ad-hoc Formation of Edge Clouds over Heterogeneous Non-dedicated Resources, Ana Mara Juan Ferrer analyses the challenges presented by IoT Edge Cloud devices. "Cloud computing allows access to computing and storage capacity as a service", explained the researcher about the paradigm that allows computing services to be offered over a network (usually the Internet). "Rather than being purchased, technological infrastructures are rented for the exact time in which they are going to be used".

Let's travel back in time to the early 2000s and imagine that we need to use a computer but we don't have one at home. We could go to an Internet caf and pay for the time we use the computer. We would not be paying for someone to perform the tasks nor buying a computer, but renting the equipment for the time we use the service.

In the same way, cloud computing provides specific computing services to those who need them: "Cloud computing services are provided from large data centres operated by cloud service providers from various regions", explained the researcher.

Edge computing aims to bring these computing services closer to locations in the vicinity of data sources "to avoid the latency problems that have been observed in Internet of Things installations when accessing cloud services", she confirmed. By offering these services as near as possible, delays and connectivity problems can be reduced. "Today, connected devices are not only available anywhere, but are rapidly becoming more complex. In this way, Ad-hoc Edge computing is a distributed and decentralised system that is formed from the resources available in IoT devices to exploit the entire computing capacity found in all types of devices connected at the edge of the network".

Taking these two concepts into consideration, her doctoral thesis focuses on the IoT Edge Cloud and how it can help improve the Internet of Things ecosystem that surrounds us. "My work addresses the challenges presented by IoT Edge Cloud devices whose infrastructure is in two main areas of research", explained Ana Mara. "At the resource management level, it prepares mechanisms to allow the dynamic formation of Ad-hoc Edge clusters and their management. This thesis also presents an admission control mechanism, together with an associated model to predict the resource availability of the participating IoT Edge devices", she added.

 

The future of self-driving cars and smart homes

The main contributions made by the Ad-hoc Edge Cloud architecture that is the subject of this study are based on three fundamental aspects, according to the researcher. The key aspects focus on being able to use the IoT devices themselves to do the computing that would otherwise be diverted to cloud services; reinforcing the security around this phenomenon, avoiding loss of information; and the decentralisation of the functions of these services, so there would be no single point of failure.

All this translates into an increase in possibilities. The applications of IoT are expanding their horizons thanks to studies such as the one in this doctoral thesis, since they can be applied more effectively in increasingly complicated environments. Self-driving cars exemplify this need: the necessary computing and connection of vehicles, supported by artificial intelligence that requires an incredible amount of data, makes Edge cloud computing almost a mandatory requisite, since without this technology it is very difficult to process all the information in an instant.

In smart homes, it will allow the creation of personal infrastructures between connected devices, while, in industrial facilities and plants, the formation of Edge Ad-hoc infrastructures between all the elements will allow their semi-autonomous operation. And we should not ignore drones, which can be used to inspect infrastructures, defining specific mechanisms for collaboration between fleets in order to increase coverage areas; or the coordination of vehicles with the smart city and connected roads.

In short, IoT is forging ahead on its inexorable path to a connected future. The challenges are increasing, but so is our knowledge and the tools available to face a world that a decade ago would have seemed like a science-fiction fantasy.

Ana Mara Juan Ferrer's thesis was supervised by the members of the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Joan Manuel Marqus Puig, a researcher with the Internet Computing & Systems Optimization (ICSO) group, and Josep Jorba Esteve, a Wireless Networks (WINE) researcher. Both groups are attached to the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), a UOC research centre.

 

This UOC research supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9, to achieve an improvement in Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Reference thesis

JUAN FERRER, Ana Mara. Ad-hoc formation of edge clouds over heterogeneous non-dedicated resources [on line]. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 2020: http://hdl.handle.net/10609/128326

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#UOCexperts

Ana Mara Juan Ferrer

PhD with the UOC doctoral programme in Information and Network Technologies

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Joan Manuel Marqus

Professor of Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications and researcher member of the UOC's ICSO research group

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Josep Jorba Esteve

Expert in: Open-source software; GNU/Linux; cloud, grid and cluster computing; parallel and distributed high-performance computing (HPC).

Knowledge area: Computer and operating system architecture and open-source software.

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