AWS Targets Easier IoT Deployments

This week at its re:Invent user event in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced four new services designed to make it easier for businesses to build Internet of Things (IoT) applications and take action on the data generated at the edge.
 
AWS already has a bevy of IoT services, including an operating system, security tools, audit protection, analytics, and others. I’ve talked to a number of customers that use some or all of the IoT services, and the general feedback is that they are good building blocks but there’s still a lot of heavy lifting required to deploy IoT apps. Data ingestion, troubleshooting, analytics, and lots and lots of coding are often required.
 
The new capabilities announced at re:Invent 2018 are focused specifically on simplifying the steps required to build rich IoT applications. The services AWS rolled out can be thought of as abstraction tools that mask the complexity of performing those tasks. Specifically, AWS announced the following four services:
 
  • AWS IoT SiteWise collects data from sensors on industrial equipment and structures data so it can be used to create real-time key performance indicators (KPIs). Customers can use the data to monitor operations across facilities, simplifying the task of managing industrial IoT equipment at scale. The KPIs greatly simplify the task of monitoring equipment to identify areas that lead to waste, such as the breakdown of equipment, process inefficiencies, and product defects. Doing this manually is difficult, as data lives in silos, requiring a specialist to extract the data and put it in a usable format. IoT SiteWise leverages software on an IoT gateway such as the AWS Snowball Edge gateway or other third-party gateways. IoT SiteWise is offered as a managed service and is currently available in limited preview.

 

  • AWS IoT Events is an event/response service that complements SiteWise. It collects data from IoT applications and sensors and looks for anomalies such as a conveyor belt being stuck. Building this functionality in-house requires custom application development, data collection, and the decision logic to trigger actions. AWS IoT Events is a managed service making it easy to detect events across tens of thousands of IoT sensors to measure the state of anything such as humidity, speed, and temperature. For example, if temperature inside a cooler spiked, it could indicate a problem with the door and a message could be sent to a technician to investigate. IoT Events integrates with other AWS services such as IoT Core and IoT Analytics to enable early detection. I mentioned how SiteWise and Events are complementary. The former is focused on understanding the performance of industrial operations, whereas Events monitors equipment changes that trigger alerts to generate an actionable response.

 

  • AWS IoT Things Graph is a service that simplifies the process of building IoT applications. Through a slick drag-and-drop interface, developers can connect different devices and Web services. For example, the below image shows how a hotel could personalize a hotel room when a guest walks through the door. The IoT world is a bit of the wild west today, as there aren’t many widely adopted standards, so getting things from different manufacturers to work together requires lots of custom code. AWS has masked much of that complexity for its customers. The other interesting aspect of this is that businesses can now create IoT applications without requiring a highly skilled developer. The graphical interface enables less technical people that might have a better understanding of business logic to create IoT applications.
  • AWS IoT Greengrass Connectors is a new feature to the AWS IoT Greengrass service. Launched in 2016, Greengrass brings IoT-related services such as compute, machine learning, messaging, and others to edge devices. As the name suggests, the Connectors feature enables Greengrass devices to connect to a wide range of third-party applications such as ServiceNow, Splunk, and Twilio, while securely managing access control and credentials. As an example, a hotel that notices a problem with its HVAC system could connect to Twilio to send a message to ServiceNow that would trigger an alarm and notify a service technician. AWS IoT Greengrass Connectors simplifies the task of connecting to cloud and on-premises applications for logging, diagnostics, maintenance, logistics, and more.
 
These new services show a marked difference in AWS thinking. Historically, the company has excelled in making cloud-based tools that hardcore developers can use to build things quickly. While this will always be its core mission, these new services show an understanding that making it easier for customers to use its tools and connect them to other AWS services and third parties can accelerate usage.
 
IoT is an important component of digital transformation, but it’s certainly not easy. The new IoT-focused services lets customers home in more on process than on creating a whole bunch of code.