IoT for home or business... go Cloudless?

19th June 2020

The IoT / smart home market is apparently going to explode in the next few years. At the moment all I can hear is how some of my colleagues are installing an Alexa at their home to control few lights and somehow they are impressed with that. Go figure. Businesses will also incorporate this technology on a more broad scale soon. It is going to be everywhere and common like the smartphones that we all have now. I personally do not own any of the smart speakers because I really don't think that they make any sense. I am not saying that the idea of a smart house is bad, what I am saying is that I do not need my house to be connected to some sort of cloud service so that I am allowed to interact with the stuff I purchased and installed. Why would anyone do or want that? Asking Alexa what is the weather like or how many mm is in an inch is really not that useful or impressive to me. I am more than capable of getting my phone out and looking that up myself. I am a millennial and not that lazy despite what the general public believes 🙂 The trend in my opinion should go towards cloudless smart homes. Instead of a smart speaker (again, why this thing even exits is beyond me) you would be installing a smart hub that has the ability to communicate to any of the smart devices in your home without the need to connect to the internet (unless you want that to happen) and / or to create a cloud account in order to use the service. There are protocols that allow this local control already (looking at you MQTT). So everytime you want to adjust your house temperature, need to switch the lights off or open the garage door you can do it with an app on your phone connected to wifi. And if you really need to control your home remotely you can always rely on the good old port forwarding can't you? I really see no need to "invite" big corporations into my house. They are already collecting information about what I do on facebook, twitter, instagram etc Why give them more? When I choose to use facebook I agree to the terms and conditions which usually means that I give some of the data away to them. I would rather not have to sign any terms and conditions when it comes to controlling what I am doing with and at my house. The first instance I get. I want to use the facebook service so I agree with their terms etc The other way around is just a joke to me. I have to accept terms and conditions (we will collect your usage data anonymously to improve our smart system performance) that are not in my favour (most likely) so they can access my house - thanks but no thanks. After this what will come next? A car that does not drive unless you have signed into some sort of cloud service? Maybe I am being over the top here but based on what I have been doing lately with designing my own IoT framework (fun task if you want to experience cranial bleeding) I can say that a cloudless smart home is doable and more practical for the end user. Last thing I want (maybe you have a different take on this) is for some big business to know what smart devices are installed at my house and how I use them. God forbid that they use that information to create some new type of targeted ads... We all love them right?

Moving on towards business use... This is obviously a grey area and there are people for the cloud and against. With IoT I would be leaning towards a cloudless solution. Lately I have been told that the cloud has more computing power (that is true) to allow you to analyse the huge amount of data your devices are collecting. Again, I am not buying that at all. I do work with few SQL servers in a rather busy environment and I never came to a problem where the CPU or RAID was the bottleneck when querying the databases even with massive SELECT statements. Heck, in one of the factories I have been lately there are 40 sensor nodes that gather performance data and guess what??? Nothing is being sent to some sort of cloud account / platform for "instant analysis". It is all contained within a small inhouse server (I know, old school right, hosting your own server in this day and age) for the managers to monitor the performance of the machines. In the real world if you are a business that does not have several sites across the world and your IoT nodes are not in 1000s than I really see no point for sending it to the cloud (and I am not sure if that would be a good idea in that case anyway). Gathering data on your own servers seems to be a much more secure way of doing it. On top of that I am no expert, but last time I checked companies are not really fond of giving away their business data left and right. They kinda want to keep it within the organisation (they are protective like that). You can correct me if I am wrong. Examples would be useful to make your case strong.

The other thing that I also noticed is that businesses are not typically utilising the cutting edge technology to deliver their products or services. They seem to be rather conservative in this regard unless pushed by other pressures (survival or they can't operate with what they got due to the increased demand for their products and / or services). If things work why change them? This does not usually apply to things like using Office 2003 for your Excel and Word, but rather to the core of the business like your manufacturing processes or an older critical piece of software that would be super hard to upgrade because it is deeply integrated within the company. So keep in mind that in normal circumstances a business would rather not make radical changes to how they operate (small incremental moves are usually a better way forward).

By now if you think that I am some kind of cloud platform hater... Well, I am not. My position is to use the right tools for the job with some basic common sense attached to it. The media and the press have glorified the cloud as a silver bullet which it is really not and If you have lived for some time on this planet you should know by now that there is no such thing as one solution for all of your problems (heck, sometimes even one solution for one problem is not perfect). I would even argue that certain things should stay out from the cloud and my house automation is one of those things (and certain business processes as well). Call me a radical on this matter if it helps you sleep better.

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