Building the intelligent network for the Internet of Things

A critical component for making the Internet of Things real are intelligent devices connected to each other and the cloud that share data and allow for end-to-end analytics. An ever increasing number of these devices are being connected wirelessly putting a significant strain on mobile networks that affects quality of service and the user experience. In today’s guest post, Eric Levander discusses how adding intelligence to the network can address this challenge. Eric is Intel’s Director of Network Infrastructure Competence Centre in Sweden and is responsible in Europe (EMEA) for Intel’s strategic direction and operational engagements on the communications infrastructure market. Welcome Eric. ~Valerie Scarsellato, Intel Marketing Specialist

Anything can be connected to the Internet today. Even a tree, as Ericsson demonstrated with its Connected Tree. It senses when people are near it and updates its Twitter feed when it’s touched. By 2020, 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things, according to ABI Research. We’ll be able to use the constant stream of information from sensors and other devices to better understand the world around us. We’ll be able to avoid traffic jams, plan our energy generation and consumption, and allocate resources with less wastage.

At the same time, the number of consumer devices connecting to the network is rising rapidly, and will continue to do so. Devices like Google Glass, a wearable computer that mounts a small screen in front of the eye, could make computing truly ubiquitous and always-on. Google Glass has the potential to upgrade augmented reality from a niche application into our permanent window on the world, superimposing directions, information and offers over the buildings we see as we walk around.

Of course, all this data travelling both directions over the Internet presents a challenge to network operators. They’ve had a tough time in recent years, and have seen their service relegated to the role of providing a dumb pipe, while companies like Netflix and Skype have sold premium services that exploit that pipe. The growth of traffic will be hard for operators to accommodate unless they can create new revenue generating opportunities to underwrite the investment required.

The solution is to add intelligence to the network. At an Intel event for press and analysts in London earlier this month, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) presented its Radio Applications Cloud Server (RACS), based on Intel processors. It transforms the base station (the point nearest the customer) from a conduit of Internet data, into a computer that can store and process data locally, as well as communicating with the Internet. As a result, the base station could store data that’s particularly popular locally (such as the information required for augmented reality applications), so it’s available almost instantly when required. The base station could also process data generated by nearby sensors and only send a message over the Internet when necessary, to raise an alert, for example.

This approach has three major advantages. It cuts the cost of data transfer across the network. If less data is transferred, less infrastructure is required. Secondly, it gives operators new commercial opportunities, as the network stops being a dumb pipe, and becomes part of the infrastructure that actively adds value and contributes to the user experience. Most importantly, it improves the user experience. The network becomes more responsive, and faster. Customers ultimately buy good user experiences, so this will be good for customer retention and recruitment.

Ultimately, user experience is what it’s all about: enabling people to have great experiences with technology and information. User expectations continue to rise, and operators must keep up with them if they are to satisfy and delight their customers.

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