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Building the Global Society of Sensors

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According to Gartner, in 2020 up to 26 billion devices (’things’) are connected to a wired or wireless network, providing a huge amount of information about almost everything conceivable. Integrated sensors and actuators are equipping ‘things’ with intelligence and allow people and machines to collect data ranging from the condition of conveyor bands over the number and kind of groceries left in the fridge to the average traffic flow on a specific road. [1] Gathering the innumerable amount of data provided by billions of smart devices builds the foundation for the Internet of Things (IoT), while the underlying process of machines talking to each other in order to share this information called machine to machine communication (M2M) enables the IoT.

The benefits of IoT and M2M can be tremendous, wherefore companies setting up new business models, leveraging the generated data and creating service models on top of it. The opportunities of earning money seem to be infinite. But there are a couple of major challenges to solve, in order to make the collection and provision of information as efficient as possible.

Main challenges identified are: 

  1. To prevent data flooding as a result of the unstructured communication between billions of devices
  2. To prevent the grow of large but encapsulated sensor networks (walled gardens), where only specific and predefined devices can interact
  3. To push the creation of virtual sensors forward as they are providing the possibility to derive, generate and finally correlate information from sensors, as a direct result of the integration of numerous devices

The development of the azeti Social Sensor Cloud (SSC) is partly financed by the Investment Bank Berlin and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and significantly supported with research by the Technical University of Berlin. A team of scientists led by professor Adam Wolisz, who is also adjunct professor at the University of California in Berkeley, enables azeti Networks to make the SSC real in order to tackle the above-mentioned challenges by facilitating intelligent cloud-based data transactions.

The massive rise of data traffic in the next couple of years caused by the accruing number of devices sending information indicates clearly the need for an intelligent cloud-based management of data streams. A forecast for 2018 from Cisco states that global M2M traffic will grow to 907.5 petabyte monthly. The relative share of M2M-related traffic in total mobile traffic will increase from 1% at the end of 2013 to 6% in 2018. [2] But these numbers comprise both useful data as well as junk data.

In order to cope with this, the SSC offers the possibility to decide which information is worth to store and which is not. Only so called Sensors of Interest (SOI’s) are delivering information, which is demanded. If information of the SOI is frequently requested, specific subscriptions can be set up for individual provision, allow to discriminate between the data. This demand oriented collection process of the SSC, based on the capability to provide only data on request and not in fixed intervals makes it possible to avoid data traffic jams by reducing the collection of junk data. At the same time, suppliers have full control over the data they are offering. They can select in detail, which information they want to share and which not. The same applies to subscribers, who can also decide about the subscription to certain sensors and storage of the obtained data. This in build features allows suppliers as well as subscribers of data to fulfill their contractual, legal or regulatory storage obligations in a secure way. The necessity for those storage capabilities can be clearly shown, when companies like Telco operators are asked to provide data about the availability of their infrastructure and the fulfillment of their public service obligations. They can prove to comply with this, by storing historical data about the condition of their networks. In the field of managed services, companies have also contractual obligations, which they have to fulfill. For example, providers of fuel refill services need steady data about the fuel level in tanks for emergency power supply systems. The provision and accessibility of that mission-critical information is important for them to achieve service level agreements.

In order to integrate as many devices as possible, azeti Networks develops together with the Technical University of Berlin an open source communication protocol for a universal connection of sensors and actuators to the SSC allowing for cross-dimensional data pooling. In addition, the SSC supports all common communication protocols, for full coverage of existing communication standards and to keep the cloud open to everybody and every ‘thing’. Because the real added value of information results from the possibility to choose between different sources of sensor data and to correlate as well as analyze those information, which is a prerequisite for the next generation of tailored applications for the B2B and the B2C market.

‘Risk of Forest Fires’ as virtual sensor

virtual fire sensor

Another essential concept is called virtual sensors. They are defined as the collaboration of physical sensors from which comprehensive information can be derived by combining their data. This will change the informational environment by far. With the inclusion of data from various sensors on a global scale, individuals as well as companies can create their own set of information based on their selection of and subscription to different physical sensors. In order to illustrate the concept, one could think of a virtual sensor called ‘Risk of Forest Fires’, based on the data of temperature, humidity and wind sensors in a specific area. The combination of all the data can improve the quality of predicting those fires.

Making ‘things’ only smart by equipping them with intelligence is not enough. The final goal should be to form a society of sensors as the basis of ambient awareness. In order to achieve this, the communication of sensors has to take place in a unified way while collecting only the data that is demanded. azeti Networks Social Sensor Cloud tackles those upcoming challenges making the Internet of Things even smarter.

AUTHOR: Florian Hoenigschmid, azeti Networks AG

[1] Reference: Chui, Michael / Löffler, Markus / Roberts, Roger: The Internet of Things, McKinsey Quarterly March 2010, in: (retrieved: 5th of February, 2014).
[2] Reference: Cisco VNI Mobile Forecast, Highlights 2013-2018, in: (retrieved: 5th of February, 2014).