Cloud Computing and IoT: A Powerful Match Made in Heaven (2021)

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The Internet of Things (IoT) relies on connectivity between devices. As you can imagine, the concept of cloud computing is almost indispensable to the full utilization of IoT technology.

Much like the link between big data and IoT, cloud computing and IoT are intimately linked – but distinctly different – concepts.

In this article, we’ll discuss the link between cloud computing and IoT to understand how the two relate and how they promise to revolutionize the way we use technology.

What is Cloud Iot?

We’ve previously discussed IoT on its own at length, so be sure to check out that article if you need a refresher.

You might already have an understanding of cloud computing, but if not, here’s a brief rundown:

  • Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computer services in an on-demand format.
  • It covers things like storage, office applications, processing power, computing infrastructure, and more.
  • Users connect to cloud services over the internet and typically use a pay-as-you-go service.
  • Importantly, it saves users from buying and maintaining their own internet infrastructure (e.g. servers).

Check out this video on cloud computing for more information.

So, how does this relate to IoT?

Simply put, internet-enabled devices connect with each other over a cloud-based network. Users generally own and maintain the devices but outsource the infrastructure, online storage, and services to another company.

As we frequently mention in our discussions on IoT, it relies heavily on data. Data, in turn, requires lots of storage and processing power. This means that companies need a lot of storage space when running large IoT networks.

Therefore, it makes complete sense for a company to combine cloud computing and IoT. This is particularly true if the company doesn’t specialize in online services and doesn’t own or manage computing infrastructure.

Bringing in Big Data

Although not the subject of this article, this does need mentioning. Big data is the driving force behind IoT networks. Devices collect, analyze, and transmit data and then use it to adjust their processes.

Cloud computing is suitable for the storage of these vast networks of data because it utilizes remote facilities. Importantly, this means companies don’t need to host massive server networks on-site just to process and analyze data collected by their IoT devices.

In short, cloud computing and IoT, along with big data, form something of a perfect technological triangle. Although the 3 ideas exist in their own right, they come together to offer greater benefits (and fewer drawbacks) than when used individually.

The Benefits of Cloud Computing and IoT

Used together, cloud computing and IoT have numerous benefits for businesses of any size. That said, the model typically favors smaller businesses that might not have access to the necessary infrastructure.

However, some massive multinational corporations used cloud services for convenience and because of their focus on outsourcing.

Here are the most important benefits of cloud computing and IoT.

1. Infinitely scalable

Cloud technology is infinitely scalable, providing you have access to infrastructure. As IBM notes, it’s easy to scale vertically and horizontally. In simple terms, this means using bigger servers (vertical) or running multiple servers in parallel (horizontal).

Image detailing horizontal and vertical scaling for cloud computing
Horizontal and vertical scaling for cloud computing

The main benefit of IoT networks for businesses is again that they’re scalable. Here, it’s as simple as adding more devices to the network, meaning you’re only really limited by your budget.

So, by outsourcing its computing needs to a cloud service, a business can increase its IoT networks whenever it wants and to whatever size it needs.

2. Increased efficiency

IoT networks rely on vast amounts of data to optimize their processes. Cloud networks provide large-scale pathways for transmitting this data, meaning they help to improve overall efficiency of production and analysis tasks.

Also, from a human standpoint, this data is accessible anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This means you can access it remotely and aren’t restricted by network issues.

For many businesses, this added mobility makes a massive difference. Employees can manage and collaborate on data in real-time across the world, vastly increasing productivity.

3. Greater security

One of the largest drawbacks of IoT devices is security. In theory, any connected device can access the network’s data. While this might not be an issue in most cases, it becomes a serious concern when processing sensitive data.

Data kept on-site in a company’s servers is only as secure as their current protocol. Using a cloud-based storage system, however, has much better security.

This is because the company managing the servers has one main job: maintain the servers. They roll out more software and firmware updates and usually have 24/7 monitoring. In short, data breaches are less common and are caught sooner if they do happen.

4. More cost-effective

Cloud computing and IoT provide more cost-effective methods than on-site data maintenance. Paying a monthly subscription fee to a cloud services provider will almost always be cheaper than managing servers on-site.

In simple terms, this is because cloud companies have many paying clients, allowing them to split the cost. This falls into something called cloud economics, which is essentially what you think it is.

You might be familiar with the term economies of scale. Cloud computing provides customers with savings because they purchase (or rent) vast quantities of computing resources at much lower costs.

For smaller businesses, this is a clear advantage.

Examples of Cloud Computing and IoT

The main advantage of cloud computing and IoT is that they’re usable in almost any business that deals in data. IoT devices have a typical application – monitoring and tracking – but are extremely versatile across industries and businesses.

Even so, here are some brief examples that highlight the power cloud computing and IoT networks hold.

Example 1: Volocopter and the eVTOL industry

Volocopter is an eVTOL (electronic vertical take-off and landing) company. Its network will run on its VoloIQ service, which will connect aircraft to ground control stations and flight path management operations.

VoloIQ uses cloud computing and IoT to manage its eVTOL vehicles

The main infrastructure of its VoloIQ network is Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing network. It makes use of 160 data centers worldwide to store, process and transmit data.

Volocopter will make use of cloud computing and IoT services to connect and analyze data collected from its eVTOL vehicles. Many of its aircraft will be unmanned, and so data will be vital to ensure the safety of passengers and cargo.

Volocopter is just one of many eVTOL companies to make use of cloud computing and IoT services. It’ll likely become an industry standard due to the massive amounts of data these aircraft run on.

Example 2: Smart cities

We’ve spoken previously about the role IoT technology will play in making our cities smarter. Think weather sensors, traffic tracking networks, water management, urban mobility, package delivery, and more.

If you think a factory would use a lot of data, just think how much will come from a city with millions of residents. Based on the benefits of scalability and cost management, cloud computing is the only way forwards for smart cities.

Image showing the role of cloud computing and IoT in smart cities

We’ll likely see cities partner with major cloud companies (such as Azure) due to the sheer volume of data they’ll produce. Of course, using data in this way will allow cities to add new smart infrastructure quickly and efficiently.

Example 3: SMEs

Say an SME (small medium enterprise) creates an IoT product to manage energy use in smart homes. It would link to smart meters to track and analyze energy use in the building, eventually educating the homeowners on more efficient energy usage.

It would benefit from combining cloud computing and IoT. Its products would stream data to the cloud, where it would be stored and analyzed using specific algorithms.

A cloud network would allow it to scale as its customer base grew and would reduce its operating costs, as it wouldn’t have to own and manage its computing infrastructure.

Example 4: Healthcare services

IoT devices are becoming increasingly common in healthcare settings. They help with patient monitoring, management of medication, and asset tracking.

Cloud technology offers a storage location for the data collected from various IoT sensors around the healthcare facility. What’s more, institutions could add patient records to their cloud storage, meaning related facilities could access them remotely.

This would be beneficial for facilities spread over multiple locations. Say a patient has an MRI at one location but then discusses the results with their physician at their local surgery. The doctor could access all relevant information quickly and without needing to contact other departments.

Final Thoughts on Cloud Computing and IoT

Cloud computing and IoT arguably go hand-in-hand. Bring in big data, too, and you have the perfect combination for revolutionary technology.

While these systems are becoming more common, they still have some bugs that need to be removed. Even so, it seems like this tech model will become the norm for companies of all sizes.

The combination of low cost, access to infrastructure, and infinite scalability make cloud computing and IoT a sensible business model for any company that deals in data.

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