Amazon's cloud services behemoth, Amazon AWS (Amazon Web Services), is one of the biggest things on the IT scene these days, scooping up vast amounts of business with a sophisticated palette of easy-to-use and generally very cost-competitive offerings.
Come to us, they say, and get rid of the cost and complexity of running your own servers and other bits of expensive infrastructure. It is a pitch that is making headway not only with newer and smaller companies that haven’t made their own big investments in IT capabilities, but also with large companies watching the bottom line. The pitch has been especially successful with companies that already are decentralized and widely distributed. Why not move to the cloud and why not Amazon?
Now, AWS says it is focusing on the ultimate distributed target, the Internet of Things and, implicitly and explicitly, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Last month at the company’s AWS re:Invent event they announced AWS IoT, a new platform that makes it easy for devices ranging from cars to turbines, sensor grids, light bulbs, and more, according to the company, to connect to AWS services “so that companies can store, process, analyze and act on the volumes of data generated by connected devices on a global scale.”
The platform lets devices connect to AWS IoT’s Device Gateway. The company says it is building out this capability through a number of developments. For one thing, device manufacturers can set rules for how AWS IoT handles the data they send, and the actions to take when various conditions are met. Then there are the APIs. Devices usually communicate using APIs, but in the real world, connectivity is not always continuous. So, AWS IoT creates a virtual or “shadow” version of each actual device, including information about the device’s state. That shadow is always available so that applications can check the device’s status and take actions that are automatically sent to the device once it reconnects.
Amazon is not the first cloud provider to tackle IoT (Microsoft has a similar offering in Azure as does Google) and it probably won’t be the last. For the moment, though, AWS seems to be generally acknowledged as the leader in the category with the most overall capacity and the most choices.
AWS IoT provides a software developer kit (SDK) that lays out a path for developers to use the AWS IoT functionality from connected devices (including open source libraries, and a developer guide and porting guide).
Ultimately, the most interesting thing about the AWS IoT offering, is the ready ability it offers to plug into AWS Analytics, such as AWS Kinesis, which can help with the all-important task of turning IIoT data flows into actionable insights.
Alan R. Earls is a Boston-based writer focused on technology, business, and manufacturing — a field where he spent the earliest part of his career. He has written for publications and websites as diverse as The Boston Globe, Computerworld and Modern Infrastructure as well as Industry, The Manufacturer, and Today's Machining World and is a regular contributor to the Smart Industry Connect blog.