Cisco has developed a hybrid router operating system to help control and manage the Internet of Things (IoT) devices from Cisco edge routers and other networked devices. Cisco announced yesterday that it's IOx, an OS that combines the open source Linux OS and the Cisco IOS network OS, will allow customers to create and run applications directly on Cisco industrial networked devices.
According to Cisco's estimates, which the company considers to be conservative, there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 which will create even more data that will be expensive to move, store, analyze, and convert into useful content.
The challenge is managing both the devices and the huge amount of data that comes out of them, and doing so efficiently. Currently most monitoring, analysis, and decision making occurs from a central location. Data from a device is polled, transmitted, received, and verified; and if certain parameters are exceeded, the system doing the monitoring responds by sending instructions back to the device, with additional transmissions occurring for confirmation of receipt of instructions, escalations, and other actions.
Cisco's Fog computing concept works under the idea that some of that monitoring, analysis, and response can occur more efficiently, and with less cost, at the networks' edge; closer to the devices being monitored. Cisco Fog, which the company describes as a cloud that is closer to the ground, is a distributed computing infrastructure for applications. It allows network devices such as hardened routers, switches, and IP video cameras to manage the huge amount of data expected to be generated by people and devices in the Internet of Everything (IoE).
Since most monitoring involves checking to make sure that data is within normal limits, a local networked router could be programmed to analyze data being collected from IoT devices and only act on data that falls outside of normal parameters. By keeping the processing and the data local, latency issues would be reduced which would result in faster response times in the event some action were required. Additionally, data that did not need to be sent for analysis, or that had no value, could be discovered and discarded locally, thereby reducing some unnecessary traffic over the internet.
Some real world example applications given by Cisco for their Fog computing strategy include:
- Video cameras that can sense an approaching ambulance's flashing lights could change traffic lights to allow the emergency vehicle to pass through.
- Energy load balancing that would switch to alternative energy sources based on energy demand and lowest prices.
- Life saving air quality monitoring in mines that would automatically change airflow if conditions became dangerous to miners.
Recognizing that it would be impossible for Cisco to create and manage every possible application, the company is creating and supporting an open application environment to encourage developers to port existing applications and create new ones across various industries, including the manufacturing, utilities, and transportation sectors.
"Cisco is very excited to accelerate innovation in the Internet of Things by delivering IOx, which provides the ability to combine computation and communication on our ruggedized routers and other devices. We believe that this turns the network into the fourth platform for computing (in addition to PCs, mobile and cloud), which will unleash new applications in manufacturing, transportation, smart cities and many other industries," says Guido Jouret, general manager of Internet of Things Business Group at Cisco.
The Cisco IOx is expected to be available in Cisco industrial routers this spring.