15.02.2012 Blog

HP cloud — chasing the Internet of Things

Posted by Marc Brien, VP Research, Domicity Ltd.

This post is based on research for an upcoming Domicity CORProfile© report analyzing the strategies and operations of a global cloud leader.
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Land mine sniffing ratThe Internet of Things (IoT) — wireless networks of sensors that gather data and feed it to the cloud for analysis — is a gold rush in the making for the IT industry. Potential applications are legion and vendors anticipate the IoT will drive much demand for new hardware, software, and services.

Here are just a few of the myriad possible applications that vendors mention:

  • advance detection of harmful pathogens in food
  • early warning of heart attack or stroke
  • bomb sniffing at strategically sensitive locations (but will sensor networks be as cost-effective and diligent as Bart Weetjens’ rats?)
  • pollution detection and control
  • traffic congestion reduction
  • energy conservation in buildings and equipment

For those with a less utopian view, governments will be able to track the activities of the citizenry more closely and hackers may be able to spoof sensor data to cause chaos.

Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Cisco, and others are targeting delivery of end-to-end IoT systems. Other vendors dream of leading in specific IoT areas. For example, Verizon is promoting the wireless networking of sensors; Arrayent produces middleware for companies wanting to connect their products to the Internet; and Pachube has a software platform for developing IoT applications.

Making CeNSE — the HP cloud

HP is an example of an end-to-end systems and services supplier whose strategy includes developing a profitable position in IoT systems. Today’s Internet carries relatively little sensory data — taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch. HP Labs’ researchers believe that sensors with these capabilities will drive the next great stage of the Internet’s evolution.

As part of a broader HP cloud strategy, the company is promoting a Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE). CeNSE would be a worldwide cloud-based network of a trillion or more sensors, able to do such things as monitor the integrity of infrastructure including bridges, appraise the health of wildlife populations, or find oil through enhanced seismic detection, a collaborative project between HP and Shell. IBM’s Smarter Planet is a similar initiative to HP’s CeNSE.

The HP cloud strategy includes developing or acquiring the necessary technological building blocks to be an IoT systems leader, including:

  • Nanosensors — HP already uses sensors in its server-side equipment and data center offerings to minimize energy consumption and in its printer products to detect paper type and to optimize ink usage. HP Labs is developing nanosensors that will never need a battery change. And next-generation sensors, under development, will supplement existing high-level movement detection with feel, taste, and smell capabilities.
  • Exascale computers — a network of a trillion or more nanosensors, as HP ultimately envisions for CeNSE, will generate the traffic of 1,000 of today’s Internets. Current server-side systems will be overpowered by the deluge of data, requiring radically new “exascale” computer architectures. To eliminate the data bottleneck that plagues today’s systems, HP is developing an exascale design that tightly integrates logic and memory, using new semiconductor technology. Hard drives will be demoted to archival storage.
  • Column-oriented datamart software — As part of the HP cloud strategy, the acquisition of database specialist Vertica, appears custom-made for analyzing the Big Data expected from sensor networks — massive data tables with many rows, but few columns.

A global future centred on the Internet of Things could be promising, alarming or both. More certain is that Bart Weetjen’s rats can be expected to have work for some time to come.


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