Exploring The Technical Foundations of IoT with Boris Adryan, Dominik Obermaier, and Paul Fremantle

The Technical Foundations of IoT by Boris AdryanDominik ObermaierPaul Fremantle provides an overview of the technical aspects of the Internet of Things (in fact, most other modern technology!), offering more theory and background information than is usually required for non-specialists in interdisciplinary development teams.

That is, product design specialists are going to get an introduction into the physics and the technology that makes their products work, while hardware engineers are going to learn about the implications of various decisions that have to be made on the level of software architecture, and programmers are going to develop an appreciation why what is commodity on a general purpose computer may be really difficult to achieve on a low-spec embedded system. No matter from which educational background, all of them are going to experience the highly interdisciplinary nature of developing end-to-end Internet of Things solutions.

Current book recommendations with general applicability comprise Adrian McEwen’s Designing the Internet of Things, Claire Rowland’s Designing Connected Products and more recently Dirk Slama’s Enterprise IoT: Strategies and Best Practices for Connected Products and Services. These are complemented by a vast array of hands-on manuals and beginners’ guides with titles along the lines of IoT with (fill in any popular hardware platform, programming language, etc.). However, none of these books provide a systematic introduction into the scientific basis and technical aspects of the Internet of Things in a way that would allow everyone in a highly interdisciplinary team acquire a common vocabulary. While the book briefly explains real-life Internet of Things applications in various verticals and focuses on particular technical challenges, we haven’t spent much time on commercialization strategies or business models.

The book primarily caters for those who are interested in researching, developing and building the Internet of Things, but who appreciate the scientific and technical foundations as well. The first part of the book (“Physical Principles and Information”) covers the physics of electricity and electromagnetism, laying the foundation for understanding the components of modern electronics and finishes with a brief discussion of information theory and computing. The second part (“Historical Perspective on the Internet of Things”) tells a brief story of the Internet from ARPAnet in the 1960s to recent connected gadgets. In part III (“Applications of M2M and IoT”) we present a formal definition of the Internet of Things and show the promises of IoT in various verticals such as industry, smart cities, connected vehicles, and smart and assisted living. The part concludes with a brief discussion of drivers and limitations of IoT. Part IV (“Architectures of M2M and IoT Solutions”) then presents in about 30 book pages what constitutes the content of most IoT books we know, briefly touching upon overall design patterns, issues with UX and UI, and different network topologies. The fifth part (“Hardware”) gives a thorough introduction into the physical components of IoT solutions, building on the technical foundations gained in part I. Topics covered are common issues in product development, power options for IoT devices including battery chemistry, actuators from simple buzzers to complex stepper motors, and sensors from gyroscopes to the electrical sensing of organic compounds. This part aims to ‘take the magic out of hardware’ and explain in simple terms the working principles behind what is typically purchased as a black box. Part VI (“Device Communication”) explains the physical principles behind communication, the importance of standards and protocols, and exemplifies the many solutions to data communication problems from simple peripheral-to-device connections to industrial fieldbus systems to modern radio protocols commonly used in IoT to satellite communication. In part VII (“Software”) the logic and various software components that impinge on IoT solutions are discussed. This ranges from the Fallacies of Distributed Computing, strategies to reduce power on embedded systems, to the role of the backend and what data analytical options there are. A considerable part of the Software part is the detailed discussion of IoT protocols, a frequent area of technical debates in the field. The book concludes with part VIII (“Security”), where a threat matrix is systematically discussed with the aim to sensitize the reader to the enormous attack surface IoT solutions have. The book finishes with concrete good practices around IoT security.

From the Introduction written by Stefan Grasmann (Zühlke Engineering GmbH):

The promise of a world in which all devices are interconnected is huge! However, this enormous business potential creates the following challenges for engineering teams that build Internet of Things (IoT) solutions:

  • Everyone wants to be the first in the market. Time to market is extremely ambitious. The pressure to deliver fast is very high. There is rarely time for experiments.
  • IoT solutions usually try to create a new or re-shape an existing market. That means that there is no fixed product vision and no certainty that the solution will succeed. Your market will change during development and you need to adapt quickly. Lean and agile development is crucial for success.
  • Security and privacy are silent prerequisites. However, not too many stakeholders will talk about them. But everybody takes them for granted. Engineers need to come up with a solid approach to incorporate security and privacy into the foundations of their solutions. The problem: Securing a solution usually needs time and a thorough grounding in the underlying technology – a strong contradiction to the market requirements.

In consequence IoT engineers need a solid understanding of the involved technologies to cope with these challenges. These technologies are very broad and hard to grasp as a whole because they cover many disciplines. That’s why I think that this book might play a crucial role in the upcoming years. IoT will need lots of motivated, well-trained engineers that create solutions that fulfil the business promises I described above. The business drivers are enormous. So are the technologic dangers if those solutions are created short-sightedly.

Adryan, Obermaier and Fremantle make an attempt to grab all these crucial aspects at their root. They created this book to provide a common technological ground for newbies and experienced developers that want to understand this field holistically. Having worked in that domain for the last ten years I can only assure you: Read, understand and use this book as your technical IoT foundation.

What are problems your book can help technical professionals solve?

  • Understand what the Internet of Things is on a technical level, what its key components are, and how these components have to interact to make a successful product.
  • Develop a common vocabulary in interdisciplinary teams that comprise members from product design, hardware engineering and software development.
  • Appreciate the issues around developing connected products on a holistic level, thereby improving the understanding between different subject matter groups in a team.
  • Gain an overview of which solutions exist to various problems (choice of power supply, choice of IoT protocol, choice of security options), and learn enough keywords for further studies of online resources.

 What are important Features of your book/software and the Specific Benefits a buyer can expect to derive from those Features?

 

  Feature Benefit
1 Undergraduate-level text addressing all aspects of IoT, from physical foundations to security options Common ground for everyone on the team – nobody will be left behind
2 Can be read end-to-end but also provides enough local context to be read as lexicon Saves time when used in the project context and allows targeted preparation in preparation for university study
3 More than 100 figures Easy reading and easy to get an overview

What are the audiences at which this book is aimed? 

Undergraduate students interested in IoT: Learn about background not typically part of the core curriculum

Professionals working on end-to-end IoT: Learn about the issues and the vocabulary of other team members in an interdisciplinary team

Makers and hobbyists: Learn more background than what is usually required ‘to make something work’

Decision makers (CxO level): Understand the complexity of IoT development

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