Network Emulation Will Be Essential in the Internet of Things
December 01, 2014

Jim Swepson

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I was listening to the radio last week and heard a major utility supplier offering the ability to turn heating on and off from mobile devices. Later that day I was sitting in a conference hosted by Level 3, listening to Theresa Cottam, a chief strategist with Telesperienc, talk about the changes we have experienced with the Internet from the “edge of enlightenment” to a new Internet experience, the “edge of openness”. I realized that there was a growing awareness within me that we are a society on the verge of something new – The Internet of Things.

“IoT” is a growing concept that is being taken seriously by the IT industry. For me I see IoT changing the way society interacts with, not just each other, but with our everyday devices and appliances. The backbone of this potential new world is the Internet or the network, and understanding the connectivity and how applications will perform on the growing number of devices and appliances can only gain in importance.

IoT currently boils down to the interconnectivity between our devices and our appliances. One of the most interesting talks I’ve heard recently, The Internet of Things, was given by Dr. John Barrett, Head of Academic Studies at the Nimbus Centre for Embedded Systems Research at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). See presentation below.

Dr. Barrett explains that for some, IoT will seem like a scary prospect. However, if you think about how the Internet is less than 3 decades old and how it has impacted our lives to date, you do have to wonder what the next few decades will bring. Today, how many of us would take a long unknown journey without our satellite navigation system? How attached are we to our mobile devices, Social Media, online banking, to name but a few everyday activities that have become essential to us?

IoT and its connectivity does and will rely heavily on networks, whether mobile, mixed, long/short distance networks it’s immaterial. The only thing that will matter to the users is the same as today: will it work, and will I have a positive user experience?

Large organizations and enterprises, make it a prerequisite to understand how their applications will behave across today’s mixed networks, as they can’t afford failure. This will be even more important as the world moves into the IoT. Network emulation (replication) is the industry standard for many global companies - Lead Systems Engineer Dave Forrett based at Thomson Reuters said, “We have a phenomenal amount of data – around two-hundred and fifty thousand updates per second, so the testing of external network issues is being carried out at all times. Network Emulators allow the applications to be fully tested, including worst case scenarios. Being proactive is more important than being reactive."

A need to take this approach with the IoT should be on the agenda for any organization seriously considering going down this route. In the future it may not just be our washing machines and heating systems that we communicate with. Health organizations look set to benefit greatly from IoT technologies, and the ability to remotely monitor patients could, quite literally, become a matter of life or death. The military have utilized network emulators for many years, as keeping troops safe and connected is essential. To date network emulators for the masses has been "a nice to have", but with the continuation of cloud growth and IoT, I predict that we will see a real move in organizations needing to understand what the network and its conditions will mean for those embarking on these new futures.

There is no doubt that network resilience is improving, but there will still be areas where connectivity is flaky or, at worse, non-existent. Understanding the network and its conditions becomes paramount to a good experience for users of devices and appliances connected via IoT. My advice: get emulating.

Jim Swepson is a Pre-sales Technologist at Itrinegy.

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