Why the Internet of Things makes passive infrastructure understanding vital

Why the Internet of Things makes passive infrastructure understanding vital

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is something we've been hearing about fairly regularly for a number of years now. However, with advances in technology and growing consumer demand, it seems that the likelihood of having an internet connection for almost every device in the home or office is finally coming to fruition.

According to Gartner, there will be 25 billion devices connected by the end of 2020 - although Cisco has gone a step further and said it thinks the total will have climbed to 50 billion by then.

This reinvention of previously passive objects with digital sensing, computing and communications capabilities will give a digital voice to object such as fridges.

Not only will this be an enormous leap forward for end users, but it will also provide an array of opportunities in terms of career growth, knowledge and training for tech industry insiders.

However, it is likely to mean than many companies will need to become more familiar with the passive network infrastructure they are using.

What is passive infrastructure?

Passive infrastructure is also sometimes referred to as transmission media or physical layer and it encompasses all the non-electronic elements required of a cell site, such as towers, electrical supplies, backup generators and technical premises.

It also includes things like copper wires and fibre optics and is so-called because it is often hidden from public view underground or within walls. Multiple operators typically share passive infrastructure in order to reduce cost and boost access rights.

Things not included in the term passive infrastructure are electronic elements such as transceivers and switches - those items businesses would typically need to buy for themselves.

Passive infrastructure and relevance to the IoT

Even with today's levels of internet use, shared networks can fall short of expected performance levels because they get crowded. In a future full of IoT devices such as automated warehouse ordering facilities and any number of other solutions we could name, the possibility for failure is magnified.

This means businesses in particular are going to have to adapt to changing markets and potentially upgrade their infrastructure if they are to cope with the IoT and a new clamouring of digital voices registering on the network.

Recently, a study at the University of Washington developed a new way for IoT devices to receive energy via a carrier wave transmitted by an active WiFi power source. This solves the issue of IoT sensors needing battery power because they often aren't located near power outlets, but it means passive infrastructure traffic is likely to be significantly added to over the coming years.

Another potential issue is security, with Gartner predicting that by the end of this year, more than 20 per cent of organisations will have digital security services "devoted to protecting business initiatives using devices and services in IoT".

It said the future of security and who is responsible for managing, governing and operating it is likely to come under scrutiny because so many devices will be transmitting data between themselves. If it is not monitored and even encrypted, loss and even malware attacks could become a common problem that need to be addressed by businesses.

The IoT may put forward some fantastic opportunities, but it is also going to require a fresh understanding of network properties and their potential limitations.

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