Just as there has been a dramatic build-out of wireless communication infrastructure over the last decade or so, there will be a similar build-out of more capable infrastructure that we call the “immobiles.” These are compute and communication nodes that provide vendor-neutral gateways between local devices and services (accessible via local wireless or wired networks) and a hierarchy of computing and networked services including the cloud. Such an infrastructure extends the cloud by giving it a presence close to the end devices that interact with the physical world (a vision that Cisco calls “The Fog”), and it gives the endpoint devices a generic way to leverage services that reside in the cloud. The SwarmBox is the first prototype of such a component. It has computing and networking capabilities roughly comparable to mobile devices, but unlike mobile devices, the emphasis is not on interaction with humans through touchscreens and audio, and the devices do not (normally) move around. Such an architecture has a number of key potential advantages:
- It enables services that compose devices from multiple vendors.
- It enables controlled quality of service, for example bounding the latency between local sensors and actuators, enabling use of IoT technology for “important” things, which may be safety critical.
- It enables new approaches to security and privacy by enabling interaction between devices without data having to travel to and from data centers.
- It enables robust design that can provide useful networked services even in the presence of network outages, providing better resilience and safety.
The emphasis of the SwarmBox task will be on identifying the software and hardware capabilities and architectures that will make such immobiles most useful. The hardware will be primarily COTS.
Please see our paper The Cloud is not Enough: Saving IoT from the Cloud for more information on the role of the SwarmBox