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What is the Cloud for IoT?

When it comes to the Internet and connected devices, the word “cloud” is a popular buzzword. But what exactly is the cloud and how is the cloud used in smart buildings and building automation? 

When it comes to the Internet and connected devices, the word “cloud” is a popular buzzword. But what exactly is the cloud and how is the cloud used in smart buildings and building automation? 

In personal use, cloud services are often used in smartphones, computers and other personal electronic devices. Some examples of well known applications that use cloud computing include Office 365, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Wordpress and Slack.  

Although the cloud sounds like a new term, it has its roots in the 1950s with mainframe computing. Terminals allowed multiple users to connect to a central computer. Virtual machines continued to advance the technology in the 1970s. The term “cloud computing” was first used in 1996 by Compaq Computers in an internal document

The cloud started to become a mainstream phrase in 2006 and 2007 when Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM started to promote their cloud-processing solutions. As high-speed connections became prevalent, the cloud grew in popularity due to the low cost and ability to add storage as needed.  

The cloud is a collection of networked computers that stores data and processes information instead of the local device doing all that work. Simply put, something taking place in the cloud is anything happening in an Internet connection on
computers offsite instead of at the local device level. 

Since this data processing and storage can happen in the cloud, it has a huge impact on smart building technology. For an IoT solution to work, it needs four components: sensors, connectivity, data processing and user interface. Sensors send data to the cloud through various methods of connectivity (learn more about protocols in this blog post) and that data is usually processed in the cloud. The final component, the user interface, is the application through which the users can see, control and interpret the data,  such as FSG Smart Building’s Chariot platform.

With a large number of sensors gathering data, the cloud helps provide insight on the information. This is incredibly important when it comes to large scale projects. For example, when a nationwide retail store chain uses FSG Smart Buildings’ Chariot platform, the locations are all over the country. Since the data from the sensors all over the nation is sent to the cloud, it is easier to process the information at one cloud-based location. 

Besides scalability, other benefits of the cloud are decreased costs, increased lifespan of battery-powered sensors and devices, ability to aggregate large amounts of data and simplicity to add more storage when needed.  

Currently, the largest cloud providers are Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud IoT, Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, GE Predix, IBM Watson and Salesforce IoT Cloud.  That being said, the cloud market is continuing to grow rapidly. Forrester Research estimates that the global market for cloud computing will increase to more than $241 billion in 2020.

As the world of building automation grows with the cloud computing industry, IoT applications will become more advanced and accessible than ever before. If you’re looking to start your building automation journey, contact FSG Smart Buildings today. We are always here to help you deploy a cloud-based smart buildings solution that prepares your business for the future.

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