Dr. Pao-Chung Ho (2014 Outstanding Alumni)
Dr. Pao-Chung Ho has been with the Institute for Information Industry for 32 years, since 1982. He has been dedicated to intelligent network technology and application, wireless communication, mobile multimedia, development and application of embedded media technology, with outstanding contributions to the development of Taiwan’s ICT hardware and software. On June 10th of this year, the Department of Computer Science invited Dr. Ho to return to the Department and give a talk on the research results of IoT by the Institute for Information Industry in recent years.
Origin and concept to Internet of Things
The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) began in 2009 when IBM proposed the Smarter Planet initiative. In 2010, China initiated Sensing China, and came out with a Chinese name for IoT for the first time. In fact, the concept of IoT was proposed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology 20 years ago. However, as information and communication technologies were not mature then, the idea did not gain much attention and response. Since 2010, this topic has become an area of strategic development by Europe, the US, China, Japan, etc. More and more IT reports have also included it as an important area of ICT development of the next decade. The industry and output values generated by it are huge. Many countries such as China, have even promoted it through the power of the government. Being a capitalist country, the United States drives its industrial development through its industry, while Europe puts emphasis on the values of social and human economies as well as social progress. However, in most Asian countries, it is driven to the consumers from the industry’s perspective.
The concept of IoT describes that every existing thing can communicate and interact through the internet. To understand IoT, one first needs to understand the social development trend of the internet of ICT, as well as the background when IoT emerges. In the past, people had to adjust themselves to computers, but now, you can treat the computer center as the cloud, without time or location constraints. ICT equipment can meet human requirements by providing more computing resources. Before the term “IoT” appeared, we generally called it “ubiquitous computing”.
What is the objective of “ubiquitous computing”? We call it “human central”, which is to provide human-centric applications and services in our daily lives. We usually use a smart city as the example, as a smart city is equipped with various kinds of daily needs such as smart home, smart building, smart transport and smart healthcare, all of which can be realized through IoT. IoT can connect numerous things that we are interested in, and provide us with a valuable application service.
IoT market / application development trend
IoT application does not have a strict definition, and almost all things that use ICT can be included. Strictly speaking, ICT application consists of sensors to collect data, which are then transmitted to the backend for analysis. Examples are smart energy- saving home appliances. With the help of smart sockets developed by a US company, power consumption data on various electrical appliances are continuously collected and compiled to the cloud, allowing users to examine the appliances’ power consumption statuses through the system. It serves as a reference for consumers’ appliance usage, and helps them achieve the objective of energy saving.
Another example is smart toothbrush. When the user uses the toothbrush, the sensors on the toothbrush will start to collect the individual’s brushing condition and report it to the system. By examining the data, users are able to inspect their brushing conditions, and know where to put more effort. This application is very useful in encouraging children to brush their teeth, and is beneficial for their dental care.
There is also the vending machine that can determine a shopper’s age group. Besides selling things, the machine can recommend items in which the age group is interested. The machine also accepts NFC payment through mobile phones. In addition, the vending machine makes personalized recommendations, and provides information on which vending machine the item is available. Smart amusement park is another example, where it provides smart bracelets that integrate wearabledevices and IoT technology. By entering the user’s basic particulars into the smart bracelet, it serves as a ticket and access pass, and has credit card features. Don’t be surprised if Mickey Mouse calls out your name while you are walking on the street, as this is the power of IoT.
IoT Technology Architecture
In IoT, we split the system architecture into three layers. The lowest layer is the sensing layer, where it captures, collects and senses related information required in our application. For example, we wish to know the city’s current traffic conditions in order to provide road users with more route options. But how do we collect information on traffic conditions? There are various methods, such as installing cameras at every intersection, where these cameras will transmit real-time traffic conditions to the cloud via backend. These real-time data will then be accumulated for analysis. Another method is to install sensors on the roads. By sensing how many vehicles have passed through a certain spot within a unit of time, it could determine the number of vehicles at the location, and whether the road is congested.
We can now see that IoT and big data are closely related. The lowest layer of IoT architecture is the networking of all things, whose purpose is to extract and sense data. In this process, a large quantity of data would be collected. However, to filter information which is useful to us, it has to go through collection, processing and analysis stages, as data collection and analysis play important roles in the entire IoT application architecture. When we talk about IoT applications today, we often use a smart city as the example, including environmental protection, traffic, energy, logistics, healthcare, smart building, etc., that are required in a city.
IoT applications in the world
Santander of Spain promotes IoT applications through many aspects, such as smart traffic, smart bus stop, smooth traffic, congestion information and detection of parking space. It also includes the surrounding environment of the smart building, such as the temperature and humidity of the parks or gardens and street light sensing conditions. Switching on and off the street lights can be determined by detecting the sky brightness through sensors; air quality can be determined by sensing the noise, temperature and humidity; and route options can be provided to road users by the traffic flow information collected by the sensors on the roads.
Gothenburg of Sweden installed smart meters in 270 thousand households, aiming to grasp the information on power consumption. Its advantage is not only saving time on manual meter recording, but most importantly, it helps the electric power company to control power supply. Taking Taiwan for example, in a hot summer, as the public uses electricity at a concentrated period of time, power distribution is very important. We can make use of digital meters to control power distribution, whereby excess electricity from District A can be transferred to District B. This not only meets peak demand, but also allows generation of appropriate amount of electricity, attaining power generation efficiency.
Research experience of Institute for Information Industry in IoT
The Institute for Information Industry has been devoted to this area for nearly a decade. At the beginning, there was no such term as IoT. We started with a sensor network, followed by ZigBee and PowerLine. The projects were mainly in line with government policies, such as I-Taiwan 12 Projects and smart energy. Hence, there are smart city applications within it, such as smart buildings. Of course, the lowest layer consists of many technological platforms, sensor network technologies and sensor network deployments, integration issues, etc.
The Institute for Information Industry has driven many smart energy-saving applications in Taiwan. We use In-Synergy smart socket as the basis for developing an energy management system, which was awarded US RD100 in 2011. A cloud-based smart management system, such as power consumption analysis we mentioned above, is highly beneficial to energy saving. It is now being promoted to many enterprises, schools and shops.
This system is also applied to smart buildings, and Taipei Fu-An Memorial Building is one example, where the exterior is equipped with smart sensors. We compare a building to the skin, which has the ability to sense temperature and humidity. As such, we install sunshades, electronic switches, temperature and humidity sensors, etc., on the exterior of the building. When a person feels hot or if the temperature and humidity is not right while being in the building, airflow can be allowed to enter the building by controlling the degree of opening and angles of the sunshades. There are even water sprinklers on the exterior of the building which help to lower the temperature. These measures reduce turning on the air-conditioning, thus achieving the objective of energy saving.
In addition, sensors can be used in water level detection, allowing flooding to be detected in advance, and serving as the alert. It can also be used in breakage detection of power lines. Taiwan experiences many typhoons, and breakage of transmission and distribution power lines (poles) often occurs after the disasters and maintenance personnel from Taiwan Power Company need to go to all places to carry out repair work. However, if we tag each power pole with a serial number and install sensor networks, we would be able to know which power pole has broken wires from the system, without having to go to all locations.
Future opportunities and challenges
IoT is a strategic opportunity for Taiwan industry to raise its soft and hard power, and actual applications are also of great help. Take a smart city as the example, which includes energy, traffic, food, healthcare, or industrial types. Taiwan’s main industries in the past were mainly manufacturing and OEM. IoT integrates software and hardware, and increases the added value of industry. If we are determined to promote it, we could begin with a large-scale application service to indirectly drive the Taiwanese industry transformation. That is, we promote manufacturing industry through the perspective of application service, and thereby upgrade Taiwan’s entire integrated model in application services and system.
At present, there are still many challenges and problems in IoT architecture. If there were no problems, how could there be opportunities? As there are still problems, it means there are many areas that require us to work on through innovation and creativity. For example, network security, high power consumption of sensing devices, power supply issues at installation sites, lack of standardization, high cost, etc. All of these are full of challenges and definitely full of opportunities.
IoT has huge future development potential, and all countries around the world are investing in this area and making it a strategic industry. The business model of promoting IoT is very important. There are currently many applications that require government funding. Once the government stops its support, many applications might no longer be possible. Therefore, we should all put in effort to produce business models to promote it. Most IoT applications are driven through government applications, starting from public applications, and then to industry, households and finally the consumers. When promoting these innovative applications to the general consumers and households, users’ habits and behaviors have to be taken into consideration. Also, as many emerging applications may involve legal issues, this area has to be discussed too. However, I believe IoT still has huge potential opportunities in the next decade.
About Dr. Pao-Chung Ho, Executive Vice President, Institute for Information Industry (III)
B.S. in Computer Science, NCTU (1978)
M.S., Computer Science and Information Engineering, NCTU (1980)
Ph.D., Computer Science and Information Engineering, NCTU (1990)
Director General, Networks and Multimedia Institute of III
Director General, Embedded System Laboratory of III
Director General, Technology Research Division of III
Deputy Director General, Information Technology Services Division of III
Deputy Director General, Planning & Evaluation Office of III
Executive Vice President, Institute for Information Industry
Chairman, Trinity Investment Corporation
Executive Director, Information Service Industry Association of R.O.C.
Executive Director, Taiwan Telematics Industry Association
Director, International Integrated Systems, Inc.
Council member, Chinese Association for Industrial Technology Advancement
Council member, Taipei Computer Association