Amazon Web Services (AWS) made its first-ever appearance at the Computex Taipei tradeshow this year and actively took part in several special-topic forums hosted by the Computex organizer. Satyen Yadav, general manager, IoT and edge computing services, AWS, gave a systematic introduction on AWS IoT services in his speech at a Computex tech summit.
Drawing on user case examples in smart home and industrial applications, he explained in his 40-minute presentation how AWS IoT services help customers overcome technical challenges encountered. The examples include how a renowned cleaning robot brand uses AWS IoT services to address the challenges in its rapid global market expansion and how a smart lock manufacturer uses AWS FreeRTOS to enhance its system's security.
For industrial applications, a leading Japan-based consumer electronics manufacturer has used AWS services to ensure proper implementation of its manufacturing equipment maintenance plan for the purpose of reducing the machines' downtime and raising their production efficiency. There is also a similarly interesting user case example in smart agriculture. Yadav emphasized that AWS is well experienced in applying problem-solving skills to develop solutions that overcome challenges. AWS IoT services help with the integration of upstream and downstream businesses and combine industry-wide efforts to build up Taiwan's leading edge in the global IT supply chain.
AWS IoT services have evolved into a complete system encompassing cloud, edge computing and sensor nodes. Cloud services including storage and computing services are provided through AWS IoT Core, coupled with AWS IoT Analytics focusing on data analysis with the edge computing solution performing sensing, local area network computing and real-time responses. In addition to Greengrass, end devices are also equipped with AWS FreeRTOS for information security.
AWS provides wide-range and in-depth services for IoT device management and information security. By seeing a variety of user case examples demonstrating how technological challenges are overcome, Yadav hopes prospective customers can get inspired and then work with AWS engineering professionals to jointly solve problems, thereby bringing their innovations to reality. AWS IoT services allow companies to use smart devices to rapidly and easily expand operation, improve production processes or create unique business models, while supporting them with a broad range of IoT cloud services.
AWS Greengrass drives widespread popularity of edge computing
Edge computing services address the problem when end devices lose network connection by placing parts of the cloud computing technologies into end devices, which are closer to users. They can process the data collected over the local area network and only send critical data back to cloud to save the time and costs from network bandwidth used for back-and-forth communication. However, sending data to back-end cloud computing system for further processing and analysis are still covered by the products, making this type of devices becoming popular.
AWS released Greengrass as its main edge computing service platform, which includes Greengrass software and Greengrass Core processors, AWS Greengrass allows users to create a Lambda operating environment in an end device using AWS Lambda and AWS IoT, enabling offline use and process of IoT application programs across AWS cloud and local devices.
With growing computing and analytical power of end devices, more system manufacturers are bringing machine learning technologies to end devices so Greengrass also supports Amazon Machine Learning to enhance smart end devices' computing capabilities and speed. It further maintains data synchronization across devices such that they can still work in synch even when Internet connection is not available.
For information security and communication considerations, Greengrass provides the capability to filter data to ensure the end device only sends necessary data to cloud. It also makes use of AWS IoT security and access control functions to authenticate users and encrypt device data, thus guaranteeing information security when the end device is connected.
Yadav shared a user case in smart agriculture where a Japan-based customer that grows high-value crops in a greenhouse uses cameras to record plant growths and decides on how much fertilizer and water to use based on image analysis. Only important data such as crop output and growth projection is sent to the cloud system for analysis and management. This sets a good example for smart agriculture applications.
AWS introduces Alexa for Business, making Alexa Voice Service available in the office
Along with the overwhelming success of Amazon's Echo in the North America market, Alexa Voice Service is expanding from personal and home use to automotive, smart TV and other applications. It is also growingly being used in business settings such as calling cabs, guiding guests on factory tours, allowing guests to apply for one-time access to wireless networks and looking up information in ERP, Salesforce or Concur systems. The usage scenarios are diversified and even include using the voice assistant to reserve meeting rooms. They are very useful and valuable in the business world.
According to usage survey and analysis results, AWS found that for Alexa Voice Service to be used in the office AWS has to satisfy three urgent needs - device management; product feature enhancements in case of new demand and product maintenance; and privacy protection.
Alexa for Business is a service launched to respond to corporate users' needs. For example, it takes the hassle out of deployment on a massive scale. By using Alexa's setting tool, the user can install and configure a large number of smart speakers in a room with the Massive Deployment feature.
Alexa Skill enables devices to provide their main services. For example, many video conference system providers make use of Alexa Skill to expand what their meeting equipment can do, such as using it to update or connect with other devices.
As to privacy protection, Alexa can give an invitation to a personal device, allowing it to join a corporate meeting. For example, an employee can participate in a company online meeting by connecting his or her Echo smart speaker to the meeting system. However, the Alexa Skill and the settings of the employee's device will be hidden from the company's management system. The management system can only decide whether to allow a personal device to join or leave a meeting, so the user's privacy is not being invaded through the personal device's connection, giving users the full control of the sharing activities on their offices' smart speakers devices.
AWS encourages corporations to develop Public Skill to offer unique services to their users. There are currently a wide variety of Public Skill services available, for example, ordering coffee or pizza, serving bank VIP customers as well as some surprising new usages in computer peripherals, video conferencing, ERP systems and other business sectors. Of course, companies can design their own Private Skill using the Skill development kit. Public Skill is for use by the general public so AWS has the obligation to keep a close watch.
Convenient and easy AWS IoT Enterprise Button takes care of everything with one click
AWS IoT Enterprise Button is a simple and easy, battery-powered Wi-Fi or LTE-connected click-of-button device. The basic idea is to have a device that can activate services. When the user presses a button, a spectrum of ingeniously designed services will be presented in front of him or her. Developers can use it to easily integrate AWS IoT technologies and services. AWS IoT 1-Click services are therefore available on end devices, combining edge computing with cloud computing and data analysis to go from simply responding to calls to a system streamlining business operation flows.
AWS thinks AWS IoT Enterprise Button can be used in a vast range of application scenarios. For example, engineers can use AWS IoT Enterprise Button to install and activate a batch of equipment at a construction site. It can also be used to update or install software in bulk with one click for pipeline control valves. It takes only one click of a button to start an operation for multiple devices.
As a matter of fact, AWS IoT services not only enable new applications, new services and new markets for customers but also help build a new value system that pushes industry upgrade and transformation. The diverse solutions that AWS and its IoT ecosystem partners jointly presented at COMPUTEX 2018 gave good examples that the industry not only can learn something from but can also combine forces with AWS to create a better future.
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