Smart City System Architecture: The Importance of Proper IoT Research and Understanding

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way we work, learn, and live. With Intelligent Communities and Smart Cities on the rise, IoT appears to have an immense impact the way we plan and design the system architecture amongst the new structures within these cities. The improvements in computing has enabled systems to analyze and understand the physical world at a better pace than people. This new era of Intelligent Communities is creating new unforeseen problems that need to be addressed and resolved due to the unforeseen challenges of IoT. Our current methods and practices in system architecture and design are not advanced enough to handle the widespread integration that we will require as IoT and Smart City development becomes more common. In order to reach Smart City’s full potential, high investment into research about the inadequacies amongst our current methods and practices is needed. Otherwise we could see the end of a very influential and beneficial era before it even begins.1

The starting point for system design was traditionally open ended. The architect has a blank canvas to work from with ample amounts of hardware and software at their disposal. The growth of IoT has required architects to rethink this traditional way of thinking as IoT has increased the amount of functionality structures and the people within them are able to use and acquire. Pete Lomas, director of engineering with Norcott Technologies, believes this has made the design process a much more complex procedure. He stated, “You might have had sensors, actuator interfaces and the associated control logic in one ‘module’,” he noted. “The IoT model potentially disrupts that. Will the sensors and actuators be connected directly to the controller or will you use something like Bluetooth LE or Wi-Fi to create separate modules at the point of use?.” IoT has made system architecture the hardest to plan for and control, and much more investment and research is needed to ensure proper and effective development is reached.2

Security issues are one of the number one focuses amongst system architects because they have the ability to take down the entire system infrastructure as well as create immediate and catastrophic financial implications for everyone involved. IoT faces security threats at the many layers of the OSI model, network security issues, and data transmission issues. Although there are counter measures for most problems and threats, the constant evolution of these issues leaves little relief from architects as unplanned or unknown threats can destroy the system. IoT is still an upcoming technology that is being used and implemented without proper knowledge and understanding of developmental threats. In order for it to be used for wide-range use, such as in Intelligent Communities, a higher investment into research is needed for successful implementation. Environments that have the capabilities to become Smart City’s need to full understand the technology and design they are using for secure execution. Currently, system architecture is beginning to see the problems and obstacles this upcoming technology provides, but more work and research is still needed.3