The Future of Data Integrity

IoT Systems – Distributed | Decentralized |Centralized

October 15, 2019

Digitalization and Compliance

In our last blog post “The Internet of Things – Introduction” we gave an overview of IoT. Read and learn in this blog post about different IoT systems.

The IoT is made up of a vast assortment of independent nodes that communicate autonomously with other nodes (machine to machine communication, M2M). These nodes, machines or smart devices, can be organized in three general system categories –  centralized, decentralized and distributed – which will be described hereafter.

Distributed IoT networks are the “purest” form of IoT, where each node is acting autonomously while being interconnected with all other nodes of the network. These independent devices need significant processing power and some sort of sufficient storage.

  • Able to process complex task fast through permanent or temporary sub-networks
  • No single-point network failure due to independence and ability to adapt quickly
  • High potential to scale due to efficient task and resource reassignment
  • Severe security and privacy risks as the network is based on sharing tasks and data between multiple independent nodes
  • Very difficult to be compliant with data protection regulations such as GDPR

A decentralized IoT network often has an organizational structure, meaning that nodes are clustered in smaller networks with so-called super-nodes which are the central processing point for sub-networks and facilitate the communication between constrained devices.

  • No single-point network failure due to independent sub-networks (may shut down an entire sub-network)
  • Facilitates geographically challenged machine to machine communication
  • Hard to implement and concerns over processing power and storage capabilities
  • Similar privacy and security concerns to those seen in distributed system, due to similar data exchange and storage vulnerabilities

Unlikely to occur in their purest form and more likely to be an amalgamation of several concepts. The type of network created with IoT devices is also dependent on the role different parts of the tech-stack.

A centralized network is built around a central platform or server to manage all nodes in the system. The central server receives requests from various nodes and assign tasks to various nodes. The server is the central connector for the various nodes.

  • Easy to maintain, manage, secure and control through centralized platform
  • Relatively easy to adhere to data protection regulations such as GDPR
  • Reduced costs as redundancies of storage and processing power are avoided
  • Single-point network failure is an important issue
  • Hardware specifications for nodes are strict, may lead to inefficiencies with non-standard devices and nodes

Currently the IoT is somewhere in between decentralized and centralized systems, as most IoT devices are constrained in their storage and processing power. Further, a lot of networks employ a central management platform which gives the opportunity to remotely control network nodes. This, however, does not mean that there is no M2M communication but rather that the previously described archetypes are unlikely too.

Read the whole white paper about “The Internet of Things – Digitalization and Compliance” here.