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AWS IoT: Top 4 New Features That Customers Are Going to See Huge Benefits


Amazon announced new features in AWS IoT in the AWS reinvent event in Las Vegas last week. These features offer an improved experience of AWS IoT both on the cloud and edge environments. In this article, we plan to discuss the key features and their impact on IoT deployments.

AWS, whether it’s IoT or any other workloads, always focuses on two priority zeroes: One is security, and one is operations. So, AWS services are built with security in mind. For example, when you connect to AWS IoT Core, a managed IoT cloud service], every single individual device should have security certificates to be identified, and it doesn’t allow you to connect to the cloud without encryption.

AWS IoT group provides device software. AWS, as a cloud company, actually gives you software that’s not running on the cloud so that devices can connect to the AWS cloud. The device software running on the devices is required to be able to be controlled by, and communicate with, the AWS cloud. The new features discussed here are focused on IoT devices, also called Edge devices. 

1) Alexa Voice Service (AVS) integration: 

If anyone wants to build a device that you can directly talk to, which has microphones and speakers, they need to integrate with AVS or Alexa. These devices are called AVS or Alexa built-in devices. And if you wanted to build one today. The device needs to have a lot of audio processing power, something like an ARM Cortex-A type CPU, which makes this device expensive.

AVS integration allows Alexa voice-controlled IoT devices to offload the data and processing to AWS cloud rather than on the devices. Therefore AVS can be enabled on even low compute IoT devices like less than 1Mb of RAM and ARM Cortex M microcontrollers. AVS reduces the cost of building Alexa supported IoT devices by 50%. After connecting their devices to AWS IoT Core, customers can utilize a new set of AWS IoT-reserved MQTT topics to transfer audio messages between AVS and their devices.

These devices now only need to have a microphone, a speaker, and a wake word detection. Everything else gets streamed to the cloud. Hence AWS claims to reduce the cost of building these devices by at least 50%. If you can make cheaper Alexa built-in devices, you can put this into a light switch. And iDevices has launched a light switch which you can now directly talk to which talks back and plays your music.

2) Secure Tunneling: 

Secure Tunneling provides a secure tunnel on port 443 with TLS 1.2 encryption. This feature means devices on a low-level operational network can also use this secure tunnel and communicate via a local proxy to move data across the tunnel. This feature comes in handy for remote debugging and management of IoT devices behind a secure environment like an enterprise firewall. 

Device management outside of the pre-configured flows in AWS IoT has been tricky when the devices are behind a firewall. On a standard desktop computer, this would be a trivial problem as you could install a remote management application or use a tool such as VNC. However, to date, this sort of capability has been challenging to implement on IoT devices.

3) Fleet Provisioning 

Fleet or bulking provision addresses the challenge of managing IoT devices by allowing large fleets of devices to be deployed to AWS IoT Core. This feature will enable generic devices to be uniquely configured when an IoT device makes its initial connection to AWS IoT Core.

This new feature allows IoT customers to register a large number of devices at once. Certificates, things, and policy resources make up the principal and permissions configuration for each device within AWS IoT Core. In AWS IoT, typically, customers will need to create a ‘thing’ to store information about each device, create a certificate to provide secure credentials for the ‘thing,’ and set up permissions by attaching the certificate to an appropriate policy for the ‘thing.’ AWS IoT bulk fleet provisioning simplifies and automates the registration process.

4) IoT Edge Focus

AWS IoT Greengrass extends cloud capabilities to edge devices so that they can respond to local events in near real-time, even with limited connectivity. The two new Edge features in IoT Greengrass includes

  • Greengrass Docker application deployment connector is being launched to add container support to deploy applications.
  • Stream Manager for AWS IoT Greengrass is being launched to process and manage data streams from edge devices.

IoT applications can do first-tier processing at the edge, and then route all or selected data for cloud-based, second-tier processing.

AWS IoT solution builders can now run AWS Lambda functions and docker-based applications in the AWS IoT Greengrass core device. Now, it is easier to migrate applications from on-premises or build new applications that include dependencies such as libraries, other binaries, and configuration files, using container images. Containers provide a consistent deployment environment for your applications that enables portability across development environments and edge locations. 


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