Amazon’s annual AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas — where the tech giant reliably announces a host of products heading to Amazon Web Services, its cloud platform — doesn’t kick off officially until next week. But that didn’t stop the tech giant from previewing a few of the highlights, the bulk of which relate to the internet of things (IoT).
Why the investment in IoT? Perhaps because AWS maintains pole position in the segment, which is anticipated to be worth $212 billion by the end of 2019. According to a survey conducted by the Eclipse Foundation in 2018, AWS was by far the most popular cloud platform for IoT developers, growing in popularity by 21% from 2017 to a 51.8% share, compared with Azure’s 31.21% share (up from 17% in 2017). Amazon CTO Werner Vogels told VentureBeat in a recent interview that AWS customers deploy upwards of hundreds of thousands of sensors.
Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Integration for AWS IoT Core
First on the list was Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Integration for AWS IoT Core, the managed cloud service that lets gadgets interact with cloud apps and other devices. It’s designed to let manufacturers create Alexa built-in devices — or accessories that connect to Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, and more — with constrained hardware resources. Alexa built-in devices previously required at least 100MB of RAM and ARM Cortex A-class microprocessors, but thanks to new AWS cloud processing components that offload tasks like buffering and mixing audio, the baseline requirement has been reduced to 1MB of RAM and Arm Cortex M-class microcontrollers.
Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Integration for AWS IoT Core specifically offloads media retrieval, audio decoding, audio mixing, and state management to a new virtual Alexa-built in device in the cloud. New AWS IoT-reserved MQTT topics allow for message transfer between devices connected to AWS IoT Core and AVS using the MQTT protocol. As for the complementary AVS Integration for IoT Core Device SDK, it supports sending and retrieving messages over reserved MQTT topics as well as interfacing with device microphones and speakers and managing device-side state, all on the same IoT Core connection.
Amazon says that Alexa Voice Service (AVS) Integration for AWS IoT Core can lower the materials costs associated with Alexa built-in devices by up to 50%, and bring Alexa to products like light switches, thermostats, and small appliances. “With [this] new categories of Alexa built-in devices … end users can now experience Alexa in new parts of their home, office, or hotel rooms for a truly ambient experience, where they talk directly to their surroundings rather than to an Alexa family of devices,” Amazon wrote in a press release.
IoT Greengrass and IoT Core
IoT Greengrass, Amazon’s service that extends AWS to edge devices so they can act locally on the data they generate while using the cloud for management, is gaining improvements on the container support and data streaming side. Now, IoT Greengrass provides interoperability with the existing Docker ecosystem, allowing customers to package apps into a Docker container image and deploy it to a device. And it offers a new data stream capability that collects, processes, and exports streams from devices and manages the lifecycle of that data, eliminating the need for developers to handle their own data stream management.
On the subject of IoT Core, customers can now provision device fleets with the aptly named AWS IoT Core Fleet Provisioning service, which automatically sets up devices with unique identities and performs the client- and cloud-side configuration needed for devices to operate with AWS IoT upon connection. Those customers can also take advantage of the new configurable endpoints for IoT Core and custom domains (as well as enhancements to custom authentication that allow it to work with MQTT connections), which make it easier to transition from self-managed infrastructure to fully managed AWS IoT services.
Last on the list of new products is secure tunneling for AWS IoT Device Management, a capability that allows the creation of a device tunnel — in other words, a secure remote communications session — between two devices. With it, app developers can build remote access solutions that provide connectivity to individual devices for troubleshooting purposes, and connect to devices deployed behind restricted firewalls or isolated control networks without the need to adjust firewall configuration settings or manage proxies for each network user.