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A New era of IoT: The Social IoT/Social Network of Things

Social Internet of Things (SIoT)

We have a number of smart objects but these smart objects can transform to intelligent objects if they become social, which means that if different smart objects were able to interconnect and take decisions without human intervention that would create a social network of things.

It is a relatively new term in the IoT family and is a subset of IoT. In simple terms, it is defined as – smart devices create a relationship amongst them and thus, form a social network of their own. This should not be misinterpreted as smart objects in a social network. This is one platform where different objects are interconnected to each other with the aim to provide better quality services to the users instead of operating individually.

The smart objects in SIoT share four common types of relationships as described below:

  1. POR (Parental Object Relationship): these types of relationship are established among objects that usually belong to the same production batch (homogeneous objects). These objects are made by the same manufacturer and have originated at the same time as well.
  2. C-LOR (Co-location Object Relationship): these are relationships shared among objects that can be either homogeneous or heterogeneous but always used in the same place like the sensors, augmented objects, actuators, etc. used in a smart city or smart home. Usually, it is observed that these objects do not really cooperate with each other but still is useful for short connections.
  3. C-WOR (Co-work object relationship): Co-work object relationship exists where smart objects work in collaboration for the provision of a common IoT application. For example, emergency services.
  4. OOR (Ownership object relationship): This relationship is opposite to what POR is. This kind of relationship is there between heterogeneous objects but the same user owns these objects, for example, mobile phone, gaming consoles, etc.
  5. SOR (Social object relationship): This is relationship exists among the objects when their owners are different and come in contact with each occasionally or regularly for example sensors, devices of classmates, colleagues, friends, relatives, connecting with each other.

Social IoT Architecture

A New era of IoT: The Social IoT/Social Network of things

Much architecture has been proposed for Social IoT one such is Web of Objects platform or architecture:

 WoO Architecture (Web of Objects Architecture)

It is a framework, which provides an IoT service that includes Virtualised Objects (VOs) that are interconnected to resources and provides a platform for development testing, deployment, operations and maintenance of IT services. It enables services by the merger of VOs and web application features. For the interoperability of the heterogeneous objects in the network, it uses semantic web technologies.

SWO Architecture (Social Web of Objects Architecture)

In this architecture web, technologies like Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) based micro services are incorporated. The architecture can be broken down into three levels:

  • Service level – At this level, the social relationship of the smart objects is enabled by several micro-services designed for this purpose
  • Object Virtualisation Level – the SPARQL endpoints that are defined at this level opens the interfaces to recover, store and rectify RDF(Resource Description Framework) graphs
  • These interfaces also facilitate the domain expert, developer and knowledge engineer to create virtualization objects (VOs) and service templates, policies and user profiles

SRMWO Architecture (Social Relationship model for Web Objects Architecture)

This is a model that says, at each of the stages of a service lifecycle the smart objects form relationships. Now if these relationships are codified it can provide benefits like increased information discovery efficiency, reuse and better composition. in this architecture it is assumed that every service is based on Virtualised Objects and one or more microservices. At Virtualised Objects (VO) level each object form relationship among each other.

Now the object association in this model is categorized as follows:

  1. Vertical association that also called interobject associated is based on Web of Objects architecture and the relationship flow is bottom to top
  2. Horizontal association that is called intraobject association, this relation exists within objects at each of the Virtualised Objects levels

Social IoT Applications

  1. Smart Retailing – Suppose a customer enters a supermart the smartphone connects with the mart app and his/her profile is created which includes the preferred brand the regularly bought items etc. and further, the smartphone interacts with the refrigerator storage place at home. This instantly creates a list of items that are finished or need replenishment, and the app is updated with a list of items to be bought. The customer only has to decide whether to buy the finished item or if he/she wishes to buy a new item or if he/she wants to try a new brand. SIoT enables the establishment of such type of object connectivity where no human intervention is required.
  2. Smart Traffic Management and Surveillance System – In this use case, the vehicles traveling to a particular route can interact with each other provide updates on the number of vehicles moving towards a particular road. Suppose there is a fleet of vehicles moving towards a route and some of them are at a distance from the others they can be directed to an alternate route. This can be done before the vehicle enters a congested route or on the prevent congesting a route based on the occupancy pattern from data collected by the sensors installed on individual vehicles and the interaction among them. In addition, Surveillance can be done by the smart sensors or devices installed on the roadside that can alert the nearby police vehicle of any crime occurring or has occurred on any street. The police vehicle with smart devices will automatically access the equipment required based on the event that has occurred and can reach the crime scene in minimum possible time.
  3. Smart Healthcare – Healthcare is one of the domains that would greatly benefit from SIoT. A smart sensor on highways and roads can alert the smart ambulance of an accident and thus the smart ambulance can check the equipment required and reach the spot in minimum possible time. Smart medicine boxes can interact with sensors on the human body and can guide on dosages, side effects and provide reminders to consume it.
  4. Smart Shoe – Suppose a person is going outdoors or simply going for a walk the smart shoe can sense the activities in the body from the sensors and reshape it based on the requirement of the body. It can also help track the movements of the person and can alert the sensors installed at the home in case of an emergency. It can also provide a detailed health report and send it to the designated healthcare center in case of abnormalities found.
  5. Smart Museum/Public place – As a user is at the entrance of a museum or any public place he/she is prompted to install an app associated with that particular place as the user installs he/she is assigned a virtual assistant and based on the visiting pattern, interests likes and dislikes captured from social media guides the person through the place informing about the specialties and navigates him/her by the smart objects placed in the place to reach their thus enhancing user experience.

Below diagram shows how two devices can have a bi-directional interaction without human assistance.


Advantages of Social IoT

  • SIoT is based on the fact that the objects would be socially connected or establish a relationship among each other without human intervention
  • SIoT would increase security and trustworthiness since the smart objects would know if the relationship is with a known or unknown object thus, respectively increasing or decreasing the level of interaction between them. This will also facilitate humans to monitor security parameters.
  • Structure SIoT in a logical way such that it is navigable. This will make the object easily discoverable and add to the scalability similar to that of a human social network.

Challenges in implementing Social IoT

  • One of the major challenges in Social IoT is the selection of hardware device /object specific OS. This arises due to devices deployed in various applications working in collaboration.
  • Compatibility is another challenge where the heterogeneous objects from different vendors have to connect and interoperate.
  • Input/output is another area of concern in SIoT if there is mismanagement this would lead to delays, deadlocks, resource utilization issue and the system would be vulnerable to security threats.
  • Sensitive SIoT objects associated with mission-critical applications or services with their process running which should run with almost no delay time needs to be configured properly. Since these objects run with nanoseconds of completion time, any delay would pose a risk on the security of the IoT devices as well as the users.
  • Cost is another factor that needs prime importance as it would tend to fluctuate depending upon the type of devices sharing the relationship and the applications involved. The smart objects, their relationships and the applications or services might change based on user requirements.

Author Bio:

Experienced Director with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Bhargav Thakkar is the Director of Magneto IT Solutions, a full service of Web Development in USA, India, and UAE. He has experience of delivering more than 100+ project ranging from web technologies to mobile application technology.

A New era of IoT: The Social IoT/Social Network of Things

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