The Altior design rationale

Inkwell Data’s Altior IIoT middleware is designed to help the user deploy industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions without the technology getting in the way. For example, in developing a smart metering solution, the primary focus should be on the problem domain itself. On paper it looks easy: just replace exiting meters with communicating smart meters, get the meter data and bill.

At the utility company, the application designer will likely be a metering specialist, someone familiar with the dynamics of collecting meter readings, validating measures, checking for anomalies or potential frauds, using the data for correct billing and to build models for demand response or forecasting applications. Even a small utility can have hundreds of thousands of clients and meters to manage, so even for a small utility the size of the problem is relevant, and a smart metering application represents a significant challenge. Just throw in data security and privacy concerns when managing clients’ data and bills, and the application complexity becomes staggering.

What creates a gap between the idea and the implementation is the amount of additional complexity brought by “IoT”. So, the metering specialist in the utility now has to choose one or more smart meter models (often from different manufacturers), has to plan for a way to collect the reading or implementing the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), that is an additional communication network on top of the utility (gas, water, energy) network, find or develop a head end system to operate and maintain the AMI and integrate all the components in the company workflow, securely. Admittedly, this is a totally different game from the traditional meter reading.

Implementing a typical IIoT application such as smart metering is a complex task, error prone and full of ramifications that may cause to overlook the initial purpose. This is one of the reasons that prevented the realization of billions of interconnected objects envisioned in the last 10 year by technology pundits.

Altior helps the application designer to focus on the business logic and the problem domain. Being technology agnostic, Altior allows to literally describe the data model underlying the IoT objects (in this case the smart meters), and the data flow from and to the network in a code-less manner.

But Altior goes further: it provides a flexible security infrastructure to the applications, as well as an IoT network management system that is independent from the actual network technology. Last but not the least, Altior is built on “telco-grade” technology that allows a high availability and highly distributed system. In future articles, we’ll look into some of the technical details of Altior and its ecosystem components.