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The Social IoT/ Social Network of Things – the New Era of IoT

If a problem is for a social group of individuals with a particular set of skills, they would provide a far more accurate solution than a single individual with the same skills would. Social IoT can have the same principle.

Today a number of smart objects surround us and are a web development trend but these smart objects can transform into intelligent objects if they become social, which means that if different smart objects have the capability to establish a connection between themselves and take decisions without human intervention that would create a social network of things.

Social Internet of Things (Social IoT)


A relatively new term in the IoT family, it is a subset of IoT. In simple terms, smart devices creating a relationship amongst themselves to form a social network of their own. This is very different from the concept of smart objects in a social network. This is one platform where different objects instead of operating individually as per the instructions from the humans have interconnections to each other with the aim to provide better quality services to the users.

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

C-WOR (Co-Work Object Relationship)

For the provision of common IoT application, Co- work object relationship exists where smart objects work in collaboration. For example, emergency services

OOR (Ownership Object Relationship)

This relationship is opposite to what POR is. This kind of relationship is between heterogeneous objects where the user of all the heterogeneous objects is the same, for example, mobile phone, gaming consoles, etc.

POR (Parental Object Relationship)  

These types of relationship are among homogeneous objects that usually belong to the same production batch. These objects are made by the same manufacturer and have originated at the same time as well

C-LOR (Co-Location Object Relationship)

These are relationships among objects that are either homogeneous or heterogeneous but always in the same place as the sensors, augmented objects, actuators, etc. used in a smart city or smart home. These objects do not really cooperate with each other but still is useful for certain connections.

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 Relational Models

1. Communal Sharing: it shows the behavior of objects in a network who have collective relevance. This model focuses on the efforts of the entire object group.

2. Equality Matching: In this model each of the object while maintaining their individuality operates as equals and provide information among themselves in order to provide an IoT service.

3. Authority Ranking: This model depicts a relationship that is established between objects of different hierarchical levels and complexity levels.

4. Market pricing: In this model, the objects participate only when it is beneficial to do so.

Social IoT Architecture

social iot

Figure shows, the architecture proposed in an IEEE research paper by three senior members of IEEE. The architecture shows two sides as Client side and Server side.

The server side has three layers with the first layer as the Base layer that has the metadata for storage and management of data, ontologies database, semantic engines and communication channels.

The Component layer has the tool for satellite and basic component implementation and consist of the following:

ID Management (ID)

This assigns an ID to all the object categories and for the maintenance of the existing object identification. This system includes IPv6 addresses, the Electronic Product Code (EPC), Open ID, Universal Product Code (UPC), URI.

Object Profiling (OP)

This consist of the dynamic and static feature related information about the object. On the basis of this information, the object should be organized into classes based on the main features of the object.

Owner Control (OC)

These are the policies defined by the owner for the operations performed by the object. The policies specify the relationships that can be shared, the information that can be shared. Different types of languages defining the access control and security policy are available and that can be used for this purpose.

Relationship Management (RM)

This is one of the key components responsible for introducing the “intelligent” element into the Social IoT. The objects are enabled to start, update, omit, and terminate relationships. The process to select which relationship to accept is based on the settings done by humans.

Service Discovery (SD)

In this, the objects which can provide the desired service is finalized and this is done by object querying its social relationship network to discover the service

Service Composition (SC)

This is the component that activates the object relationship exploited in Service Discovery to find the required service. It can be both reactive and proactive. It has one more important functionality where it processes the information gathered from different objects in a network and based on the different vision obtained from processing the most reliable solution is obtained.

Trustworthiness Management (TM)

This component aims to understand how the information received from other objects can be processed. Relationship management is related to the behavior of the object that builds reliability.

The Application layer works as the interface to humans, objects and third-party services. At the Client side, the first layer is the object layer where all the physical objects reside and can be reached through their specific communication channels or interfaces. Next is the Object Abstraction layer which is necessary to regulate the communication interfaces of different objects through procedures and different languages. Devices such as RFID-tagged objects require a gateway to implement the abstraction layer. Devices that are more complex in the object.

The third layer has a Social agent and Service Management. Service Agent is responsible for communication amongst the devices and also with the Social IoT servers to discover/request services, update profiles, etc. from the social network of the devices. Service Management provides the interface to humans to control the behavior of the object in Social IoT.

Another Way the Architecture of Social IoT Can Be Depicted

The Major components in this architecture are:

ID – this is a unique object identification method. This unique ID can be assigned based on IPv6 ID, MAC ID, universal product code or some other method

Meta information. Once there is an ID, some information about the form and operation of the object is necessary. This information is a must to establish relationships with the objects and decides its appropriate placement in the network of IoT devices.

Security controls – owner controls where the owner of the objects places restrictions on which devices the object connects to.

Service discovery is a service cloud. It consists of directories that have information about devices and what kind of services they provide. The important thing is to keep these directories up to date.

Relationship management. This is responsible for the relationship among objects. Based on the type of services provided by particular devices, it stores compatible devices which they can connect to. An example can be RM stores the light sensor for it to be able to connect to a light controller.

Service Composition

Many other architectures have been proposed for Social IoT one such is Web of Objects platform or architecture:

WoO Architecture (Web of Objects Architecture)

It is a framework where Virtualised Objects (VOs) which provides a platform for development testing, deployment, operations and maintenance of IT services that provide IoT services. It also provides services by the merger of Virtualised Objects 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)

This architecture provides web technologies like Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) based on microservices. The architecture has three levels:

  1. Service level. At this level, the social relationship of the smart objects is possible due to several microservices designed for this purpose
  2. Object Virtualisation Level. The SPARQL endpoints which one defines 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 profilesAggregated Object Virtualisation Lev

Social Relationship model for Web Objects Architecture

This is a model shows 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. This architecture assumes that every service is based on Virtualised Objects and  one or more micro services. At Virtualised Objects (VO) level each object form relationship among each other.

The object association in this model is as follows:

  1. A vertical association that also called inter-object associated is based on the Web of Objects architecture and the relationship flow is bottom to top
  2. A horizontal association or intra-object association, this relation exists within objects at each of the Virtualised Objects levels.

Social IoT Applications

Smart Retailing

A customer enters a supermart and his/her smartphone immediately connects with the mart app and his/her profile includes the preferred brand the regularly bought items etc. and further the smartphone interacts with the refrigerator placed at home to know the depleted items or items that need to be bought.

This instantly creates a list of items that need replenishment, and the app gets updates with a list of items from the supermarket. 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. Social IoT enables the establishment of such type of object connectivity where no human intervention is necessary.

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. One can direct them to an alternate route 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.

Smart Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the domains that would greatly benefit from Social IoT. 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.

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.

Smart Museum/Public Place

As a user is at the entrance of a museum or any public place he/she is to install an app with the association to that particular place as the user installs it he/she gets a virtual assistant and according to the visiting pattern, interests likes and dislikes from social media guides the person through the place informing about the specialties and navigates him/her by the smart objects in the place to reach there thus enhancing user experience.

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

Advantages of Social IoT

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • SIoT has the basis of the fact that the objects would be socially connected. It can also establish a relationship among each other without human intervention

Challenges in Implementing Social IoT

  • Sensitive Social IoT 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.
  • 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.
  • Input/output is another area of concern in Social IoT if there is mismanagement this would lead to delays, deadlocks, resource utilization issue and the system would be vulnerable to security threats.
  • Compatibility is another challenge where the heterogeneous objects from different vendors have to connect and interoperate.
  • Cost is another factor that needs prime importance as it tends 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.

Social Cloud and Social IoT

Social Cloud and Social IoT share a very close relationship. If Social Cloud and Social IoT are there, the advantages of both domains can be leveraged. Artificial intelligence techniques, Novel data fusion algorithms can be used to enable automated decision making in SoC. The automated decision-making helps support better collaboration and communication among the objects in Social IoT. Social Cloud provides an improvement to the existing social network of objects.

One can enable the SoC in three ways:

1. Social Compute Cloud: this enable the sharing of compute resources among the connected objects

2. Social Storage Cloud: this supports the storage of the resources of connected objects this would allow the objects in the same network to store data of the resources of objects in their network or connection.

3. Social Content Delivery Network (S-CDN): it provides a platform for sharing and replicating data using the connected object’s intermediate content delivery node.

This architecture facilitates heterogeneous resource sharing among objects..

Bhargav Thakkar
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.
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