The internet of things (IoT) is nearly everywhere and helps capture data about every aspect of our lives. Thanks to the internet of things technology, we now have smart devices and smart wearables that show you your heart rate, the number of steps walked, etc. IoT also powers medicine reminders, automatic insulin dispensers, and remote medical assistance. Internet of things technology has also helped make homes smarter and manufacturing units and inventory management more efficient.
But what about the technology underpinning this promising technology?
There are various layers in the internet of things tech stack that make it what it is. Let’s take a look at the technology that powers the internet of things.
Internet of Things Hardware and Devices
The first layer of the IoT stack is made up of the hardware. Physical devices like smart watches, smart light bulbs, smart machinery, smart fridges, etc. make up this layer.
These devices are made up of transducers like sensors and actuators and make up the foundation of any IoT application and solution. So, let’s understand them a little better:
A sensor ‘senses’ the conditions around it. This means that the sensors in an IoT device sense conditions and changes in the environment in which the device is present. They then communicate these changes to different devices which can use this information to perform an action or analyze data.
Actuators are devices that receive signals from sensors and act upon these signals. They set something in motion in the environment of the IoT device, depending on the signal they receive.
Let’s look at an example where both sensors and actuators work together in an IoT device.
In a “smart home”, a sensor connected to a “smart light” will detect that there is no one present in the room and send this signal (information) to the actuator. The actuator will then trigger an action based on this signal and switch the light off.
This is how transducers in an IoT device work in harmony and help the device perform the way we want it to.
The gateways in the internet of things technology provide connectivity between sensors and actuators. At the same time, they also play an important role in providing a connection between these transducers and an external network.
The gateway has some key feature such as:
- Operating System (OS): Different IoT applications will need different operating systems, depending on their requirements and complexity. Some of the most common OSs include Linux, Windows Embedded, and Brillo.
- Runtime Environment: Generally, the gateways support runtime environments like Java and Python that can run application code and stay updated.
- Communication and Connectivity: Communication and connectivity is key to any IoT solution. Different protocols like Bluetooth, MQTT, CoAP, Z-Wave, and ZigBee are supported that help in connecting to different devices. Along with communication protocols, the IoT gateways also need to connect securely to different networks such as ethernet, wi-fi, and satellites.
- Remote Management: Gateways need to be remotely configured, started, and shut down. Typical examples of a gateway in IoT are connected home appliances in smart homes as well as connected vehicles and machines.
All the data received through sensors and passed through gateways is stored on cloud platforms. This data is stored, processed, and analyzed in the cloud platform. This processed data can then be used to make efficient and proactive decisions. The software infrastructure and various services required to run an IoT solution are present on the IoT cloud platform. The increased demand and supply of data have increased the demand for data management, storage, processing, and analysis.
The main features of an IoT Cloud Platform include:
- Connectivity and Routing: IoT platforms generally connect and interact with a large number of devices and gateways using different protocols, allowing easy integration with the IoT solution.
- Device Management and Device Registry: An IoT solution can have multiple devices connected to it. There needs to be provisions to identify, register, manage, and update all these devices through the cloud platform.
- Storage and Data Management: IoT solutions generate a massive amount of data. It is important to receive, store, filter, manage, and update this data, as required, for efficient decision making. The cloud platform helps in managing this scalable data.
- Dashboards: Cloud platforms have the ability to create reports, graphs, and live dashboards that can help make timely decisions.
Data and Analytics
Most IoT applications have the ability to generate vast amounts of data. This makes it imperative to have data strategies and data management tools in place to align and analyze this data. The data needs to be scoured for patterns, and unnecessary data needs to be filtered. This data can then be used for forecasts, for example, forecasting weather conditions for farmers; with integrated machine learning, and take actions without human intervention. Machine learning can be allied to internet of things technology to help improve business operations and enable corrective and preventive actions like averting machine failures.
Applications of the Internet of Things Technology
Finally let’s look at some of the most popular applications based on the technology of the internet of things which have changed the way we live and work:
- Smart industries
- Smart Homes
- Inventory management and supply chain
- Smart industries
- Wearables like fitness trackers
- Smart beds in the healthcare domain
- Smart cities
- Smart farming
The collaborative use of each of these technologies makes an IoT application, making it important for each technology to be more reliable, efficient, and productive.
Speaking of which, do watch out for the DHI IoT platform – coming soon!