An Inventory of Knowledge
The Internet of Things (IoT) is escalating at a fast pace. Statista forecasts that around 50B IoT devices will be in use by 2030 across the globe. However, despite this massive IoT presence and business opportunities offered by this technology, a host of people are unable to comprehend this term. Also, they are not familiar with the essential components required to build a reliable architecture for IoT applications and implementations.
Technically, IoT is a network of identifiable devices or objects that can communicate with one another via some kind of connectivity, without human intervention. Let’s analyze what elements are really needed to create an interconnected infrastructure and empower physical devices with digital intelligence.
Since IoT systems are diverse in terms of industry-specific use cases, there is no viable architecture that can completely address all possible IoT applications. The most extensively used IoT architecture comprises three layers:
The Perception Layer – The purpose of this layer is to interact with the physical world through IoT devices integrated with sensors and actuators.
The Network Layer – This layer intends to conduct a fundamental analysis of data garnered by sensors using IoT gateways and communicate that data to a server for further processing over communication protocols like MQTT.
The Application Layer – This layer provides an interconnection between the above two hardware-related layers and business applications to render app-specific services to users.
IoT is way more than just a set of elements like actuators and sensors. Within the notion of IoT, the devices and elements are connected in a single network or environment, with analytical and managerial systems, to facilitate automated device management as well as data-driven decision making. Let’s explore each architectural component of IoT and how they all are connected to build a complete IoT network.
The practice of capturing and analyzing data on a particular object using sensors is nothing new. A range of sensors has been used in industries like buildings, vehicles, factories, and industrial facilities, where they have become the backbone of industrial automation.
The most significant characteristic of sensors is their ability to convert information collected from the IoT network into data for further analysis and processing. In fact, every device which is referred to as “Smart” is developed using sensors.
Data garnered by sensors may have different degrees of complexity, ranging from as simple as humidity or sensor monitoring to as complicated as video transmission. Depending on the use case, a single sensor or a group of multiple sensors can be integrated into a device to extract more detailed and relevant data.
Both sensors and actuators are transducers, which means that they can convert signals from one form to another. However, unlike sensors, which track data provided by devices, actuators are responsible for performing actions. These actions may include generating a sound, switching a light on/off, or locking a door.
Typically, sensors and actuators work mutually to monitor as well as control physical devices or processes remotely. In the setup, they are only endpoints that connect physically to the network. However, the analysis of the collected data is conducted in a control layer, commonly known as an IoT gateway.
An IoT gateway is a device that is used for basic data analysis. In some cases, when data analysis needs a little number of computing resources, IoT gateways serve as decision points and send specific control commands to actuators that perform actions. However, if a sophisticated data processing is required or information is needed to be stored for further analysis, gateways transfer it to a server located either in the cloud or on-premises.
Now, you have a clear idea of the elements used to build an IoT infrastructure, let’s dive into how they interact with one another and the cloud environment.
End devices and servers can be connected via cellular or satellite networks, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet (Wired LAN), as well as low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN).
Range, bandwidth, power consumption, and cost are deemed the significant factors to decide the mode of connectivity. However, they all perform the same task – getting data to the server, be it in the cloud or on-premises.
An IoT platform is a middleware between hardware-related layers (Perception and Network) on the one hand, and the application layers, on the other. It is a multi-tiered technology that helps in gathering, storing, processing, and visualizing data. It also facilitates the integration of data with other parts of the value chain, like a cloud or end-user app.
Furthermore, an IoT platform is accountable for cross-device compatibility and scalability and has exceptional features that expedite the app development process. It also helps in managing connected devices using various protocols, network topologies, configuration, as well as conducts over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.
Currently, there is a myriad of IoT platforms in the market, each having its own significance. Most businesses incline toward top platforms like Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure to operate connected devices in software projects. However, relying on these giants may not ensure the success of your project. In most cases, IoT platforms are customized for specific industries or sectors, or focus on a particular type of device like smartwatches, beacons, augmented reality headsets, etc. So, you must define your IoT strategy, address the needs of your business, challenges you want to overcome, and benefits you wish to yield before choosing the perfect IoT platform. You can also consult with a reliable IoT app development company to steer clear your doubts.
After exploring the components of the IoT ecosystem, it is certain that the fusion of these elements may vary from project to project. The core of any IoT product is converting raw data into actionable insights as well as value and helping you to accomplish business goals. So, it will be beneficial if you avail IoT app development services for dealing with various factors affecting IoT architecture and navigating your IoT implementation journey.