What is Internet of Things (IoT) - The Complete A to Z Guide
IoT

What is Internet of Things (IoT):
The Complete A to Z Guide

By Jitin Narang / 326 Views / October 18, 2019

What is Internet of Things (IoT): The Complete A to Z Guide

What is IoT?

IoT stands for Internet of Things, and it is a network of physical devices that are embedded with software, sensors allowing them to exchange data amongst themselves. With this, it becomes easy for us to integrate physical objects with computing devices. Although IoT is a new technology it is likely to bring considerable changes in our life: whether it is making automobiles smarter with built-in sensors, monitoring heart with implants, managing room temperature with smart thermostats.

Importance of IoT

Considered as one of the most important developments of the 21st century, IoT bringing together an enormous number of objects and people together by making them smarter. It has become an essential part of our day to day lives, and businesses.

It is now easier to add a small chip to most of our inanimate objects such as keys, eyeglasses, wallet, TV etc and track them from our phones. It is also now a breeze to give objects such as your fridge or coffee machine commands via your phone, and it is definitely easier to switch off your electronics with a voice command. All this has been made possible with IoT and is changing lives. The technology also has the ability to store, understand, analyze and action data collection, considering data is the new oil, one cant escape how easier IoT makes the entire data collection process and increasing the impact of Big Data. IoT will integrate into our lives and our devices so well, that it will become hard to imagine our lives without it. 

Future of IoT

The investment in IoT in the future will be so intense, that as per a prediction by McKinsey Global Institute, the Total Economic Impact of IoT Could Range Between $4 and $11 Trillion per year by 2025. Interestingly, as per research giant Gartner, there will be 20.4 Billion IoT Devices by 2020.

How IoT work? 

Internet of Things (IoT) is essentially a network of connecting physical devices to the internet. All IoT devices contain sensors, and processors that function on the data that is collected via these sensors through Machine Learning. Our smartphones play a huge role in IoT since maximum consumer IoT devices can be controlled via smartphone. Secondly, connectivity plays a large role in working on IoT. The sensors/devices are connected to the cloud through a range of methods such as Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular, satellite, etc. The IoT sensors send the data to the cloud for further data processing. The data is processed in the cloud, and accordingly, the desired action is taken. For instance, checking the weather, etc. Once the data is processed, it is now time for it to reach the user via an alert, this could be an SMS, message, voice response, email, notification, etc. ranging from device to device and depending on the interface. Basis the device and the connection, a user may also be able to control and action a certain desired request.

1) High-Level Architecture

Needless to say, IoT involves a number of complex tools, software, and devices that together form the architecture required for the smooth functioning of any IoT based software or device. It has numerous elements and layers to it to make it into a sophisticated network. There are essentially four stages of this architecture.

2) Sensors/Actuators

One of the major components of the IoT architecture, sensors are responsible for collecting data from the said environment or device and then turn into useful data. Similarly, actuators also occur to change the physical conditions that generate any required data. An actuator can, shut off power, adjust an airflow, etc. This sensing stage conceals everything from enterprise and industrial legacy structures to camera systems, to water detectors, to air quality sensors and even heart rate monitors. While data processing takes place in almost all stages of the architecture, sensors allow you to do so much better.  Since data is the new oil, a lot of IoT companies require deeper insights, that need widespread processing and hence the data needs to be moved to the cloud. For quicker analytics, once must process the data right at the sensor— at the edge of the edge network.

3) Data Acquisition Systems/Internet Gateway

Sensors collect data in analog form, this data then has to be combined and converted into digital streams for the next stage of processing. Data acquisition systems (DAS) are responsible for performing these data conversion functions. DAS connects with the sensor network, combines the outputs, and then performs the analog-to-digital conversion. The Internet gateway then obtains the digitized data and directs it over Wi-Fi, wired LANs, for further processing. Most stage 2 systems exist close in proximity to the 1st stage’s sensors and actuators.

4) Edge IT

Once the data has been digitized and accumulated, it's ready to move into the realm of IT. However, some of this data may require some more processing before it enters the data center. This is where edge IT systems that perform further analysis, come into play. Edge IT processing systems are mostly situated in remote offices or other locations, but generally are in a location that the sensors exist in closer to the sensors. Most IoT data can consume your network bandwidth and flood your data center resources, it is considered best to have systems at the edge proficient in performing analytics to lessen the burden on IT infrastructure. With this staged method, you can pre-process the data and generate meaningful results thereby controlling what is getting passed on.

5) Hardware

IoT hardware includes a variety of devices, that are required for sensors, bridges, etc. These devices are responsible for managing the important functions majorly around activation, security, specific actions, communications, etc. Some of hardware that comprise of the IoT ecosystem and actually make it work are-

  • System on Chip (SOC)
  • Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
  • Remote Terminal Unit (RTU)
  • Single Board Computer (SBC) 

Applications and examples of IoT across industries 

The popularity of Internet of Things (IoT) and increased usage across the globe has resulted in major industries being transformed due to this technology. IoT has had a drastic positive impact on almost all industries imaginable. The implementation of IoT has improved communication between physical devices and because of this, the connection between the physical devices has enabled automation. Most infrastructure is now wireless and does not require human intervention. Automation of daily mundane tasks has also freed time for other important tasks.

Applications and examples of IoT across industries

Secondly, IoT has revolutionized the way information is stored and analyzed and in turn actioned. It also monitors the requirements and is able to make changes basis for this monitoring. There are no effective and more efficient processes and the asset utilization is more advanced. It also has resulted in increasing productivity and in turn saving large costs. This disruptive technology has found applications across diverse industries, making it more robust and connected.

1) Automotive

Automotive industries are one of those industries that have seen vast disruption across the world, especially with respect to self-driven cars. According to a report by Inc42, the number of vehicles that have IoT devices inside them will grow to 250 Mn by 2020. To simply understand, an IoT device in a car can range from pre-installed Google Maps, entertainment systems, etc. In the future, the number of cars that will have pre-fitted technologies such as stop-and-go autopilot will increase by 2020. Additionally, there may be a new technology called predictive maintenance that will soon become popular with cars. It essentially handles the overall smooth functioning of the vehicle, reducing and preventing unexpected car breakdowns and crashes. It is also predicted that IoT devices in automobiles will be used to improve safety and security. The automotive industry has already started the revolution and it is bound to grow larger and larger in the coming years.

2) Healthcare

IoT could revolutionize the world of healthcare in the near future and has already started making in-roads. The integration of IoT has opened up a world of possibilities that could completely transform the way diagnosis and treatment take place. It is predicted that by 2024, the Global IoT Healthcare Market is expected to reach a gigantic $14000 million. IoT Devices, now connected to the internet have the ability to quickly provide a medical history, insight into symptoms and trends, remote healthcare, etc. here has also been a rise in the availability and usage of wearable devices that monitor health hence keeping a constant track of heartbeat, sleep, blood pressure, etc. These IoT devices are also programmed to send alerts in case of an emergency. With the integration of IoT in Healthcare, the way data is collected and monitored has also drastically changed.

3) Manufacturing

Implementation of IoT in manufacturing has been so widespread that it is now called IIoT or Industrial Internet of Things. Morgan Stanley predicts the industrial IoT market size to reach $110 billion by 2020 and according to Accenture, IIoT could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy by 2030. This increased growth and momentum can be attributed to multiple factors. However, the top drivers of this growth are better operational efficiency, enhanced productivity, new business developments, and opportunities and a drop in downtime to name a few.

IoT in manufacturing is largely attributed to a network of sensors that are employed to accumulate critical production data, sending it to the cloud and then using cloud software to make sense of this data. This data is interpreted to provide insights, in turn helping organizations change the efficiency of the manufacturing operations.

4) Energy

With increased demand in energy with every passing day, organizations are now increasingly looking at smarter energy solutions. The energy sector has already begun a massive digital transformation and the Internet of Things is a major factor in pushing this transformation. IoT is changing every aspect of the industry and is impacting generation, transmission, distribution, etc.

IoT is enabling remote asset monitoring and management by attaching sensors to equipment at all levels to enable companies to monitor it remotely. By remote monitoring, IoT companies can do timely maintenance, and eventually improve safety. Further, companies are not investing in smart grid technology powered by IoT to help them distribute energy transformation. A smart grid uses IoT to notice changes in electricity supply and demand. It then analysis and reacts to these changes autonomously or provides operators with the information they need to more precisely manage demand. It also improves grid management.

5) Retail

The global IoT retail market size is expected to reach USD 94.44 billion by 2025, as per Grand View Research, Inc., exhibiting a 21.5% CAGR during the forecast period. It is one of those industries wherein the integration of IoT has directly impacted the consumers. Smart devices and IoT technology has enhanced customer experience like never before and are now enabling more conversions because of online penetration. IoT can decrease inventory error and optimize your supply chain management, thereby decreasing labor costs. IoT can help a retail organization’s traditional physical shop compete with online-first shopping, by exponentially changing the customer experience and decreasing expenses. Within the implementation of the right IoT technology, both consumers and retailers get automated checkout systems, enabling the reduction of lines and a smooth process. Similarly, it can provide better in-store layout optimization along with personalized discounts based on loyalty.

6) Smart Cities

A smart city essentially comprises of a city that has the infrastructure to support wireless technologies and uses information and communication technologies to improve the standard of living, resource utilization, citizen and government welfare, transportation, etc. Citizens function in a smart city ecosystem in a variety of ways by using devices such as smartphones, connected cars, and homes. It also allows communities and government authorities to work on improving air quality by decreasing traffic, streamline trash collection, optimum energy distribution, increased security, etc.

Smart cities also comprise of smart buildings or automated buildings that have the infrastructure and technology that uses automated processes to automatically control and manage that particular building’s operations. These operations vary from heating, air conditioning, lights, security, ventilation, etc. The system or technology runs independently and facilitates better decision making. 

7) Transportation

According to Allied Market Research, the global IoT in the transportation market that was valued at $135.35 billion in 2016, and is now expected to reach $328.76 billion by 2023. The adoption of IoT in the transportation industry has led to better transport management, better traffic control, tolls and ticketing, better security, more safety, etc. IoT technology has enabled complete control and monitoring of railways and trains also. This has resulted in better performance, fewer maintenance issues, and better services. Implementation of IoT in railways and other public transport systems has also enabled scheduling, reliability, customer feedback, etc. Similarly, IoT systems on the road can help analyze the flow of traffic better and eventually provide helpful data to enable smooth traffic.

8) Education

Emerging technology has resulted in a radical change in the education sector. According to a research study, “IoT in Education Market” by MarketsandMarkets, the global market size is expected to “grow from $4.8 billion in 2018 to $11.3 billion by 2023.”

The increased usage of smartphones and laptops has urged the students to use these for note-making, schedule making, research, etc. The school has also switched to a smart system that automates some work of teachers, such as sending our circulars, updating parents on a daily basis about the child’s performance, attendance, etc. Connected technology also helps the teachers in grading faster and keeps them updated on the new and relevant news, unlike books. Smart tech is also enabling teachers and schools to study the data of students and in turn offer individual advice, basic data analysis that will help the students. Another major breakthrough in the field of education, due to IoT has been safety. Today, parents can get a notification every time their child leaves the school grounds along with details because of a small chip on ID Cards. This enables the school and parents to keep a close eye on their children and ensure safety.

9) Agriculture

Also known as smart farming, it comprises of a hi-tech system of growing food sustainably. Smart farming will allow farmers to reduce wastage and increase productivity ranging from the quality of fertilizer used to the number of journeys of a farm vehicle. IoT based systems can monitor the crop field, with the help of sensors that keep track of humidity, temperature, rain, etc. IoT devices are expected to collect humongous amounts of data and analyze it to be able to foresee cattle’s health, weather, soil quality, etc. Since it will be able to predict these things, it will end up reducing the overall risk factor related to agriculture that also ends up losses.

IoT systems can also automate the irrigation process, in turn, saving water. The agriculture industry is also using IoT enabled drones that are helping with health assessment of crops, crop monitoring, crop spraying, planting, and soil and field analysis. As per BI Intelligence, the number of agriculture IoT device installations will hit 75 million by 2020, growing 20% annually.

10) Supply Chain

IoT based technology and systems, in the Supply Chain, are being implemented to measure and keep a better track of location, movement, handling, etc. Most supply chains have already installed RFID chips for the same. IoT technology is a brilliant way to keep track of products and authenticate shipments using GPS and monitor storage conditions that in turn enhance quality management. It also helps in keeping a better and more updated track of inventory and due to data collection; it can forecast your stock requirements for the future. Additionally, these technologies keep track of maintenance and prevent downtime that can result in losses and spoiled vendor relations.

Data Processing

1)  Cloud

With there being a different kind of data available, there is some data that requires more in-depth processing, and in turn, gives time for feedback since it doesn't have to be immediate. This data is forwarded to physical data centers or different cloud-based systems that have much more powerful IT systems that have the ability to analyze, manage, and securely store this data. This is definitely a long process wherein results take a while till they reach Stage 4, but this enables businesses to execute a more in-depth analysis, along with combining your data from sensors, devices, and other resources to understand it better. Stage 4 processing may take place on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid cloud system, but the type of processing executed in this stage remains the same, regardless of the platform. 

IoT Cloud

2) IoT Platforms

IoT platforms are essentially supported software that ideally connects everything in an IoT ecosystem. They act as the bridge between sensors and networks. It eases communication, device management, data flow, and overall functionality. IoT platforms bring together all the different kinds of hardware, different connectivity options, software etc together. They handle all related communications, provide security for the device and its users, and integrate with most web services. Most importantly, they also collect and analyze data. These platforms may help you save time and cost in the long run since they will help you overcome technical challenges that you may not be an expert in. 

3) APIs

Once cloud and IoT platforms are established, systems still need to communicate and work together and here is when an Application Program Interfaces(APIs) comes to light. Since programs are usually written in different languages, APIs provide the platform for these languages to break away from the language barrier. Or to understand it better, it allows two applications to talk to each other.  APIs give companies the independence to work on their own expertise by plugging in software and tools of other companies whenever required to create the complete IoT product. 

4) ML + AI

These cognitive technologies have become an important part of the Internet of Things because they make products smarter, and that is the very core of IoT. The predictive abilities in machine learning software, prove to be very useful for IoT devices. Similarly, as mentioned earlier, it can predict when maintenance is required, henceforth saving businesses from the cost of downtime. ML and AI, due to data analysis also provide personalized experiences to its users, something that is of great use in an IoT device as well.

Impact of the Internet of Things

The integration of IoT in almost every industry has impacted the world greatly. From consumers to organizations, to businesses, to governments, this particular technology has seen great amount of investment and popularity in the last decade that will increase exponentially in the coming years. The world is moving towards creating an entire ecosystem for the Internet of Things and it is bound to hugely impact our personal lives and our work lives.

1) Lives

One of the biggest ways in which human lives will be impacted will be due to Smart Cities. Smart cities are already functioning in various parts of the world and are responsible for making urban life faster with more convenient transportation systems, better and safe street lighting and energy-efficient buildings to name a few. For instance, the city of Barcelona has a citywide Wi-Fi presence, and networks that collect information that are further linked to sensors and IoT software which analysis the collected data hence enabling the entire city to provide better water technology, automatic street lights, automated irrigation for parks etc, waste pickups, efficient public transport system etc. In a smart city, early warning systems can also be installed so as to give out prompt warnings in case of any major accidents, earthquakes, or storms occur, or other natural disasters and inform the nearby first responders, police and hospitals at the same time. Another aspect that will be impacted due to IoT, in our daily lives are the increased usage of smart speakers like Amazon's Echo and Google Home that makes it easier to play music, set timers, or get general information. Similarly, home security systems make it easier to monitor and keep track of indoors and outdoors and enable you to talk to or see visitors.

Likewise, smart thermostats can be controlled from applications on our smartphones and can be enabled to heat our houses before we arrive, similarly, smart light bulbs can make appear as if someone is at home, when in fact nobody is home. Moving on, IoT will have a wonderful effect on waste management. There will also be a seamless integration of light, heat and air conditioning in a smart city, in turn, saving on a lot of money. For food, your fridge will record anything you don’t eat or waste and will provide to be data for future analytics, helping you examine trends and patterns. Next, our personal health and wellbeing will be impacted hugely. With wearable technology, we will be able to track our vital signs, sleep patterns, daily nutrition, check-up schedules, exercises, etc. In the future, these wearables will also be able to notify you in case of any potential dangers, etc. With even more possibilities, we know the best is yet to come and our lives are about to be altered completely. IoT technologies will become a part of our lives with such intensity that it will be hard to imagine our lives without it, much like the internet right now.

2) Business

Businesses are already seeing the massive returns on IoT investments. However, it is essential for businesses to develop and/or implement the right technology.

IoT and its technologies will drastically alter the way in which businesses track and manage their inventory. Installing IoT devices in storage units and warehouses will automatically enable them to manage inventory changes hence leaving time for personnel to invest in other tasks.

Next, IoT will completely transform the entire data collection and analytics process. Most businesses thrive on data and now with IoT, businesses will have direct access to consumer data like never before. IoT devices also track and record trends in which a consumer interacts with any device. Hence, making the device smarter by allowing them to function according to the needs of the consumer thereby enhancing the consumer experience. This simultaneously helps businesses to interpret this data for improvement and to cater to consumers better. Businesses use this data to study consumer requirements, buyer cycles, and scope for improvement, right platforms, and methods for marketing and communications, and inventions.

IoT devices allow you to connect and control them to improve efficiency, which directly affects the productivity and efficiency of the business. IoT software and appliances allow workers and staff to accomplish large-scale tasks and projects faster and without errors; in turn, having a positive effect on their motivation. 

IoT Technologies

Businesses need to make significant investments in training and hiring IoT developers, especially in India. Listed below are some of the top IoT technologies that can be utilized for application development:

1) IoT Security

With large data, comes more responsibility. More and more security technologies will be needed to protect IoT devices and software from hacks, physical tampering, and damage, malpractices, etc. The challenge that arises in IoT security is the fact that many things or devices that enable IoT have simple OS and processors and may not necessarily support more advanced security software.

2) IoT Analytics

Most business models require newer analytics tools and algorithms because data will increase substantially in the coming years and hence the requirements of IoT will change. It will require advanced structures of analytics, architectures, ML, etc. A distributed analytics technology will let IoT businesses to secure their networks. 

3) Low-Power, Short-Range IoT Networks

Low-power, short-range networks are the future of wireless IoT connectivity through 2025, far outnumbering connections that use wide-area IoT networks. Commercial and technical trade-offs will mean that many results will coexist, with no single winner.

4) Low-Power Wide-Area Networks

Modern cellular networks are failing to provide the required and correct combination of operational costs and technical features that are required for IoT applications. The applications mostly need wide-area coverage along with good battery life, a low bandwidth, a high connection density and overall low hardware and operating costs. Emerging solutions such as narrowband IoT will likely dominate this space.

5) IoT Operating Systems

Smaller operations systems will become popular in the immediate future due to the complexity of large-scale operating systems such as Mac and Windows. They also require additional resources for all major IoT applications. The smaller IoT operating systems are said to have excellent event-driven tasks and hence businesses can benefit without spending extra resources or money on developing IoT applications on the complex traditional OS.

6) Event Stream Processing

IoT development applications, in the near future, will generate elevated data rates that ideally should be analyzed in real-time. Some IoT development systems have the ability to create ten thousand events per second but the problem arises because they are mostly restricted to telecom industries. For addressing such requirements DSCPs (Distributed Stream Computing Platforms) is the solution. These can process very high-rate data streams and perform real-time analytics thereby making It paramount.

Also read:
Top 10 Internet of Things (IoT) trends that will rule in 2020
Microsoft Azure IoT Helping Business to Transform Digitally

Conclusion

Needless to say, IoT is here to stay and grow exponentially. The rate of growth in the coming future will be much higher than what has been in the last decade. With the Internet of Things finding direct pathways to consumer and impacting both human lives and businesses exponentially, the development of IoT based applications and devices will increase. IoT platforms and IoT devices will change are lives for good.

Jitin Narang : As CMO, Jitin takes care of global partnerships and alliances for mobile solutions. He leads by example and is often quoted by colleagues and friends as the epitome of team spirit. With an ideal blend of entrepreneurial ability, humility, a hunger for knowledge and unending enthusiasm, he believes that nothing is impossible and is credited for the ‘Ahead’ dimension of TechAhead.

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