This blogpost discusses the introductory concepts about the Internet of Things also known as IoT. Besides the definition, the high-level architecture, the article also discusses the Internet of Things applications and challenges.
As we observe on daily basis that huge volumes of data are being created on daily basis over the Internet. As a matter of fact, this rapid data generation is unprecedented and was never seen before. Have you ever thought about the possible reason for these ever-growing volumes of data? Well, the obvious reason is the prevalence of a variety of devices, for example smart phones, smart watches, computers, and a variety of sensors that are creating the data continuously. As a result, the phenomenon of the Internet of Things (IoT) has come into existence.
Internet of Things Definition
The IoT is a collection of heterogeneous devices that are connected to each other through the Internet or any network. These devices include, computers, smartphones, sensor, actuators, network devices, smart cameras, smart vehicles, smart mechanical devices. In other words, when the heterogeneous devices are physically connected to each other for the purpose of data sharing, this arrangement is called the Internet of Things.
Architecture of IoT
Below we present an abstract overview of the architecture of the Internet of Things. If we consider a hierarchical view of the IoT environment, it can be divided into the following three tiers.
Frontend tier consists of the sensing devices that collect the data from the environment. The devices at this tier vary according to the particular situations. For example, sensors, cameras or any other devices can be used to acquire the information for subsequent processing.
The middle tier of the Internet of Things consists of devices that are mainly responsible for controlling and regulating the data received from the front-end devices. After getting the data from the front-end devices, the middle tier devices analyze and aggregate the data and forward the data to the devices that reside at the backend of the architecture. The middle tier devices include the controllers and gateways. The gateways that are small servers in some situations also have the processing capabilities.
Backend tier includes devices whose task is to store, process, and analyze the data. In typical IoT settings, if the task of backend devices is to efficiently process data then these devices must be kept closer to the location where the data is being generated. Fog and edge computing devices can be considered as the devices that operate at the backend tier.
Internet of Things Applications
In the daily life there are numerous applications of the Internet of Things. A few are listed here.
- Wearable devices
- Connected home appliances
- Autonomous vehicular networks
- Smart farming
- Solid waste management
- Coal mining
- Smart car parking
- Urban surveillance
- Industrial applications
- Shipping tracking
- Home security
Each of the above listed Internet of Things applications is elaborated below.
IoT sensors are integrated into the wearable devices that humans wear for various purposes, for example health monitoring and physical fitness etc. The devices include smart watches, smart pendants etc. Similarly, smart socks containing the microsensors are being used to monitor the temperature of the bottom of the feet of the diabetic patients to help avoid soars.
Connected home appliances
In smart homes, various home appliances can be interconnected with each other. This is all due to the capabilities of the IoT.
Autonomous vehicular networks
In vehicular networks smart autonomous vehicles are interconnected with each other to through the IoT.
IoT devices are sufficiently being used in agriculture and farming, for example to monitor the soil conditions and moisture etc.
Solid waste management
The IoT devices can be used to effectively manage the waste collected from different localities. For example, sensors can be used in the composting process to monitor the temperature of the compost piles. Likewise, smart dust bins equipped with ultrasonic sensors are also being used in some places. When the bins are about to be filled up, the waste collection facility is notified to collect the waste.
IoT has a great application in the coal mining industry. For example, the sensors can be utilized to know about the presence of various gases and other materials under the surface of the earth. As a result, the IoT device can help avoid undesirable situations which are otherwise frequent particular in developing countries.
Smart car parking
The concept of smart car parking in large cities is gaining popularity. Smart car parking lots are equipped with various IoT devices, for example smart cameras, sensors, microcontrollers, and edge nodes etc.
The IoT phenomenon is effectively being used for urban surveillance where the law enforcement agencies are using vehicles equipped with smart technology.
IoT has diverse applications in the industrial environment to connect several sensor, devices, and manufacturing equipment for increased productivity and enhanced quality.
IoT devices and sensors are extensively being used in the supply chain networks to track and monitor the shipping vehicles while they are in transit.
IoT has another important application in home security systems which has been in use since a while. The home security systems are equipped with the sensors and in case of any intrusion of theft attempts, the sensors get activated. The sensor in turn can activate the alarm to notify the police stations etc.
Similarly, there are several other Internet of Things applications, for example inventory management, quality management, smart grids, smart transportation, smart cities and so on.
Internet of Things Challenges
Besides the benefits, there are certain challenges pertinent to Internet of Things phenomenon.
Security is one of the important challenges for the IoT environments. The reason is that multiple interconnected devices operate in the IoT systems and hence are vulnerable to the security threats and unauthorized access.
The IoT consists of a variety of devices where heterogeneous applications exchange information with each other. In such situations management of heterogenous devices and applications becomes a challenging task because a fault in one device may result in propagation of the fault the entire interconnected system.
As the number of interconnected devices in the IoT environments grow, the applications sharing the medium might come across the bandwidth related issues.
Since the devices in the IoT systems need to be active most of the time, therefore battery powered devices with limited battery time may face serious problems. In case, the battery of a certain device drains out, the device might lose its data. As a result, the IoT system might not be effective in yielding its desired outcomes.
Internet of Things Platform
Below are listed some popular Internet of Things platforms.
- Microsoft Azure IoT Suite
- Google Cloud IoT platform
- Cisco IoT Cloud Connect
- Salesforce IoT Cloud
- Amazon Web Services IoT platform
- IBM Watson IoT platform
- Oracle IoT platform
To learn about top Internet of Things Companies, click here.