How IoT Works – An Overview of the Technology Architecture
Internet, things, Internet of things, Internet of Everything! These are some of the buzzwords you may have been hearing, reading & very likely talking about endlessly.
These are more than just keywords; IoT (Internet of Things) is a technology concept and/or an architecture which is an aggregation of already available technologies.
Similar to the way in which Internet has changed the way we work & communicate by connecting us (humans) through World Wide Web, IoT aims to take this connectivity to next level by connecting various devices to the internet – facilitating human-machine, machine-machine interactions also.
The visionaries have also realized that this IoT ecosystem has business applications in areas of Home Automation, Automotive, Factory/assembly line automation, Retail, Medical/Preventive healthcare and more.
Now that we all understand the IoT concept, it would be worthwhile to deep dive in order to get familiar with the building blocks of IoT:
1.) Sensors & Sensor technology – They will sniff a wide variety of information ranging from Location, Weather/Environment conditions, Grid parameters, Movement on assembly lines, Jet engine maintenance data to Health essentials of a patient
2.) IoT Gateways – IoT Gateways, as the name rightly suggests, are the gateways to internet for all the things/devices that we want to interact with. Gateways help to bridge the internal network of sensor nodes with the external Internet or World Wide Web. They do this by collecting the data from sensor nodes & transmitting it to the internet infrastructure.
IoT Gateway development defines the success of an IoT implementation. The Gateway design can be a customized or a turnkey solution depending on the application.
3.) Cloud/server infrastructure & Big Data – The data transmitted through gateway is stored & processed securely within the cloud infrastructure using Big Data analytics engine. This processed data is then used to perform intelligent actions that make all our devices ‘Smart Devices’!
4.) End-user Mobile apps – The intuitive mobile apps will help end users to control & monitor their devices (ranging from room thermostat to jet engines & assembly lines) from remote locations. These apps push the important information on your hand-held devices & help to send commands to your Smart Devices!
5.) IPv6 – IP addresses are the backbone to the entire IoT ecosystem. Internet is concerned about IP addresses only & not if you are a human or a toaster. With IPv4 we were running out of IP addresses, but with IPv6 (launched in 2012) we now have 3.4*10^38 IP addresses!
To help you better understand the workings of this IoT ecosystem; let’s have a look at an application of IoT in Home Automation:
1. A temperature sensor network installed in the room will be integrated with the gateway. Gateway helps to connect the temperature sensor network (things) to the Internet through Cloud infrastructure.
2. Cloud/server possesses the detailed records about the each and every device connected to it – device id, current status of the device, who has accessed the device last time, how many times the device has been accessed and more.
3. Connection with the cloud is implemented using web services such as RESTful.
4. End-users like you and me interact with Cloud (and in turn devices installed in our homes) through the mobile app. Request will be sent to the cloud with the authentication and device information. Authentication is configured to ensure cyber security.
5. Cloud will identify the device with the help of the device id and will send the corresponding request to the appropriate sensor network using gateways.
6. Then, the temperature sensor will read the current temperature in the room and will send the response back to the cloud.
7. Cloud will identify the particular user who has requested the data and push the requested data to the app. So user will get the current information directly on his screen.
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Author: Amit Kulkarni, Associate Software Engineer, at Embitel Technologies, Bangalore