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Internet of Things (IoT)-Wikipedia definition:

The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as "connected devices" and "smart devices"), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has a rich technological legacy and a bright future! IoT presents exciting opportunities to transform business, but the specific approaches and patterns remain somewhat ill-defined.

In 1999, Kevin Ashton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) coined the term Internet of Things or IoT. While the Internet is, of course a critical, enabling element, it is only a part of the essential concept—the idea that we can connect our reality, part and parcel, to the virtual world of information systems!

IoT is an area where embedded computing, broadband and mobile networking, distributed cloud computing, advanced distributed database architectures, cutting-edge web and mobile user interfaces, and deep enterprise integrations all converge.

Today, the Internet of Things can include industrial and commercial products, everyday products like dishwashers and thermostats, and local networks of sensors to monitor farms and cities. In an IoT solution, objects can be sensed and controlled through the Internet, whether these objects are remote devices, smart products, or sensors that represent the status of a physical location. And information can be made available to applications, data warehouses, and business systems.

 

IoT Design patterns:

The five elements listed below help us, as technologists, extract the initial patterns and then analyze real scenarios:

[1] Solution creator: Who designs, engineers, and builds this IoT solution?

[2] Audience: Who buys the solution, and who will use it?

[3] Position in the product/service lifecycle: Is the solution positioned as a product or service that is an end-to-itself or does it enhance or augment an existing, mature product or service?

[4] Connection: How does the solution connect to the Internet?

[5] Integration: Does the solution require integration with other business or enterprise systems?

Let’s look at them one by one.

Solution Creator:  Consumer electronics firms like Samsung, Whirlpool, Sony etc and other companies who provide solutions of IOT are the solution creators. When a product is connected to the Internet then manufacturers can collect and analyze usage data which can be used in newer versions of the product.

Audience: It’s important to understand who buys and uses the smart, connected product. In the long run, the audience will likely adhere to the same demographics as those who were buying the previous static, disconnected version. From the manufacturer’s perspective connected product result in meaningful differentiation from earlier products.

Position in the product/service lifecycle: Typically, IOT products serve as augmented versions of their disconnected counterparts, extending the features of the existing product types and categories that we understand today. However, as the IoT matures, we’ll see products come to market that could not have been fully realized without an initial set of connected capabilities.

Connection: With latest technology the trend has been toward manufacturers designing connectivity directly into their products. Previously, manufacturers were only interested in connecting their high-value products—so that, for instance, services teams could remotely troubleshoot and react to product issues without the need for an engineer on site. Now they are forced to retrofit them for the IoT.

Integration: Service monitoring aside, in most instances enterprise and business system integration for smart connected products is likely to be lightweight, if it exists at all. However, from the consumer software side, mobile applications, web portals, and analytics will be high value drivers, along with the function of the connected product itself. Business system integration, however, could become a common addition to such products, particularly if initial product pilots prove solution efficacy.

 

Thing – as smart, connected operations:

Sometimes the connected “thing” isn’t a single product or device, but rather an entire operation that can be instrumented and optimized, with access to real-time system data and control capabilities from the cloud.

Smart, connected operations differ from the aforementioned products in that they often require retrofitting existing infrastructure with the sensors and communication modules that make an IoT solution possible. Additionally, system analytics, artificial intelligence for discovery and autonomous decision-making, and deep business system integration add a layer of complexity to connected operations not necessarily seen with individual products.

Examples of smart connected operations can be in the field of Agriculture, Manufacturing, Smart Cities, Energy/Power generation and distribution, building automation etc.

 

Agriculture – as a smart connected operation: Agricultural operations face environmental conditions that can be highly unpredictable, requiring ongoing management of potential outcomes. Smart agriculture solutions track and react to these conditions by monitoring sensors in the field, managing information from weather and mapping services, and capturing actionable data, helping to spot potential issues with crops before they happen.

Smart agriculture solutions can also leverage AI technology that automatically learns from data, discovers patterns, and builds validated predictive models. Such predictive analytics can, for example, solve irrigation strategy challenges by maintaining crops within ideal soil moisture range, reducing water costs, and even predicting when water will be needed for irrigation. In this way, smart agriculture solutions cuts operating costs and increases a farm’s production yield.

 

Manufacturing – as a smart connected operation: In smart manufacturing, businesses use the IoT to connect assets within operations and business systems, and provide real-time visibility for monitoring, control, and optimization. IoT applications connect and manage a complex set of disparate sensors, devices, and software solutions into a “system of systems,” monitoring equipment condition and operating parameters to automatically trigger alerts and proactively initiate response from maintenance teams as soon as problems occur.

 

Smart City – as a smart connected operation: There are a variety of new initiatives to develop smart city services, using sensor technology and connected public resources—from street lights to trash bins to roads—to improve the quality of urban living. Examples of these initiatives range from well-coordinated transportation services using big data to reduce traffic congestion and save commuters time and fuel, to public safety and security services controlling police dispatch, municipal repairs etc.

 

Energy/Power generation as a smart connected operation: Energy companies today face a whole raft of challenges: aging, patchwork infrastructure, increased regulatory controls, complex interconnected, interdependent systems—that make efficient, reliable delivery of energy increasingly difficult. IoT solutions could help enable a smart grid to manage and automate the flow of both energy and information between utilities and consumers, leveraging a combination of sensors, smart meters and software controls, and analytics.

 

Buildings – as a smart connected operation: Commercial office buildings are increasingly becoming connected environments that connect HVAC, lighting, security, and safety systems with an array of embedded sensors that enable them to respond to real-time building occupancy and usage scenarios. These IoT solutions provide connected intelligence and automation to reduce energy costs and increase visibility across building operations.

 

New and Innovative Experiences:

Thanks to the confluence of cheap microprocessors, ubiquitous Wi-Fi, fast cellular connections, and shrinking devices, the IoT has the potential to create entirely new categories of product and services that will challenge our expectations. In some cases, these innovative experiences may even disrupt the marketplace, displacing older technologies entirely.

E.g.: Wearables, such as smart watches and fitness bands are innovative uses of technology. Traditional experience of wearing a watch is totally transformed by the use of sensors, connectivity, data aggregation and analysis.

 

The Edge of IoT:

The edge of the IoT is where the action is. It includes a wide array of sensors, actuators, and devices—those system end-points that interact with and communicate real-time data from smart products and services.

Regardless of whether system intelligence is ultimately located in the cloud or the fog or some hybrid of the two, development for the Internet of Things requires technologists to have a clear understanding of edge architecture and how information is both gathered from devices and communicated.

Abstract Edge Architecture Model:

This model is like a stack. Foundation of the stack is the ‘Thing’, which is that critical product or environment that is the core reason for our IoT system build.

 

In the next layer we have the sensor and the actuators. These provide the ‘Things’ read and write capability.

Examples of sensors include:

[1] Temperature sensors

[2] Light sensors

[3] Moisture sensors

[4] GPS receivers

[5] Vehicle on board diagnostics

[6] Files

[7] Product specific data

 

Examples of Actuators include:

[1] Lights

[2] Valves

[3] Motors

[4] Commands (‘soft’ actions, file distribution, firmware updates)

 

Controller: It is a hardware or software component that interacts electrically or logically with sensors and actuators. It is in the controller that we will find our low level, short haul communication.

 

Agent: It is an embedded program that runs on or near the IoT device and reports the status of an asset or environment. The agent acts as a bridge between the controller and cloud, deciding on which data is to be sent and when to send it.

 

Long haul communication: It is used to connect to the Internet. There are wide variety of long haul options for IoT solutions. They include cellular & satellite, Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet as well as sub Gigahertz options like LoRa and SigFox.

 

Networking protocols for long-haul communication are similarly diverse; they include TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) for the transport layer, and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol) for the application layer, among many others.

 

 

Device Types:

To further our understanding of how the edge of the IoT works, let’s look at some typical examples of the key hardware components that make up our devices.

 

Communication Modules: These are components for connecting to Wi-Fi, Cellular, or long range wireless networks. They can be built directly into the product or can be plugged in externally.

 

Micro-Controller and SoC: For building connectivity and logic into your IoT product, you’ll need a microcontroller like the CC3200 from Texas Instruments, or a system on a chip (SoC) like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor (designed originally for mobile computing but now able to be embedded just about everywhere). SoCs typically have greater amounts of RAM and more powerful processors. As a result, SoCs are capable of running robust operating systems such as Linux or Windows and more complex software. Microcontrollers and SoCs are used in a wide variety of IoT applications, from wearables to connected cars, among others.

 

Modems and routers: At its core, a modem is essentially a communication module on a board, enclosed in a physical housing, with a serial connection to plug into a computer. Since modems are pre-certified by the manufacturer, they can be used right away after purchase, as long they’re on a carrier’s certified list. In scenarios where PCs are already controlling high-value units—industrial machines in factories or large medical devices in hospitals—modems can be the right fit for adding connectivity.

 

Routers are similar to modems. However, instead of a single serial connection to one PC, routers allow for multiple computers to share a cellular data connection. A router can also initiate the connection to the cellular network itself, as opposed to a modem, which needs to be explicitly controlled by the serial-connected PC.

 

Gateways: Gateways from companies like Dell, Intel, Multi-Tech, and others are essentially small form factor computers. They have built-in connectivity (WiFi or cellular), capable CPU architectures, and plenty of memory, running full-featured operating systems such as Windows or Linux.

 

Gateways are great for retrofitting unconnected Things, enabling the connectivity of industrial devices and other systems to the IoT. Gateways provide a place to put your IoT agent code and often include an SDK to make the coding and deploying of an agent straightforward. They connect legacy and new systems, and enable data flow between edge devices and the cloud.

 

Trackers: A tracking unit is an excellent example of a fixed-purpose, machine-to-machine device engineered to perform a specific set of functions for a vertical market. Tracker can track vehicle speed and location as well as access vehicle diagnostic data. They’re useful for fleet tracking, car rental driver monitoring, and other automotive applications.

 

Trackers are essentially modems coupled with a CPU. As such, they have built-in connectivity, GPS, and advanced configurability to dictate behavior. Trackers have built-in agents, as well as their own long-haul protocols.

 

Prototyping boards: This list of edge components would not be complete without a discussion of prototyping boards and their impact on ideation and design for the IoT. Prototyping boards such as the Arduino Uno, Intel Galileo, and Raspberry Pi are ideal for proof-of-concept work. They have just about everything a designer or engineer needs to start creating for the Internet of Things like :

 

Connectivity:

A prototyping board comes equipped with a wireless module or an Ethernet chip and RJ-45 port to connect to the wired Internet. Application development stack Prototyping boards have a way to load code, whether it be Arduino Sketch, Java, or a C programming language.

 

Expandability:

You can easily add breadboards, expansion boards, and sensors to prototyping boards.

 

While its commonplace for IoT product companies to use prototyping boards to test out new ideas, these boards usually are not appropriate for deployment scale usage from a cost standpoint.

 

In the end, it’s unlikely that your dishwasher will be connected to the IoT by a Raspberry Pi inside of it. However, it’s quite likely that the dishwasher manufacturer may embark on its IoT journey by creating a proof-of-concept with a Raspberry Pi.

 

 

 

The Cloud:

The cloud is the central station of any IoT solution, and a critical component. While it may be tempting to think about the IoT device cloud as the equivalent of a web or mobile application, the Internet of Things introduces its own unique characteristics and subsystems.

 

In IoT technical diagrams as shown below, it’s common to structure visualizations of the architecture from the bottom up, reflecting the mental model of edge devices being “on the ground” relative to the cloud. Using this diagram, let’s follow the journey of a message as it flows from the edge to the cloud.

 

 

Cloud to Device Connectivity: Making sure we get the right message from the edge device to the cloud is paramount. When it comes to cloud-to-device connectivity, security is increasingly a major area of concern, and rightly so. Even a modest-sized IoT installation can provide numerous potential intrusion points via edge devices that, unlike modern PCs or smartphones, have limited computing resources. This combination of traffic quantity, device constraints, and the wide variety of IoT solution configurations makes for a bevy of challenges.

 

Device Security is very important. In an IoT solution, every product, sensor, gateway, and communication device at the edge requires a unique identifier.

 

Messaging and the IoT:

How do you represent a message in an IoT system? To begin with, we need our credentials—our device ID card—to be part of the message envelope. The envelope protocol tells the system, “Here’s who I am. Here’s where I want this message to go. And here are some characteristics of how I want the message to be delivered.”

 

When it comes to envelope protocols, there are many emerging standards, some of them more pertinent for certain industries or certain types of IoT solutions. MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) and CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol) are strictly envelope protocols. They do not care about the contents—to them, the message inside is just a bucket of bytes.

 

 

How Reliable Is Your Network?

 

IoT networks, as you might expect, are generally not as reliable as today’s mobile or business Internet connections. The IoT does not, as yet, have the same fault-tolerance built into the client and server layers that you might expect with consumer-oriented modern web browsers and smartphone applications. In comparison, IoT edge devices run on relatively rudimentary operating systems and are subject to a variety of real-world factors that can limit connectivity.

 

 

Device Ingress/Egress:

Next, as we move up our IoT cloud stack, is the device ingress and egress layer. IoT solutions, the majority of the time, are concerned with device ingress—receiving incoming messages from the edge to the cloud. The sheer volume of data can challenge the scale of cloud systems.

 

Cloud-to-edge messaging may include sending notifications about new configurations, firmware, or commands to trigger actuation. While it’s far more infrequent than device ingress, when you need device egress, it’s important to have the right communication protocol and communication infrastructure in place.

 

Data Normalization and Protocol Translation:

While industry coalitions are hard at work defining open standards for interoperability with the IoT, there are many legacy M2M systems with thousands of connected devices that currently speak different proprietary protocols. For this reason, a well-designed IoT cloud system includes a dedicated protocol translation layer. This layer translates the “over the wire/air” protocol to the native, or canonical, protocol that’s understood by the upper layers of the system.

 

 

Data Consistency: Message delivery consistency has a significant impact on your IoT applications. The order in which messages are received and processed makes all the difference.

 

Infrastructure:

The next layer in our cloud stack is the Infrastructure layer. For many IoT solution creators, the elastic compute resources of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider are a sensible alternative to the substantial initial investment and ongoing maintenance cost of constructing their own data centers. Infrastructure-as-a-Service, whether public or a managed private cloud from an IaaS vendor, can give solution creators the ability to automatically provision new compute, storage, and network resources on demand. This is particularly useful for IoT solutions that may have significantly large but temporary workloads.

 

APIs

The final layer in our IoT cloud device stack is the API, the lingua franca of modern systems. The majority of API usage occurs at the application layer. Common API functions may include:

 

[1] Provisioning a new device

[2] Querying data elements supplied by a device

[3] Sending commands to devices

 

 

(Source: World Wide Web and Foundational Elements of an IoT Solution by Joe Biron and Jonathan Follett)

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