The Internet of Things (IoT) is a set of physical objects connected to the Internet and exchanging data. The concept of IoT can significantly improve many areas of our lives and help us create a more convenient, smart and secure world. Examples of the Internet of Things range from wearables such as smartwatches to smart homes that can, for example, control and automatically change the amount of lighting and heating. Also a prime example is the so-called smart factory concept, which monitors industrial equipment and looks for problem areas, and then rearranges itself so as to prevent breakdowns. The Internet of Things plays an important role in the process of digital transformation in companies. By 2030, the number of connected devices is projected to grow to around 24 billion, with annual revenues of up to $1.5 trillion.
The term “Internet of Things” was first used in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, an entrepreneur and co-founder of Auto-ID Labs (an independent laboratory network and research group in the field of networked RFID and new sensor technologies) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ashton was on the team that invented a way to connect objects to the internet using RFID technology. An RFID tag is an identification tag that allows you to identify objects through radio signals; certain information can be applied to it, and later considered a device.
2012 saw significant changes in sensors, resulting in an acceleration in IoT market readiness, and for many companies, this meant that digital transformation was gaining momentum. Technological improvement has made possible the emergence of MEMS – microelectromechanical systems (a miniature device made by micromachining from both mechanical and electrical components). Due to this, the sensors have decreased so much that it became possible to fix them, for example, on clothes.
What is the IoT made of? Architecture
For simplicity, let’s try to break the IoT technology stack into four technology levels and consider them separately.
Devices are the objects that actually make up the “Things” in the Internet of Things. They act as an interface between the real and digital worlds and take on different sizes, shapes and levels of technological sophistication depending on the task they perform within a particular IoT deployment. Whether it’s microphones the size of a pinhead or a massive machine, almost any material object can be turned into a connected device by adding the necessary elements (sensors or actuators along with the appropriate software).
This is what makes connected devices smart. The software is responsible for communication with the cloud, data collection, device integration, and real-time data analysis. It also provides opportunities for data visualization and interaction with the IoT system.
The communication layer includes both physical connectivity solutions (cellular, satellite, LAN) and specific protocols used in various IoT environments (ZigBee, Thread, Z-Wave, MQTT, LwM2M). Choosing the right communication solution is one of the vital parts of building every IoT system. The technology chosen will determine not only how data is sent and received from the cloud, but how it communicates with third-party devices.
Devices are able to “sense” what is happening around and report it to the user through a specific communication channel. An IoT platform is a place where all this data is collected, analyzed and transmitted to the user in a convenient form. Platforms can be installed locally or in the cloud. The choice of platform depends on the requirements of a particular IoT project and many factors: architecture and technology stack, reliability, settings, protocols used, hardware independence, security, efficiency, cost.
Below you can consider in more detail the components of the three levels of IoT: end devices (things), networks, clouds.
Along with the fact that IoT systems carry significant business value, smart objects also become vulnerable to cybercrime, which can result in data leakage, including confidential information. Although the field of work with the issue of security remains huge, there are now solutions that allow you to deploy IoT more reliably. For example, to address the issue of outdated device software, there are effective automatic update strategies available.
With SOTA (Software Over the Air) “update over the air” and FOTA (Firmware Over the Air) “update over the air”, connected devices’ software and settings can be updated wirelessly.
Examples of IoT Applications
IoT is applicable across industries for a variety of purposes: tracking consumer behavior in real time, improving the quality of machines and systems, finding innovative ways of working within digital transformation, and much more.
Examples of retail IoT applications include many use cases for smart devices to improve the experience in stores. In particular, the various IoT applications here mean that smartphone capabilities (based on Beacon technology) facilitate communication between retailers and customers, and the most requested products and services appear in front of customers in the right place. In addition, smart retail opens up opportunities for IoT applications in terms of accurate advertising, improving the supply chain cycle, and actually analyzing demand patterns. Also, IoT applications already include applications for NFC payments and smart shopping. And of course, RFID tags for merchandise tagging, which provide instant and accurate collection of information that helps to continuously track the movement of goods, simplify the inventory process and generally reduce the number of errors, cannot be ignored.
Thanks to IoT, production can get an overall picture of the production processes and the state of the product at all stages – from the supply of raw materials to the shipment of the finished product.
With plant and warehouse sensors, big data analytics, and predictive modeling, many downtime and cost errors can be prevented, productivity maximized, warranty costs reduced, and overall customer service improved.
With the help of IoMT technology (The Internet of Medical Things, the Internet of Medical Things), streams of small data are collected in real time from medical network and other wearable devices that track various physiological moments associated with the health of patients – movements, sleep dynamics, heart rate, allergic reactions and more. The data collected helps doctors make accurate diagnoses, build a treatment plan, improve patient safety, simplify care for them, and enable continuous monitoring of the condition of seriously ill patients.
The application of the Internet of Things contributes to a more personalized approach to health analysis and more consistent disease control strategies.