The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a big force for change in the 21st century. The essential definition of IoT is simple: it’s the connection of basic devices to online programs that allow for automation. Today’s IoT is made up of everything from smart thermometers to wearable devices to self-driving vehicles and more. If an object can communicate with the Internet to change how it’s affecting the world, it’s part of IoT.

As IoT technology continues to assist in the convergence of the virtual and digital worlds, understanding its fundamental nature is vital for business leaders. In part, this is because by 2025 IoT technology is estimated to generate more than $11 trillion in annual economic value. 

Looking for an IoT Partner?

Taking advantage of this groundswell of support and production is becoming increasingly important for IT leaders and digital businesses worldwide. However, it can be difficult to find a single source that provides a useful, clear guide to IoT architecture and design.

 

It’s a big decision to take the plunge into the world of IoT, whether you’re using or developing. Here’s what you need to know about the process of IoT implementation.

 

The Anatomy of an IoT Solution

IoT solutions are diverse. Every company and application has unique needs and problems that their IoT solution will need to address. IoT design must bridge the gap between the physical world of Operations Technology (OT) and the digital world of Information Technology (IT). Accordingly, each solution will be customized to fit local requirements.

 

Just a few of the anatomical elements that a particular IoT solution may need to take into account include:

 

  • Things (OT): An IoT solution needs something to control, or it’s just another program. The thing or object the solution controls can be anything from a room to a refrigerator to crop growth.
  • Sensors (OT): For an IoT solution to manage a thing, it needs to keep tabs on the state of that thing. Depending on the context, sensors may monitor temperature, weight, speed, pressure, light, location, or any other element of the item.
  • Actuators (OT): Once a device has identified the state of an object, it can then work to change that state. An actuator can turn on lights, activate a motor, or adjust a thermostat, along with other jobs.
  • Communication devices (OT): For an IoT device to actually communicate with the Internet, it needs a communication device. This might be anything from a mesh network to a mobile device.
  • Agents: An agent connects the OT and IT elements of an IoT solution. Agents are components that connect sensors and actuators to the Cloud, helping process commands and deciding when to transfer data.
  • Applications (IT): An IoT device needs an application in order to control it. The application allows users to input data and keep things secure. Input data is any command given by the person in charge of an IoT device.
  • Analytics (IT): For devices that work to learn from their users, analytics programs are crucial. They track device usage and collate data to learn patterns and habits to better predict future needs.

 

The process of bridging the physical and digital worlds requires care and dedication to achieve professional results. The sheer number and diversity of use cases and potential operational needs lead to a broad array of IoT Endpoints. Each project will see different combinations of communication protocols, data management, and analytics technologies, as well as corresponding deployment topologies.

 

The Components of an IoT Project

The parts of every IoT task will be different from other projects. However, there are still some skill set components that are always important. These skills comprise the foundation of IoT development and the core of any IoT project.

 

Embedded Software Development

For an IoT device to function appropriately, it relies on a combination of software and hardware. As a result, embedded processors which contain software to facilitate communication between the device and associated firmware are a necessity. Without a solid set of embedded software, sensors and actuators may not function and the device may not work at all. Common embedded software languages include C and C++.

 

Device Networking

If there’s one tool that’s vital to the majority of IoT devices, it’s wireless networking. As IoT projects proliferate and become more mobile, wireless device networking is essential to avoid cables and unnecessary tethering. Understanding IoT implementation and managing wireless networking IoT systems is a fundamental element of any successful IoT project.

 

In addition, IoT projects often require more complex networks than other devices. Many of these systems involve a large number of individually connected items, such as sensors, cameras, and actuators. Designing a network that can handle each of these devices involves a lot of work. You need to adjust to each of the standards, protocols, and technologies that are currently utilized in the field. Doing so while keeping a network secure is a fine-tuned balancing act.

 

Machine Learning and Data Management

The rise of machine learning has revolutionized many technologies, and none more so than IoT. Machine learning and its associated artificial intelligence help devices in a given IoT network make smart decisions based on data. The machine learning processes assist to identify patterns, anomalies, and irrelevant data.

 

Accordingly, implementing data management, machine learning, and AI into an IoT project is crucial. Any given project may require only a basic level of AI. Yet, as the technology continues to improve, it is going to grow in importance within every field, IoT included.

 

Stages of Development in IoT

The general stages of developing an IoT process typically follow four steps:

 

  1. Networking things
  2. Developing sensor data aggregation and data conversion systems
  3. Producing edge IT systems
  4. Managing and storing data

 

1. Networking things

Before anything else can be done, a developer must connect sensors and actuators into a network. For an IoT device to do its job, it must be able to sense the environment and actuate change. Determining the sensors and actuators needed for the project and connecting them is the first stage of the development process.

 

2. Developing sensor data aggregation and data conversion systems

The next step moves away from the physical reality of sensors and actuators. IoT architecture requires systems to actually process the data from these objects. 

 

These systems include sensor data aggregation methods and analog-to-digital data conversion. It’s vital to collect the data and convert it into something that can be processed. That data can then be fed into learning algorithms in order to develop more refined systems.

 

Internet gateways and data acquisition systems are created during this stage. They connect the device to the Internet and squeeze data for better processing.

 

3. Producing edge IT systems

An edge IT system is a program that manages some of the data processing before anything is uploaded to the Cloud. An IoT device can log an enormous amount of data in a short period of time. Sending all of that information to the Cloud is inefficient if it’s possible to complete some analytics locally.

 

The third stage of IoT development is the creation of these edge IT systems. The architecture to process and learn from data is added to the local devices. This not only helps save time and effort, but also prevents constant massive data uploads to the Cloud.

 

4. Managing and storing data

Once the local aspects of a project are developed, it’s time to build the remote and cloud-based elements of an IoT system. These are the programs that will finish processing and analyzing the data while storing it offsite.

 

This step may also include the so-called “fifth stage” of IoT development. This stage is about building protocols to reach out to the user. IoT projects that aren’t aiming for complete automation can involve the consumer’s input at this stage. Depending on the data that’s processed in the Cloud, the program may ask the user to send commands to the device. The user can then command it to complete tasks, such as adjusting thermostat settings or unlocking a door.

 

Who Can Help Design and Implement an IoT Strategy?

IoT projects are among the most complex in the industry, as they involve coordinating both OT and IT elements. Any IoT project benefits from including the expertise of four types of IoT solution providers.

 

1. IoT Developer

Developers created the programs and applications that devices run on. IoT developers focus on:

  • the programs, APIs, and languages that work best to power complicated networks of devices. 
  • implementing analytics algorithms, 
  • use tools to manage the vast amounts of data produced by the devices, and 
  • integrate data filtering to keep systems streamlined. 

 

Without IoT developers, there is no IoT software to connect devices into an integrated whole.

 

2. IoT Architect

IoT architects oversee the spectrum of a given project. Rather than producing individual programs or components, they develop the plan for the device as a whole. That includes choosing the IoT platforms, sensors, and actuators that are needed. Architects also decide how they should be connected to meet the needs of the client. 

 

Most IoT architects have a Ph.D. in the field or extensive experience in multiple aspects of IoT development. Architects are the most likely to act as IoT consultants.

 

3. IoT Embedded Systems Designer

Most IoT devices require unique embedded systems to interface with each other and the Cloud. IoT embedded systems designers build the internal, device-specific firmware that facilitates communication between physical hardware and the Cloud. 

 

A deep understanding of both physical and digital systems is essential to ensure that there are no problems with these basic components.

 

4. IoT Solutions Engineer

IoT developers produce the software that powers devices, while IoT solutions engineers choose and build the devices themselves. They decide what types of sensors, actuators, and wireless connections should be made to meet a customer’s needs.

 

An IoT solutions engineer can work with IoT architects to help clients identify their needs. From there, they can find solutions that efficiently use physical space and resources. They can also work to innovate, improving existing systems with better component parts.

 

Who Benefits from IoT?

IoT technology is rapidly being adopted in a variety of fields. IoT solutions offer flexibility and customization options that help different industries improve in ways that get real results. Some of the fields seeing benefits from IoT technology include:

 

Logistics

Managing transportation and transport fleets is vital to the Logistics industry. IoT technology can help improve:

 

  • Route optimization to increase efficiency
  • Security, surveillance, and safety of cargo
  • Real-time traffic, conditions, and performance monitoring

 

Healthcare

Many patients benefit from the constant monitoring of their condition, and professionals can improve patient care with better information. IoT technology helps provide:

 

  • Immediate reporting and monitoring of a patient’s vitals
  • Automatic data assortment and analysis
  • Tracking and alerts in case of emergent problems

 

Retail

 Instantaneous analysis of customer behavior allows retail businesses to improve the shopping experience and increase revenue. IoT solutions help:

 

  • Improve the customer experience online and off
  • Boost revenue by encouraging customers to remain in the store or on the website
  • Manage inventory and staff tracking with innovative commercial IoT solutions like Novotech’s MeroSupply

 

Manufacturing

Tighter deadlines and more competition make efficiency essential in the manufacturing industry. IoT applications can keep the production flow smooth and efficient while monitoring inventory and development cycles. Other benefits include:

 

  • Better quality control
  • Instant production flow feedback
  • Optimized packaging and delivery

 

Agriculture

As agriculture continues to modernize, IoT technology can assist by:

 

  • Monitoring climate conditions in real-time
  • Automating greenhouse conditions like temperature and humidity
  • Managing crop conditions

 

Smart Homes and Workplaces

Finally, smart IoT devices are improving and simplifying the way people live their everyday lives. Implementing IoT solutions allows individuals to:

 

  • Control access to different spaces
  • Manage appliances remotely
  • Monitor and control home conditions at the touch of a button

 

Conclusion

The Internet of Things and the technology behind it are improving daily. Whether you’re considering an IoT solution or you already work with IoT systems or design, it’s worthwhile to stay up-to-date on the industry. 

 

This technology is already changing the world and industries that range from manufacturing to healthcare. There’s never been a better time to implement IoT solutions than today.