One of the most significant developments in manufacturing in the last ten years has been the Internet of Things (IoT). Internet of Things (IoT) technology typically involves small, low-power devices that communicate with each other and with the Internet via wireless networks such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cellular networks to transfer meaningful data.
Contents covered in this article
What is the Internet of Things?
‘Internet of Things (IoT) refers to physical “Things” that communicate via a digital network. By using sensors and actuators in devices, IoT collects data about how they are used and uses them to make them work more intelligently or better. By incorporating IoT technology into a product, it becomes possible to monitor and control it remotely, gather data on its usage, and use that data to improve the product or create new features.
IoT is already making a difference in how you connect data and the value it can offer you. The changes we are all likely to see over the next few years will make a difference in everything from your daily commute to how you stay healthy. IoT technology can apply to many products, from home appliances to cars, wearable technology and beyond.
Types of Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) incorporates a wide range of devices and technologies connected to the Internet. Some common types of IoT devices include:
- Consumer IoT
- Smart Home Devices – such as smart lights, smart thermostats and smart locks
- Wearables – including fitness trackers, smartwatches, and health monitors
- Industrial IoT
- Industrial IoT – includes devices used in manufacturing and industrial processes for monitoring, control, and optimisation.
- Industrial IoT examples – Vibration sensors, humidity detection, touch detection, temperature sensors, proximity sensors and leak detection
- Healthcare IoT
- Healthcare IoT – includes medical devices and wearable technology for monitoring and diagnosing medical conditions.
- Healthcare IoT examples – Remote patient monitoring, Glucose monitoring devices, Heart rate sensors, and fall detection sensors.
- Agricultural IoT
- Agricultural IoT – includes sensors, cameras, and other devices used in farming to optimise crop yields and monitor livestock.
- Automotive IoT
- Connected Cars – vehicles equipped with sensors, cameras, and internet connectivity for navigation, entertainment, and safety features
- Smart City IoT
- A smart city uses IoT sensors in urban areas to collect data and automate traffic, energy use, and waste management systems. By doing so, smart cities improve the efficiency of urban services, reduce costs, and deliver a higher standard of living.
- Smart City IoT – includes sensors and other devices used to manage city services such as traffic control, waste management, and energy use.
- Environmental IoT
- The applications of IoT in environmental monitoring are broad − environmental protection, extreme weather monitoring, water safety, endangered species protection, commercial farming, and more. In these applications, sensors detect and measure every type of environmental change.
- Environmental monitoring includes sensors that monitor air, water, and soil conditions.
The above is only a partial list, and new types of IoT devices and sectors are constantly being developed and introduced to the mass market.
How does Internet of Things (IoT) work?
Nodes with built-in sensors or actuators are devices linked to an Internet of Things platform, which integrates data from many devices and uses analytics to share the most crucial information with apps designed to meet specific needs.
IoT solutions may be complex, but they always function similarly. So let’s begin with the essential components of an IoT system.
Device – “Thing”
The Internet of Things applies to anything transmitting data, such as a temperature sensor, smartwatch, smart speaker, car, motor and Fridge.
A “thing” generally consists of four main elements:
- Sensors & actuators
- Microcontroller and Edge processing
- Communication unit
- Power supply
All IoT solutions use similar fundamental infrastructure that we discussed before. Therefore, the first step in developing any system is determining what type of sensors would be required.
Sensors & Actuators
Most sensors acquire limited data, convey it to the next layer, and transfer it to the cloud. Sensor processing power can be minimal if compactness is essential; thus, a designer can integrate sensors into wearable or readily transportable things.
Actuators may perform physical actions by translating an electrical signal to a physical output, such as turning off a power source, altering valve pressure, or moving a robotic arm. Sensors monitor the circumstances, and action can be taken depending on the sensor data to trigger an action using an actuator.
A typical example would be an actuator that activates an emergency stop on a production line when the temperature of the machinery gets too high.
Microcontroller & Edge processing
Microcontrollers act like the brain of the device and are programmed to execute various tasks and interact with sensors, actuators, and other devices. In contrast, edge processing involves processing data locally on an IoT device rather than sending raw data to the cloud. As a result, edge processing improves the speed and efficiency of data processing and reduces the need for network bandwidth.
When selecting microcontrollers, consider performance, power consumption, connectivity support, compatibility, security, and processing capability.
IoT devices require a communication unit to send and receive data to and from other devices or systems. IoT Communication defines the infrastructure, technologies and protocols to connect IoT devices, gateways and cloud platforms. Key elements of IoT communication are connectivity type, range, bandwidth, security, power consumption and compatibility.
The power supply unit provides the required voltage and current to power the IoT devices. Therefore, choosing an efficient power supply that meets specific requirements for the application is vital.
Consider voltage, current, efficiency, size, output connection, reliability and size when choosing a power supply.
An IoT gateway is a network device that bridges IoT devices and the cloud server. Its primary function is to connect and transfer data between the cloud and the IoT devices.
IoT gateways are generally small and low-power devices deployed in industrial factories and harsh environments.
IoT cloud refers to a platform that provides infrastructure and services for storing, managing and analysing data generated by IoT devices. IoT cloud platforms should be able to handle the massive amount of data generated by IoT devices and provide scalable and reliable storage and processing capabilities.
These platforms typically offer various services, including data ingestion, storage, processing, analytics, and visualisation. Some popular IoT cloud platforms include Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT, Microsoft Azure IoT, and Google Cloud IoT.
After storing the raw data in the cloud, they are analysed before providing helpful information to the stakeholder. This is when the insight is retrieved, and the data’s worth may be realised. Numerous data analysis tools are available depending on the type of insights required. For enormous datasets, artificial intelligence and machine learning are beneficial.
Following analysis, the data can be sent to end users via applications or software. For example, it might be given as suggestions or requirements and can even automate activities based on patterns or prior usage of the same data. In the following module, we’ll explore the various applications in greater depth.
Working stages of Internet of Things (IoT)
It takes work to convert raw data into something valuable and consumable. All data must go through several essential procedures before it can be analysed. First, look at how IoT transfers data from devices to end users.
In addition to the four-stage IoT design, the IoT platform, which offers connection across the stages, must be considered. The platform’s structure determines the nitty-gritty details of data transmission. For example, it decides where data travels and how much processing is done at each level. Depending on the system’s specificity, an IoT platform can be modified to a larger or lesser extent.
Step 1 – Sensing & Data Acquisition
In this stage, IoT devices equipped with sensors or actuators are deployed to collect data from the environment or interact with it. The sensors can detect various physical parameters such as temperature, humidity, light, motion, and sound.
For example, sensors collect data on a process or an environmental condition, such as vibration, temperature, chemical composition, humidity, tank levels, fluid flow, and magnetic field, among other things.
Step 2 – Connectivity and data transfer
A data acquisition system (DAS) gathers raw sensor data and transforms it from analogue to digital. Once the data is collected, it must be transmitted to a central processing system for analysis. IoT devices use various connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular networks, or satellite communications to send the data to the cloud or a local gateway.
Step 3 – Pre-processing a- Analytics at the edge
The data collected from the sensors is processed and analysed using machine learning algorithms, statistical analysis, or other data processing techniques. The processed data is then stored in a database for further analysis or decision-making.
Step 4 – In-depth analysis in the cloud or data centre
Action: Finally, the insights from the processed data are used to take actions or trigger events based on the data received. These actions can be in the form of notifications, alerts, automated control of devices, or other types of responses.
The above stages are interdependent and need to work together seamlessly to ensure the proper functioning of the IoT ecosystem. First, the sensors must collect accurate and reliable data transmitted securely to the processing system. Then, the processing system should analyse the data to derive meaningful insights, which should be used to take actions that improve the system’s performance.
Example of the Internet of Things
The market has several top products. A few examples of IoT products include smart mobiles, smart refrigerators, smartwatches, smart fire alarms, smart door locks, smart bicycles, medical sensors, fitness trackers, and smart security systems.
Technologies used in IoT products
The technologies used in these devices are low-energy wireless and Bluetooth, NFC, LTE, ZigBee, wireless protocols etc.
Many different technologies can be used in IoT products, depending on the specific needs and requirements of the application. However, some of the most common technologies used in IoT products include:
- Sensors – These devices detect and respond to physical inputs such as acceleration, temperature, pressure and light and convert them into digital signals that IoT systems can process.
- Wireless communication protocols – IoT devices often use wireless communication protocols such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, or LoRaWAN to connect to the Internet and communicate with other devices.
- Microcontrollers – These are small, low-power computer chips used to control and manage the operation of IoT devices, often including processing sensor data, running applications, and communicating with other devices.
- Cloud computing: IoT devices often use cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure to store and process data, run analytics, and enable remote management.
- Machine learning and AI – IoT devices can be enhanced with machine learning and AI algorithms to enable advanced analytics, predictive modelling, automation, and decision-making capabilities.
- Security – IoT devices must be designed with strong security measures, including encryption, secure boot, and secure firmware updates, to protect against cyber threats and data breaches.
- Power management – IoT devices must be designed to operate on low power and maximise battery life, often through energy-efficient hardware and software design.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet of Things
Advantages of Internet of Things
- IoT technology provides automation and control abilities to various industries.
- IoT promotes machine-to-machine communication, also known as M2M communication.
- Technology increases efficiency and saves time on operations
- IoT technology has robust monitoring capabilities.
- Monitoring of devices is made more accessible by automating daily tasks.
- IoT increases financial savings by reducing manual labour and associated time.
Disadvantages of Internet of Things
- There are no international compatibility standards for Internet of Things devices.
- Some IoT systems can get very complex and fail due to a lack of maturity
- The privacy and security of IoT devices can be compromised
- IoT might compromise user safety
- Reduction in the employment of manual tasks
- With the development of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things could eventually have more power