The term IoT, expanded as the Internet of Things, refers to the network of billions of physical devices around the globe that are connected to the internet and can collect and share data. The evolving devices with added digital intelligence are now capable of communicating without needing human involvement. In simpler terms, almost any device that can be connected to the internet can be converted into an IoT device. For instance, a light bulb that can be controlled through a smartphone is an IoT device. Similarly, a sensor, a streetlight, or a toy can be an IoT device.
To explain it further, the term IoT is used for devices that do not usually have an internet connection and with added connectivity feature, they are able to function without human intervention. This is why a PC is not considered an IoT device. This article explains the working of IoT.
An IoT system consists of four main components including sensors/devices, connectivity, data processing, and a user interface. Here is what these components do:
The sensors or devices are responsible for gathering data from the environment and send it to the system for the processing. The term data here refers to anything ranging from the simple temperature reading to something as complex as a video. Different devices or sensors collect this data depending on what they are meant for. There can be more than one sensors too that form a part of a device. Therefore, anything that collects data of any kind from the environment comes under the category of sensors or devices for IoT.
Once the data is gathered, it needs to be sent to the cloud. This is where connectivity is required. The devices/sensors are connected to the cloud using one or more of the methods, for example, Bluetooth, low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), WiFi, satellite connection, a cellular network, or direct connection to the internet through Ethernet. The method to be used by the IoT device for connectivity is specific, however, the aim is to send the gathered data to the cloud.
- Data Processing
Once the data has been transferred to the cloud, it is processed there using software that is specially designed for this data. This function can be as simple as checking whether the temperature is in an acceptable range or as complex as identifying the objects in a video. After the processing, if the results are something important like temperature is not in acceptable range or the computer detects something objectionable in the video, it has to be sent to the user so that they can take some action. This is where the user interface is needed.
- User Interface
The end user is alerted with the important information through some user interface. This can be done by sending an alert message, email, or a notification to the user on their smartphone. It is also possible for the user to proactively check in on the system for any important information through an interface. User interfaces are, again, simple as well as complex depending on the type of device and urgency of information. There are interfaces that will allow you to just check the video, message, or notification while there some complex interfaces that have an added functionality of allowing the user to act on the information received and affect the system. For example, if the temperature of a cold storage goes higher than acceptable, a user might be able to control it from their smartphone.
With the continuous drop in the prices of smart devices, sensors, and communication, IoT is increasingly becoming cost-effective. More and more devices are adding to the list of IoT devices and consumers are getting the benefit of it. In the near future, our living and working places will have a huge number of smart products. Right now, the increase in IoT is a topic of hot debate. While some are happy to welcome the technology in their lives while others want their lives to go back to as simple as they were before the dawn of the internet. But, whatever may be the case, IoT is here to stay.