IoT has become a major phenomenon globally because of its impact on our lives, particularly as a lifesaving system. However, before we dive into the technology, we first have to look at the term ‘thing.’ In terms of IoT, any physical object or device can be a thing, for example, wearable devices, lights, lamps, headphones, vehicles, etc.
The evolution of the technology, though, can be attributed to the proliferation of the Internet, which forms the backbone of IoT, as the technology is nothing without an impeccable network connectivity.
IoT is Everywhere
IoT has the power to connect almost every ‘thing’ or device in the world and develop a connected world. Thanks to all the interconnected ‘things’ and people, there are several types of relationships in an IoT network, primarily People-People, Things-Things, and People-Things.
The benefits of IoT are huge, particularly in terms of the enormous time and cost savings to industries, business, and individuals. IoT extends internet connectivity beyond traditional devices such as desktop, laptop, smartphones, and tablets to an ever-growing network of everyday objects that utilize embedded technology to communicate and interact with the external environment via the Internet. In short, IoT is about connecting different objects in the environment via intelligent sensors, enabling them to send and receive data.
According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, IoT will have a total economic impact range between $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion by 2025.
Let’s understand the benefit of IoT with an example. We have smart ambulances today, with multiple lifesaving equipment and sensors to measure heart rate, blood pressure, ECG, etc. to diagnose the patient’s health. These smart ambulances are interconnected with the hospital and the data generated via the equipment and sensors is transferred to the hospital in real-time. Additionally, the city also boasts of smart traffic signals that are not only interconnected with each other but also connected with the GRPS of the ambulances. Thus, the real-time position of the ambulance is passed on, creating a green corridor to let the ambulance reach the hospital uninterrupted. With the hospital authorities already aware of the patient’s health status, they would not only be ready to receive the patient but also plan the course of treatment.
Figure 1: Four-Stage Architecture of IoT
Stage 1: Sensors and Actuators
While sensors sense the physical environment to collect data, actuators affect the physical environment that generates the data. A mobile phone is a device with multiple sensors (camera, accelerometer, GPS), however, the phone – as a standalone – is not just a sensor. Whether it is a standalone sensor or a full device, in the first step, the source is collecting data from the environment. Actuator triggers a mechanical action when supplied with energy through the form of electricity, air or water.
Stage 2: Data Acquisition and Control Systems
The stage 2 systems are closely knit with the sensors and actuators. This stage introduces systems that digitize the analog data and convert it into bits and bytes. The control systems that direct Stage 1 actuators are often integrated with the data acquisition systems (DAS). The DAS is connected to the sensor network and aggregates the outputs while performing the analog-to-digital conversions. The data flows from left to right, with Internet gateway receives the digitized aggregated data and routes it over the Internet to Stage 3 systems for further processing.
Stage 3: Edge IT
After digitization and aggregation, the data is ready to cross into the realm of IT, however, further processing may be required before it enters the data center. Edge IT plays a key role here by processing systems located in faraway offices or other edge locations. That said IoT data can consume a major share of network bandwidth and swamp the data center resources, it is advisable to have sensors reside closer to each other, such as in a wiring closet and systems capable of performing analytics to lower the burden on core IT infrastructure.
Stage 4: Data Center and Cloud
The IoT data that requires in-depth processing is forwarded to the physical data center or cloud-based systems, for detailed analyzes, management, and secure data storage. Though it can be a very long wait until we get results from data that has reached Stage 4, we can expect more refined results as the IoT data is combined with data from other sources too. Regardless of the platform – on-premises, cloud, or hybrid cloud system – the type of processing in stage 4 remains the same.
Although IoT is still a bit complicated technology for the average person, it is vital that people understand it, for it is going to influence our lives tremendously in the near future. With our world being driven by data and connectivity, it is apt that along with human-to-human connection there is a way for human-to-things and things-to-things connection too. IoT will go a long way in making our lives simple and safe.
That is all from us this time. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Please standby for the second blog in the series.
Until next time!
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