What is Internet of things (IoT) – How does it work

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Have you ever wondered that what will happen if your music system, bread toaster, washing machine, TV, juicer, car i.e. almost all of your electronic devices are connected to each other and can talk!! Well yes, literally! What will happen then?

Welcome to the world of internet of things !!!!

What is Internet of Things

Internet of things is an intelligent system of systems! Devices will connect to each other with the help of internet to form a group, further these groups will connect to each other forming a bigger group, so much bigger that all the electronic devices are connected to each other ultimately forming a large system of the connected device which can share and comprehend the information.

Let’s take few examples

  1. Suppose in one of our cities the streets and highways are installed with the smart cameras (which are connected to each other) which will send the traffic data over cloud to the data center to analyze it, the data center can real-time pick out the unusual behavior in one of the streets (say may be due to a car accident) so that the system can itself alert the commuters (cars/buses with IoT-enabled devices) and the people entering into the city to choose alternate routes and moderate the traffic lights to avoid congestion and keep a smooth flow of traffic.

Moreover, the vehicle will itself send the message to the nearby hospital for providing ambulance service and nearby police station in case of any criminal activity pertaining to the accident.

Furthermore, this system will be connected to the other transportation systems in the city like metro, bus, and airport which will have their own smaller set of the system which can be alerted to make necessary changes in their timings of operation.

 

  1. A patient is planted with an IoT-enabled pacemaker in the heart, which is connected to the cloud, any unusual behavior in the heart’s functioning will result into an urgent ping to the assigned doctor, who even remotely in real-time can see the stats and the complete history and medication provided to the patient without even calling the patient and doctor can take an immediate action without wasting crucial seconds to save his life.

Similarly, IoT can have many applications in the domains like – Energy, Power, Communications, Medical, Home automation, retail, manufacturing, transportation etc. the use cases can be numerous.

*Ping point: IoT is a concept which has already started becoming a reality but the pace is gradual. With the introduction of the IoT compliant devices and more connected devices in future, it is going to do wonders for the convenience to humanity.

Building blocks of IoT

The major components of the Internet of Things are:

  1. End device/Node – It is an essential part of the IoT or I should say that this is the “T” or things in the IoT.

Majorly these are the active sensing devices and actuators which collect the data (depending on the complexity of the sensor, it may do some processing as well) which is then fed into the processing units. There is a vast majority of equipment which falls into this category and it’s very difficult to list all down here, as it depends on the use case. A few examples could be temperature sensors at home, RFID sensors at a garment store, cameras at the highways etc.

  1. Gateways cum local processing nodes – It connects the End nodes to the network/cloud. Ideally, it should not only transfer the data collected from the sensors to the cloud but should process it to some extent and then forward the relevant data to the cloud for making predictions and inferences. For example: if a motion sensor is installed in a room, it will collect the data in the form of zeros and for any motion it will change that value to one, so if gateway will start passing all the huge number of zero values to the cloud the cloud service will be filled with huge amount of irrelevant data.

Currently, this is what is happening, in future the gateways will possess more intelligence and some storage to offload the cloud service.

It also provides the intelligence to the end nodes by sending back the data from the application/cloud.

  1. Connectivity – As IoT is a networked system, connectivity is an essential part of it. Service providers are providing many solutions around IoT to connect the end nodes to the gateways and gateways to the cloud, as this is a duplex system means the communication works to and fro between applications and hardware, data or signal also flow in reverse.

Depending on the geography and deployment schema, the connectivity could be a combination of the wireless and wired mechanism. For example, Bluetooth, WiFi, Radio Frequency, GSM, ZigBee, VPN etc are few examples of short and long range connectivity options.

  1. Cloud-based application and storage – Cloud or the cloud-based application’s job is to compute the collected data, analyze it and make inferences and predictions. The application generally is based at a central location unlike the end nodes or the local gateways. It does the real-time processing, storage for long-term, content delivery etc. Here business intelligence related decisions are also taken

Ping tip: By 2020 approximately 50 Billion products will be connected to the internet. And that will be more than 6 objects person or in other words, 6 times more than that of the would be world’s population.

How it works

The sensors collect the data, provide it to the gateway/local processing unit for a low-level processing and filtering and then the gateway send the same to the connected cloud for in-depth data analyses and to make inferences. The inferences drawn can be fed back to the sensor/end node and can also be sent to the business application for continuous improvement. The devices are connected via the internet all the while and can communicate seamlessly with each other so that they can make any real-time change as and when required.

IoT has already started gaining traction and soon we will see almost all the electronic devices produced will be IoT-enabled (i.e. with sensors and actuators) which will make our life more convenient and efficient. The deployment scenarios will depend solely on our need and the creativity of the developer and implementer, IoT is going to be big, very big and very soon.

Hopefully not taking all the controls and steer the human race!!!

Cheers!

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