There are many topographies of how a sound IoT system should look. They all share the same idea – it all starts with the device or thing which generates and provides the data. Data from one or multiple devices are gathered, aggregated and sent to storage or cloud service. Probably one of the most critical elements of IoT is Analytics. Analytics tools incorporate all possible ways, including statistics, machine learning, big data technologies to make data understandable and useable. This data can then be accessed through the user interface. User should have the ability not only to see the information but also alter it and even control the devices and actuators if needed.
Depending on IoT specifics, there can be less or more components. Anyway, this doesn’t change the logic of data and control flow. Probably the critical factor of sound IoT system is that each element is independent of each other and can be used as a distinct building block. Such an approach makes IoT solution management and maintenance more comfortable as each component can be used in any configuration. Let’s go through all parts to see what are the key features
Things, devices and applications
As mentioned before, this is an element which provides the data. For instance, a sensor can provide the temperature of an object. In the case of application, a smartphone routine could monitor and send battery load data. The data can be generated equally by hardware and software. For this reason term, ‘IoT devices’ sometimes are used things.
Gateway and connection interface
This part may be somewhat confusing because it is hard to draw a line where one ends and second begins. Modern IoT devices can already have a connection interface integrated. The same smartphone can generate data from multiple sensors such as GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer, gyro or camera and send it to the cloud. Depending on IoT network size and spread, devices can be connected to gateway using GSM, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, 5G and wired channels.
IoT devices generate constant data flow, so there is a need to compress it and store for more extended periods so it could be analyzed, mined and interpreted. Storage solutions can be local and remote – usually cloud. Local storage gives you more control of data, but it may be accessed locally. You must take care of your storage hardware and ensure security.
Best solution is to connect to cloud storage which usually provides not only capacity but also a set of useful data management tools. You can be sure that your data is backed up and software is always up to date.
Data analytics is a critical part of the data flow. Depending on how this data is represented, processed and filtered a specific decision can be made. Real-world data is usually noisy full of missing values, with outliers and other anomalies. Analytics is a multistage process which preprocesses data by eliminating damaged data, filling or rejecting missing values. For instance, sensor data additionally can be cleaned and smoothed with digital filters.
After data is prepared, then information is aggregated into human-readable form. It can be represented as statistics, charts, tables and another readable form. Large data amounts usually are processed by machine learning algorithms such as classification and clustering. Algorithms may help to discover typical and new patterns in the data flow. Data generalization works as a decision support system. Take a medical data flow – machine learning assisted system can help detect early stages of diseases and guide physician to pay more attention to certain areas.
The user interface is what you see in front of you and how you can control the IoT devices. There is nothing exceptional to say – user interface should be easily understandable, configurable and support multiple platforms including web interface, apps including PC or smartphone.
Another critical feature of IoT interface is automation. You should be able to set controls to be performed automatically. For instance, you should be able to set up the temperature regulation depending on threshold levels, so the system could do this automatically without bothering you. All you see are the messages if something goes out of limits. An IoT should have several ways of messaging – slow such as email for system messages and non-critical information. Instant messaging for critical information that requires immediate attention.
Typical real-world IoT applications
IoT system can be straightforward which may fit all components into a single smartphone, but the most significant chunk of the market is at the corporate level. It is estimated that spending on IoT may reach $1 trillion in 2020. Lots of professional systems are implementing flexible IoT billing models that provide not only connectivity but also for IoT devices, applications and bundled services. Tools that help to solve real problems in business are the most successful.
Finally, here are a few key industries which are gaining massive benefits from IoT systems:
- Health care
- Energy industry
Companies are adopting IoT to gain a competitive advantage by increasing the efficiency of processes. Real-time data allow to automate and optimize tasks. Lots of functions can be performed remotely and more robustly. Well-tuned IoT system can be controlled via smartphone without being physically in place. Flexible IoT provides a significant advantage in creating a more balanced and energy-efficient business flow.