Smart locks, smart thermostats, smart cars -- we know what locks, thermostats, and cars are, but what makes one smart?
In an ever-connected world, there is a transformation underway that is aims to connect the whole ecosystem of physical objects that make up our everyday world by designing and integrating them with wireless connectivity to be monitored, controlled and linked over the Internet via mobile apps. When it comes to what objects can be connected to this internet-of-things, virtually anything from wearable fitness-bands, to light bulbs will be connected.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to scenarios where network connectivity and computing capabilities extend to predominantly physical objects that are not normally considered computers, which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity and enables them to collect, generate, and exchange data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
*Due to the nascency of this emerging field, some assert that there is no single, universal definition for the internet of things.
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The internet of things (IoT) is gaining significant market traction and bringing about fundamental changes in traditional business models. At its very basic level, the internet of things (also called the Internet of Everything or IoE) refers to the connection of everyday objects to the Internet and also to one another, with the goal of being able to provide users with smarter, more efficient experiences. The essence of this is to make it possible for just about anything to be connected and to communicate data over a network.
From a more technically approach, the Internet of Things (IoT) enables any physical device, embedded with a valid IP-address, to transfer data seamlessly over a wireless network. It is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, and natural beings that are all provided with unique identifiers. The pairing of common everyday ‘things’ with a unique identifier is what makes them so called ‘smart.’ Furthermore, the connectivity now provides these objects with the ability to transfer data without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
The end result of this connectivity is that previously static objects (e.g. refrigerator) can now be equipped to provide significantly more utility. Instead of your refrigerator only keeping your food cold, it will now be able to send you coupons for your favorite ice cream, notify you that the water filter needs to be changed, or that your warranty may be expiring soon.
Because the term internet-of-things, covers such a broad landscape, it is divided into several different categories. For simplicity sake, the general categories are first divided into the internet and then the things, with several subcategories for each category.
The Internet of Things needs a strong backbone to support the billions of connected devices and apps. Below are a few of the components of IoT Hardware Infrastructure:
To realize the true potential of Internet of Things (IoT), the data generated by sensors has to be analyzed in real-time. Below are a few categories of the types of IoT API Cloud services:
IoT cloud scale platforms enable software and services that use the power of the global hardware and connectivity to enable IoT deployments at any scale. Below are a few examples:
IoT applications are the end uses the internet of things makes possible. Below are only a small sample, among the many many types of IoT applications:
Understanding how the internet of things works sounds like a bigger challenge than it actually is. One can easily understand how the internet of things works by breaking it down into smaller categories such as the general categories mentioned above: wireless networks, the ‘things’ themselves, and cloud services.
The underlying infrastructure can be thought of as the highway, which is necessary for things to travel on. Underlying infrastructure includes essential hardware components such as fiber connectivity, data centers and various wireless radios that allow IoT enabled devices to connect to the Internet and to each other. Examples of the wireless radio standards include familiar standards like RFID, Wi-Fi, NFC, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), and some that you’ve probably haven’t heard of, like Xbee, ZigBee, Z-Wave , Wireless M-Bus and 6LoWPAN.
The connected things can be thought of as cars, that drive on the highway. Without ‘Things’, there would be no internet of things, but what are the actual things? So called ‘Things’ can be anything from a door lock, to a t-shirt, to your car or smartphone. The only requirement of these ‘things’ is that they have a valid IP-address to transfer data seamlessly over a wireless network. In certain cases, a group of things may be connected to a central hub which allows them to connect to eachother (similar to the way an intranet functions).
If the underlying infrastructure is the highway, and the things are the cars, then the cloud services are the fuel to drive cars. Cloud services enable the collection and analysis of data so people can see what’s going on and take action via their mobile apps.
The role that humans will play in the internet of things often gets overlooked because it is easy to overly focus on how much the IoT will improve our lives. Like many technologies, the internet of things is best considered from the perspective of adoption rather than purely invention. Although most of the internet of things is based on machine-to-machine interactions, the human-to-machine interaction is equally important because the human input is the driver of what should be used. Humans can control the environment via mobile apps.
Also known as the ‘Things’ in the context of the Internet of things (IoT), is an entity or physical object that has a unique identifier and the ability to transfer data over a network. This means that objects can be both physical and virtual objects such as Electronic tickets, Agendas, and Books. Most ‘things,’ from automobiles to smoke alarms, and the human body included, have long operated “dark,” with their location, position, and functional state unknown or even unknowable. The strategic significance of the IoT stems from the ever-advancing ability to break that constraint, and to create information without human observation.
Sensors are an integral component, and the IoT wouldn’t be possible without sensors. A sensor is a device that generates electronic signal from a physical condition or event. Sensor endpoints can be thought of a the fundamental enablers of the IoT. They convert non-electrical input into an electrical signal that can be sent to an electronic circuit. Sensors detect and measure changes in position, temperature, light, etc. and are necessary to turn billions of objects into data-generating “things” that can report on their status.
Like sensors, actuators are an integral component in the physically facing environment of the internet of things. A simple example of an actuator is an electric motor that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. Actuators receive electronic signals from sensors and turn it into into action by converting the electrical signals into non-electrical energy, such as motion. It’s the synergistic combination of both sensors and actuators that can be used to change the position of a physical object.
Most internet of things connected devices, from refrigerators to cars, have massive cloud-based back ends. This means that the cloud components of these technologies are become more systemic to IoT enabled devices. Many of these cloud-based services for devices are provided by major infrastructure providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft Azure. Many of these cloud based backend services can be used to:
Internet of Things middleware connects all of the different IoT components together and enables harmonious interaction among them. It is software that serves as an interface, facilitating the interaction between the ‘Internet’ and the ‘Things’, making otherwise non-existent communication possible. It also provides a connectivity layer for sensors and the application layers that support services that ensure effective communications among software. It also enables connectivity for a huge numbers of diverse Things.
IoT components are tied together by networks that use various wireless and wireline technologies, standards, and protocols to provide widespread connectivity. Below is a list of several of the more common types of connectivity networks used in the internet of things: