IoT (Internet of Things) Primer

IoT (Internet of Things) Primer

  • What is IoT
  • Technology behind IoT
  • Overview of Working of IoT
  • IoT Enabler
  • Areas of Applications
  • Cons

What is IoT

In a nutshell, the Internet of Things is the concept of connecting any device (so long as it has an on/off switch) to the Internet and to other connected devices. The IoT is a giant network of connected things and people – all of which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them.

thing, in the Internet of Things, can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochiptransponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low — or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart gridsvirtual power plantssmart homesintelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to areas such as smart cities.

IoT has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), microservices and the internet. The convergence has helped tear down the silo walls between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT), allowing unstructured machine-generated data to be analyzed for insights that will drive improvements.

Overview of Working of IoT

1.) Sensors & Sensor technology – They will sniff a wide variety of information ranging from Location, Weather/Environment conditions, Grid parameters, Movement on assembly lines, Jet engine maintenance data to Health essentials of a patient

2.) IoT Gateways – IoT Gateways, as the name rightly suggests, are the gateways to internet for all the things/devices that we want to interact with. Gateways help to bridge the internal network of sensor nodes with the external Internet or World Wide Web. They do this by collecting the data from sensor nodes & transmitting it to the internet infrastructure.

3.) Cloud/server infrastructure & Big Data – The data transmitted through gateway is stored & processed securely within the cloud infrastructure using Big Data analytics engine. This processed data is then used to perform intelligent actions that make all our devices ‘Smart Devices’!

4.) End-user Mobile apps – The intuitive mobile apps will help end users to control & monitor their devices (ranging from room thermostat to jet engines & assembly lines) from remote locations. These apps push the important information on your hand-held devices & help to send commands to your Smart Devices!

5.) IPv6 – IP addresses are the backbone to the entire IoT ecosystem. Internet is concerned about IP addresses only & not if you are a human or a toaster. With IPv4 we were running out of IP addresses, but with IPv6 (launched in 2012) we now have 3.4*10^38 IP addresses.

IoT Enabler

There are many technologies that enable IoT. Crucial to the field is the network used to communicate between devices of an IoT installation, a role that several wireless or wired technologies may fulfill.

Short-range wireless

Bluetooth mesh networking – Specification providing a mesh networking variant to Bluetooth low energy (BLE) with increased number of nodes and standardized application layer (Models).

Light-Fidelity (Li-Fi) – Wireless communication technology similar to the Wi-Fi standard, but using visible light communication for increased bandwidth.

Near-field communication (NFC) – Communication protocols enabling two electronic devices to communicate within a 4 cm range.

QR codes and barcodes – Machine-readable optical tags that store information about the item to which they are attached.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) – Technology using electromagnetic fields to read data stored in tags embedded in other items.

Thread – Network protocol based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, similar to ZigBee, providing IPv6 addressing.

Transport Layer Security – Network security protocol.

Wi-Fi – Widely used technology for local area networking based on the IEEE 802.11 standard, where devices may communicate through a shared access point.

Wi-Fi Direct – Variant of the Wi-Fi standard for peer-to-peer communication, eliminating the need for an access point.

Z-Wave – Communication protocol providing short-range, low-latency data transfer at rates and power consumption lower than Wi-Fi. Used primarily for home automation.

ZigBee – Communication protocols for personal area networking based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, providing low power consumption, low data rate, low cost, and high throughput.

Medium-range wireless

HaLow – Variant of the Wi-Fi standard providing extended range for low-power communication at a lower data rate.

LTE-Advanced – High-speed communication specification for mobile networks. Provides enhancements to the LTE standard with extended coverage, higher throughput, and lower latency.

Long-range wireless

Low-power wide-area networking (LPWAN) – Wireless networks designed to allow long-range communication at a low data rate, reducing power and cost for transmission.

Very small aperture terminal (VSAT) – Satellite communication technology using small dish antennas for narrowband and broadband data.

Long-range Wi-Fi connectivity


Ethernet – General purpose networking standard using twisted pair and fiber optic links in conjunction with hubs or switches.

Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) – Specification enabling whole-home distribution of high definition video and content over existing coaxial cabling.

Power-line communication (PLC) – Communication technology using electrical wiring to carry power and data. Specifications such as HomePlug utilize PLC for networking IoT devices.

Areas of Applications

Smart Home: The smart home is likely the most popular IoT application at the moment because it is the one that is most affordable and readily available to consumers. From the Amazon Echo to the Nest Thermostat, there are hundreds of products on the market that users can control with their voices to make their lives more connected than ever.

Wearables: Watches are no longer just for telling time. The Apple Watch and other smartwatches on the market have turned our wrists into smartphone holsters by enabling text messaging, phone calls, and more. And devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone have helped revolutionize the fitness world by giving people more data about their workouts.

Smart Cities: The IoT has the potential to transform entire cities by solving real problems citizens face each day. With the proper connections and data, the Internet of Things can solve traffic congestion issues and reduce noise, crime, and pollution.

Connected Car: These vehicles are equipped with Internet access and can share that access with others, just like connecting to a wireless network in a home or office. More vehicles are starting to come equipped with this functionality, so prepare to see more apps included in future cars.

Health Care: The internet of things has numerous applications in healthcare, from remote monitoring to smart sensors and medical device integration. It has the potential to not only keep patients safe and healthy, but to improve how physicians deliver care as well. Healthcare IoT can also boost patient engagement and satisfaction by allowing patients to spend more time interacting with their doctors. For example, UroSense is a smart fluid management solution offered by Future Path Medical. It automatically measures the core body temperature (CBT) and urine output of patients on catheterization. The smart monitoring of these vital signs helps avoid infections while starting early care of medical conditions like diabetes, prostate cancer, heart failure and sepsis. UroSense can wirelessly provide report data directly to nursing stations anywhere.

Retail: The potential of IoT in the retail sector is enormous. Imagine if your home appliances could notify you when supplies are short and order them all on their own. This proximity-based advertising model of smart retailing is becoming a reality. We already have Internet of Things application examples through smart supply chains. Applications for tracking goods, real-time inventory information exchange among suppliers and retailers, and automated delivery capabilities exist and new growth areas are emerging quickly.

Transportation: IoT is making self-driving and/or connected cars a reality. Automotive industry leaders such as BMW, Ford and GM and newer entrants in the auto space like Google, Local Motors and Uber are announcing and deploying innovative technologies to support connected car platforms. These automotive IoT initiatives promise to save lives, reduce pollution and commute hassles and simplify transportation for millions around the globe.

Industrial-Internet of Things: Industrial automation is one of the most profound applications of IoT. The IoT infrastructure, combined with advanced sensor networks, wireless connectivity, innovative hardware and machine-to-machine communication, will completely transform the conventional automation process of industries. IoT automation solutions for industries are already in the market from such big names as NEC, Siemens, Emerson and Honeywell.

Let’s look at some examples to see what this looks like in real life.

Scenario 1: IoT in your home

Imagine you wake up at 7am every day to go to work. Your alarm clock does the job of waking you just fine. That is, until something goes wrong. Your train’s cancelled and you have to drive to work instead. The only problem is that it takes longer to drive, and you would have needed to get up at 6.45am to avoid being late. Oh, and it’s pouring with rain, so you’ll need to drive slower than usual. A connected or IoT-enabled alarm clock would reset itself based on all these factors, to ensure you got to work on time. It could recognize that your usual train is cancelled, calculate the driving distance and travel time for your alternative route to work, check the weather and factor in slower travelling speed because of heavy rain, and calculate when it needs to wake you up so you’re not late. If it’s super-smart, if might even sync with your IoT-enabled coffee maker, to ensure your morning caffeine’s ready to go when you get up.

Scenario 2: IoT in transport

Having been woken by your smart alarm, you’re now driving to work. On comes the engine light. You’d rather not head straight to the garage, but what if it’s something urgent? In a connected car, the sensor that triggered the check engine light would communicate with others in the car. A component called the diagnostic bus collects data from these sensors and passes it to a gateway in the car, which sends the most relevant information to the manufacturer’s platform. The manufacturer can use data from the car to offer you an appointment to get the part fixed, send you directions to the nearest dealer, and make sure the correct replacement part is ordered so it’s ready for you when you show up.

Cons of IoT

Privacy and Security: As many of our everyday appliances, machines and services become connected to the internet, much more information is readily available. It makes it harder to keep confidential information out of the hands of hackers and other unauthorized users.

Compatibility: Currently, there is not international standard of compatibility for the IoT which can make it hard for devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other.

Complexity: Because the IoT is such a vast, diverse network, a single failure in either the software or hardware can have disastrous consequences.

Fewer Jobs: As IoT brings in more consistent automation, we could see a decline in the need for unskilled employees in the workplace.

Technologically Dependent Life: As our lives become more and more dependent on technology, basic human interaction skills will be reduced across society.

Data storage and analytics: A challenge for producers of IoT applications is to clean, process and interpret the vast amount of data which is gathered by the sensors. Another challenge is the storage of this bulk data.

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