If you need to start understanding what the Internet of Things is about, we are here to help with this simple guide!
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? An IoT Wikipedia search might make you feel as if this is a complex subject, beyond the understanding of most of us. Images of interconnected and complex of imaginary lines superimposed on smart cities from the future dominate articles in your search engine page results.
The truth, however, is you do not need to be a super tech specialist to understand about the internet of things. If you are feeling overwhelmed but would still like to know how IoT works, stay with us for this simple guide to defining IoT.
The internet of things what is it?
The Internet of Things is basically a network of interconnected digital endpoints such as connected devices, networks, servers, IoT applications etc. all communicating with each other. The history of IoT is a fairly recent one, with the concept of adding sensors and intelligence to physical objects first brought up in the 1980s.
IoT is an umbrella term for a broad technological ecosystem that comprises technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cyber security systems, advanced analytics, big data, machine learning, and so on. The ‘things’ that makeup IoT systems all share a common trait - they are IoT devices with the ability to transfer sensor data over a network, whether in a wireless way or with an Ethernet cable and then processed through edge computing. Simply put, IoT is when the device sends information on the internet.
In theory, anything can be connected to the Internet using IoT technologies, whether it is physical objects or living creatures. So basically, the question is not, 'what can you connect' but rather, 'why should you connect'. Different devices are connected for different purposes, whether this is for home security systems or industrial IoT.
The overall picture consists of three protagonists - an IoT device, an internet connection, and a server. These three protagonists need one another in order to function as a happy family. There are various levels of IoT. There are devices that send a lot of information on the internet, and others that send much less IoT data. There are devices that send and receive, and others that only send information.
Overall, we can group different sections of IoT into three distinct categories:
i) Devices normally used by the consumer and sending high data rates, such as mobile phones and laptops. These devices send and receive a lot of information, especially when streaming videos;
ii) Devices connected to electricity and with a medium data transmission rate, such as vehicle trackers installed in fleets of connected cars, or smart fridges which transmit temperature information.
iii) Low-powered devices that communicate through LPWAN network operators. These sensors are not connected to any electricity source but instead are battery-powered (some of which can last for up to 10 years). These devices do not send data continuously but instead may communicate around 10 times a day, saving much-needed energy.
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Some IoT examples of these latter devices can be sensors located within agricultural soils, for example, parking sensors fixed to the ground, bins equipped with sensors monitoring waste levels, asset trackers, humidity and temperature sensors as well as air quality sensors.
What is LPWAN?
Low-power WAN (LPWAN) is a wireless wide area network technology that interconnects low-bandwidth, battery-powered devices with low bit rates over long ranges. As we have seen above, a smart device needs an internet connection to be able to connect to a server. The sensors in the devices collect data that is sent to the server through the internet. The server identifies the smart device and its data matches it with the customer account and validates the type of service being provided. The server in turn communicates with the smart device and updates it with the latest information.
LPWAN does not consist of one single technology but is formed by a group of various low-power, wide area network technologies. LPWAN is provided by network operators such as Sigfox, LoRa, LTE-M and NBIoT. These operators consist of small sections of 4G and 5G, and are wireless and long-range.
LPWANs operate at a lower cost with greater power efficiency than traditional mobile networks. Because data sent from devices using LPWANs is less complex than necessitating 4G and 5G networks (such as our mobile phones) they can support a larger number of devices over a wide-ranging area. LPWANs are best suited for applications that require infrequent up-link delivery of small messages (think a small text SMS on your old Nokia 3310).
Normally, a lot of communication happens in real time between the smart device and the server. The problem arises if the internet connection is unstable, or there is no internet connection at all! No internet, no communication. It is why the continued advancement of wireless technology such as 5G is essential for the delivery of high-speed data transmissions along with a uniform user experience.
How is IoT Affecting Us?
The IoT already affects much of our lives without us necessarily knowing it. Think of improved health sciences, home devices, building and construction, security and public safety, efficient industrial outputs, and many others. We use smart devices and travel from one smart city to the next.
The beauty of IoT is that it is consistently being developed to tackle specific needs across all sectors. In a world dominated by machine learning algorithms, which constantly demand faster, smarter, and more profitable enterprises, this is critical.
As with all that is digital, the Internet of Things is always improving and the combination of super-fast connectivity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and huge amounts of data will give rise to new powerful technological innovations, leading to the rise of IoT 2.0. Whether companies can take advantage of these innovations and gain the edge over their competitors, remains to be seen. It will be critical for manufacturers to invest in IT equipment to support specialist industrial applications whilst seamlessly integrating the technology into their process.
Most importantly, IoT is something that will increasingly come to dominate our lives in the future. IoT technology and devices are not solely for the use of large Enterprises, but also for the benefit of various SME’s. The launch of 5G is vital for the future of IoT since this will mean increased performance, connection speed, and reliability, all of which are essential for IoT and its reliance on real-time updates.
IoT Security Issues
IoT is credited with enhanced customer experience, increased efficiency and productivity, and better communication. All are possible from the collection of huge amounts of real-time data which is subsequently analyzed to facilitate decision making. The amounts of data collected however have raised concerns about security issues and the protection of such data.
Security is an issue in everything in life and the internet, including IoT, is no different. The more security you put in place, the more difficult it is for someone to break into your system. You can go beyond the current internet security systems and make your device even more secure. An example would be making data encrypted, meaning that even if someone hacks your data, they would still not be able to read it!
Enhanced security also means longer development periods. Having said that, not all devices need additional security and not all activities will warrant additional security and costs. Any device can be hacked. How difficult that system is made for someone to hack is a decision that needs to be made after careful consideration, especially in industrial enterprises and businesses.
The Industrial IoT
The Internet of Things is not only about home devices. Instead, it is the basis of a new industrial transformation based on the industrial internet, or what is being called Industry 4.0.
Digitalization in the industrial sectors has continued to grow and so has its impact on the manufacturing sector. New tools and solutions such as artificial intelligence, extended reality, and automation continue to offer a wide range of competitive advantages. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) across all manufacturing industries is estimated to grow at an annual rate of 57.2% over the next five years, creating a market worth over €14.02 billion by 2026.
The Extended Reality market is booming and should reach a total of 29.39 billion euros by 2023, an increase of 170% in just two years. As for the use of robots and automation, this is already a reality in many parts of the manufacturing sector. The global robotics market is expected to grow by 20% annually over the next five years. The total volume is expected to be around 62.13 billion euros by 2026.
There are already sectors in the industry in which IoT is essential, without people in that industry not necessarily realizing it. Take agriculture for example, where an IoT solution will mean better monitoring, smart irrigation, more production, and fewer costs incurred for work that would no longer be necessary. Those costs could be re-invested in better training, technologies, and human resources.
In the end, not paying that extra cost for an IoT solution will mean falling behind in the race for production and as a result, losing business. Those who will not move in with the time will become less competitive and eventually obsolete
What Internet of Things works for you?
In business management, just like in a smart home, a fully connected system can get pretty expensive. Consumers can get quickly discouraged without even getting started, thinking the costs outweigh the advantages of IoT. The decision to invest in IoT should be made by looking at the bigger picture, and overall objectives. Will it help in your overall strategy? Will it make your life better? Is it worth the cost?
The first key consideration is to identify what problem you need the IoT solution to solve for you. Today most people look for a complete solution when choosing. They want someone who can take care in the design implementation and post-sale journey, without having to look at different suppliers. The good news is that technology also means cheaper IoT device components, which in turn translates into a cheaper overall price. That is great news for your business!
The considerations for choosing an IoT company for your IoT Solutions are essentially the same you consider when choosing any company over another. The decision rests on the experience that the company brings with it to the table, as well as the reviews it got for previous products and services it gave to previous customers
Whilst there is an IoT solution for everything and anything can be turned into an IoT device, that does not necessarily mean that every solution is commercially viable. It is the market that decides whether turning that item into a smart device is viable. The timeline for each solution is a case-by-case scenario and the product always takes a few months of testing before being placed on the market.
There are various considerations that need to be taken into account when designing a device such as intended use, the location, the technology applicable, and that the final product is up to specific standards. A deep understanding of the subject is necessary to ensure the technology used is the most cost-effective and with all necessary features.
Most importantly, be sure that as a client you are being given the most benefit for what you are paying!
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