The Internet of Things promises us a smarter future: fridges that can fill up by automatically ordering groceries from a local grocery store (delivery to the refrigerator included!). These bridges warn oncoming cars from a frozen surface or smart devices that monitor the health of your fridge and deliver real-time data right to your doctor. While all of this may soon be within our reach, we still need to be aware of the massive machinery behind the scenes that turn dreams into reality. These dreams would never come true without the countless IoT technologies around us.
What is the hype about IoT technology?
Computers have been with us since the middle of the 20th century. But the technology behind the Internet of Things was already emerging long before personal computers were available to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Since the second half of the 19th century. Despite all the technical limitations, it laid the foundation for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication which, alongside advances in connectivity solutions, gradually gave rise to the idea of the Internet of Things as we know it. Today.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interconnected digital devices, machines, objects, animals, or people equipped with unique identifiers, and the ability to transmit and exchange data over the network without human-to-human interaction - or human-to-human - human-computer interaction is required. Bridging the gap between the physical and virtual worlds, the IoT aims to create intelligent environments where individuals and entire societies can live smarter and more comfortably. As pompous as it may seem, the IoT is already part of our daily lives and will undoubtedly stay there forever.
What is IoT technology? The IoT technology stack
Finding your way through the technological maze of IoT can be a daunting task, given the variety and many technical solutions surrounding it. However, we can simplify the IoT technology stack into four core technology layers required to make the Internet of Things work. These are as follows:
Devices are objects that constitute "things" within the Internet of Things. Acting as an interface between the real and the digital world, they can take on different dimensions, shapes, and levels of technological complexity, depending on the task performed within the specific IoT implementation.
Whether it's pinhead-sized microphones or heavy construction equipment, virtually any material object (even animated objects such as animals or humans) can be transformed into a connected device by adding the necessary tools (via sensors or actuators) together with the appropriate software) to measure and collect the required data. Of course, sensors, actuators, or other telemetry devices can also be standalone smart devices for home automation.
The only limitation you will encounter here is the actual use case of the IoT and the hardware requirements (size, ease of implementation and management, reliability, useful life, cost-effectiveness).
This is what actually makes connected devices “smart”. The software is responsible for implementing cloud communication, collecting data, integrating devices and performing real-time data analysis within the IoT network. In addition, device software provides application-level functionality for users to view data and interact with the IoT system.
With device hardware and software, another layer must provide intelligent objects with ways and means to exchange information with the rest of the IoT world. If it is true that the communication mechanisms are strongly linked to the hardware and software of the devices, it is essential to think of them as a separate layer. The communication layer includes physical connectivity solutions (cellular, satellite, LAN) and specific protocols used in IoT environments (ZigBee, Thread, Z-Wave, MQTT, LwM2M). Choosing the relevant communication solution is one of the essential parts in building any IoT technology stack. The technology chosen not only determines how data is sent / received from the cloud, but also how devices are managed and how they interact with third-party devices.