An IoT device is usually a sensor that collects data from its environment and communicates the same to another device or a processing software over the internet.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices are physical instruments like sensors, actuators, or machines that are programmable based on the end applications. They can include even software and computing devices that can transmit or receive data over the internet. They are easily embedded into other machinery or mobile gadgets. IoT devices generally use Artificial intelligence (AI) or Machine learning (ML) to automate the systems without any human intervention.
Examples of IoT devices can be as diverse as a health monitoring chip on a human body to a sensor in an automotive to detect the fuel quantity level in the tank. IoT devices communicate in multiple ways based on the application’s specific requirements. There are several components involved in IoT communication like IoT devices, communication protocols, gateways, servers, cloud applications, and user consoles.
An IoT device is usually a sensor that collects data from its environment and communicates the same to another device or a processing software over the internet. The device is programmed to collect and send such data when it was manufactured. The device’s PCB Assembly and its embedded program together makes the whole data transfer happen. The collected data can be a simple temperature reading or a complete video capture of premises. But these devices always have a focused purpose. The communication device connected to the sensors or actuators will have a wired or a wireless port to transfer the collected data to a processor or software. Also, IoT devices are usually powered using portable batteries.
The communication of IoT devices can be unidirectional (send data) or bidirectional (send and receive data). If it is a remote communication then the data has to be transferred via a gateway. The network protocol used can be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Satellite, or directly connecting to the internet via ethernet port. It depends on the required bandwidth, range, or power requirements of the IoT device.
Some of the ubiquitous communication protocols used in building an IoT system are:
Wi-Fi: Best suited for LAN network that interconnects computers in a limited zone. It is based on TCP/IP protocol to communicate between endpoint IoT devices. Wifi transmits data in broadband and narrowband frequencies and has multiple advantages in low-power applications.
Bluetooth: Commonly used in short-range applications preferably in personal products like wireless speakers. Bluetooth protocol reduces power usage and maintenance. Hence, it is widely used in simple IoT applications. The frequently updated technical features are driving its potential usage in future IoT systems also.
Cellular: For a longer connectivity range, a cellular network is a good option. It can handle bulk data transfer and is highly reliable. The LTE technology has further improved the coverage and also has reduced the communication latency.
Zigbee: It is a wireless, low-power consumption protocol mainly used in home automation networks. Two or more IoT devices can directly communicate with each other using a radio transceiver. It has a shorter range of around 15 meters as it uses low power.
LoRa WAN: It is a low-power, wide-area networking protocol built on the LoRa (Long range) radio modulation technique. It is used in wireless, battery-operated IoT devices.
NFC (Near Field Communication): It is based on electromagnetic communication between the antennas of two closely placed IoT devices. NFC allows users to exchange data with secured transactions. It is a short-range communication protocol.
Based on the end applications, any of these protocols can be used to establish successful communication. Since IoT devices from various manufacturers are used in building an IoT system, it is necessary to follow a standard communication protocol. If the IoT device can not run internet protocols directly, they pass the information through gateways.
Gateways are used to transfer data to and from the internet. They support the compact, cost-effective, and low-power features by acting as a base station for multiple IoT devices. Gateways enable simple IoT devices to connect with remote locations using servers or cloud applications. Network servers use protocols to remove redundant messages and secure the devices. The collected data is passed onto the cloud applications for analysis. Further, the huge data is converted into insightful inferences.
User interfaces are the websites or mobile applications required to interact with the end customers. They provide alerts and notifications to the users and can also perform required actions based on a set of rules incorporated in the software.
IoT is an emerging technology that helps our everyday lives to be smarter and easier. It provides a real-time view of the process and offers insights to improve the performance of the system. The overall process monitoring can improve your customer experience, reduce the cost and generate more revenue. IoT applications can improve business strategies in various industries like manufacturing, consumer appliances, etc.
There are certain challenges also while using an IoT application. The increased number of IoT devices share an enormous amount of data over the internet. This data can be intercepted by a hacker and is a threat to user privacy. There are certain IoT standards defined to certify the interoperability of IoT devices. The standards outline the safety and confidentiality of the IoT customers, radio bandwidth for wireless connections, and low power design of IoT devices.
With growing IoT devices, the demand for PCB fabrication has also risen. The growing number of IoT devices has made it a massive task to manage the vast amount of data. To process big data effectively, edge computing technology is employed. It brings data processing close to the IoT devices and reduces latency. IoT devices are used in consumer IoT mainly for everyday usage like home appliances, lighting control, etc. Commercial IoT devices are seen in the health care sector and transport industries. IoT devices are exhaustively used in military applications like surveillance robots. Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices have wide applications in the manufacturing, agriculture, and power sectors.
IoT offers several benefits such as enhanced customer experience, increased productivity, and improved decisions based on analyzed data, and generates new business models to grow the company’s revenue. To summarize the communication process of multiple IoT devices, the acquired data from the environment is passed onto other devices or software through a gateway. The information is uploaded to a cloud server. The received data is processed and analyzed for feedback. An end-user will accordingly monitor and control the application.
About the Author
Ken G is a production manager at Technotronix Inc.