In this series of blogposts, I want to talk about what we need to think about when to set up an IoT Solution before I explain how to do it.
I have split this into 3 blogposts.
This is only parts of what you must think about but can give you insights of how to think.
I will talk about:
– IoT Hardware (This one)
– IoT Software (Part two)
– Cloud Service Components (Part three)
Let´s talk about IoT Hardware
When thinking about building an IoT solution, perhaps the first area of consideration is what hardware you will need. This partly is driven by the fact that data is the main driver behind implementing many IoT solutions so figuring out what data you want to collect and how you want to collect it has a primary place in your architecture.
The hardware implemented in an IoT solution often includes a network infrastructure that is used to connect devices. Still, some devices could be stand-alone. How would this work? A sensor, for example, could collect temperature data or collect data about how a bridge is being stressed but not deliver those data immediately to a network database. A technician could come by on a regular schedule, collect the data from the device using an internet-connected tool which then delivers the data to the database.
An IP-enabled device is, simply, a device that can establish a connection to a network (for many IoT devices, this means the internet) and have a unique identity on that network. “IP” stands for “Internet Protocol and defines the way messages are delivered over a network. A message in networking terms is just a packet of information and single packet could deliver part of a text message or a video file. Most data that is transferred over the internet uses this communication protocol.
In terms of IoT, an IP-enabled device is one that can connect directly to a network like the internet and transmit or receive data. Examples we commonly think of are the home automation devices like doorbells and thermostats that use an internet connection to communicate with a central server. But industrial-grade IoT devices can be IP-enabled as well. IP-enabled devices require special hardware to enable this functionality.
Non-IP Enabled Devices
As mentioned above, it’s not necessary for a device to be IP-enabled to be a part of an IoT solution. Some devices don’t use IP to connect to other parts of an IoT solution but can use other protocols. These devices don’t connect to the internet per se, but their messages are routed to the internet via other hardware like a field gateway.
Devices can use industry-specific protocols (such as CoAP5, OPC), and short-range communication technologies (such as Bluetooth, ZigBee) to connect to other hardware. For example, when setting up an internet connected lock, you may need first to connect the lock to your phone using Bluetooth to set up a relationship with a cloud service. While this is a temporary situation, you can imagine a scenario where the device can only connect to a local device using Bluetooth and the secondary device brokers all the communication with the cloud service.
We can break this category into two subcategories: sensors and smart sensors. We can define a sensor, then, as a device that collects a specific type of data about the physical environment. As IoT as a technology grows, the list of available sensors most likely will grow with it. There also are communities that will help you build your own sensors if the one you need doesn’t exist.
A smart sensor is a device that takes input from the physical environment and uses built-in compute resources to perform predefined functions upon detection of specific input and then process data before passing it on. That is, the device itself processes the data to some degree before sending it to the next node in the IoT architecture. Sensors of both types can be embedded on other devices which manages communication with a network or stand alone and handle all the necessary functions needed to collect and communicate data. Sensors that can collect data on a wide variety of things actively are being developed.