IoT Basics

The Internet of Things deconstructed and democratized

February 23, 2020
The idea of the Internet of Things can be framed as the communication capacity integrated into everyday objects and business or industrial assets. The following article gives an overview on how this new layer of connectivity works and what benefits businesses can extract from it, in the process of becoming future ready and regardless of their size and tech background.


Internet of Things as a concept


The term was proposed for the first time in 1999, at the MIT Auto-ID Laboratory, arguing that if daily objects like refrigerators, termostates, lights or any other type of home appliance where connected to the Internet, we could know with high accuracy key parameters such as usage, and usage patterns, quantity, location, proper functioning and many others. With this information on hand, resource consumption could be optimized, unnecessary waste avoided and new business models and interaction possibilities untapped. That was the origin of the IoT powered revolution. 


Basic components of an IoT solution


To make this new connectivity layer a reality, there are specific elements that must integrated and fine tuned to the requirements of the process or functions to be made “smart”. These components belong to four categories:


Sensors and data acquisition devices

The core hardware side of any IoT solution, they basically link the physical and virtual world together. Through different types of sensors, data acquisition devices gather those key parameters and data and transform them so that they can be understood by the communication protocol utilized. These data packages are consequently sent through wireless networks to the Internet by the devices.


Connectivity

Understood as wireless communication protocols, thanks to them data acquisition devices can connect to the Internet and remotely send the data they have gathered to the places where it is stored, usually cloud base servers. There is a plethora of communication protocols, being Sigfox, low-power GPRS/GSM, NB-IoT or LoRaONE some of the most commonly used for remote an long distance communications. More traditional communication protocols like WiFi or Bluetooth are also frequently used depending on the requirements of the use case or solution.


Data warehousing

Once gathered and transmitted, data must be stored somewhere to be consequently assessed and analyzed. Sometimes communication service providers also provide cloud data warehousing services, while on other occasions system integrators take on this role. It is also common the case in which data directly goes to the servers and databases of final users, when they have their own data warehousing infrastructure or capabilities in place. In this context, models like DataBase as a Service (DBaaS) are gaining popularity, as they eliminate the need of time and infrastructure investments.


Data management platforms

Here is where the final user usually gets to see the data that has travelled all the way from the sensors to the screen where it is being displayed. These platforms allow final users and operations managers to easily visualize and manage data, making smart, real-time and remote monitoring of essential assets a reality. Platforms and user applications vary in their features and capabilities. Some offer just data monitoring functionalities, acting as data dashboards, while others are also equipped with data analytics capabilities or are integrated in such a way that automatically generate actions applied to those monitored systems, in order to optimize performance or solve problems. Ultimately, extracting the biggest amount of value possible from the gathered data.


Internet of Things infused benefits and competitive advantage

At its core, IoT is a horizontal technology that can be applied to a wide variety of fields and verticals. From smart building or smart city applications, to manufacturing, retail and utilities, with buzzwords such as smart water or smart grid at the top of this last area. More traditional industries like agriculture, or agritech as some like to call it, farming and logistics are also being quite positively impacted by the Internet of Things.

Operations optimization and automation are some of the most remarkable benefits to get out this technology. Examples like remote monitoring of water or electricity consumption, compared to manual checks, let us glimpse the improvement level and operational gains to be unlocked by embracing IoT. Now add the capability of automatically detecting and notifying when a leakage appears in the system to heighten even further the value created by these applications.

Another natural and additional benefit of Internet of Things solutions, which can be seen analyzing the effects of implementing a solution like the described above, is the reduction of operational costs and down times. Whether related to resources misuse when, for example, watering an agricultural land more than needed or applying more fertilizer than required, or because a machine or asset  gets broken due to lack of proper operational monitoring and predictive maintenance, IoT technology cuts in to bridge all those operational gaps.

In a similar fashion, one of the most valuated benefits by managers and owners that IoT infuses is the capacity to know from anywhere the state and location of key assets, as well as the performance of processes, all on a real-time basis. When the owner of a massive greenhouse installation is able to monitor those essential parameters that ensure optimum growth, as well as taking required actions on them when physically being in another country meeting clients, that is real peace of mind.

Moving to the often feared area of reporting and compliance, integrated Internet of Things solutions can completely automate and easily take these time consuming tasks away. Temperature reporting in sensitive cargo transportation is just an example of how crucial and disruptive IoT can be to reach a whole new operational level. Not only temperature reporting will be completely automated, ensuring proper maintenance of cold chains, but the responsible team will also be notified as soon as the slightest deviation appears, when corrective measures can still be taken to avoid loses.  

Okay, what's next then?

Those previous examples and many others paint a new paradigm in the way businesses compete and operate, creating new sources of value and differentiated market positionings, leveling up the entire game in the process. Embracing this revolution will be crucial to stay ahead and put yourself in the right path to thrive in this new landscape.  

Adopting Internet of Things technology can appear to be particularly daunting, with so many components and configurations available, including their varying degrees of technological complexity. To solve this problem, we embarked on a mission around the concept “IoT made simple”, with the goal in mind of making IoT technology readily available to businesses of any size and technological background.

Determined to take complexity out of the way, we have developed a set of plug and play IoT solutions tailored to smart buildings, smart factories, retail, utilities, agriculture and farming and logistics verticals. If what has been described above makes sense for your business and your strategy to become future ready, I invite you to have a look at them.  

If there is any point that you would like to discuss further, we can get in touch on LinkedIn.   

As a wise man called Leonardo da Vinci once said, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. 

Let’s prove it real. 

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