Just as the internet is a network that connects computers so they can communicate remotely, the Internet of Things (IoT) connects other physical devices. This enables people to remotely record real-time changes in an environment and even automatically act on behalf of the humans monitoring the environment.
IoT data comes from either sensors designed for a specific purpose or appliances updated with sensor or receiver technology. Examples of sensors created with a specific purpose include microchip pet trackers and soil pH sensors. Upgraded appliances, meanwhile, include smart appliances that automatically measure and control temperature and moisture level.
The Internet of Things consists of sensors, receivers, and devices which function as both. The sensors collect data and send it to receivers via radio, Bluetooth, etc. which then either record or act upon that information. As an example, doctors can now prescribe ingestible devices contained in pills that record and transmit information on a patient’s gastrointestinal condition to medical equipment that can properly read and display the data it receives.
Other devices both measure data and act upon it, especially in industry and agriculture. For example, irrigation systems can monitor soil moisture and precipitation and automatically adjust the amount of water they supply to crops.
Beyond this, however, there aren’t any universal standards for device compatibility or network communication. Some of the most well known IoT networks include IPv6 and CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol) from the Internet Engineering Task Force, ZigBee from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, LiteOS, One M2M, DDS (Data Distribution Service) from the Object Management Group, AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol), and LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network).
There are also various user-friendly IoT platforms from several companies. Amazon offers the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform while Ericsson offers Calvin, Microsoft offers Azure, and Arm microcontrollers offers Arm Mbed IoT. Google offers Brillo for Android devices and Weave which connects to the cloud.
The uses of the Internet of Things is incredibly vast, with applications available in seemingly every industry. Essentially, whenever there is an opportunity for tools to start monitoring and automating necessary processes, IoT applies.
The major concerns regarding the quality of the Internet of Things are scale and security. Depending on your needs, you may have hundreds of sensors transmitting real-time data. In this case, you’ll need to set up an automated system for collecting, standardizing, and cleaning your device’s data sources.
No matter the size of your IoT network, however, security will be a concern. Even a simple bug can affect the entire system of devices; malicious action could compromise the entire operation. Therefore, run regular system checks and focus on multi-factor authentication security, where system operators must present more than one piece of evidence of their identity—including a physical key.
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