But what is IoT? Are all these things different? And what does any of it matter to you?
IoT, put simply, is anything that’s connected to a network (including the internet) or other machines and works independently without a need of human intervention. All the other terms just describe things that are made possible by IoT. So Connected Home, Car, etc., just means that they are connected to a network in some way. Same for industrial. This is the less cool (but actually just as exciting) business element of IoT. This connectivity – made possible with an array of modern components and wireless protocols – simply enables designers to make equipment and machinery ‘smart’, so it can track, log, display, monitor and adjust itself accordingly.
Yes its really that simple. So don’t be daunted by all the new terminology, The Internet of Things is actually that simple.
Well, it is for consumers at least. Of course, someone technical is required to make these ‘Things’ that will streamline and simplify our lives. Which is where electronic design engineers come in. They have the technical expertise that can turn our blue-sky dreams into reality! Not anything farfetched like winning the lottery obviously, but they can design and build lots of things which will help make your life easier and more comfortable.
Perhaps you would like your connected home to make sure the kitchen floor was warm and toasty with your favourite coffee brewed ready for your arrival downstairs in the morning? Or even better, keep track of the car keys, TV remote control, the kids’ shoes or your glasses which saves you lot of time unlike dashing around looking for them each time you need to leave the house! Maybe you would just like your front door or garage to unlock and open when you get home without trying to juggle the keys with the shopping?
So what has changed and how is this possible now? There are lots of examples of connected devices already in gaming, entertainment, fitness and health, so technologies have been developing rapidly. Now advanced sensors that can detect and send data are available at lower cost; add this to a host of wireless technologies to share the data and the stage is set for a new, connected world where we can pretty much make anything smart – the possibilities are limitless.
There are three core elements typically referenced in the IoT architecture.
Things - devices that have a means of connecting wired or wirelessly to a wider network.
Network – similar to your router at home, the network or gateway connects multiple things to the cloud.
Cloud – remote servers in a data centre consolidating and storing your data safely and securely.
Things generate data – small bytes of simple data representing sensed information such as temperature, humidity and position. This is often described as ‘little data’ as it is small in size.
Once multiple devices pass this small data through the network to the cloud it is consolidated and tracked, often becoming larger over time. This is often described as ‘big data’. This is where the IoT really becomes clever. Big Data allows you to interrogate thousands or millions of data points in order to learn, understand and control something better.
This could be analytics from sensors such as allowing you to connect to events, results or actions. For instance, when is about to get darker in the afternoon, use ambient light sensors for your street lights and turn them on later to save electricity. Or noticing that a machine is vibrating more than normal, alerting a sign of a potentially failure, this could allow you to order parts and schedule predictive maintenance in time before a break down.
There are many languages or protocols emerging, suited to the IoT from traditional WiFi or Bluetooth to newly defined LoraWAN and Sigfox.
Each is suited to different uses dependant on several key factors:
• Data Rate – how much information is being sent
• Power Consumption - for example wearables only have a small amount of battery life
• Range – does it need to be transmitted a few meters or a few kilometres?
• Frequency – What frequencies are available in the area
Designing for the IoT
A lot of the technology required to build the IoT isn’t new, more that each element has reached a maturity and cost effectiveness where is it now easily available.
Modules are now available to easily build your solution such as the WepTech 6LoWPAN router but also the discrete components such as the TI CC2538 which is built around to design your own. Even the passives and connectors are changing to meet the new demands innovative IoT projects are driving. USB-C will allow us to have fewer cables connecting our wearables and multilayer ceramic capacitors just 0.6mm x 0.3mm will allow them to be smaller than ever.
At last this is changing. We have hit the point where home automation is within our grasp and is becoming accessible at a reasonable cost to the average home owner. Now the latest generation of connected technologies is set to transform our homes into intelligent environments that can monitor our actions, anticipate behaviour and respond to our needs.
TE Connectivity sits at the heart of this evolution, creating connectivity and sensor solutions that can be integrated into a wide range of household devices, enabling manufacturers to push the boundaries of what is currently possible.
Here are 7 reasons why your next project should focus on IoT.
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