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IoT 101 - from Sensix point of view

by Sensix Team

What’s with IoT?

IoT means… all things connected to the mighty internet - yes, like the device you’re reading this right now from. They can:

  1. collect information and then send it;
  2. receive information and then act on it;
  3. do both.

IoT makes a promise to business owners: to allow them to make more intelligent decisions and decrease their associated expenses. Here are some examples:

  1. On a farm, watering too much or, on the contrary, too little can be both expensive. Instead, automatically getting information about the soil moisture can tell farmers exactly when their crops need to be watered.
  2. Monitoring industrial equipment and using “Digital Twins” can help identify bottlenecks in the manufacturing process and predict exactly when machines will need maintenance. For example, the energy monitoring solution we built for Arena Aqua Sport that tracks each energy consumer, in order for them to find ways to improve energy efficiency.
  3. Regarding energy, sensors monitor lighting, temperature, energy usage, etc. and that data is processed by intelligent algorithms to micromanage activities in real-time.

How does an IoT system work?

An IoT system is made up of sensors/devices, connectivity, data processing and a user interface.

  1. sensors/devices—they collect data from the environment;
  2. connectivity—the data needs to get to the cloud, so the sensors/devices need to be connected to it through cellular, satellite, WiFi, Bluetooth, LPWAN (there’s a variety of methods), via a gateway/router or directly to the internet via ethernet;
  3. data processing—software performs some kind of processing on the data - such as checking if the temperature is too high in the company’s cold storage;
  4. user interface—information is made useful to the end-user, via an alert, who could perform an action, such as remotely adjust the temperature in the cold storage via an app on their phone. But this action could be performed automatically - the system could adjust the temperature.

Hardware - not so hard

No complete IoT solution can be built without some kind of hardware. IoT applications vary so widely in their requirements that the choices you make on hardware stem directly from your specific use case. Here are some important hardware considerations:

  • if you’re going to rely on battery (for example, an agriculture app with sensors spread across rural areas) or power may not be an issue (your app takes place in a building);
  • having support for over-the-air (OTA) Firmware updates is essential, meaning that you can update your devices over the network, rather than needing to have them physically in your hands).

One gateway or another

Not all IoT applications will need a gateway, but they’re an important class of hardware that’s often a requirement for certain use cases because they’re needed to provide the connectivity to the sensors/devices. Cellular, satellite, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, LPWAN and so on, there are many ways to connect a sensor/device to the mighty internet. Each one of them represents a tradeoff between power consumption, range, and bandwidth. The perfect one would consume little power, have huge range and be able to transmit large amounts of data. But perfection doesn’t exist, so this perfect connectivity also doesn’t exist. The good news is you can make it perfect for you: your project to run smoothly (more than the famous smooth operator) and you to lower your expenses. It all comes down to your specific needs.

IoT device management (we haz it!)

If you’re building, buying, and/or implementing massive-scale IoT solutions, you need to automate as much as you can, hence you need IoT Device Management. IoT Device Management is all of the tools, capabilities, and processes necessary to support IoT solutions effectively at scale. It includes quickly and securely onboarding new devices, automatically identifying device issues, classifying devices into states contextually dependent on the use case, and decommissioning old devices.

IoT Platforms

A critical component of the IoT ecosystem are IoT Platforms. They help:

✅ Connect hardware;

✅ Handle different communication protocols;

✅ Provide security and authentication for devices and users; → Collect, visualize, and analyze data;

✅ Integrate with other web services.

The world of IoT Platforms is full of choices. So choose wisely.

APIs

A complete IoT system requires many different components all working closely together and that’s what Application Program Interfaces (APIs) make possible. APIs provide a means for different programs to overcome the “language barrier” and they mean that users of your system don’t need to leave your system to use another organization’s application.

UI & UX in IoT

A user interface (UI for short) is the means by which a user and a computer system interact. Users need a way to view and understand the data captured by IoT. That’s where the user interface comes in. As you’re pursuing your specific application, make sure to consider who your users are and every step of their overall interaction with your system.

Per designer and author Don Norman (Nest), user experience is “all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” In conclusion, your underlying technology must be incredible (be it hardware, connectivity, or software), and humans must easily access, control, and interact with your IoT solution.

What’s next?

This is the end of our pretty little IoT 101 blog post and we hope this is also the beginning of a better understanding of what we do. And, why not, the beginning of a beautiful friendship between your business and our solution. You can also find the IoT 101 series on our Facebook Page (it’s even prettier there). If you have burning questions, about IoT or, even more, about how we can help you unlock your business’s true value, have no fear (of the unknown) and reach out.

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