What Comprises a Complete IoT System?

All signs point to growing momentum for the Internet of Things (IoT). Researchers with IDC project global spending on IoT projects will grow at an annual rate of 13.6 percent, reaching $1.2 trillion by 2022. Curiously, however, many of the IT and business leaders who say they intend to increase their IoT investments in coming months also say they don’t fully understand what’s involved.

This contradiction was illustrated in a recent survey of 3,100 business and IT decision-makers across 20 countries. A whopping 85 percent reported they want to have an IoT strategy in place by 2019, although they admitted to having significant gaps in their understanding of how to implement, use and extract value from the technology.

While a simple Google search can produce volumes of background information about the IoT, much of it is either highly technical or marketing hype. If you are a nontechnical person, you can spend hours combing through documents without gaining much clarity about what’s involved in setting up an IoT system.

Most experts agree that the simplest way to describe the IoT is as a technology stack with four main components — hardware, connectivity, processing and a user interface. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Hardware generally refers to the “things” that are being connected— the devices and sensors that are collecting data about their environment and performance. Common examples include smart televisions, commercial security systems, pressure gauges, utility meters, inventory trackers and more. It can be almost any piece of hardware embedded with the ability to log physical activity and convert it into real-time digital data that can be processed and analyzed.

Various connectivity technologies combine to move that datafrom the collection points to a platform where it can be aggregated, processed and analyzed. Wi-Fi is a common connectivity solution because it is well established, well understood and relatively easy to set up and use. However, sensors and devices can also link to the platform through cellular, satellite or Ethernet connections.

An IoT platform is where the “magic” happens.It is a cloud-based software hub where data is sent, stored, processed and analyzed. This could involve relatively simple analysis, such as tracking power usage, or it could be used for more advanced analysis to provide near-real-time business and operational insights.

The effectiveness of an IoT project can rise and fall with the user interface.The interface is what allows users to interact with the IoT system and to make use of the information being collected and processed. Because IoT solutions often are handling multiple data types from various devices, the user interface must be able to orchestrate all of it and present it to the user in a meaningful way. This often involves converting data into visuals such as charts and graphics to help users quickly interpret information for improved decision-making. It may also involve voice, video or textual communication if humans need to take prompt action.

Because the IoT can be a complex ecosystem, many organizations are looking to their IT solutions provider for direction and implementation services. IPC Technologies has invested heavily in our IoT practice, working with many of the top vendors in the industry. Give us a call to discuss your goals for the IoT and how we can help you implement a complete IoT system that will meet your objectives.