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Key Elements of Internet of Things (IoT)

Ordinarily, I am pretty jaded about catchy new phrases that describe something not all that new. The latest “hot topic” is the Internet of Things (IoT). While the concepts are not all that new, the potential ubiquitous deployment represents a new paradigm. At IPS, we have been engaged in IoT product development for several years… before there even was a phrase Internet of Things.

Here are what we see as the key elements to the Internet of Things:

1. Sensing

The first step in IoT workflow is gathering information at a “point of activity.” This can be information captured by an appliance, a wearable device, a wall-mounted control or any number of commonly found devices. The sensing can be biometric, biological, environmental, visual or audible (or all the above). The unique thing in the context of IoT is that the device doing the sensing is not one that typically gathered information in this way. Sensing technology specific to this purpose is required.

2. Communication

This is where things start to get interesting. Many of the new IoT devices we are seeing today are not designed for optimal communication with cloud services. IoT devices require a means for transmitting the information sensed at the device level to a Cloud-based service for subsequent processing. This is where the great value inherent in IoT is created. This requires either WiFi (wireless LAN based communications) or WAN (wide area network… i.e. cellular) communications. In addition, depending on the need short-range communication, other capabilities may also be needed. These could include Bluetooth, ZigBee, Near-field or a range of other short-range communication methods. For positioning, GPS is often required as well.

3. Cloud-Based Capture & Consolidation

Gathered data is transmitted to a cloud-based service where the information coming in from the IoT device is aggregated with other cloud-based data to provide useful information for the end user. The data being consolidated can be information from other internet sources as well as from others subscribing with similar IoT devices. Most often, there will be some data processing required to provide useful information that is not necessarily obvious in the raw data.

4. Delivery of Information

The last step is the delivery of useful information to the end user. That may be a consumer, a commercial or an industrial user. It may also be another device in the M2M workflow. The goal in a consumer use case is to provide the information in as simple and transparent a method as possible. It requires execution of a well thought out, designed and executed user interface that provides an optimized experience across multiple device platforms – tablets, smartphones, desktop – across multiple operating systems – iOS, Android, Windows, etc.

As IoT continues to provide extraordinary opportunities for new software, the right approach can make you a frontrunner in your industry. Nascent product development allows organizations to plan software for the future, with the user’s future needs in mind. The resulting product is inseparable from the end-user, a goal that any high-quality, high-value software solution must meet.

Our firm is unique in having deep and long-standing expertise across all these elements. We are excited to be engaged in current projects from medical devices and appliances to consumer products and machine control IoT devices. In my next article, I will expound on some examples demonstrating the use of IoT in unusual new ways as well as products which pre-date the phrase Internet of Things and formed the basis for its development.

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