The nuts and bolts of Internet of Things

Internet of Things comprises of billions of devices connected to internet. These devices, ranging from alarm clock to cars can send and receive data from surroundings. It is estimated that 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020. This blog focuses on the technical aspects of IoT and is a follow up to the previous one “What’s all the fuss about Internet of Things?”

All the devices that are connected to internet need a gateway and storage for sending and analysing data respectively. The best example for gateway is our smartphones or Wi-Fi connection we have in our homes through which data from every device connected to it can be sent to a storage platform, mostly cloud storage. In cloud servers the various data are obtained and analysed.

Breaking down to the most fundamental level, the technologies behind Internet of Things are machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and Internet. The sharing and analysis of data is done based on M2M in which most of the work is done by the machines by interacting between themselves and human intervention needed is very less. Imagine this situation, you are travelling on highway and your car’s tyre pressure is low. It is sensed by the sensors in the car and the data is uploaded to your cloud storage. This data is received by your phone and it notifies about the low tyre pressure and automatically shows the route to the nearest car workshop or petrol bunk. The internet acts the linking network between the devices and storage platforms.

The hardware system present on the devices include processors which are pre-programmed and guide the device on what action to be taken, sensors that read various data like temperature, light and motion and communication hardware that can send and receive signals.

The network used for communication between nodes of IoT can also be done wireless by Bluetooth LE( Low Energy), Zigbee, Z-Wave and many more. The connection can also be made through Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable connected to router.

Sometimes a device can receive data from another network to make decisions. For example, you are travelling in car on a road, your phone can connect with the signal systems network and find out which is the best route with less traffic.

Some devices that have advanced algorithm can learn from external environment where it can program itself, up to a certain extent. The devices can offload data to cloud services when large amount of data has to process or complex analysis has to be done. Instantaneous and real time results can be obtained but internet with high speed connectivity is mandatory.

The hardware system can be powered by using a fraction of the input energy of the device it is fitted on or it can also be powered using external sources like batteries or even solar panels.

The main challenge faced is compatibility. Different devices may have different hardware and software that might not be compatible with each other. Your mobile and toaster may be built by different manufacturers based on different platforms thus it may not be possible to bring them under the same network connectivity. Sometimes you may need to install an external software or app to run two devices under the same network when they are not compatible with each other. Compatibility issues can be overcome by creating a universal platform on which all the devices can work. As billions of devices will be connected to internet we will run out of IP addresses if we continue to use IPv4 32-bit. This can be overcome by using IPv6 128-bit through in which we would have 340 undecillion addresses and there would be no shortage of IP addresses.

As the technology evolves so does its complexity but solution to overcome them have always been found. If done right, Internet of Things would truly change and transform our human lives to extent we never imagined.