IoT Framework: Things, Connect, Collect, Learn & Do

In the previous chapter, we explored IoT and its future implications on how humans would work and live. Also, we tried to explain the “Things” on the Internet of Things as those connected devices that have embedded systems. In this chapter, we are going to delve a little deeper into understanding how the IoT framework looks like and how the connected devices interact and produce results using data from one another.

Things: machine and equipment

There are billions of devices on the Internet of Things already. Although many people are yet to run a smart home, where gadgets will be interacting with one another, IoT is already huge. Now think about what will happen when everybody adopts smart machines and equipment in their day-to-day activities. According to expert estimates, the Internet of Things has up to 15-25 billion devices connected to it and likely to increase from 50-212 billion connected devices in the year 2020. Furthermore, by 2025, analysts estimate that IoT will have around one trillion devices connected and running efficiently (JOHNSON, 2019).

When you look at the estimated figure, there may be a tiny doubt that the idea of IoT may not be realistic. However, if you take a moment to consider that it is possible to attach or embed sensors and computing equipment to any devices, you will accept the reality of IoT. Right now in the market, many devices already have these embedded processing, sensing and communication equipment and a lot more are also expected to have it soon. We already have security cameras, smoke alarms, smart thermostats, etc. as evidence of IoT.

Let’s not forget our smartphones and the many capabilities embedded in it. As it stands now, we are already using the smartphones as the access points to many connected devices. There are also the wearable trackers which people are using to monitor their health and many other machines out there (JOHNSON, The Tech Behind the IoT, 2019).

Connect to the Internet

Now, after understanding the many devices that make up the Internet of Things, the next question or worry is how they connect to the Internet. What do they have and what enhancements do they need to qualify for IoT? To answer these questions, let’s take our minds back to what we said earlier that ordinary items such as chairs, refrigerators, etc. could not connect to other devices except they have an embedded capability. For a Thing to a part of IoT, it must have some enhancements or an embedded system to enable it to interact with other devices. Therefore, let’s take a look at the tech behind IoT.

The tech behind IoT has been gradually taking shape before the advent of computers. Many people in the IT world have been acquainted with Machine-to-Machine communication as far back as the early 20th century when telematics systems were used to transmit encoded readings from measuring instrumentation via radio waves, phone lines or even satellite communications. According to records, the first telematics system was used to transmit data from one power plant then in Chicago to their central office using telephone lines in 1912. The use of telemetry didn’t stop there because people continued to use it for weather monitoring, wildlife tracking, and equipment /occupants monitoring on ISS (International Space Station)

From what we have seen in the use of telematics systems, the era of computer age started as far back as the early 20th century.

Meanwhile, we can safely say that the Internet age started in 1969 when the United States Advanced Research Projects Agency created ARPANET. However, the World Wide Web wasn’t so popular until 1991 when Tim Berners unveiled it, and online activities took another shape. Many people became aware of the Internet and turned it into a place of incessant activities and connections (Johnson, 2019).

From 1991 till now, the Web has grown to unprecedented heights so much so that high-speed Internet is now found in our homes. Also, other areas like wireless networking have taken a new turn. As these changes were going on, computing equipment such as microchips also changed to become smaller and can now be embedded in our mobile phones. Today, we have smartphones that can easily connect to the Internet through WiFi or cellular signals and communicate with other devices using their Bluetooth enabled capabilities and other methods. With this same technology, other gadgets on the Internet of things can also connect to the internet and communicate with others too (Johnson, 2019).

Another thing that has facilitated the connection of many gadgets to the Internet of Things is the “Cloud.” The Cloud is like a data center where web-connected servers process data. Many of us store pictures, documents, and files, etc. from our gadgets to the Cloud for safe-keeping. That is how many gadgets we use became part of the Internet of Things. Now, how do these devices connect to the Internet? They send data to dedicated hardware in a smart home or to your phone which will act as a hub over a communication method such as Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE (low energy), 6LowPan, IEEE 802.15.4, NFC (near-field communication), Z-wave, or ZigBee

Such a connection may be facilitated through a modem, using Wifi, wired networks like cable, Ethernet, power line networking or through your Internet router. In some settings, the connection will use cellular communication without even passing through your home or, communicate with smart devices that are connected in the area (Johnson, 2019).

Collect data

The Things on IoT are made up of every connected device that has a power control button, an embedded system and a unique identifier that will enable it to interact with other Things for information sharing. For the Internet of Things to work or succeed, there must be machines and equipment capable of or having the five features we mentioned in chapter one.

These machines and equipment must be web-enabled and capable of collecting data, sending data to other devices and acting based on the data they gathered from the other devices. The ability to carry out the above process is possible since the devices will be using sensors embedded in them, built-in processors and the hardware to facilitate the communication.

These capabilities are why some of the general terms given to these things on IoT are smart devices or connected devices. They engage in a kind of communication called machine-machine communication (M2M) because they talk to other smart devices and take action based on whatever information they gathered from others.

Some devices connected to the IoT sometimes use devices nearby to gather whatever data they need at a particular time. Imagine the systems that control the roads signaling a smartphone nearby to assist in monitoring traffic conditions in such areas. Also, the smart devices we have today can use RFID tags, barcodes, QR codes to collect data about certain items (Johnson, 2019).

Learn from data

IoT is home of smart devices and different kinds of sensors that are connected to the Internet which are capable of sharing data. The rate of growth in the industry has a great impact on the amount of data flowing between or generated by these devices every day. Since there are estimates of connecting almost 50 billion things from now till 2022, the result will be a massive amount of data exchange.

The hitch now becomes the best approach to follow in analyzing these data for the devices to carry out their functions. Having seen that the amount of generated data will be larger than what the usual traditional methods of data analysis can sustain, the best option left will be the use of Machine Learning in sorting IoT data and analyzing them as well (Bishop, 2018).

Machine Learning, ML, is a part of Artificial Intelligence which concentrates on teaching computers how to learn from the available data to make accurate predictions. Without the use of ML for the Internet of Things devices, data processing, analysis and final application to real-life situations will not be possible. An in depth study of Machine Learning in all ramifications will explain how the algorithms work on data to achieve an expected outcome.

However, in this book, we are concentrating on the benefits of using ML on IoT. The first benefit worth mentioning is that ML helps to automate the analysis of huge amounts of data which IoT devices generate and exchange. It’s true that companies are utilizing the wheels of IoT for better business decisions and strategies; but will that possible or even fast if human analysts are employed to work on the data? Without the use of Machine Learning, data analysts will spend longer periods looking for anomalies and patterns in a set of data. However, if companies implement Machine Learning as a means of improving their IoT mechanisms, the whole process will be easy, fast and accurate.

Another benefit of combining Machine Learning and IoT is that ML teaches software on how to predict future events to be either favorable or unfavorable. All it will require is a constant update on the algorithm and the system will deliver accurate results on predictive analysis. Apart from recognizing anomalies and patterns, ML can enable machines to establish trends that have been happening for a long time.

Smart machines also have prescriptive power as well. They won’t only predict future events, but with them, devices that are connected to the Internet of Things can be enhanced for more efficiency. These machines with learning capabilities can assist IoT devices in predicting, and also determine the parameters and factors to be manipulated for better outcomes.

Do: Applications, Innovation, Business Value

Although the Internet of Things is still growing, its application in many industries has shown that it is here to stay. The application of IoT has spread across numerous areas if not all areas of our lives, in the society, environment, and industries. From the information released by the Internet of Things Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) in 2010, the application domains for the IoT fall under six categories (Velumani, 2014).

Some applications of the Internet of Things include:

  • Smart Energy
  • Smart buildings
  • Smart Health
  • Smart Transport
  • Smart cities
  • Smart Living

That same year, a survey by the IoT-project identified sixty-five scenarios where Internet of Things applications can be possible, and they ranked it under fourteen domains.

  • Transportation
  • Smart City
  • Retail
  • Smart Home
  • Lifestyle
  • Agriculture
  • Supply Chain
  • Health care
  • Smart Factory’
  • Culture and Tourism
  • Emergency
  • Environment and Energy.
  • User interaction

According to the survey, IoT applications run across the society by improving all those activities that develop and improve society, cities, and the people. When things like smart animal farming, smart cities, domestic and home automation, smart building, etc. exist, society will inevitably become better, and people will live easier lives.

Also, when it comes to IoT applications to the environment, it will improve those activities that monitor, develop and protect our natural resources such as Smart water recycling, disaster alerting, smart environment and Smart Metering.

It doesn’t stop there. IoT applications in different industries improve on those activities that enhance operations in terms of commercial and financial transactions taking place between different organizations, companies, and other bodies. Some of these activities spread across retail, supply chain management, logistics, Aviation and Aerospace, industrial control, etc. (Velumani, 2014).

When it comes down to the specific areas of IoT applications, we have areas such as:

  1. Smart Cities: By applying the Internet of Things connectivity and interactions amongst devices, monitoring of people’s necessities and their availability, will become easier. Check for instance if parking spaces can be monitored and drivers notified on time about availability or otherwise, there wouldn’t be challenges and excessive parking tickets. If buildings have monitors to check such things like material conditions and vibrations, there wouldn’t be sudden collapse leading to loss of lives. Other applications can be used to monitor excessive sounds in those areas where people abhor such disturbances, pedestrians and vehicle levels in every part of the city can be determined to check for traffic jams. What about creating lightings that can easily adapt to climatic changes without breaking down or early waste detection to prevent pollution, etc. There are many applications of IoT that can ease the way we live in the cities.
  2. Smart Water and Smart Agriculture: IoT can play a beneficial role in the water we drink daily. If experts can study how we drink water using IoT applications, both the food we eat and the water will be healthy and free from diseases, thereby improving our quality of life.  Internet of Things application to agriculture can help in increasing productivity and efficiency. Imagine where farmers can monitor the moisture in the soil to enable them to produce foods that contain the right amount of vitamins, maximize the number of fruits they produce, improve the quality of the vegetables and fruits, etc. people will eat healthier and live longer.
  3. Logistics and Retail: With IoT application in logistics and retail, companies can monitor the conditions of their storage facilities, and track their products when they send them out to retailers or end users. At least with such a move, they can ensure faster processing of payments. Also, business owners can use IoT to operate a more efficient store by creating a biometrics system that will automate their check-out. They can also hasten the processes involved in product rotation, shelving, and restocking in their warehouses.
  4. Healthcare: IoT can influence or enhance our healthcare processes in many ways. For instance, these device interactions can help in tracking patients, objects and staffs. It can also help operators of healthcare centers to authenticate and classify their patients or other people who visit the facilities. They can also use IoT devices to make their data collection processes automatic instead of spending a lot of time and man-hours doing it manually. Other areas where the Internet of Things application can improve our healthcare system is in the area of patient records and treatment schedule. Many times, we have seen cases of mismatched treatment and accidental deaths due to inadequate records. However, introducing the mechanisms of IoT to our healthcare system can curb or even stop the unfortunate incidents that put patients at risks. With IoT, patients stand a better chance of getting the right treatment at the right time and the right quantity.
  5. Security and Emergencies: There are many areas where IoT applications in emergencies and security activity can help to improve efficiency. Many IoT technologies are already in use in these domains while more innovations are underway. Areas such as perimeter access control, detection of radiation levels, hazardous gas, liquid entry, and explosives are the most targeted. With perimeter access control technology, restricted areas will be free from an unauthorized entrance. Radiation level detection is basically for nuclear power stations. At least, workers can be alerted when there is a leakage. Gas level detections help to notify workers that there is a leakage of gas somewhere in an industrial environment. With such capabilities, there will be a minimal loss of lives due to unforeseen circumstances such as gas explosions (Velumani, 2014).

Innovation

Apart from the applications of IoT in many domain that make our lives easier, those responsible for creating this new world of possibilities are still pursuing their goals of a totally connected world. One may think that if they get all the devices connected, things might slow down. That is far from the truth because they won’t rest even after connecting these devices but will continue to look for ways to enhance and improve their efficiency. Right now, many IoT technologies will leave you completely stunned. Some of such techs are:

  1. Amazon Echo

This tech is a smart assistant designed for Amazon. The features are numerous and astounding and can affect almost every area of our lives. Let’s say you bring the Echo into your home; it will transform into a central hub and control other gadgets like your alarm system, thermostat and even help you to place an order for groceries. Awesome, isn’t it? With Amazon Echo, your smart home can function efficiently. The best part is this tech is loaded with many functions, yet very affordable.

  1. Google Home

Google home is a smart assistant that offers many possibilities to users. This device is small but filled with mind-blowing functionalities. Although it works like the Amazon Echo, there is a slight difference in the sense that it has Search Integration and Google Voice. With these two technologies in one place, you can use your Google Home to search for millions of topics and get faster results all the time. Don’t forget that Google voice integration makes voice recognition easier and it is popular amongst tech geeks in the industry.

  1. Ecobee

This tech is your smart thermostat and can do many things apart from controlling the temperature. It has an in-built Amazon Alexa program that allows you do all the control you need with the sound of your voice. You can even use this tech to control other devices in your home and also get updates on trendy news. With its smart light switch, you can turn off every light in your home with the sound of your voice.

  1. Neurio

If you are interested in energy efficiency, this tech is your key to monitoring how you consume energy at home. This tech breaks down your energy consumption to the smallest details. With such an in depth analysis, users can discover the areas or gadgets in their homes consuming excess energy.

This tech aims at helping people to have control of how they use, produce and sell energy. Its efficiency can be attributed to the constant data collection activity it carries out to facilitate the accuracy of energy readings. One good thing though, you can use your smartphone to observe and manage this tech.

  1. Ring

When you hear multi-purpose and advanced, think of this tech. It aims at bringing microphones and cameras to doorbells for all and sundry. We all know that the type of doorbells we had before only focused on alerting occupants that someone is at the door. However with Ring, you don’t just hear, but you will hear clearly and also see who came whether it’s an intruder or visitor.

The Ring is the tech that will transform your doorbell to a smart device and keep hoodlums away from your doorstep. The good news is that this tech uses a web application on a smartphone to monitor and coordinate other security devices that are connected in your home. This application enables susers to know the security status of their homes even when they are not around.

All these IoT innovations and many others prove that technology is fast evolving and also affecting people’s lives positively (Martin, 2018).

Business value

Apart from connecting millions of devices on the Internet of Things or using them to collect massive amounts of data, businesses should try as much as possible to utilize the process and interpret them into value creation. The aim of IoT does not end in achieving a connected city only. It also extends to creating value to businesses that employ its mechanisms in their operations.

Therefore, it is imperative that every business channels resources towards utilizing IoT dividends so that they can know when, where and how to use the generated data to improve and grow. According to the Forrester report, there are three ways through which businesses can improve themselves by leveraging the Internet of Things.

Design

Businesses that want to add value to their operations through the IoT mechanisms can either transform new products to be smart or transform their existing products in such a way that they can fit into the IoT environment and scenarios. Creating smart or connected products in this time of connectivity is a sure way of adding business value. They could improve any kind of product by adding IoT or making it the dispenser. They can design packaging that has embedded sensors capable of monitoring the products, or they can enhance the products itself with IoT data and sensors.

Business Processes

Another area where businesses can leverage IoT technologies to add value to their operations is by including them in their business processes to achieve efficiency. According to Forrester’s report, if businesses incorporate IoT sensors, they can lower their operational cost by reducing downtime that costs them money while improving the use of their assets. On the side of delivering services to their customers, a business can achieve faster deliveries, targeted product customization and overall better experiences to customers.

Some business processes that will improve greatly through IoT are:

  • Wearables for consumers and employees
  • Enhancements to achieve better customer experience in hospitality, retail, entertainment, travel, sports venues, etc.
  •  Tracking machinery and equipment operations etc.

Consumers

Businesses can utilize IoT to gain insight into what the consumers want and incorporate such information in their products and services. The best part is that an organization may also utilize the data which comes from third-party IoT sources. Some ways to gain such insights include monitoring the processes around, tracking the information that flows in the environment such as water quality, weather changes or getting insights about the status of industrial machinery, equipment, and other properties. All these real-life insights will help them to provide a better product capable of meeting the needs and requirements of consumers (Paul, 2017).

From what we have seen above, every business that implements IoT strategies or tools stands a better chance of making it big in this era. Since the tech behind Internet of Things reaches far across environments, operations, products, and data analytics, there is a wider opportunity for businesses to operate profitably. Therefore, any business that is yet to adopt the IoT mechanisms is unconsciously limiting its success, growth, and expansion. However, if you can adopt IoT totally or even in some parts of your operations, you stand a chance to enjoy some of these benefits:

  1. Generating higher revenue
  2. Improving your asset management
  3. Managing your resources effectively
  4. Improved business performance

If you include your assets into the IoT network, you can easily track and monitor how they operate. If you achieve this, you can maintain them properly or replace on time to avoid expensive downtime. With the help of IoT, your revenue position will increase because you can use real-life insights to create more value that will be translated to increased returns as you satisfy more customers. Internet of Things will also help you to manage your resources effectively, both the human and material resources to produce at their best levels (Joshi, 2018).

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