Previously we discovered what this concept, this trend - the Internet of Things (IoT) - represents.
We understand how it affects us as individuals as well as the global society on a daily basis, and we also have a definition for it:
An interconnected digital world, interconnection that extends from the classic "relationship" individual - individual to individual - intelligent device or intelligent device - intelligent device.
But how is this whole IoT concept implemented? What are the structural elements, what are the physical elements, how are the logical functions assigned, and what is the interaction between these elements?
An “IoT for dummies” type of answer would be: IoT architecture is composed of a square with an antenna, lightning and the cloud.
Indeed, this is a correct, simple answer, but let's take a look at what it all means and whether everything is really that simple.
Let's start with the base: the square with the antenna.
It represents smart elements that collect data and carry out commands. The "perception layer" or "sensing layer" is formed by the square with the antenna. This is the structural representation.
But what about from the point of view of behavior, from the point of view of behavioral representation? What functions do these squares play?
Well, these elements can be diverse and implicitly with various functions, ranging from simple sensors or actuators to intelligent smart elements: smart sockets, smart TVs, smart audio speakers, smart appliances, and smart military elements (indeed, the concept has also reached the military area) - the range is very extensive, covering multiple business use-cases.
In addition to these dedicated functions, it adds an underlying layer of functionality: security. Once these elements have acquired the "smart" attribute, this is a required functional characteristic.
Lightning is the generic representation of what is called the "transport layer"/ "connectivity layer" or "network layer".
We have so many names because even here things are not so straightforward. Data transfer is done through several protocols and several physical layers. Thus, we can have wireless transmission, wired transmission, etc., and, to use some technical terms, we can detail it like this: Ethernet, WiFi, NFC, BLE, LPWAN, ZigBee, MQTT, OPCUA, and the list can continue...
In terms of structure, we can have several smart devices (the squares with antennas) that send data to a gateway/data aggregator structure from where they are then sent to the upper layer. One key element associated with the gateways represents the important emphasis on the security side.
The selection of the transmission medium/protocol is also made depending on the smart element and its characteristics.
We must consider not only data volume and bandwidth, but also consumption, coverage, and cost. A popular option, for example, is a WiFi network for a smart home device, but this solution is not ideal for a seismic activity monitoring system used along marine faults.
There we need low consumption, long-distance coverage, and relatively low data transfer.
The cloud represents that term that entered our everyday IT dictionary: The Cloud.
It is the place where all that data is transferred, involving servers, large storage, and processing capacities.
The term "cloud" can also include more structures and more actions: data storage and data processing. There are several logical definitions of this layer.
We can see it as a unitary structure, in which case we can call it the "application layer" or we can divide it according to two major functionalities: "data processing layer" and "application layer".
Here resides not only the data storage part but also another concept that has gained momentum recently: AI or artificial intelligence applications, which, in most cases, need a precondition provided by an IoT system: a large volume of data to work with.
This represents a generic architecture of an IoT solution.
If we have to make a summary, we are talking about a structure in 3 or 4 layers: sensing/perception layer, network layer, and application layer (with the predecessor data processing layer).
In terms of functionality, considering all the above-mentioned components, we have to define the interfaces, functionalities, constraints, performances, etc.
Cloud, lightning, squares with the antenna ... a complex ecosystem with which we must build a symbiotic relationship to achieve our system goals.
This article has been co-authored with Petru Muraru our Practice Leader in Connected Systems ans IoT.
Since 2009 part of Ausy, starting as a SW engineer. During this period he had the opportunity to be involved in multiple projects, working with different customers and partners, covering a large variety of fields and technologies (Telecom/Automotive/Transportation/IoT/Cloud Services). This had been just the beginning as starting 2021, a new challenge and opportunity emerged: ensuring the leadership of the overall activities concerning IoT CoE within Ausy.
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