IoT in simple terms

In recent days I have read and seen an enormous number of articles on IoT, the various conferences and product releases.

But what is IoT in simple terms and how can it benefit your business ?

The answer can be summarised like this: IoT (Internet of things) is a concept , a description of a developing collaboration platform, designed to bring various devices, operators and software products together by allowing them to freely interact on a widespread network. Still sounds complex, no ? Indeed.

Think about this. IoT , as a concept promoted by so many companies, is nothing more than the desire of various manufacturers and software companies to make their product interface and interact easier with each other, even with other products. A classic is the over-used M2M (machine-to-machine) terminology. I personally prefer to say: IoT will allow my products to share information and data using the well known Internet platform. We no longer need to develop necessarily a specialised network for our devices. Communicaiton protocols can use the already existing cables fibre optic links and satellite connections.  The existing IP technology will carry our signals to a wider audience.

For a business, IoT means that by choosing products which have IP capability faster data sharing can be achieved. Let’s take the example of a coffee shop. By choosing an IP enabled till, cloud payment processing platform and integrating all that together, the following can be quickly resolved: faster sales report, faster payment process, supplies control, cost control, easier menu integration, expandability through software updates and smoother expansion when required.  The opposite would be true should everything be isolated. To have a sales report, the owner would have to export or even print data from the till, do a manual stocktake regularly, manually adjust the menu and also manually update the till to reflect the adjustments.

There are many examples such as the one above.

In industrial applications, Internet of Things is even more important. With deployment of millions of sensors in networks, managing the available data is impossible in a standard environment. Enter M2M, or machine-to-machine interaction. Data exported from pipe sensors for example is automatically captured by the software and then categorized, analysed and presented in various forms when required. All these steps are automatic and the operator doesn’t have to do anything other than scheduling reports. Imagine monitoring a network of pipes across a country. A mammoth task with no success in sight if it wasn’t for IoT applications.

IoT has made inroads in other disciplines, such as security. In simple terms all the surveillance cameras and recorders now connected to the house or office networks are forming the IoT. A camera can detect movement and , depending on its settings, can raise an alarm both local as well as remote through app based notifications or by emailing a snapshot of the event. Some cameras can be resource hungry should they need to stream constantly. These situations can be easily avoided through the use of the store-and-forward approach. Certain events are stored and only when a limit has been reached the data is forwarded to a receiver. This approach is particularly useful when the network connection is pricey, such as a direct satellite link. Utilising store-and-forward can significantly reduce data usage and enable the integrator to deploy a more cost effective connected solution.

IoT is everywhere since it is not a product but a concept. Monitoring trains and even controlling trains is no longer a science fiction idea but a reality. And it is all possible thanks to data global data links.

One of the biggest promoter and developer of IoT applications is the residential market. We have introduced more and more communicating technology in our homes. This is not necessarily bad when used properly.

For example, Schneider Electric has released some time ago a product by the name of Wiser Link. This solution allows the user to monitor his or her own power usage, set goals, review data in dollars and receive notifications when thresholds are exceeded. Some installations can be also set to automatically turn off circuits if they shouldn’t be on.

We are all part of the IoT and the very device you read this article on is a critical component.

IoT can be scary but if and when deployed correctly, all connected devices can bring more joy than pain. It is important to understand first what the goal is, what the budget is and choose the solution which fits better our business but without cutting cost and forgetting connectivity.

Connectivity is key.