4 Layers of the Internet of Things
In today’s age of fast track technology growth, it’s becoming very difficult to keep track of the rise of different technologies. However, there is a common theme underlying most of the modern technology trends. This constant theme is of ‘convergence of technologies’ and the internet of things is the perfect example of this phenomenon.
It’s very nature itself lends to the notion of a convergence of different technologies working together in unison to solve a real business problem or enable new products and services. But the problem is that the various players involved in the IOT ecosystem view the IOT technology stack from their own specific perspective, ending up confusing the audience.
So, “What is the link between IOT, cloud, Analytics, Data Science?” This is still a common question!
This article tries to allay this confusion by describing the 4 layers of an IOT technology stack.
The first layer of Internet of Things consists of Sensor-connected IOT devices:
These are the small, memory-constrained, often battery-operated electronics devices with onboard sensors and actuators. These could either function as standalone sensing devices or be embedded as part of a bigger machinery for sensing and control. Three main capabilities of a typical IOT device are:
- being able to sense and record data
- being able to perform light computing and finally
- being able to connect to a network and communicate the data
Examples of these include fitness trackers, agricultural soil moisture sensors, medical sensors for measuring blood glucose levels and more. There are a huge number of startups and established companies competing to come up with newer and newer sensors, actuators and devices.
The second layer consists of IOT gateway devices:
The various IOT devices of layer 1 need to be connected to the internet via a more powerful computing device called the IOT gateway which primarily acts like a networking device. So, similar to how a WiFi router helps us connect many laptops, phones and tablets to the internet at home, the IOT gateway aggregates data from numerous sensing devices and relays it to the cloud.
These gateways are critical components of the IOT ecosystem. Typically, IOT gateways are equipped with multiple communication capabilities (like Bluetooth, Zigbee, LoRa WAN, Sub-GHz proprietary protocols) to talk to the IOT devices on one end and a connection to the IP (Internet) based network on the other side (over WiFi, Ethernet or Cellular link).
The Third layer of IOT is the Cloud:
All the sensor data relayed by IOT gateways is stored on cloud hosted servers. These servers accept, store and process data for analysis and decision making. This layer also enables creation of live dashboards which decision makers can monitor and take proactive data driven decisions. Today, almost all cloud computing companies have custom service offerings for IOT solutions.
And the Final layer is IOT Analytics:
This is where the magic happens and the collected raw data is converted into actionable business insights, which can help improve business operations, efficiency or even predict future events like machine failure. This layer employs different data science and analytics techniques including machine learning algorithms to make sense of the data and enable corrective action.
You will find the same 4 layers of technology in all the Internet of Things applications and solutions albeit in different shapes and sizes. Because there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to IOT applications.
In our research, we learned that companies in the field of IOT want to hire IOT specialists who have exposure to all the 4 layers of IOT – starting from sensor-connected IOT devices to IOT gateways to IOT cloud and finally IOT Analytics using machine learning.
Typically, IOT design & implementation teams are cross-functional in nature and have specialists from different layers (HW, firmware, networking, data scientists and so on). The expectations from anIOT expert is that she/he should have practical exposure in all the 4 layers and should become the glue which helps put an end-to-end solution together.
Thus, an IOT expert is expected to manage this convergence of technologies which has enabled the Internet of Things.