When you’re designing and deploying an IoT solution, and you’re figuring out how all the moving parts connect with each other, things might feel a little less than simple.
But most IoT solutions follow a similar formula—otherwise known as IoT architecture. In principle, this is the framework for the journey that your valuable data will take—from the connected Thing itself, all the way to the data visualisations that will inform your critical business decisions.
Let’s take a closer look at each stage of that data journey.
Sensors and actuators
In the beginning, there was data.
As the physical starting point of every IoT solution, the sensors gather data from whatever Thing you choose. The data can be digital, or even analogue like temperature readings, engine RPM, or water flow levels.
Not stopping at sensors, actuators also fall into this beginning stage. If the solution is built to enact changes under certain conditions, the actuators will read data from the sensors and then cause said change.
For example, let’s say Jim the farmer used a smart sprinkler solution to monitor the water table on a patch of farmland. If Jim set the target soil saturation to a certain level, and a dry weather spell leaves the land without rain, the sensors will detect that the crops are thirsty. As a result, the actuators will turn the sprinklers on, and then off when the saturation target is reached—so the soil gets just the right amount of water, reducing wastage and keeping Jim’s crops perfectly hydrated.
Gateways are the sensors and actuators’ way of communicating with the rest of the IoT solution, which might be hosted on an office server, a cloud provider’s network, or even the Internet. The gateways themselves often take the form of routers; but they can also be software-based.
While it’s possible to build each sensor to have its own connectivity, it would take a boatload of processing power and resources to do so.
Instead, it’s more efficient for the sensors to communicate with the gateway over a local connection, such as Wi-Fi or bluetooth. Just like with home broadband, where the broadband router is the critical piece in providing Internet access, the gateway is what enables all the sensors’ data to reach the right place.
Edge IT—a concept where portions of a computing process are handled by edge devices such as routers—is a trend that’s emerged and grown over the last few years. And right now, the edge is the ideal place to house extra computing power.
We’re dealing with so much data nowadays, that it’s no longer bandwidth-viable to have it all sent to one central point for processing.
Edge devices take the edge off (ha!) the job for the data center or server, running basic analytical tasks—like deciding to send a temperature reading only when there’s a change in the value, instead of wasting bandwidth and resources by sending one every few seconds. Or perhaps issuing a control order to an actuator under certain conditions—such as causing a valve to open once a certain level of water pressure is reached.
Earlier this year at MWC2019, we saw a huge focus on moving computing and AI processes out to the edge; and with the tidal wave of big data that 5G is sure to bring, it’s no surprise.
Data Centre / Cloud
The final point of our data’s journey is the data centre or cloud platform. This is where the heavy-duty analytics happens, through powerful CPU and cloud processing resources.
After the analysis, the data is stored until it’s time to present it to the end user, who can then make informed business decisions based on the results. The skill here is in being able to pull out trends and patterns in the data, then providing insights that lead to business benefits.
Say Jim the farmer took all the saturation data gathered by his smart sprinkler system. He could then cross-reference this with yearly weather patterns to find out exactly how much water is required and where, optimising his seed-planting process.
IoT solutions are long-lived things: their average life cycle is 10-20 years. This is down to IoT architecture being greater than the sum of its parts; by properly building and managing the data journey, you’ll be able to automate processes and make data-informed decisions with huge returns.
And at Pangea, helping you do that is hardwired into our DNA.
We’ll help you craft a solution where each part is in sync and operating in harmony, through custom connectivity, precise sensors, top-notch gateway devices, and analytics boosted by edge IT.
Let’s work together to bring you business wins through IoT. Get in touch today.