The rise of IoT in networking is sparking key innovations in the field, including complex systems of Internet of Things devices (SIoTD). This guide will cover the basics of this emerging concept and its applications.
The Internet of Things is one of the most exciting new technologies to go mainstream in recent years. It has hundreds of applications, ranging from next-gen consumer electronics to high-caliber industrial devices.
Systems of IoT devices are networks of connected IoT devices that work together for a unified purpose. The key feature of an IoT networking system like this is its IoT architecture, which includes all the layers of devices, components, and processes that make up the network.
These systems of IoT devices can include a variety of different devices, each of which has access to different data and communicates with different devices within the network. A great example of this is a system of consumer lifestyle IoT devices.
Many consumers today have their own personal IoT networking system, including a smart speaker, their smartphone, their smartwatch, their smart appliances, and potentially even their smart car. These devices may communicate with consumers and with each other in different ways, but they all serve the common purpose of simplifying and automating the consumer’s daily life.
In a more industrial setting, a system of IoT devices would look a little different but function in a similar way. A manufacturing facility that uses IoT in networking might adopt technologies like IoT quality-control sensors, IoT sensors for their manufacturing robots, smart inventory monitors, smart security cameras, and smart warehousing equipment like warehouse robots.
In both scenarios, the complex system of IoT devices can be designed in a variety of ways, with different layers and processing protocols.
Most IoT devices operate in a similar way. Sensors inform the device about some condition, such as temperature, and relay that information to a controller. The controller tests the information from the sensor against a condition or collection of possible responses. Once it has identified the appropriate response to the sensor data, it “tells” the device’s actuators to do something, such as send an electrical signal to turn on a light bulb or turn off an appliance. The device is also connected to a network, most often the Internet, where it communicates with and collects data from other devices.
In a complex system of IoT devices, these components of each device are part of the larger IoT architecture, the way the network is made up. This is part of why it is so “complex.” In a large system of IoT devices, there could be dozens or hundreds of sensor-controller-actuator processes going on at once, all talking to each other throughout.
With IoT networking, every architecture includes some standard components or units: applications, analytics, integration, security, and infrastructure. These components can be thought of as different categories that each device or program in the SIoTD can be sorted into. Different IoT architectures organize their components in different ways through “layers.”
There are three main IoT network architectures: three-layer, four-layer, and five-layer. Three-layer is the least complex. It is built from a perception layer, an application layer, and a network layer.
The first layer, perception, includes all of the sensors the IoT devices in the network use to gather information about the environment and each other. The second layer – network – is the nervous system connecting all of the devices and programs involved and sending data between them. The third layer, application, is the manifestation of perception and network processes for the actual goal they were trying to achieve.
A simple way to think of this architecture is like the human body. The perception layer acts like the senses – touch, smell, and sight. The information the body’s senses pick up gets sent to the brain, the network layer. Here, the information is processed to make a decision. That decision results in an action using the body’s motor skills, the application layer.
Four-layer and five-layer architectures work in a similar way but with slightly more complex processes. The four-layer architecture adds a specific data-processing layer separate from the network layer. This is between the perception and network layers. It often acts as a security layer where data or user authenticity is confirmed before perception layer data gets transmitted to the actual network. This is important since, as intensive SIoTD studies have stressed, cybersecurity is a major challenge with these large, complex networks.
Five-layer architecture takes things one step further by adding a processing layer as well as a business layer. As the name suggests, a business layer is particularly useful for business SIoTD applications. It acts as a built-in network management program, organizing things like business models or user privacy.
There are many applications for IoT in networking, ranging from consumer electronics to expansive supply-chain programs. It is important to note that applications in any niche or industry can use any of the above architectures – the right architecture is more about the specific application. So, a consumer application won’t necessarily use a three-layer architecture just because it is less complex than a manufacturing application. The needs of a certain application dictate what architecture should be used.
One great use case for SIoTDs is supply-chain monitoring and management. For example, trucking companies today have to balance a high-demand supply chain with a shortage of drivers. This requires increasingly precise optimization at every stage, from a haul pickup to final delivery and every stop in between.
Logistics managers have to take many factors into account when planning the most efficient route for a certain haul. They can use a system of IoT devices to collect real-time data of their entire trucking fleet, allowing them to adjust course on the road and plan more strategic and informed routes. For example, IoT sensors could monitor fuel consumption, travel times, and idle times, helping to identify more efficient routes.
Another increasingly popular use case for IoT in networking is smart warehouses. Much like trucking companies, warehouses today have to keep up with incredibly fast-paced demand. Among the many benefits of automating warehouses using IoT are greater visibility and improved productivity.
Warehouse managers can use IoT devices to do things like monitor their inventory levels, which can keep them informed about inventory that may be running low or expiring soon. IoT is also a key technology in warehouse robots, which rely on it for navigation and communication. Central hubs keep track of where all these robots are around the warehouse and ensure everything is running smoothly.
IoT in networking is taking on a greater role every year. These devices continue to advance in their capabilities, intelligence, and applications. All types of industries are seeing the benefits of SIoTDs, ranging from automated next-gen warehouses to today’s modern smart homes. Understanding the inner workings of complex systems of IoT devices helps make them a little less complex and opens the door to new ideas and new applications for these incredible devices.