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IoT
10 minutes read

IoT Architecture: Unlocking the Value of Your Data

by Jose Gomez
IoT
10 minutes read

Some technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) have a complex systems architecture. To function properly, IT engineers and development teams need their data networks to work correctly. Poor connectivity might result in high latency among devices, consequently risking your business operations. 

The challenge with this technology is not actually being creative on how to use it. There are many ways in which organizations are finding ways to connect devices, creating all sorts of positive benefits. The hard part is to set an IoT system that operates correctly and in a secure way. This sounds like just another routine IT task, but it is a bit more complex than the regular software deployment that many companies do on a frequent basis.

In this post, we discuss some of the aspects of an IoT architecture that companies need to consider in order for their systems to work correctly. This goes from having the right infrastructure to the right apps. 

What Is IoT Technology and How Does It Work?

When it comes to the technologies that are changing the world, the Internet of Things stands out. IoT is an interconnected network of devices that can exchange information between them. This means that the devices that belong to a specific network are not only able to transfer data but actually perform tasks with the data.

IoT technology relies heavily on how data is processed by devices. The possibility to work in an integrated network allows different configurations depending on what is needed. Therefore, each specific solution will depend on the goal it wants to achieve and the restrictions posed on the system. 

Connect Multiple Devices to a Network

Device interconnectivity might sound like a minor thing, but the ability to connect multiple devices across a single wireless network opens up many possibilities for businesses that are just being discovered. Devices that can be connected over a network are referred to as ‘smart devices.’ This type of device can be very useful in a variety of industries. 

In recent years we’ve seen how there has been a rise in IoT applications for business uses. From consumer-targeted products to heavy-duty machines, an interconnected network of devices across different processes is what the future of business seems to be.

Critical IoT vs Massive IoT

This is an important difference that needs to be clarified when discussing IoT systems. On one hand, Critical IoT refers to a system that has few endpoints or data input devices that transfer large amounts of data. It is expected that this first type will become the industry standard as 5G replaces previous cellular networks, solving issues related to latency. 

Massive IoT, on the other hand, consists of multiple endpoints. Each endpoint transfers a small amount of data, making its architecture different from that of critical systems. Massive IoT tends to be more common due to constraints in data transfers between devices. 

Edge Computing

The issue of data transfer from one device to another can be a problem, particularly in situations where there is no space for latency. Normally, many smart devices send data to the cloud, therefore referred to as cloud computing

In the cloud, data is processed and later sent back to the original device. If the information being sent from one device to another suffers a delay, critical consequences can occur. Such is the case of experimental IoT uses like self-driving cars and certain robots. 

To solve this problem, smart devices are sometimes enabled to process information directly without having to send data to the cloud. This helps reduce the time between data being sent and processed. This solution is known as edge computing as it occurs directly on the device, also known as the edge of the network. 

IoT Apps

Although the core of IoT lies on devices and the data network that brings them together, apps deserve a special mention. Users need to be constantly interacting with smart systems in various ways, and apps play a determinant role in that process. An IoT app has the power to make the experience a failure or a success. Companies implementing smart systems are aware of this, that’s why they invest valuable resources into quality IoT app development. 

IoT System Architecture 

Just like humans need a certain set of conditions to communicate with one another, so do devices. In order for multiple devices to understand one another, a proper IoT architecture must be in place. An IoT architecture refers to how devices are integrated. It takes into account all the levels of complexity involved in creating device connectivity that actually works. 

There can be anywhere from three to five IoT architecture layers. Choosing the number of layers depends mostly on what the goal is, and whether a cloud or edge-computing system is being configured. A third type of architecture is sometimes referred to as fog computing because it is located somewhere between the cloud and edge computing. This means that both the cloud and edge computing are used. 

A three-layer IoT architecture considers the following:

  • Perception layer: Also known as the physical layer, it considers the sensors being used to retrieve data from a given environment.
  • Network layer: Connects the different devices throughout the perception layer. It establishes how data is transferred through IoT protocols. 
  • Application layer: This final layer delivers application-specific services to end-users. It includes the app that users use to interact with the system. 

The five-layer classification considers basically the same concepts as the three-layer classification, but it looks at the system from a more detailed perspective. The five layers are: perception, transport, processing, application, and business. 

The number of layers your system’s architecture considers is secondary as long as the critical aspects of your system are considered. It is more important to make sure that everything works properly, regardless of the number of layers. A working IoT architecture ensures that data is properly communicated across the entire network. A poorly configured architecture poses the risk of being dysfunctional. This means your network will not operate as intended and data latency problems might occur. 

Before we delve into the details of what this whole IoT architecture thing means for your company, let’s look at a couple of examples of how this technology can be applied in real life. 

Internet of Things Examples

Since it is easier to understand something with some practical use cases, here are a few examples of IoT systems and how they are used across different industries. There are many other ways in which this technology can be used.

The thing they all have in common is that they use data to create value for systems and the systems’ end-users. By collecting valuable data through key entry points, companies can make better strategic decisions. This makes sense if you are considering implementing within your organization an IoT strategy.

Medical IoT Examples

The use of Internet of Things enabled medical devices, known as IoMT devices, is changing how medical facilities operate. Medical personnel can use smart devices to help treat patients in better, more accurate, and efficient ways. By making use of sensors and specialized medical equipment, system designers can use data to eliminate pain points throughout patients’ medical journeys. 

Retail IoT Examples

A lot is being said about the future of retail storefronts. Whatever the case is, IoT retail devices will help customers make their in-store shopping experiences friendlier. It is likely that mobile phones play an important role in this process; they can act as IoT beacons that simplify how retail works. Retailers, by using this technology properly and with the right data, can improve customer experience significantly.

Industrial IoT

A broad range of enterprises are looking for new ways to up their game. Thanks to special IoT sensors and powerful apps, various industries can optimize many of their processes using the right data, thus gaining productivity and reducing costs. Through data-driven process optimization, industrial companies can improve their insights on how to run their business and make better decisions. This includes sectors as diverse as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and public utilities

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a versatile, innovative, and powerful tool. Overall, it is a small computer that can be used to perform many different tasks. It can be connected to sensors and other devices through IoT networks, opening a wide spectrum of possibilities. Its code can be easily customized to perform specific actions. This is a great tool for those who are interested in learning about computing and data, but it also has real-life applications for individuals and businesses alike. 

Common Mistakes: Infrastructure and Software

Getting your IoT architecture right requires having the correct infrastructure and software set up together with the right configuration. A common mistake many companies make is they have only one of these two elements. This happens, most of the time, because there is a lack of internal organizational knowledge on how these systems work. 

A solution to this infrastructure-software problem is to view them as a single system, or a single entity. Establishing a rigid differentiation between them will most likely end up becoming problematic. Consider that there is a strong interconnection between how the infrastructure and systems work, so what happens in one will influence the other. 

What Is IoT Infrastructure?

The IoT infrastructure refers to the elements that make it possible for an IoT system to work properly. This is a broad category that covers many things. Many experts enlist various infrastructure requirements, and some even consider the software part of the system to be a part of the regular infrastructure requirements.

Whatever way you decide to organize your infrastructure, these are some minimum things that need to be considered: 

  • IoT Platform
  • Data Pipeline (Storage & Processing)
  • (Big) Data & Analytics
  • Security

Data-Driven IoT

The goal of having the right infrastructure and software is to have your smart device network set up and running smoothly. Once you are able to achieve that, you might want to work on how you use your data to optimize your smart network. In general, the goal of having your data properly configured means that you are able to store and process data easily throughout your data pipeline. This is critical for any fully functional IoT system.

Security

Any smart system needs to take seriously any security concerns. For that, the right IoT protocols need to be in place. Ideally, you want your information to be encrypted or secured in such a way as to prevent third parties from accessing sensible data. 

IoT Application Development

There is a lot to consider in order to properly implement a smart IoT network and make proper use of your data. Elements like the infrastructure and software need to be perfectly aligned to meet your business needs and goals. Identifying the potential of your data is also crucial. Last but not least, having the right app for your smart network and unlocking the power of your data is also necessary. 

IoT applications can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. To make the most out of your smart devices, it is necessary to have a fully functional and secure app. There is a lot to know about IoT app development, but this doesn’t have to be an impediment to implement this powerful technology inside your company. 

An IoT app development partner like Koombea is capable of helping you build the IoT app your company needs. Since 2007 we’ve been helping organizations across a number of industries build the digital products they want. 

Contact us and schedule a call with one of our IoT experts and receive a free consultation.