IoT explained to my dad
Updated: Dec 5, 2018
The idea of this blog post came out when my dad admitted that he had no idea what my job was about and he fell ashamed when his friend asked what his daughter was doing. It is true that I almost always have to explain what is the Internet of Things to actually explain what my job is about at AllWize. People working in this field don’t always realise how mysterious it sounds to others. This article is a way to provide a level playing field for everyone!
So if you too constantly have to explain what is the Internet of Things (also known as IoT), or if you don’t know what it is, I advise you to read and share this article. I’ll try to explain you in the most simple way, with no technicalities. Remember, I’ve been there too, I’m not a techie!
N.B: I tried not to read too much on the topic as the goal being to write a very generic article and because I was too tempted to copy and paste very cool articles like this one.
IoT in a nutshell
When explaining IoT I always start by saying that it is simply all objects that are connected to the internet. To be more precise, it comprises all object or things that can receive and send data to the internet. Here are few common examples: a smart watch, lamppost that turn on when you pass by, smart fridge or simply a smartphone.
To copy and paste wikipedia that, in my sense, provides a rather clear definition (why am I writing this blog post?):
“IoT involves extending Internet connectivity beyond standard devices, such as desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets, to any range of traditionally dumb or non-internet-enabled physical devices and everyday objects. Embedded with technology, these devices can communicate and interact over the Internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled.”
Between the physical and virtual world
In the IoT world, the physical (hardware) and virtual (software) world are deeply intertwined. Objects sense humidity, gas, movements, GPS position, etc and send information to a network. The IoT is composed of sensors & actuators that sense things and collect data, which are then send to the network and stocked in the cloud or in data centers, computer programmes process data collected and can control these objects depending on the outcome of information collected. The goal of this being to predict, to automate, to inform.
But here a clearer way to tell you about the different actors in the Internet of Things.
Examples of applications
At AllWize we have some IoT applications that can enlighten you on what is the Internet of Things or at list what form it can take:
Smart parking application: a device placed under or above your parking spot with movement and ultrasonic sensors inform the user whenever there is a movement.
Smart garden application: sensors placed in crops or garden gather information on humidity, the weather, sun exposition, and inform the farmer when to irrigate.
Air Quality Check: a gas sensor will check the air quality and inform the user of the quality of the air in real time.
Different verticals for IoT
So we have seen before some examples of Internet of Things applications but there are actually quite a few verticals where these new technologies are thriving. Here are the main ones:
Smart Homes: remote control appliances, energy and water use, intrusion detection system, etc.
Smart Cities: smart parking, noise management, traffic congestion, smart lightning, etc.
Smart Wearables: heart rate sensing, wearable pollution detector, etc.
Smart agriculture: precision irrigation, precise weather forecast, etc.
Industrial IoT: predictive maintenance of machines, assets control, etc.
Smart transports: public transport management, fleet management, etc.
Smart environment: forest fire detection, pollution detection, earthquake detection, etc.
Smart meters: metering of gas, water, energy facilities, detection of leaks, etc.
Logistics: fleet tracking, asset tracking, storage management, etc.
Smart Farming: tracking of farm animals, hydroponics, etc.
eHealth: elderly checking, patient surveillance, etc.
A very diverse ecosystem
SPOILER: To avoid a big headache skip the following paragraph and go directly to the diagram.
As I said before, the IoT world comprises the physical and virtual world. That’s why actors in the same field are doing such different things, you will have on the one hand connectivity actors, hardware providers to connect things, sensors and actuators constructors but also, IoT platforms helping to process all data collected in nice dashboards, also cloud based platforms to stock all information safely, but also chip providers, radio providers so on and so on….
How to connect all these things
This is an important point. The answer might sound very obvious but it is actually not. The Internet of Things is not all about Wifi and 5G. They are many different technologies that can connect things and they all involve radio frequencies. Depending on the size of the message, the distance, mobility or not, position of the device, etc, you will not use the same technology.
If you need to automate something inside your home you will probably find the Wifi as the most useful technology but for smart farming this might pose a problem (except if your cows are in your living room? 🤔).
Bluetooth requires the two objects communicating with each other to be very close. Beacons (a certain type of IoT device) use bluetooth to constantly emit messages that can be perceived by nearby bluetooth equipped devices (e.i. smartphones), this technology can be useful if you want to automate the heating of your home whenever it detects a smartphone for example.
3G, 4G and 5G are technologies used by our phones and can transmit large information far but are very energivore. As you know it, smartphones typically use this technology, it’s not too expensive for one person to have phone contract but imagine having to pay 10€/month/device for 10 000 devices across a city 😓.
Low Power Wide Area technologies (also known as LPWA), are low frequencies. Therefore, they use less power, can communicate on farther distances, can penetrate better through walls/soil/anything but can send smaller and less messages per day. LPWA are the most common technology used for IoT.
All about data
The Internet of Things was a buzz word a few years ago such as deep learning, machine learning, big data and now AI. Did you know that all of them had one thing is common? They are all part of the data economy. Indeed, deep learning, machine learning and AI all need big data to thrive and the Internet of Things is one of the biggest source of data you can find.
The Internet of Things may be mysterious but it is at the base of many new technologies like the automated car which will need to interact with buildings (guess what, also connected with IoT) to get their way through cities. That’s why you didn’t lose time by reading this article up to here ;)
If I managed to make you even more interested about IoT you can also get some useful information in the following articles here: