The IoT allows physical objects (devices, buildings, things, etc.) that used to be disconnected and isolated to now become connected and integrated with their surrounding peers and the Internet (most of the time). This opens up an infinity of possibilities, creates a new dimension between the physical and digital world, and generally has a positive impact on our lives.
These are the areas and problems that benefit most from the IoT today:
- Safety & Security
- Convenience & Information
- Infrastructure & Connectivity
So, how do you build a complete IoT Platform? Here are the 5 key elements to keep in mind:
- Hardware: This is the “physical” part of the system. It will be responsible for collecting data “on-site”, performing mechanical actions, communicating with people or other physical objects, etc. One of the biggest challenge in this area is how to provide constant power (battery) to these objects without requiring human intervention? Most are very power efficient but still require maintenance every year or so. Wireless Power is making great progress these days…
- Connectivity: How do all these components, objects, people receive and transmit the data? Nowadays, most of the systems rely strictly on Wireless protocols, and new protocols are emerging that avoids having a single point of failure with a robust self-healing mesh network (ThreadGroup.org, bluetooth.com, etc.)
- Software: This is what collects, stores, displays & analyzes the data to make smart decisions, detect potential issues, predict future trends, improve processes, be aware and proactive, etc. As an example, a residential IoT Platform which connects the heating & cooling system with a security system would allow to automatically save energy when there are no occupants in the house, based on some threshold temperatures for an ‘away’ mode. This is a smart way of saving money and be more environmentally responsible.
- User Interface: Part of the HMI (human machine interface), the user interface is what makes a system user-friendly and customizable to the user’s specific needs. This interface requires a lot of attention around usability, convenience, performance, stability and security. You want to make sure access and control is restricted to authorized users only, but at the same time, that it is user friendly and simple to operate.
- Security: Besides being reliable, connected, easy to use, the data is exposed to the world and potentially at risk from being exposed. Data privacy and security needs to be at the core of the platform by securing all communications and access to the data stored on the devices, being able to trust the physical objects, etc. Another important aspect of security is resilience: in some environments, it is critical that the connection or the system never goes down.
An IoT platform cannot provide everything on its own. This is why it needs to be extensible and provide the ability to integrate with other systems or components. Too often, platforms are trying too hard to become an all-inclusive solution and become nearly impossible to install and manage, slow to operate and painful to use. Having a clear definition of the platform strengths and features will facilitate its adoption and attract more customers.
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