The IoT itself consists of a web of internet-enabled smart devices. Although each of these devices is different, they all share certain commonalities.
At their most basic, IoT objects gather data. Each object is essentially its own self-contained computer with its own internet IP address. Data is automatically collected through built-in sensors, and can then be shared through the internet, transferring data among objects, systems and people, without the need for human interaction. IoT objects range in sophistication from simple monitoring devices to extremely complex self-controlling machinery and AI-enhanced equipment.
When an IoT object interacts with the world, built-in sensors gather relevant data. For example, a modern wind turbine would be capable of collecting data on motor temperature, wind speed and rotations.
Once the data has been captured, the object then sends it into the cloud. To do this, it may rely on a variety of methods, including direct ethernet connections, Wi-Fi, 4G or 5G cellular, Bluetooth, low-power wide-area networks or satellites. Each of these options has its own strengths and limitations in terms of bandwidth, range and availability; individual IoT devices will often be optimised for specific connectivity protocols.
When IoT data arrives in the cloud, it is then processed by server-based software. Once processed, the information is made available to the end user. In the example of the smart thermostat, the temperature data is compared against a predetermined range—if the temperature fits within that acceptable range, no action is needed, but if the temperature is outside of that range, then the thermostat may alert the user or automatically activate the room’s heating or cooling systems to bring the temperature back within the acceptable range.
In terms of B2B applications, the data is made available to remote operations teams who then triage and investigate any issue that is detected by predetermined rules. These teams then decide whether to remotely address the issue or to send a field service technician to resolve it on-site. Alternatively, potential issues may be pre-emptively addressed; by monitoring equipment for warning signs, remote operations teams may elect to perform preventative maintenance to resolve problems early, rather than waiting for the equipment in question to fail fully.
In many cases, users can directly interface with the IoT platform through a connected application via their mobile device or web browser. This allows them to set parameters and adjust, or to simply check in on how the device is performing. When a user makes changes to their equipment, the IoT device sends information to the cloud where it is processed and then delivered to the device itself.