A Simplified Explanation Of “Things” Within The IoT Technology And Solution Design Context
What do you mean by "Things"?
IoT (Internet of Things) solutions are used in many facets of our lives to control our business and economy. These solutions can be used at home and in our workplaces for various reasons.
I published several articles on News Break related to various aspects of IoT as it is one of the most significant technologies of our time. However, some of my discerning readers requested more information and wanted me to add clarity on the “Things” of IoT solutions.
In this post, I provide an overview of “Things” in the IoT technology and solution design context. I explain these complex devices using simple language so that non-technical readers can understand and make sense of this important topic.
The “Things” are the most foundational components of IoT solutions. They are intelligent hardware devices, such as sensors and actuators.
They are physical sensors embedded in or on objects to sense various physical activities such as sound, light, speed, velocity. The most typical IoT device is a smartwatch counting the number of steps based on body movement.
These devices can be either battery-powered or energy harvested such as from sunlight. They can have embedded code or embedded operating systems based on their functions.
Based on their capacity and scope, these devices can be classified under three main categories.
The first one concerns the smallest devices with embedded 8-bit systems, also known as System on Chips (SOCs) devices. SoCs have given rise to many commercial devices. Some SoCs can run entire operating systems and calculate complex algorithms.
The second ones are the 32-bit systems based on Atheros or ARM Chips, which run a cut-down version of open-source operating systems such as Linux.
In contrast, the third ones are the 64-bit computing platforms running full versions of operating systems such as Linux, Windows, or Android.
IoT devices require microcontrollers and microprocessors with chipsets to enable wireless connections and communications. These chipsets can be made up of some commercially available boards that can be used for prototyping a solution component.
IoT hardware boards typically include components, such as a battery, power supply, reset button, on and off button, LEDs, gyroscope, Wi-Fi, USB interface, Camera, I2C Connector, Ethernet connector, Micro HDMI connector and LVDS display.
There are numerous prototyping boards available on the market. They are inexpensive and speed up the prototyping process considerably to develop a quick IoT solution. Some popular boards are Intel Edison, Arduino, BeagleBone, UDOO Neo Photon, RaspberryPi, and ESP8266. IoT enthusiasts can purchase these boards and create their home-based IoT solutions as a hobby.
To recap, the ‘Things’ in IoT are the sensor devices. The ‘Things’ can function as converters or talk to a separate device that plays the role of an additional converter. The function of these ‘Things’ is to convert the physical signals to digital signals.
From the architecture and design point of views, in IoT systems, embedded objects need to be aligned with the environment in a layout. Each object is an important member of the ecosystem and needs to be designed with an integrated approach. These objects need to work in harmony and must be enabled through a well-architected, well-designed and coherent approach.
From the perspective of usability, the IoT system layout needs to be simple. IoT solution architects and designers need to make specific considerations with regards to the layout. For example, they need to ensure that the layout is not cluttered with a myriad of cables and disturbing hardware components.
Modern consumers hate clutter and disturbing objects in their devices. Besides, simplicity is desirable and can be considered an enabling factor for security, performance, availability, and cost-effectiveness.
The simplicity provided in terms of usability can have a favourable effect on users’ senses and prevent potential damage to their health. This usability factor also can be part of the non-functional requirements (NFRs) and traced to the building blocks of the solution outcomes.
In order to conceptualize it, you can think of IoT as an extended electronic ecosystem. IoT solutions in this ecosystem can help eliminate cumbersome technology devices. For example, undesirable noise, screens, and hardware clutter can be reduced.
It is impossible to carry a data centre or host such complex systems in our homes. As users, we only deal with the active service providers hiding the clutter from our immediate environment. By doing so, technology devices can be supportive rather than intrusive to our lives.
Thank you for reading my perspectives.
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