A Guide to IoT and the opportunities it presents to succeed in the 4th Industrial Revolution

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers networked or internet connected devices which have embedded electronics such as sensors or actuators that can exchange data, be controlled and monitored remotely. There are multiple types of IoT devices that are available for consumers or organisations to purchase or design, to perform specific functions that serve a purpose in various industries.

The Internet of Things is a key driver in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum says that 4IR is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, IoT, 3D printing (additive manufacturing), autonomous vehicles and virtual/augmented/mixed reality “that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.” It’s also gaining popularity in an Edge Computing setup (where analytics, knowledge creation and feedback is done at the edge of a network, rather than in a centralised manner).

Postscapes (an excellent IoT resource) lists the following types of IoT sensors and actuators that are currently available: Position/Presence/Proximity; Motion/Velocity/Displacement; Temperature, Humidity/Moisture; Acoustic/Sound/Vibration; Chemical composition and Gas; Flow; Force, Load, Torque, Strain and Pressure; Leaks and Levels; Electric and Magnetic; Acceleration and Tilt; Machine Vision / Optical Ambient Light sensors. Check out the electronic components available on https://www.digikey.com/ and http://eu.mouser.com/ for more examples.

There’s a variety of “plug and play” hardware development boards that these IoT sensors and actuators can be attached to. Some popular development boards are Raspberry Pi, Arduino, ARM mbed, BeagleBone, and Intel Joule. A DIY enthusiast or maker can also purchase developer kits from many suppliers that include a development board with a bundle of sensors and actuators. Or, commercial IoT products with pre-configured sensors and boards can be purchased performing a specific function from many vendors (see http://iotlist.co/ and http://devices.wolfram.com/).

Integration and Connectivity of these hardware devices from localised networks to the global Internet can be achieved by a variety of methods, e.g. WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Powerline, NFC, RFID, WIMAX, Cellular (2G to LTE Advanced).

A multitude of IoT standards and protocols (covering data, connectivity, hardware, etc.) exist for developers to choose from. Check out this overview for more details.

Security seems to be an afterthought for IoT devices, some of which can be critical components of a particular industry use case. In a Forbes article, Tanuj Mohan, CTO and co-founder of Enlighted says “Traditional internet security is still important for the IoT, but it does not go far enough. Designing proper authentication, authorization, accounting, encryption, intrusion detection, software signing and trust models promotes interaction between devices that are online. But mirroring and enhancing these mechanisms in connected things like intelligent ovens, smart locks, or connected shoes and workout apparel requires extreme caution. A security flaw can present an imminent physical threat to the user.”

Developers have a choice from a variety of open and proprietary software development platforms to build localised, cloud and hybrid (local/cloud) IoT applications, such as Eclipse IoT stack for Java, Eclipse Kura, Microsoft Azure, ThingWorx IoT Platform, IBM’s Watson, Cisco IoT Cloud Connect, Salesforce IoT Cloud, Oracle Integrated Cloud and GE Predix.

With the people, process, system and environmental data from IoT devices (which may be offered in the form of services or microservices); applications that provide analytics, prediction, notifications, monitoring, automation, customer relationship management, control, support and further capabilities are finding uses in multiple vertical industries such as:Smart Buildings, Smart Cities, Smart Homes, Agriculture, Defence, Events & Entertainment, Financial Services, Food, Healthcare, Hospitality, Infrastructure, Logistics, Manufacturing, Mining, Retail, Services, Transportation, Travel and Utilities. This diagram depicts the various categories of IoT solution components in a logical manner:

When data available from IoT devices across verticals is compounded (e.g. Transport plus Smart City, Healthcare plus Smart Home; Logistics plus Manufacturing) and offered with other drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, further opportunities can be offered.

Cover Image Credit: Blue Coat Photos under CC license by SA 2.0

Article written by Zaid Mahomedy

Zaid Mahomedy is certified Enterprise Architect and Mixed Reality Entrepreneur with over a decade of experience as an IT consultant, Enterprise & Solution Architect; Digital Content Creator and Influencer. Zaid is available to consult to companies on how they can adopt disruptive technologies to transform themselves so that they can succeed in the Digital Age. For more info, check out www.immersiveauthority.com