The Internet of Things (IoT), along with AI (Artificial Intelligence), has become a popularly used technology in the 21st century. Because of this, many companies seek the inclusion of IoT in their business processes. But while putting things into perspective, the idea of implementing IoT in the business process seems to be complicated when it comes to the number of devices and conditions involved to make it work. IoT, unlike any other technology, is designed and developed to work according to the required use cases without any universally followed working protocols as the architecture depends upon the functionality and implementation.
The 4 layers of the fundamental architecture of IoT are:
- Sensing Layer – Gathers information
- Network Layer – Transmits gathered data
- Data Processing Layer – Collects and process information
- Application Layer – Puts all the processed data into an application
1. Sensing Layer:
Devices like sensors and actuators are present in this sensing layer. These devices manage to collect information from the physical environment and send the collected data into the network. This tends to produce data that rushes overwhelmingly into the network, so it is important to segregate only the necessary data, from the collected data.
The major risk in this IoT implementation:
One of the major risks here is not being aware of the data flow. The data collected by the sensing layer must not be prone to cyber-attacks. Data which is sensitive and threat detection must be processed immediately.
There are misconceptions even among larger industries that, the amount of data they extract and the betterment of their business are directly proportional. This misconception causes data swelling in both structured as well as unstructured data.
Overcoming this major risk in IoT implementation:
The effective way to overcome this risk is to ensure that the suitable IoT Big Data works as intended with a clear strategy for protecting the data against any data leaks and cyber-threats. If the functional Data System is already existing, a distributed open-source IT architecture that features decentralized processing power, mobile computing and IoT edge technologies can be implemented to obtain beneficial pre-processing of data.
Internet gateways also known as network gateways and Data Acquisition systems (DAS) are present in this layer. Data categorizing and conversion functions are performed by DAS. The data obtained from actuators and sensors are very raw. This data has to be digitized for further data processing. Data Acquisition Systems (DAS) convert analog waveforms into digital values for processing.
The Internet gateway receives the digitized data and routes it over Wi-Fi, Cellular Networks, or Wired LANs upwards to the internet.
Lack of proper medium to carry on the data transmission:
As device compatibility is a crucial factor, to implement an enterprise-ready platform, the core compatibility of the IoT platform with the devices must be ensured using proper IoT device management systems and the choice of connectivity.The selection of proper means of connectivity is the determining factor in ensuring the success of the implementation of the IoT system.
Usage of Wi-Fi is not very advisable. Whilst the customers’ preference could be Wi-Fi, most companies are not very comfortable with 3rd party IoT devices connecting to their networks.
The solution to a better way of data transmission:
Cellular connectivity technologies like LPWA (Low Power Wide Area Network), NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT, a subset of LTE) and LTE-M1(Long Term Evolution, category-M1) are a much better choice compared to transmitting data via Wi-Fi as it is also cost-effective and works well with battery-powered devices.
Cellular technologies consume less energy and have been used in the market for years, which gives familiarity with this technology.
3. Data Processing Layer:
The Data Processing Layer is similar to that of the Central Processing Unit of a computer. In other words, the Data Processing Layer is the processing unit of the IoT ecosystem. Before the data is sent to the data center, the collected data is analyzed and pre-processed in this layer. This data in the data center is accessed by software applications, also known as business applications, where the data is monitored and managed for further actions. This layer also acts as an interface between the Network Layer and Application Layer, in a bidirectional way.
The Data Processing Layer is also responsible for device management, information management and for capturing large amounts of raw data and also extracting relevant information from stored data as well as from real-time data while ensuring the security and privacy of data.
Security concerns associated with data implementation:
Highly sensitive data and applications require access restrictions to avoid any malpractices as a massive number of devices are connected to the company’s global network. The security scope must be end-to-end encrypted. Security concerns of connected devices such as improper authorization techniques and privacy issues must be taken care of.
As the number of devices connected to the IoT network keeps growing, the current centralized systems to authenticate, authorize and connect different nodes will turn out to be a tedious process. This would create a situation where companies are required to invest huge amounts of money into buying servers that can handle a large amount of information exchange. Also, the entire network can go down if the server becomes unavailable.
Implementing data security using BlockChain:
‘Information Game Changer’, the blockchain helps in providing security and scalability to address the security challenges in IoT.
The blockchain system contains a distributed digital ledger, shared among its users in the system, on the internet. The transactions are validated and recorded in the ledger and it cannot be edited or deleted. It helps the users to record and share information. Certain people of this community maintain a copy of their ledger and validate any new transactions. This method has been reliable in providing security to not only the data but also registered devices in the network.
4. Application Layer:
The final layer of the IoT architecture is the Application Layer. Data centers or cloud is the management area of the data where the data is managed and utilized by an end-user application. To deploy these end-user applications efficiently, they have to be properly designed and implemented.
IoT developers usually indulge in the intellectual and theoretical part of the IoT design and they often fail to put in proper design methodologies in terms of usability. Design and development usually involves trial and error, and specific expertise in respective fields, which costs a huge amount of time and money.
Rectifying the design flaws:
It is important to understand the use case requirements that vary with products. The cost-factor in producing a product must be the primary concern as managers and stakeholders are involved. But focusing on the financial part alone will slow down your IoT development process. In this case, developing prototypes would be prudent.
Releasing early prototypes can not only assure cost-conscious management but also makes sure that the development is time-efficient. In addition to this, the development of a minimum viable product (MVP) and showing it to the customers in the early stages, can help you in getting a better understanding of the customer needs.
Oren Ezra of Seebo writes, “Prototypes can be used to test behaviors, software and firmware interactions in advance, that will affect the final smart product.”
Market analysis of IoT:
According to Ericsson’s research, it is predicted that there will be around 29 billion connected devices by 2022, out of which, around 18 billion will be related to IoT. With such a potential for growth and digital adoption in this field, it is imperative for the enterprises to follow the best practices in implementation and service delivery, to get the most out of this revolutionary technology.
A study by Fortune Business Insights foresees that by 2026, the global market for IoT will reach up to $1.11 trillion at a 24.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). It is also predicted that the banking and financial sectors will be the major leagues in terms of market share.
With such rapid growth, IoT can create a better tomorrow by providing new business opportunities, new capabilities to predict and act, improved monitoring, fine services & products and new revenue streams.
Guest article written by: Abhinav Dubey is an entrepreneur, a strategist and a technologist at heart. With over 10 years of industry experience at the likes of Honeywell and AMD, and over 5 years of experience in IoT with a successful startup exit. Abhinav holds an MBA from the University of Oxford, U.K, and an MS from Christ University, Bangalore.