What is IoT technology made of?
Full-stack IoT development in itself is a set of technology stacks that includes the development of hardware, programming the hardware ( Embedded Firmware ), Connecting the devices with a communication protocol, and sending data to the central server with IoT data protocols, IoT App development, etc.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that have sensors, and are supported by software, and other technologies for connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet/any other network such as Bluetooth, NBIoT, LTE, etc. Technology requirement in IoT Products involves a combination of different tech stacks required in the development of Hardware and Firmware, IoT application development, and IoT cloud integration, which in themselves requires knowledge of different elements.
The IoT technology stack – Technology requirements in IoT
The internet of things technology stack can prove a tough nut to crack if we try to find our way through this technological maze. This is because of the complexity of IoT technology and IoT device requirements. However, in this blog, we are going to simplify and attempt to break down the technological requirements of IoT into 5 basic technology layers involved in the Internet of Things product development. These are the following:
IoT Device Hardware
The interaction between the physical and digital worlds is provided through IoT devices. They are the foundation of the Internet of Things technological stack. IoT Device hardware mostly consists of Microcontrollers, sensor-based devices, connectivity modules, and other peripherals.
The hardware in IoT enables communication with the Cloud or other local devices. Firmware is the hardware code that helps the hardware to work for specific purposes. With this, we can perform real-time analytics, data acquisition from your device’s sensors, and even control all the data.
Firmware is critical because it serves as a bridge between the hardware and cloud applications. Fota in IoT devices is also becoming increasingly important as the number of IoT devices grows, to update and upgrade code remotely altogether.
IoT Communication protocol
Communication refers to the different methods through which the device exchanges information with the rest of the world. It is sometimes also referred to as connectivity. IoT communication Protocols help in communication between IoT devices and Cloud.
IoT Cloud platforms
The backbone of your IoT solution is the Cloud Platform. The cloud platform provides the foundation for critical functions like data collecting, processing, and IoT data analytics.
IoT cloud/ mobile Application
Here’s some more detail about these technologies required in IoT solution development
An IoT device hardware is a printed circuit board (PCB) that has circuitry and hardware components designed to work with a specific microcontroller. Electronics prototyping is one of the initial steps of IoT hardware development.
Here’s a look at the important components of an IoT board
- Power circuit– It enables the circuit with the power to run.
- Programming interface– It enables you to program the microcontroller from a computer.
- Basic input – These are usually buttons
- Basic output– These are usually LEDs
- I/O pins– For controlling motors, temperature sensors, LEDs, LCD screens, and other peripherals.
Key must-have features for all IoT boards:
- Processing power – A microcontroller is quite useful for programming the device as many manufacturers provide the IDE that you require.
- Wireless capabilities – It ensures wireless communication without an external transceiver module. Some of the most commonly used wireless technologies include Bluetooth, Zigbee, WiFi, and other LPWAN technologies.
- Scalability – With scalability, you can add more functionality to the board. You may want to cross-check if the board communicates via GPIO, UART, SPI, or some other protocol since this will decide how the board interacts with other devices.
- Memory – The storage capability depends on the board memory in hardware prominently. To store a lot of data, you need built-in Flash memory. Most IoT boards allow connecting a MiniSD or MicroSD card to increase data storage.
Examples of commonly used IoT boards
Hardware code or Firmware
IoT Firmware development refers to the development of hardware code. The code in the hardware is quite vital to the functioning of the hardware’s operation. It interacts with the hardware’s electrical and electronic components. For updates in IoT hardware, FOTA should be supported.
Custom Embedded Firmware development requires expertise in programming the hardware along with compatibility with various other peripherals and devices.
IoT Cloud Platform
IoT cloud platforms leverage the power of IoT devices and cloud computing. In the IoT ecosystem, Edge computing has also been implemented widely. Edge computing and Cloud computing, both are used for processing data but at different places.
The market is replete with a number of robust cloud platforms provided by famous service providers. Here are the most commonly used cloud platforms:
- Google Cloud IoT
- Amazon AWS IoT Core
- Microsoft Azure IoT Hub
- IBM Bluemix IoT cloud
Google Cloud IoT
It was launched by Google and is currently one of the world’s leading Internet of Things platforms. The integration of numerous services that add to the value of linked solutions is what is known as Google Cloud IoT. Some of these services are:
- Cloud IoT Core Cloud Pub/Sub
- Google BigQuery
- AI Platform
- Google Data Studio
Amazon AWS IoT Core
AWS IoT is the provider of cloud services that connect IoT devices to other devices and AWS cloud services. AWS IoT provides device software that can help in the integration of IoT devices into AWS IoT based solutions. If the devices can connect to AWS IoT, AWS IoT can connect them to the cloud services that AWS provides.
With AWS IoT, you can select the most appropriate and up-to-date technologies for your solution. AWS IoT Core supports these protocols for IoT services:
- MQTT (Message Queuing and Telemetry Transport)
- MQTT over WSS (WebSocket Secure)
- HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol – Secure)
Most IoT devices use MQTT as it can provide two-way communication.
IoT Communication protocols
BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)
It is commonly used for short-range communication. Bluetooth Low-Energy, a technology later introduced, has optimized power consumption. Small-scale consumer IoT applications such as fitness and medical wearables like oximeters, smartwatches, etc. work on BLE.
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). This technology makes use of radio signals to transmit small amounts of data from an RFID tag to a reader located within a very short distance. Till now, technology has facilitated a major revolution in retail and logistics.
RFID technology is simple to use. By simply putting an RFID tag on different products and equipment, businesses can track their inventory and assets in real-time – allowing for better stock and production planning as well as optimized supply chain management.
Connectivity in IoT solutions requires the internet. The Internet is provided either through WiFi or cellular Networks. However, in the IoT space, its major limitations in coverage, scalability, and power consumption make the technology much less prevalent.
Due to high energy requirements, Wi-Fi is often not a preferred solution for large networks of battery-operated IoT sensors, especially in industrial IoT settings. WIFI is most suitable to use in the cases where the IoT device is connected to power outlets. Examples include smart home gadgets and appliances, digital signages, etc.
With the increase in IoT devices, the IoT requirements for Low Power networks arose.
LPWAN – Low power wide area network
The LPWAN technology is a relatively new phenomenon in IoT. It provides long-range communication by using small, inexpensive batteries that have a long life. Large-scale IoT networks spread over vast industrial and commercial campuses are the places where LPWAN is prominently used.
Some LPWAN Technologies work with gateways and others without a gateway.
Some LPWA networks which require gateways as a bridge are-
- LoRa-based IoT networks
- Sigfox-based IoT networks
- Zigbee-based IoT Solution
- Sub-1 GHz based IoT network
Examples of Low power Networks which do not require gateways are –
Choosing between LTE – M and NBIoT is totally dependent on the application.
IoT data Protocols
IoT protocols are an integral part of IoT technology product development. Without IoT data protocols, there would be no transferring data to the server. And, out of these transferred pieces of data, the user extracts useful information.
MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport)
An MQTT is a lightweight IoT data protocol. It features a publisher-subscriber messaging model and allows for simple data flow between different devices.
CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol)
A CoAP is an application layer protocol that addresses the needs of HTTP-based IoT systems. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and it’s the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web.
XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol)
XMPP has been used for publish-subscribe systems, file transfer, and communication in embedded Internet-of-Things networks.
IoT applications are end-user interfaces that run and control the IoT devices. These are tailor-made for specific industries and verticals, such as healthcare, industrial automation, smart homes and buildings, automotive, smart wearable technology, etc. Today, IoT applications are using AI and machine learning to add intelligence to devices.
Developers make use of various frameworks for IoT app development. These are:
Challenges and future possibilities in IoT development technologies
Major challenges in IoT technologies include security, high cost, and data privacy.
Another critical issue in IoT technologies is the issue of data privacy. Since IoT involves personal data (e.g. fitness and training devices), so there is an associated risk of data getting leaked due to network security issues or malicious hackers. The last challenge concerns the high cost of IoT technologies.
Crafting an IoT ecosystem in a way that can bring down the cost of key IoT technologies for wider and deeper penetration of IoT is one of the challenges already worked upon.