What makes up the IoT? It’s more than sensors

Things, local services, connectivity, gateways, platforms & applications all critical to deployments

While many IoT products are deployed in households and industries for common uses, the complexity of the technology itself can create issues when it comes to implementation, from simple platform selection to full resource allocation.

To tackle IoT, it’s key to look at solutions layer by layer:


Things often refer to devices like sensors, controllers, calculators, memory and tags. For a device to be IoT-enabled, it must have some built-in communications functionality that allows the device to directly or indirectly connect to the internet since its role is to collect and distribute data within a solution. Since the foundation of an IoT architecture is the device layer, it’s essential to choose the right hardware and peripherals along with the necessary sensors to meet business needs.

Local services

Local services process data captured by device-level sensors, adding intelligence to the data before it is transmitted. While this processing mostly works in real-time and can be easily managed by applications, it doesn’t mean security takes a back seat. To maintain the security of communication, the processors must perform encryption on processors and decryption of data.


Connectivity is essential in any networked system. Depending on the application requirements, there is a pool of options of both wired and wireless connectivity solutions. While considering battery life, it’s important to address the power-bandwidth ratio. For example, ZigBee and LoRaWAN require very low power. However, they have limited bandwidth. On the other side, 3G and 4G provide good coverage as well as high bandwidth, but are relatively expensive.

There are several chipsets available today that enable easy switching between radio technologies for higher longevity in the field. But if there’s a need for high bandwidth, like in a factory, where a large number of connected sensors and actuators are scattered over a wide area, wired technology would fit the best.


A major challenge in implementing the full potential of IoT is that around 85% of existing devices were not designed to connect to the internet. That makes sharing data with the cloud difficult, if not impossible. Gateways address this issue by acting as an intermediate between the legacy “things” in IoT and the cloud.

Whether these gateways are simple units that communicate raw streams of data or intelligent gateways that perform initial data analysis to transmit a subset of the full data stream, their key responsibility is to route the processed data and send it to assigned locations for proper utilization. This helps in achieving better connectivity, security and manageability. In simple words, gateways help with two-way communication of data.

For example, the production line machinery can relay information with the help of gateways that alert service technicians of any imminent maintenance problems. There are mainly two categories of IoT gateways:

  • Simple units that communicate raw streams of data
  • Intelligent gateways that perform initial data analysis to transmit a subset of the full data stream


Readily available IoT platforms simplify the development of IoT applications. They enable easy connection of devices and sensors and provide connectivity between related information systems and operational assets. Compared to DIY platforms, these platforms deliver more comprehensive business value and are typically already built off of established best practices. Because they are ready-built, IoT platforms are also scalable, allowing for continual growth and change to suit business needs.

While IoT platforms are mostly deployed in the cloud, if the project is big and requires a hardware investment or if there are any security concerns, on-premises deployments are also an option.


Whether the goal is to receive an alarm when machines reach a certain temperature, optimize a water supply, or predict maintenance of any industrial component, all IoT projects are carried out with a goal. IoT applications enable companies to reach those end goals.

Applications are the software elements of an IoT solution that use the data received by the devices along with the functionality that the data provides. They enable companies to make data available to them in real-time, from anywhere, and also enable automated decisions.

Most applications rely on cloud computing due to the ubiquity of available services. Depending on the level of customization, IoT applications can be categorized into three segments:

  • IoT vertical applications:These applications provide out-of-the-box functionalities for specific solutions, such as smart waste management, smart building monitoring and smart water metering.
  • Platforms for building your own application:Whether independent or part of an IoT software platform, developers can use configurable dashboards, reports, alarms, rules and graphics to build their own applications.
  • Custom software applications:These applications are developed from scratch, using standard software development technologies. This, however, is the slowest, most expensive, and potentially the least secure route for IoT implementation since custom applications don’t benefit from the testing that goes into pre-vetted solutions.

Simplifying the complexities

A Cisco survey reveals close to three-fourths of IoT projects are failing due to long completion times, poor quality of the data collected, lack of internal expertise, IoT integration and budget overruns. However, a strong partner can help make sense of the complexities around IoT.

To make the understanding of the process simple, we have a designed a workshop for IoT implementation. This workshop offers more than just tips and tricks, but a real path forward to take your IoT project from idea to reality and ROI.

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