Forums » Internet of Things

Three Great Spheres of the IoT

    • 2 posts
    October 30, 2018 11:37 AM IST

    The IoT is huge, but there are similarities between applications. Broadly speaking, there are three great categories, or “spheres,” of applications in the IoT. These cross traditional industry segments. It is therefore much easier to understand the IoT by looking at the technological goals of applications rather than verticals like manufacturing or transportation. The three spheres are:

    1. Device Monitoring: Device monitoring IoT applications simply connect a device to a cloud service. They are similar to a smartphone app, except instead of a phone, the end entity is a “thing.” From a connectivity perspective, each thing usually has only a single connection to an IoT platform. This category includes most of the “consumer” IoT including thermostats, wearables and smart-home locks. The most important industrial monitoring applications are “predictive maintenance” systems that upload device data to a cloud service. The cloud systems then analyze the data to predict when a part may fail, allowing proactive repair.
    2. Analytic Optimization: Many IoT applications seek to optimize current system designs and operations. Examples include power plants, oil pipelines, factories and various industrial machines. The “things” here are sensors and actuators that work together as industrial systems. The fundamental goal is to get data for system-level analysis, often in the cloud. The analytics provide clarity that allows tuning the plant or its value chain. From a connectivity perspective, most optimization applications use the collect → gateway → IoT platform → analyze → optimize pattern. While all use cases unite field and cloud, this use case is usually what people talk about when they cite “IT/OT convergence,” because it merges both existing historic computing realms. The “collect” step may involve many related devices. Typically, there’s little to no connection between devices. Data flow is mostly one-way from the devices to the analytics. The feedback to the plant may only be through a human operator. Optimization applications thus connect many related devices in a plant, usually to a single destination.
    3. Edge Autonomy: IoT autonomy applications build new architectures for future connected infrastructure. Most of these applications are really building new things, although there are a few radical retrofits. Applications include autonomous transportation systems, smart medical systems with “doctor in the box” intelligence and smart future coordinated power grids. The real driver in this category is the magic of connecting functional artificial intelligence (AI) with pervasive networking. Connectivity is truly challenging—linking many devices in the field, fog and cloud. Autonomy applications can grow very large, even combining systems into super systems. In these applications, the cloud is just one component of the connectivity and computing infrastructure.