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An Example of an IoT Solution

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Let us show you what we mean by an IoT Solution. Perhaps the best way to understand an IoT solution is to look at how one might be used in a true-to-life scenario.

An Example of an IoT Solution

The specifics of this example are fictional but will illustrate how the technology could be used. For more scenarios, see the list the IEEE is compiling IEEE list of IoT scenarios.

The Scenario

A small town is trying to figure out how to price water during the summer months. They want the town to look nice and enable people to keep their lawns green, but they also don’t want water wastage which is in shorter supply in summer.

The town’s officials need data to determine how often people actually need to water their lawns to keep them green, and will use the data to inform the price they should set on water usage during the summer.

The IoT Solution

The Device Requirements

To collect the data they need, the town’s officials select 100 houses at random across the town and ask them to install a small water sensor in their lawns that will detect the amount of moisture in the soil. The detector will then send that data over the home’s Wi-Fi connection to a central cloud service that will collect and store the data.

The devices have the following requirements:

  • They must be small and unobtrusive.
  • They must be able to connect to Wi-Fi and be monitored by the homeowner.
  • They must be battery-operated and be able to run for six months without needing a new battery.
  • They must be able to detect moisture in the soil in percent saturation.
  • They must be able to store data for a 24-hour period in case the connection with the Wi-Fi router is lost.
  • They must be able to provide a rudimentary failure signal.

There could be a lot of other device requirements, but these are the basics:

  • City engineers must visit each house that has agreed to install the sensor.
  • They need to place the device in the yard at an optimal location.
  • They must connect the device to the home’s Wi-Fi router.
  • The engineers need to test the connection with the cloud service.

The Data Collection

The devices are programmed to collect moisture data every hour for a 24-hour period and average the readings to form a single number that’s sent to the cloud service for storage. The dataset includes the device ID, the GPS location, a time/date stamp, and other relevant metadata.

The Cloud Service

City engineers developed a cloud-based solution to listen for incoming data from each device and collect that data in a database. The cloud service also listens for failure signals and can alert city engineers of an actual or pending device failure.

The cloud services include:

  • An IoT gateway that handles communication with the devices.
  • A storage solution to store the data.
  • A stream analytics service to manage the data coming in from the devices.
  • An analytic services to analyse the data and inform decision making.

Here is a simple diagram that shows how the solution could work for this scenario:

Here is a simple diagram that shows how the solution could work for this scenario

Analytics and Assessment

In our scenario, the town officials may use this data to understand how often and how much people are watering their lawns and make recommendations to both homeowners and policymakers about water usage and costs.

Since weather is variable, the city engineers may need to collect data for many months to get accurate, actionable data. But the first step always is to collect the data in the first place, and that’s the power of IoT.

Maker, Consumer, and Enterprise IoT

As we learned above, IoT encompasses a lot of different technologies and definitions tend to be broad. This also is true when we consider how IoT solutions are developed and implemented.

Let’s look briefly at three different categories of IoT devices and services.

  • Maker IoT: The term ‘maker’ has become equated with ‘hobbyist’ and refers to those who like to build things out of electronic components. When it comes to IoT, the idea of building unpolished but functional devices that collect data, use cloud services to gather and store that data, and maybe even perform analytics on the data collected, is included in this category. A commercial business may employ a maker’s approach to experiment with ideas, create proof-of-concept devices, do costing, and other planning exercises. ‘Maker’ need not be limited to hobbyists but also describes an approach to development.

  • Consumer IoT: Consumer IoT largely consists of commercial devices and associated services that are geared towards home or personal use such as connected thermostats or appliances. While the basic IoT concepts apply, the scope of what the devices collect, how they manage and store data, and how the data is used, may be much more limited than what you’d find in an enterprise environment.

  • Enterprise IoT: Whereas consumer IoT is focused on turnkey device solutions that solve specific problems or enable new scenarios for individuals or homes, enterprise IoT is focused on solving specific business problems such as efficiency, waste reduction, increasing speed to market or of production, and providing intelligence on how business systems are running.

A single enterprise may deploy dozens of devices that work in sync to give a business a single view of a factory or fleet of planes or gas pipeline. Enterprises may also require real-time data and real-time analysis of the data to make just-in-time adjustments, or prevent disastrous consequences from a failed system.

Consumer-grade IoT products rarely require this so the type of architecture needed in an enterprise will be more involved and require more services than a consumer solution requires.

In the next step, we’ll look at IoT business opportunities and the future of IoT.

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Microsoft Future Ready: Fundamentals of Internet of Things (IoT)

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