Internet of things (IoT) is one of the disruptive technology, positively impacting industries by helping them monitor and optimize overall business processes and enhance customer’s experiences.
In layman terms, IoT is a complex network of low-cost but advanced sensors & actuators for data collection, monitoring, decision making, and process optimization. Where except for data collection, all the other processes can happen either locally at the device level or on the cloud with or without user interference.
As per the McKinsey Global Institute, insights on disruptive technology, by 2025, IoT has an estimated potential economic impact of $ 6.2 trillion annually from sized applications.
Over the past few years, IoT has accelerated the machine-to-machine device connectivity, helping developers build a whole lot of new sophisticated devices. Which was possible because of the major price decline in MEMS (microelectromechanical system) sensors.
Going ahead, in the coming years IoT has the potential to connect an estimated 1 trillion things to the internet helping you control, integrate and communicate with devices better.
Further, IoT can potentially interconnect worldwide, an estimated 100 million machine to machine devices across industries like healthcare, manufacturing, security, transportation, and manufacturing.
With an aim to help non-technical people understand better, the article breaks down IoT terms and jargons to simplified layman terms. But overall the article is more focused on smart home concepts and goes in-depth to explain home automation using IoT.
IoT Technology and Smart Home Concept
What is IoT (Internet of Things) Exactly?
Internet of Things (IoT) is a connection of objects/ things to the internet and to one another. So that the objects which were once considered isolated, turns smart, in the sense that it can now collect data, remit or process it and follow user instructions.
For example, a simple light bulb every time requires you to manually switch on and off whenever you require it.
Whereas the same light bulb when built with IoT technology, automatically switches on or off after reading time information or after getting your specific inputs over the app.
All of which provides an efficient and optimized resource use case, an enhanced user experience and above all you can easily link, control and monitor your assets over the internet via an app.
Now, you may be interested in knowing how it functions. In non-technical terms, an IoT environment requires four essential components – devices, connectivity, data processing and user interface to work.
This can be your any day to day device but it needs to be smart enough to collect data/ information and that can be controlled using inputs. To make any device smart it needs to be equipped with sensors.
Sensors are the mechanism that helps devices interact, they are the primary source to gather data. For example, sensors for collecting temperature data in thermostats, video feeds in a security camera. Even your smartphone has multiple sensors like a camera and GPS.
Next, the data needs to be transmitted to the cloud or any location where it can be processed. IoT uses various mediums including Wifi, Cellular, Bluetooth, Satelite, low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) or the Internet to connect the sensors.
Different IoT application employs different connectivity medium based on the power consumption, range and bandwidth requirements.
3. Data Processing
Once the data is over the cloud, software processes the data to make it useful. For thermostats, it can be checking whether the temperature is within the range or out of range.
Smart lights may check time information to get switched on. A moisture sensor on field checks the moisture level.
But still, it does not make sense until there is an action on the basis of the information.
4. User Interface
This is where humans come into the picture. The IoT system makes information useful to end-user in some way. Like switching on the smart light at a fixed time. Opening secured doors/ locks on detecting your face or switching off the air conditioner when the temperature is more.
The user interface also allows you to check into the system and perform an action and affect the system through instructions. For example, you can check the smart home security camera for video feeds. Remotely, adjust temperature home temperature or instruct your coffee maker to prepare at a different time.
IoT systems also allow some predefined actions to be performed automatically instead of waiting for the user instructions. Like watering your plants at a fixed time and switching off the light when you move out of the room.
What is a Smart Home?
Smart home technology uses smart devices to provide you with the comfort, security, and convenience with optimal resource utilization. The best part is that all the smart devices can be controlled, and managed by their respective apps over the smartphone.
A smart home contains a network that has the ability to connect different appliances. Which is quite similar in fundamental to the concept of IoT.
In fact, IoT is increasingly used to build more and smarter home appliances that have the potential to make your dwelling a comfortable and memorable place.
For example, you have a smart alarm to wake you in the morning and read relevant important news headlines and reminds you of the scheduled routine.
The smart blinds open up, the lights switch on and the music plays on automatically. Plus the smart HVAC systems have already set the room to a comfortable temperature.
All of which is possible only with the help of IoT enabled devices (IoT creates smart devices). You can connect a host of home appliances and synchronize then to work in an orderly fashion.
The other thing which you can do is to create a central hub and connect all the smart devices and use the hub as a command centre. Like using Alexa, Google Home for interacting with other appliances.
Smart hub helps devices and smart appliances interact with each other and you, it helps you master control all the networked devices remotely.
Thus smart homes, not only get you rich experience but helps improve efficiency and saves money by optimal utilization of water, energy and other resources.
How to Build a Smart Home using IoT Home Automation Technology?
IoT based home automation system is a complex ecosystem of hardware (sensors/ devices), software and networking systems. Hence, it is prudent that you understand the technology behind it.
Broadly the three important components to building home automation using IoT are hardware (the physical home product), software/ Apps and communication protocols (to connect & control both).
Exactly the home automation components can be classified into the following major components.
- IoT Sensors
- IoT Gateway
- IoT Protocols
- IoT Firmware
- IoT Cloud and Database
- IoT Platforms
Let get started with understanding each of the components in order to build a smart home.
1. IoT Sensors :
Sensors are a critical component of the IoT system for they are the means of interacting with the physical world. Sensors form the hardware part of the IoT and help in collecting important data and information based on which the smart devices take action.
There are a huge number of sensors depending on what you need. The sensors involved in smart home devices are as follows.
- Temperature sensors – These are found in smart devices like HVAC and smart thermostats. Temperature sensors activate heating or cooling mechanism on breaching a specific temperature range.
- Lux sensors – measures the light intensity (luminosity). Lux sensors are used to trigger on or off the smart lights and bulbs when its morning or gets dark at night.
- Air composition sensors – are employed in smart air purifiers which measures the level of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen or hazardous gases before they switch on.
- Video cameras for surveillance – Webcams with and cameras come under the video sensors. Video sensors can be with or without USB. Though USB increases functionality but is inefficient for real-time data transfer or processing.
- Voice/Sound sensors – Helps in automatically turning off or on smart lights, opening garage gates to monitoring babies.
2. IoT Gateway
Every IoT device may not require a gateway. But smart devices like security cameras and other devices need to connect sensors with the cloud to send and receive data.
Hence, gateways act as bridges taking information from the sensors and provide it to the cloud to process and generate meaningful information.
It is important that the device has a suitable gateway otherwise it can result in not supporting required protocols, building traffic congestion, affecting effective functioning and security.
Factors to consider to select the perfect getaway for your IoT home automation are
- Communication protocols supported
- Real-time capabilities
- MQTT, CoAP, and HTTPS support
- Security and configuration
3. IoT Protocols
Protocols are basically format and rules for the information which needs to be transmitted. Different devices/ sensors, gateways, servers or cloud use different transmission protocols.
Examples of protocols include Wifi, Bluetooth, Cellular (GSM), LPWAN, Zigbee, and many others.
The commonly used protocols for home automation IoT are Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Z-wave, Zigbee and Thread.
However, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Bluetooth Smart is ideal for IoT smart home products because of its security, mesh capabilities and data encryption algorithms
Further, the gateways have the ability to communicate with sensors/devices over varying protocols and translate data into a standard protocol such as MQTT before sending it to the cloud.
4. IoT Firmware
IoT Firmware is the software program that is embedded in the hardware of the device. Firmware instructs the device on how it needs to perform and function.
Firmware is between hardware and software encompassing a bit of both the quality and helps you remotely update smart devices over the internet with relative ease.
This is important because globally there are tons of smart devices and it will be impossible for each and every user to bring it to the company to get the software updated every time.
Smart home devices have inbuilt firmware written in C, Python, Node.js., with an ability to receive updates over the network.
5. IoT Cloud and Database
The cloud as you know is a huge, interconnected network of powerful servers. IoT devices use these servers to store and process data because building a sensor/device with computational power would be extremely expensive and energy-consuming.
IoT devices act smartly by using sensors to collect data and then passing it to the cloud to get it processed and receive back meaningful instruction to act on it.
The largest cloud providers are Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.
6. IoT Platforms
All the IoT hardware components and different connectivity options need to work together in perfect coordination to build a cohesive IoT system. This is where the IoT platform comes in.
IoT platforms are the support software that connects and makes everything work together.
The IoT platform helps
- To connect hardware
- In device administration
- Help in collecting, visualizing and analyzing data
- Handle different communication protocols
- Integrate with other web services
- WebSocket APIs for real-time information flow
- To provide security and authentication for devices and users
What are all IOT Technologies that are ready to use now in the market?
There are a host of IoT smart home devices ranging from natural language-based voice assistants to appliances for security, lighting, temperature control, cooking and air purification.
The commonly used IoT Technology-based devices are
- Intelligent Speakers like Alexa and Google Home – in fact, it can be connected with other smart devices and used to voice control them.
- Smart Thermostats – to regulate and maintain ambient room temperature
- Smart Lights and switches – to switch on and off according to pre defines user inputs
- Smart Lock and security cameras – to identify you using facial recognition tech and operate according to visual or specific user inputs.
The other unique ready to use IoT tech-based devices in the market are as follows.
Robotic vacuum cleaners free you with day to day, monotonous floor cleaning and vacuuming chores. Even you have Deebot, which is a three-dimensional smart cleaning technology with auto-detection and navigation capabilities.
The robovacs can be pre-scheduled to function when you are out at work. Plus the devices can work on most of the floor types and can even charge themselves without human intervention
Bediator is an efficient stylish radiator that uses intelligent room heating technology to provide you with the ideal/ cosy room temperature in any weather conditions.
The radiator readily turns into a bed with just a flip. Once you push the side button the bediator flips and slides onto the floor. Plus it has an LED display that provides you information on temperature and date.
3. Thermal Leak Detector
A thermal leak detector helps in perfect home insulation by detecting leaks and fixing them. You can use them to monitor windows, ducts and other vulnerable insulation spots. The thermal leak detector changes to red in warm palaces and blue for colder regions.
You can also use it to detect the efficiency of freezers, automobile coolant systems, and refrigerators.
4. Smart Irrigation Controller
The smart irrigation controller helps you pre-schedule water time and quantity to all your garden plants from anywhere using web-based software. The irrigation controller also helps you with real-time weather data.
5. Smart Baby Movement Monitor
The IoT based smart baby movement monitor help parents know more about the baby’s movement and sleep activities.
The smart tech uses washable baby crib sheets and the results of the movement can be viewed on smartphones or tablets.
6. Gas and CO Detector
The smart gas detector alerts you over the phone when it detects hazardous gases or carbon monoxide. Plus, it also flashes and sounds alarms on detecting alerting the other family members.
7. Smart Garage Appliances
Monitor and control your compatible garage doors remotely through smartphones or connected devices.
8. Smart Refrigerator
It helps you cool eatables properly and manage stock. The smart refrigerator reminds you to replenish the food items and can even order through the internet if allowed.
9. Smart Cooking Appliance
The smart IoT based cooking appliances like programmable oven helps you with cooking food remotely.
IoT saves a lot of your manual effort and time through device automation and control. Simultaneously it provides rich user experience and savings through optimal resource utilization.
All of which percolates and reflects in IoT based smart home devices. The IoT smart home has the potential to provide you with a safe, secure and the quality of life which you aspire for.
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