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Learn Internet of Things (IoT) Architecture in 5 Minutes or Less [+ Use Cases]

Learn Architecture of Internet of Things (IoT) in Less Than 5 Minutes
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Learn the internet of things (IoT) architecture to set up an IoT structure for business use.

The future warehouses, supply chains, manufacturing plants, and logistics hubs will be IoT-enabled. Since the technology is complex, only a few IT giants know what is under the hood. However, you can also decode it by learning about the technology inside out.

Continue reading if you also want to make your business smarter or offer IoT solutions as a service. The article explains IoT architecture, the core that offers automation and convenience, and some popular use cases.

Introduction

What Is the Architecture of the Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT includes sensors, devices, and electronic interfaces that collect, process and send data as commands to the end-point machines. 

These are all variables or moving parts in an IoT system. A framework that defines how to order these moving parts and create the final IoT structure is IoT architecture. 

IoT architecture tells you how to connect and operate the IoT system’s devices, cloud software, and network of sensors. Not to mention System troubleshooting also takes place within the IoT architecture. 

A basic framework for this would be three layers of components in an IoT system. These are as below: 

  • Sensors, actuators, devices, etc., under the perception layer
  • LAN, Wi-Fi, 5G, 4G, etc., create the network layer
  • A graphical user interface is the application layer

The architecture of IoT ensures that you know all the components, data flows, and end-device commands within the system. Thus, you can secure, support, and control your IoT systems effectively. 

Layers of IoT Architecture

An IoT system architecture has various layers that function as the digital media through which sensor data reaches the cloud application. Then, the cloud app makes decisions based on a preset workflow for the end-point devices like robotic arms in a manufacturing plant. 

Finally, these decisions flow to the end-point devices through the same layer. Understanding these layers enables you to create a successful IoT architecture. Here are the IoT architecture layers you must know:

The Sensory/Perception Layer

The Sensory/Perception Layer

The perception layer consists of the end-point devices that collect data from the physical universe. Then, digital applications can analyze the collected data.

Since this layer stays in touch with real-world objects, IoT experts also call it the physical layer. Below are some notable devices that connect to the perception layer: 

  • Sensors like gyro meters, speed sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors, chemical sensors, etc.
  • Actuators and robotic arms
  • Security cameras, door access systems, etc.
  • Thermostats, HVACs, water sprinklers, heating elements, etc.

Most industrial IoT devices collect data for the processing layer. For home-based IoT devices, the perception layer could also be the processing layer. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat.

The Network/Data Transport Layer

The Network/Data Transport Layer

The network layer handles data transport between all the layers of an IoT architecture. This layer also defines the network topology for the entire web of devices, cloud apps, and databases. 

The vital parts of this layer are internet gateways, intranet ports, network gateways, and data acquisition systems (DAS). For the above network connectivity protocols, you can rely on the following physical devices: 

  • Wi-Fi
  • Wide Area Networks (WAN)
  • 4G LTE/ 5G
  • Low Energy Bluetooth
  • Near-Field Communication (NFC) 

Through this layer, various end-point devices and cloud apps communicate with each other. Sensor data like temperature, speed, humidity, etc., travel through the network layer to reach other layers. 

The Data Processing Layer

YouTube video

The processing layer processes analyzes, and stores data before transferring it to a data center. It includes Edge analytics in Edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). Crucial tasks like making decisions also take place in this layer. 

The processing layer accomplishes all the decision-making tasks. Yet, you can also override its decision or improve the system by making ad-hoc decisions in the application layer — a feature highly necessary for human control over intelligent machines.     

The Application or GUI Layer

The Application or GUI Layer

Most IoT systems, like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc., work without human intervention. Yet, you need a graphical user interface to add IoT workflows, change parameters, add devices, etc. This is the application layer.

Some vital requirements for the application layer in an IoT architecture are as below: 

  • Bypass voice command-based problems
  • Communicate with thousands of sensors and end-point devices from a small screen
  • Add new devices to an existing IoT system without shutting down the whole business operation
  • Observe the health of the system and service the devices when the dashboard indicates
  • Create new rules or workflows for the IoT systems
  • Create and follow a service-level agreement (SLA)  

In industrial setups, you will mostly need a centralized dashboard on a computer monitor to observe all the IoT systems. On the dashboard, you can interact with any or all IoT systems by pausing, stopping, or restarting the devices.  

Business Layer

Business Layer

The business layer converts stored data into actionable insights. Business managers, CTOs, and more can use such reports. It helps them with decision-making for productivity improvement.

This layer mainly includes integrations of business apps. For example, enterprise resource planners (ERPs), business intelligence (BI) apps, data visualization apps, etc.

Here, data analysts can process data and put them into a BI tool like Tableau, Power BI, etc., to know the overall performance of the IoT system. You can also create forecasts based on current production capacity and future needs in the market.     

Stages of IoT Architecture

The Stages of IoT Architecture

For high-level IoT systems architecture implementation, one needs to understand the stages of this system: 

Objects

The object stage starts with the implementation of the physical layer. Here you need to connect smart devices, sensors, and actuators with the IoT network and the end-point machines.

Sensors could be wired or wireless. The main objective is to collect real-world data and convert them to digital data for the processing layer.  

Gateway

You must set up an intranet or internet gateway. In this stage, modems and routers collect data from the sensors and end-point devices. 

Then, these gateway devices will transport digital data to the processing layer and application layer. Most IoT architectures use a data acquisition system for this stage.  

IT Systems

IoT systems collect analog data, and data acquisition systems convert this into digital data. Hence, the post-processed size of digital data is enormous. Here comes an edge IT system.

In this stage, you channel the collected data to an edge IT system where AI and ML algorithms process it and only keep actionable data.   

Cloud Storage/Data Centers

Once the edge IT system has processed and filtered vital data, you must put it into accessible storage. The application layer of the IoT architecture will connect to the storage stage.

A storage stage is mainly private cloud storage, where you can store IoT data in structured databases. If you are looking for affordable solutions, you can also try public clouds.   

Nonfunctional Requirements

#1. Security

To ensure the internal safety of the architecture, there should not be any unauthorized devices linked to it. The devices should be registered and capable of communicating securely. 

Moreover, all the users and data should have secure access to the architecture. Authorized system users must exchange data with security controls.

#2. Performance

The IoT system must be compatible with unstructured and structured data. The deployment of the platform should be compatible with the cloud, on-premise, and hybrid cloud. 

Acceptable response times to users and bidirectional, near real-time communications, and granular timestamps are other essential non-functional requisites of this architecture.

#3. Manageability

The IoT architecture must include notifications and alerts for any issues. It must support solution management to quickly determine the causes of the problems from a central node.

#4. Maintainability

The devices and the IoT system should be adaptable. The architecture must be flexible enough to adapt quickly to the user, process, and data changes. You must also perform maintenance without delaying the service level agreements (SLAs).

#5. Availability

Certain domains and solutions demand the 24×7 availability of IoT systems. For example, an IoT architecture of a hospital or laboratory needs the system to be always up.

IoT architecture in MongoDB Atlas

IoT architecture in MongoDB Atlas
IoT Architecture on MongoDB Atlas Image from MongoDB.com

Various layers in an IoT architecture produce terabytes of data. Using an IoT-enabled cloud database is ideal for storing the data in an organized manner. 

One of the great cloud databases you could use is MongoDB Atlas. Here are some examples of its usage in IoT architecture: 

  • MongoDB RealmSDK and MongoDB Server for building a database and an interface. Mobile apps and devices can use these databases and interfaces.
  • At the network layer, you can use MongoDB Atlas to configure and deploy IoT servers.
  • Use MongoDB 5.0 Time-Series as storage for continuous IoT measurement data.
  • If the IoT system is experiencing choppy network connectivity, you can use offline-first syncing from Atlas App Services.
  • You can use MongoDB Connector for BI and MongoDB Charts at the business layer to extract actionable insights from IoT data.  

Use Cases

IoT Architecture is getting increasingly popular daily, and its usage in different sectors is increasing. The followings are its most common use cases:

#1. Healthcare

Use Cases of IoT Architecture in Healthcare

Clinics and hospitals generate terabytes of untapped data. You can use this for greater operational efficiency and patient care. 

With IoT architecture, institutions can put isolated patient data into use. Doctors can quickly get and use the insights to respond quickly to alerts. IoT infrastructure-linked gadgets and health status monitors can offer real-time patient status. 

#2. Agriculture

Farmers can use IoT architecture to increase and manage production autonomously. 

You can also see its usage in the followings: 

  • Monitoring soil temperature
  • Finding reasons for machinery failure
  • Adjusting humidity and temperature levels for indoor plantations

#3. Manufacturing

Use Cases of IoT Architecture in Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry utilizes IoT sensors to gain insight into processes. They are usually not connected to the internet. These sensors of short-range variants are also capable of calculating changes over time.

Other uses of IoT architecture in this sector are as below:  

  • Demand forecast through real-time production monitoring
  • Knowing baseline efficiency through cycle time tracking

#4. Commercial HVAC Solutions

HVAC is a complex system that cannot afford the failure of any element or function. If it happens, high energy consumption and extra maintenance costs will be the consequences. Using IoT architecture, it is possible to make HVACs provide satisfactory output while allowing them to run at a lower power level.

Ensuring consistency and quality of commercial solutions is another use of IoT. The system automatically gathers and analyzes data with the need for minimum user interaction to notify you of any anomalies.

#5. Water Damage Prevention in Commercial Apartments

Water Damage Prevention in Commercial Apartments

Water pipe leakage and burst cause millions of dollars to homeowners and insurance companies. The invisibility of water connections makes it difficult to detect the root cause.

A properly set IoT architecture can alert the users of any leakage in real time with efficient built-in sensors. It also provides contextual location data to the stakeholders for better asset maintenance. Insurance companies also get benefitted from this early detection of issues.

Moreover, the sensors can also detect minor leakages that might become a potential threat in the future. Thus, users can schedule appointments with plumbers.

Future of IoT Architecture

Soon, IoT is about to see an evolutionary advancement with the growth of the 5G network. It will be possible to process data faster than ever. Not to mention the quick deployment of IoT systems too.

Using private 5G, administrators can launch a personal 5G mobile network and have full control over it. 

The enterprise-level operations will not face the following issues:

  • Speed throttling
  • Lack of interoperability
  • Additional charges for exceeding data usage
  • Unavailability of bandwidth during peak hours

Final Words 

An IoT architecture tells you how to connect all the components of an IoT system in a cohesive network. Hence, we covered all the crucial technical aspects of the architecture of this system.

A detailed knowledge of IoT architectures helps you create business-grade solutions in healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture. Users can even go beyond the use cases mentioned in this article and implement IoT in various sectors yet to be explored. 

You might also want to look at our articles on IoT learning resources and IoT starter kits

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