Internet of Things (IoT) - Basics

Author: Anant Kumar
Category: IoT
Submitted On: 8/23/2017
Published On: 8/23/2017
ABSTRACT: This article discusses the basics of Internet of Things (IoT) with few examples of use-cases, devices and protocols used.
The term "the Internet of Things" was coined by Kevin Ashton of Procter & Gamble, later MIT's Auto-ID Center, in 1999.

The Internet of Things (IoT) can be defined as inter-networking of physical devices, also referred to as "connected devices" and "smart devices", buildings, vehicles, and other items embedded within electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention.

When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, virtual power plants, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities.

IoT is not futuristic or aspirational technology trend; instead it already exists in our devices, cloud infrastructure, data, and sensor as well as business intelligence tools. Sensors, network and cloud play a vital role in establishing the overall IoT scenario.

Multiple organizations have come up with their always expanding and support systems for IoT. For instance Microsoft Corporation delivers unique and integrated approach for all enterprises to capitalize on IoT by collecting, storing and processing data. This method extends from broad product portfolio such as PC, tablets and industry devices on edge of enterprise network to backend system and services, develop tool and diversify partner ecosystem.


"Things", in the IoT sense, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, DNA analysis devices for environmental/food/pathogen monitoring, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue operations and so on and so forth.

There are hundreds of sensors in the industry today with different usage scenarios, like pressure transmitters, flow meter, temperature transmitters, level transmitters etc.


There exist multiple devices, device boards in the industry and this space has turned out to be a competitive field now. An example device board is Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a low cost, small and portable size of computer board. It can be used to plug-in to computer monitor or television, keyboard, mouse, pen-drive etc. Raspberry Pi has built in software such as Scratch which enables users to program and design animation, game or interesting video, or any event based response system. Also, you may have improvements like adding more GPIO header PIN, more USB ports, decreased power consumption etc.

In addition, programmers can also develop script or program using programming language like Python language; it is main core language in Raspbian operating system. Raspberry Pi B+ is evolution of Model B.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is the third generation Raspberry Pi. This powerful credit-card sized single board computer can be used for many applications and supersedes the original Raspberry Pi Model B+ and Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.

It supports wireless LAN & Bluetooth connectivity making it the ideal solution for powerful connected designs. The picture given here on this this page shows raspberry Pi 3 Model B, that has following great features: -

  • Supports 1.2 GHz, Broadcom BCM2387 ARM Cortex-A53 Quad Core Processor
  • 1GB RAM so you can now run bigger and more powerful applications
  • Fully HAT compatible
  • 40pin extended GPIO to enhance "real world" projects
  • Connect a Raspberry Pi camera and touch screen display
  • Stream and watch Hi-definition video output at 1080
  • Micro SD slot for storing information and loading your operating systems.
  • 10/100 BaseT Ethernet socket to quickly connect the Raspberry Pi to the Internet


Each thing in IoT is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.


Typically, IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to areas such as smart cities, remote mining control and many others.

Wired networks are mainly used to transfer data to base station by connecting sensor. It brings advantage as it provides reliable and stable communication system for instruments and controls. However, the cost of necessary cables is very high. Therefore, recently low cost wireless networks are strongly required by customers, for example, temporary instrument networks and/or some non-critical permanent sites which require low data rate and longer battery life.

In client/server model, file server act as a parent node which allow multiple child node to connect with it. It is responsible for central storage and data management so that other computers are able to access the file under the same network.


Zigbee is the wireless language that everyday devices use to connect to each other. ZigBee refers to high-level communication protocol which can be used to build a personal area networks (PAN). It is a small and low-power digital radio that based on IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Because of its low power consumption, the transmission distance is up to 10 - 100 meter line-of-sights.

ZigBee is mostly used in low data a rate application that does not need high power consumption but secure transmission. ZigBee networks use 128 bit symmetric encryption keys. ZigBee has pre-defined rate of 250 kbit/s, which is best for intermittent data transmissions from a sensor input device.

Multiple applications do exist today such as wireless light switches, traffic management system, consumer equipment etc. that make use of short-range low-rate wireless data communication such as ZigBee. ZigBee is considered better than other technology (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) because it is simpler and less expensive.


Apart from many use-cases being discussed today, we can explore more and more use-cases to improve our life. For example, in 2007, there was a bridge collapsed in Minnesota, the cause of this tragic accident was that the steel plates were inadequate to handle the load. If we had implemented smart cement equipped with sensor to monitor cracks, stresses and war pages, the tragedy could have been escaped. Therefore, IoT should be further explore that any object can represent itself digitally and become more powerful, alive than it is today.


The IoT based devices collect huge amount of useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then automatically flow this data between other devices as per requirements of use-case scenarios.

Current market examples include Smart cities, smart energy management, security management, manufacturing process aid, home automation etc. Home automation involves devices (also known as smart home devices) help in the process of control and automation of lighting, heating (like smart thermostat), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and appliances such as washer/dryers, robotic vacuums, air purifiers, ovens, or refrigerators/freezers that use Wi-Fi for remote monitoring.

Due to the expansion of Internet-connected automation into a plethora of new application areas, IoT is also expected to generate large amounts of data from diverse locations, with the consequent necessity for quick aggregation of the data, and an increase in the need to index, store, and process such data more effectively.


The next thing in IoT scenario would be to generate almost real-time analytics and stream this information to business users to assist them in making faster and better informed decisions. Different set of data accumulation and data analysis techniques are engaged in generating meaningful information from the huge and fast data being generated through hundreds of connected IoT devices.

Note: In the upcoming articles in IoT stream, we'd discuss certain practical examples involving programming devices scenarios.

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Internet of Things (IoT) - Basics

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