IoT or the Internet of Things has taken the form of a buzzword over the past few years, but it’s much more than that. There has been significant advancement in this field in a relatively short amount of time, both from a hardware and a software standpoint.

This has allowed for a wide variety of new experiences to be created for use in domestic as well as business environments. The work continues and the Internet of Things is poised to grow even further, becoming more capable of powering new and improved experiences for users.

What is IoT architecture?

Even though it might seem simple enough, there are actually a lot of moving parts that need to work together in order for the Internet of Things to function as intended. It's vital for all of these different cogs in the machine to work together if the IoT implementation is to function as desired.

In the context of the Internet of Things, the architecture is a framework that defines the physical components, the functional organization and configuration of the network, operational procedures and the data formats to be used.

However, there's no single standard reference architecture for IoT as it encompasses a variety of technologies. This means that there's not one easy blueprint that can be followed for all possible implementations.

IoT architecture can actually vary significantly depending on the implementation; it needs to be open enough with open protocols so that it can support multiple network applications.

A sustainable Internet of Things ecosystem has four building blocks: functionality, scalability, availability, and maintainability. Scalability is key as the system needs to be able to grow alongside the needs of the organization or project.

The three layers of IoT architecture

Even though there's no single IoT architecture that's universally agreed upon, the most basic and widely accepted format is a three-layer architecture. It was first introduced when the earliest research into the Internet of Things was being carried out. It proposes three layers: Perception, Network, and Application.

Perception

This is the physical layer of the architecture. This is where the sensors and connected devices come into play as they gather various amounts of data as per the need of the project. These can be the edge devices, sensors, and actuators that interact with their environment.

Network

The data that's collected by all of these devices needs to be transmitted and processed. That's the network layer's job. It connects these devices to other smart objects, servers, and network devices. It also handles the transmission of all of the data.

Application

The application layer is what the user interacts with. It's what is responsible for delivering application specific services to the user. This can be a smart home implementation, for example, where users tap a button in the app to turn on a coffee maker.

The 4 stages of IoT architecture, explained

Your infrastructure needs to be able to support the Internet of Things architecture. The four primary stages as defined under are of crucial importance to the overall viability of an IoT implementation.

  • Connected Objects

    An Internet of Things implementation wouldn't exist without the presence of connected or "smart" objects. These can be wireless sensors or actuators. They react with the environment and make the data they collect available for analysis.

    Actuators take this one step further since they are able to interact with the environment in a significant way. For example, they can be used to shut off valves when the water reaches a certain level or simply to switch off a light when the sun rises.
  • Internet Gateway

    Once the sensors send in the data, it has to be aggregated and converted into digital form so that it can be processed. The second stage of the IoT architecture is what makes this happen. It essentially gets the data ready for processing.

    The actual task of aggregating and converting the data is up to the data acquisition system. It's what connects to the sensors and actuators, compiles all of their data and then converts it into digital form so that it can be routed over the network by the internet gateway.
  • Edge IT Systems

    Pre-processing and enhanced analytics of the data is performed in the third stage of an IoT architecture. Edge IT systems are responsible for carrying out these tasks. Since IoT systems collect a significant amount of data and consequently require a lot of bandwidth, these Edge IT systems perform a vital task in reducing the load on the core IT infrastructure.

    Machine learning and visualization technologies are used by Edge IT systems to generate results from the collected data. Insights are provided by machine learning algorithms while the visualization technology presents the data in a way that's easy to understand.
  • Data Centers and Cloud Storage

    The data needs to be stored for further in-depth analysis which is why data storage is such an important stage of an IoT architecture. It helps with follow-up revision for feedback as well. Cloud storage is the preferred storage method in IoT implementations.

    That's also because more in-depth processing which doesn't require immediate feedback can be carried out in the cloud or at physical data centers. There, more capable IT systems can manage, analyze and more securely store the data. This is also where sensor data can be combined with other data sources for more detailed insights.

Using IoT architecture in your business software

You can supercharge the ROI from your custom business software by implementing an IoT architecture. At its core, such an implementation allows for much more granular data collection. Data is what drives efficiency. The higher the quality of your data, the more valuable insights it can provide.

For example, if you use a custom inventory management software for your business, an IoT architecture can help you exercise greater control over this crucial part of the business.

This can also help with increased automation as more custom software solutions can be created which can automate the process of reordering materials as they reach a certain threshold or provide insights into consumption trends.

For example, there can be a temperature monitoring app for a medicine warehouse. It would use sensors in different parts of the warehouse to detect if temperature and moisture levels are within acceptable range.

This will ensure that crucial medical supplies meet all of the quality standards before they're shipped out. IoT-based smart applications can keep an eye on this for you and simply push an alert when something goes wrong.

An IoT implementation with a hotel management system would also prove to be highly effective. It can pull in data from sensors that are attached to devices like soap dispensers, coffee machines, vending machines, etc to enable staff to keep an eye on inventory levels in real time.

This would eliminate the need for manual checks on these machines multiple times a day, thus leading to a significant increase in the quality of service.

Get help from the IoT experts

Let there be no misconception. For all of the benefits that it provides, an Internet of Things implementation is a complex task. There are different protocols that need to be managed, different hardware specifications, and a variety of other technical hurdles that need to be overcome.

That’s easier said than done. It’s impossible to have an effective IoT setup up and running unless the work has been done by experts. This will make sure that everything ends up operating smoothly and as it needs to, otherwise, a lot of time would be spent in actually trying to figure out what went wrong where and how it can be fixed.

Even when you have an IoT architecture established, it’s another complex task to get it integrated with your existing business software. You absolutely don’t need to have new custom software developed. Not only would that mean losing all of the investment made into the earlier iteration, it would also push the implementation timeline.

It’s entirely possible to have the architecture integrated with your existing business software, but you’ll need to work with developers who are very familiar with this line of work and have successfully completed similar projects in the past. This isn’t a job that everyone can do.

The highly skilled developers at Zibtek have years of experience with the Internet of Things. They have helped countless clients integrate their IoT setups with custom business software to take full advantage of this technology and make their processes more efficient.

Zibtek is one of the leading software development companies in the world which counts both Fortune 500 companies and startups as its customers. This American company is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. It also manages a global talent pool of experienced developers from its offices in the United States. Whether you’re only just thinking about an Internet of Things solution or need more advanced integration, reach out to the team at Zibtek. They’ll be happy to help you so that your business can reach its true potential.