The world we live in today is a mesh of connected devices and individuals. Everything around us has access to wireless networks and the Internet at large. We have begun to take advantage of this ever-present networking and connectivity to create an Internet of Things (IoT) using everyday items and devices. Cars, coffee makers, alarm clocks, and even writing instruments have upgraded to include connectivity options. These IoT devices provide us with data about our environment, homes, and daily activities and help us improve our lives by better understanding and using the information they provide.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
To better understand what IoT devices are, we need to understand what the Internet of Things is. The most basic definition is connecting everyday items to the Internet. They are networked together and able to connect to some service or server online, report data, be controlled remotely, and even communicate with other nearby devices. You can access this information or the devices directly, usually from your phone or some Internet-connected device, and take action based on the information you receive.
What Are Internet of Things Devices?
Now that we understand what the Internet of Things is, we can easily define IoT devices as interconnected items that provide information. IoT devices are smart. A smart device is electronic, utilizes some form of wireless communication, and can operate autonomously. These smart devices usually contain miniature computer processors to provide additional features and functionality. Being smart separates common items such as watches from their IoT counterparts like the Fitbit and Apple Watch. Some additional IoT devices are:
- Temperature/humidity sensors
- Electrical outlets
- Garage door openers
- Light switches and bulbs
- Window/door sensors
How Are IoT Devices Used?
Now that we understand what the Internet of Things is and the kinds of devices it utilizes, we can review examples of these devices and their purpose. Remember to keep in mind that:
- These devices constantly monitor their environment and send data or information back to a central service or server.
- The Internet of Things allows for easy access to data from anywhere via apps or web-based services where your devices report.
- You can act on that data, having the services that access it perform functions or tasks previously set up.
Looking at some of the items we talked about above, we can break down how they might be helpful in a more connected state.
These were some of the first everyday home items to become upgraded as they lacked connectivity to the Internet or powerful and accessible compute aspects. Thermostats initially required manual temperature adjustment but eventually updated to provide basic scheduling components, which generated automatic temperature adjustment. Once the thermostat became a smart device connected to the Internet with software that allowed for controlling a range of functions, it became an IoT device that offered immense customization and control.
Examples of smart thermostats are Google Nest or Ecobee. These devices can:
- Alter the temperature based on perceived light from the sun.
- Adjust the household temperature based on the detection of individuals present in the home.
- Access the thermostat system worldwide remotely to verify the current temperature and adjust it if necessary.
The above features make smart thermostats an ideal pick for homes and businesses alike.
Doorbells have come a long way thanks to the massive upgrade from the IoT trend. While many homes still have doorbells that provide no feature other than a bell ringing when someone is outside your door, homeowners have taken to smart doorbells for the added security features:
- Camera: When someone rings the doorbell, a camera is activated and sends a real-time video of who is at your front door.
- Alerts: Motion-activated alerts will ping your device to inform you of possible intruders or only inquisitive wildlife.
- Facial Recognition: Algorithms running on remote servers can provide facial recognition for repeat visitors or those who are deemed suspicious.
Amazon purchased the Ring company and started a revolution of cheap, easy-to-access home security devices connected to the Internet with Amazon Ring. Competitors like Google Nest Doorbell and Eufy Video Doorbell have since hit the market and offer various features like utilizing local storage on your home network instead of the cloud. IoT doorbells are a perfect example of taking a device with a simple function and providing additional capabilities by connecting it to the Internet.
Amazon Alexa has proven that taking an item meant for a single purpose and providing connectivity to the Internet can drastically change how it works. By adding microphones, wireless antennas, and essentially a tiny computer, Amazon was able to turn a speaker into a digital personal assistant. Alexa can hear your voice from anywhere in a room and respond to numerous commands such as setting a timer, playing music, and adjusting the connected smart thermostat in the house. Interlinking devices and allowing them to work together is the epitome of the Internet of Things devices.
IoT Devices in Business
Individuals and consumers are not the only groups to benefit from IoT devices. With a range of economically connected devices that can report data and statistics from various sensors, IoT devices make for excellent system and environmental monitors in businesses of all sizes.
With a massive open source library of tools and a friendly, experienced community of like-minded hackers and tinkerers, companies can find innovative ways to use IoT devices to improve a variety of business needs.
Raspberry Pi has exploded in growth and use since its inception and release. With numerous clones and similarly designed projects taking the concept to new places, it is no wonder that everyone from home users to billion-dollar corporations has found uses for these small yet capable devices. With low power usage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, multiple USB ports, and an ability to run Linux, Raspberry Pi is compatible with a massive library of software and hardware. Because of this, you will see Raspberry Pis handling all manner of automation tasks like:
- Operating or controlling types of machinery like conveyor or access control systems.
- Prototyping environments before building specialized electronic components.
- Providing monitoring sensors for equipment that may not have it built in.
The Raspberry Pi is an IoT swiss army knife capable of becoming just about anything a business would need it to be.
Many sensors rely on alternative wireless network protocols, like Zigbee, to detect:
- Whether doors or windows are open or closed.
- Temperature and humidity.
Sensors work together to collect real time data and report back on environmental and security issues that can trigger automated actions depending on specific criteria. Examples of this are sending an alert if a door is left ajar or turning off lights if there is no detected movement for ten minutes.
These readily available devices are inexpensive to produce and great for any company looking to gather data about their buildings and automate tasks quickly.
Rather than using expensive industrial-grade security camera systems, businesses can opt for IoT cameras that offer:
- 4k recording.
- Weather resistance.
- Internet accessibility.
- Artificial intelligence or facial recognition.
- Local and remote storage.
- Mobile or web interface management.
The Internet of Things has changed the way we interact with our environment. IoT devices identify ways we can improve and expand their usefulness. Internet accessibility and communication between devices have impacted and enhanced our lives. Whether you’re looking to utilize these devices in your home for personal benefit or for a business to try and automate tasks, IoT devices will be a beneficial step in achieving any type of project you set out to complete.
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