IOT: Internet of Things

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Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a popular buzzword for a wide variety of products on the market. But what does it mean? What makes "smart devices" smart, and how can I use IoT in a project?

Basically: The internet of things is a large network (or internet) of connected devices

A device can fall into several different levels of IoT, depending on what it's connected to. The higher levels of IoT devices are all connected to the cloud, while the lower levels of devices may only be connected locally using something like Bluetooth.

IoT Levels

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Communication Protocols

There are many different ways for IoT devices to communicate with each other, but here are some of the industry standards:

Wi-Fi (you may also hear it called 802.11) is a popular choice for consumer IoT devices because almost everyone has a Wi-Fi network at home. The main drawback of using Wi-Fi is that it has high power consumption and many other devices use Wi-Fi and may interfere with communication.

There are two types of Wi-Fi you will probably encounter, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, which represent the different frequencies at which communication occurs. At the higher frequency (5 GHz) more data can be transferred, but because the wavelength is smaller the signal has a hard time passing through walls and going long-distances. At 2.4 GHz, data will be transferred slower, but at almost double the wavelength so it can go farther and through more obstacles.

Bluetooth has two main "flavors", classic Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE for short). In a classic Bluetooth connection, the connection between devices will always be maintained, which allows for a high throughput of data but also consumes a lot of power, a good example of where this is necessary is Bluetooth earbuds. BLE devices remain ready until they receive a connection, where they might be asked for some data or given an instruction. This saves a lot of power because the connection doesn't need to be maintained long-term. A good example of a BLE device is the Tile, which allows you to track an object if you lose it, BLE lets them last much much longer than Bluetooth would.

The main drawback for Bluetooth is just like Wi-Fi a lot of devices use it

  • Zigbee
  • LoRa
  • Cellular