The Internet of Things is one of the biggest developments over the last few years. It was a concept I had not even heard of until 2013, even though I have an engineering degree. But it has made a huge impression on the digital technology industry recently. One study shows that the IoT market will be worth $520 billion by 2021.
It has led to a number of changes that are making our lives more convenient, but also more complicated. It is important to understand the various IoT devices on the market and the steps that you can take to choose the right ones.
Understanding the Logistics of IoT Interfaces
The IoT market is growing by 27% a year, according to a report by Gartner. Since it is growing so rapidly, we wanted to cover it in more depth.
Throughout the next series of articles on PC Tech Guide, we will analyze the most common IoT devices by grouping them into various categories. These include Intelligent Human Machine Interfaces (Smart HMI), Robots, Tools for Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) and Smartphones, which have been deliberately separated from the rest due to their prevalence.
The original concept of Internet of Things (IoT) was proposed by Kevin Ashton at MIT in 1999. In an article, Ashton made some very bold statements about this revolutionary technology.
Examples of IoT devices include the following:
- A washing machine on which we can act to change its washing modes through an APP.
- A coffee machine that tells us when to perform routine maintenance.
- An autonomous car.
But as you may have noticed, the above examples belong to a subset of IoT products designed to increase customer loyalty by adding value but with little industrial application. So…
What Should We Know About IoT in industry applications?
The disruption of the IoT in many industries aims to achieve a total opening in connectivity, ie the interconnection of all actors involved in our supply chain. IoT devices will be able to capture and analyse the data obtained in order to make decisions in real time or send them to the Cloud to store and analyse them using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence techniques.
According to our classification, the most common jobs on the IoT are:
- Obtaining values of physical parameters, acting on machines, taking data for predictive maintenance and control of energy efficiency through sensors.
- Asset tracking and monitoring.
- Control of traceability by means of intelligent labels.
- Automation of manual processes and obtaining relevant data through Embedded Systems.
- Man-Machine communication, Alarm notifications, real time data visualization by means of Wearables.
Let’s look briefly at each of the types of devices that are used.
SENSORS AND ACTUATORS
We can define a sensor as a meter of a physical or chemical magnitude. That’s why we say that sensors provide senses to machines and objects by measuring parameters such as: temperature, position, amount of light, gases, and so on.
An actuator is a device capable of transforming energy into an action in order to automate a process. Among the most common are relays to cut off or allow the passage of electric current, light indicators, solenoid valves, motors, etc.
Normally the sensors and actuators of our machines are connected to PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller) which are responsible for monitoring the values of them and, depending on the value obtained, act in one way or another as they have been programmed.
In many cases after buying and using the machine for a while, we realize that our machines do not have a certain sensor that allows us to obtain the value of a parameter of relevance for decision making. In these cases, before buying the latest version of the machine, we will have to assess whether it is more profitable to use IoT devices to alleviate these deficiencies, because in recent years, its miniaturization and mass use has made it possible that these solutions have become very much cheaper.
In spite of their small size (see figure), they have an A/D converter (Analogical-Digital) to digitalize the measurement and a microcontroller with memory on which we can introduce a low level software (Firmware) to program the actions to be carried out, for example; define the time interval between measurements, make previous calculations with the obtained data, discard erroneous values, store values, etc.
These devices IoT oriented to the capture are recognized as Smart Sensors because in addition to obtaining the value of the physical parameter they measure can do many other functions.
In addition to “intelligence”, these electronic modules are equipped with wireless communication to enable autonomous interactivity between devices even while in motion. The possibilities are enormous, because in this way, the actuators of one module can react from the value obtained by the sensors of others.