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What are the fundamental components of IoT?

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The four fundamental components of an IoT system are:

1) Sensors/Devices

First, sensors or devices collect data from their environment. This data could be as simple as a temperature reading or as complex as a full video feed.

We use “sensors/devices,” because multiple sensors can be bundled together or sensors can be part of a device that does more than just sense things. For example, your phone is a device that has multiple sensors (camera, accelerometer, GPS, etc), but your phone is not just a sensor since it can also perform many actions.

However, whether it’s a standalone sensor or a full device, in this first step data is being collected from the environment by something.

2) Connectivity

Next, that data is sent to the cloud, but it needs a way to get there!

The sensors/devices can be connected to the cloud through a variety of methods including: cellular, satellite, WiFi, Bluetooth, low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), connecting via a gateway/router or connecting directly to the internet via ethernet (don’t worry, we’ll explain more about what these all mean in our connectivity section).

Each option has tradeoffs between power consumption, range, and bandwidth. Choosing which connectivity option is best comes down to the specific IoT application, but they all accomplish the same task: getting data to the cloud.

3) Data Processing

Once the data gets to the cloud (we’ll cover what the cloud means in our data processing section)), software performs some kind of processing on it.

This could be very simple, such as checking that the temperature reading is within an acceptable range. Or it could also be very complex, such as using computer vision on video to identify objects (such as intruders on a property).

But what happens when the temperature is too high or if there is an intruder on property? That’s where the user comes in.

4) User Interface

Next, the information is made useful to the end-user in some way. This could be via an alert to the user (email, text, notification, etc). For example, a text alert when the temperature is too high in the company’s cold storage.

A user might have an interface that allows them to proactively check in on the system. For example, a user might want to check the video feeds on various properties via a phone app or a web browser.