How the Internet of Things (IoT) Works

The internet of things (IoT) is changing much about the world we live in. From the way we drive to how we make purchases and even how we get energy for our homes. Sophisticated sensors and chips are embedded in the physical things that surround us, each transmitting valuable data – data that lets us better understand how these things work and work together. But how exactly do all these devices share such large quantities of data and how do we put that information to work?

Whether we’re improving the production of a factory giving city residents real-time updates on where to park or monitoring our personal health, it’s the common IoT platform that brings us diverse information together and provides the common language for the devices and apps to communicate with each other.

The process starts with the devices themselves which securely communicate with an IoT platform. This platform integrates the data from many devices and applies analytics to share the most valuable data with applications that address industry-specific needs.

Let’s start with a simple example: a car. After taking a long road trip, Rebecca notices that her check engine light has come on. She knows that she needs to have her car looked at by a mechanic but is not sure whether it’s something minor or something that needs immediate attention. As it turns out the sensor that triggered Rebecca’s check engine light monitors the pressure in her brake line, this sensor is one of many monitoring processes throughout the car which are constantly communicating with each other. A component in the car called the diagnostic bus gathers the data from all these sensors then passes into a gateway in the car. The gateway integrates and sorts the data from the sensors this way. Only the most relevant diagnostic information will be transmitted to the manufacturers’ platform but before sending this organized data the car’s gateway and platform must first register with each other and confirm a secure communication. The platform is constantly gathering and storing thousands of bits of information from Rebecca’s car and hundreds of thousands of cars like hers build a historical record in a secure database. The manufacturers’ add rules and logic to the platform so when Rebecca’s car sends a signal that her brake fluid has dropped below a recommended level the platform triggers an alert in her car. The manufacturer also uses the platform to create and manage applications that solve specific issues, in this case, the manufacturer can deploy an application on the platform called the asset management system. This application oversees all of their customers’ cars on the road as well as all the parts in their warehouses. It uses the data from Rebecca’s car to offer her a potential appointment time to service her car, directions to the nearest certified dealer, and a coupon for the service.