If you read the news, you've probably seen the IoT mentioned. A LOT. Internet of Things is hailed as bringing a bright future and better world. However, most consumers*--including most makers and engineers--*are not yet having their lives effected by the IoT [1] (except at Disney World). The promotion of the fantasy of IoT has outpaced the reality.

My friends, it's time we make reality catch up with fantasy.

In case you've missed it, what is this IoT fantasy that's being heavily promoted? Let's just refer to the website of an IoT solution provider to see where the IoT can help:

  • Utilities, construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, energy
  • Transit, cars, rail, emergency and service vehicle fleets
  • Enterprise, institutions, government, retail
  • Home automation, security, healthcare
  • Smart cities that are safer and more efficient

...Yeah so that's pretty much all walks of life.

Let's break it down

Let's back up and talk about what the IoT really is and how it's built, maker-to-maker.

We're going to peel back the cover on the fantasy of IoT and see how real hardware and real software come together to solve a precise problems.

First, there was the Internet

The Internet is mostly for people to communicate. People talk to People. People send messages to servers, which are delivered to other people. It's a people thing.

Then, there were machines

Machines also use the Internet to send messages to other machines in an automated, programmable, way. Maybe it's a credit card transaction or a security system signaling a watch center. This is the beginning of the Internet of Things. But, you might be asking yourself:

Haven't we been doing this all along? Yes, but we didn't call it IoT, we just called it "being clever".

And to be fair, the way we're doing it is changing a lot, and new technology is enabling new applications.

Then, there was the IoT

Let's pop back into IoT fantasy land and think of some more concrete ways we could use this concept to make peoples' lives better:

  • No more "garbage day". What if you never have to put out the garbage bin because a sensor in your bin (and every bin in the city) sends a signal to the sanitation department and roving trucks empty bins as they become full.
  • Safer car tires. What if your next set of tires are safer and perform better because embedded wear sensors are uploading real-world data to engineers so they can improve their designs.
  • Zero lost luggage. What if airport luggage tags could talk to the airport. No luggage is ever lost and automated handling systems mean your luggage is always waiting for you when you get off the plane--no more waiting at the baggage claim carousel, ever.

These examples are practical and maybe simplistic, but they are actionable. You can actually build them.

In the rest of this multi-part series, let's take an overview of some of the nuts-and-bolts technology underlying systems like this so you can build up your familiarization, choose the technologies you need, and get on your way to build out your own IoT fantasy.

Continue reading Making the IoT. Part 2: Processing

And stay tuned for:

  • Part 3: Communications
  • Part 4: Message Protocols and Security


  1. https://www.micrium.com/iot/internet-protocols/ ↩︎