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IoT Tech-Stack

October 22, 2019

Digitalization and Compliance

To better understand how IoT functions, this blog post will further illuminate the technology stack that typically makes up the architecture of an IoT network or system. There are three interacting stacks: (1) sensors, (2) micro-controllers and internet connectivity (gateways), and (3) service platform. Also it needs to be noted that there are three cross-stack functionalities: security, ontologie, and development tools and SDKs.

Sensors and Constrained Devices

The sensor tech-stack consist of an IoT operating system (OS), hardware abstraction, and communication support:

  • IoT Operating System, that may be mechanical (instead of digital) or have embedded OSs that are particularly made for constrained devices and focus on IoT capabilities.
  • Hardware Abstraction is a software layer that enables access to hardware functions of the micro control unit (MCU) (e.g. flash memory, general purpose input/output (GPIOs), serial interfaces, etc.)
  • Communication Support for protocols and drivers that enable devices to connect to any protocol (e.g. Bluetooth, Z-Wave, Thread, CAn bus, MQTT, CoAP, etc.) and enabling device communication

Lastly, sensor devices are remotely manageable, giving it firm-ware updates or checking its functionality (e.g. battery life).

Gateways

Most IoT devices are constrained to avoid redundancy and overall costs. This means that they have a processing instance with connectivity to the network which is commonly referred to as a gateway. Some devices have the gateway included in their soft- and hardware. Gateways generally contain these components:

  • Operating System, that is general-purpose (in most cases) operating system (e.g. Linux/Ubuntu)
  • Application Container / Runtime Environment contains the processing and computing power to run application code, and support dynamic application updates (e.g. support for Java, Python, or node)
  • Communication and Connectivity supported by several connectivity protocols to connect with different devices (e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, Thread, ZigBee) and networks (eg Ethernet, cellular, Wi-Fi, satellite, etc.) and ensure the integrity, security, and confidentiality of the communications
  • Data Management & Messaging enables local persistence to support offline mode, network latency, and real-time analytics and provides the ability to forward device data consistently to an IoT Platform

A gateway is remotely manageable, giving it the ability to remotely provision, configure, startup/shutdown gateways as well as the applications running on the gateways.

IoT Management and Connectivity Platform

Connectivity and Message Routing IoT platforms need to be able to interact with very large numbers of devices and gateways using different protocols and data formats, and then normalize those formats to allow for easy integration into the rest of the enterprise:

  • Device Management and Device Registry identifying devices and gateways working in an IoT solution with the ability to provision new software updates and manage the devices
  • Data Management and Storage that supports the volume and variety of IoT data
  • Event Management, Analytics & UI that supports scalable event processing, the ability to consolidate and analyze data to create reports, graphs, and dashboards
  • Application Enablement describes the ability to create reports, graphs, dashboards, and more, and to use API for application integration

Cross Stack Functionalities

Across the different stacks of an IoT solution are a number of features that need to be considered for any IoT architecture, including:

  • Security, which needs to be implemented from the devices to the cloud features (e.g. authentication, encryption, and authorization)
  • Ontologies which provide the format and description of device data, enabling data analytics and data interoperability, and ability to define ontologies and meta-data across different non-homogenous domains is key for IoT
  • Development tools and SDKs for IoT solutions that support various hardware and software platforms

Read the whole white paper about “The Internet of Things – Digitalization and Compliance” here.