Nowadays the Internet of Things (IoT) industry becomes a more popular area of expertise. First of all, Business solutions build with the IoT are highly efficient and provide more data for analysis. Secondly, the shipping industry uses the IoT to track containers and measure the temperature inside them. Furthermore, The construction industry uses the IoT to check whether the temperature is correct if the lights are on, or where particular materials are located. Finally, the Airline industry uses the IoT to track and visualize its production processes in the real time. Most importantly, there are many other examples but first of all, it is good to know what the Internet of Things (IoT) is.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical devices embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity which enables these devices to connect to the Internet, collect and exchange data. To make it, even more, simple you can think about IoT as a network of connected devices which collects and sends different data types to the Internet. Below there is the simple use case of IoT presented – there is a device with a temperature sensor which sends data to the Microsoft Azure cloud for the further analysis:
The Internet of Things – use cases
At the beginning of this article, I have mentioned that the Internet of Things is widely used by the industry. Now I would like to shortly walk through those examples.
Maersk is a Danish shipping company is one of the biggest container shipping company in the world. It is using the Internet of Things to improve transparency, safety, and cost efficiency for its sea freight. The prepared solution enables the company to track containers and plan logistics efficiently.
Airbus is one of the biggest producers of air crafts. It’s “a factory of the future” which concentrates on tracking and visualizing its production processes in the real-time using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology.
PCL – the company from the construction industry uses the Internet of Things sensors together with Microsoft Azure cloud platform to check whether the temperature is correct if the lights are on, or where particular materials are located.
At Predica we are also using the IoT! Together with Gerda company, we are building modern intercom ‘Nofo’ with the ability to work with old intercom lines. It is possible to control it via mobile application and use it even when you are far away from home – for instance, to open the door remotely.
We are using Microsoft Azure cloud platform services to enable communication with the device. Below you can see solution architecture.
Microsoft Azure services for the Internet of Things
I have described that the Internet of Things is a network of devices which can collect and exchange data through the Internet. But how exactly is this done? This is where Microsoft Azure cloud platform comes in. It provides dedicated services to send data from devices to the cloud and from the cloud to the devices. Below I described some of them which can enhance creating IoT solutions.
Azure IoT Hub
Azure IoT Hub service enables connecting, monitoring, and managing a huge amount of IoT devices. This is a dedicated service in the Azure cloud for IoT solutions. Communication is possible in the two ways: from the cloud to the device and from device to the cloud. An example from the real world could be measuring temperature in the different rooms of the office and analyzing them next to device where air conditioning should be enabled.
Azure IoT Hub provides a mechanism to set up individual identities and credentials for each device. That is why at the end there is a possibility to discover from where exactly analyzed data becomes. It also automates device provisioning and registration with Device Provisioning Service so registration and device provisioning are done in a secure way.
Azure Digital Twins
Azure Digital Twins is a dedicated solution for modelling the relationships and interactions among people, places, and devices. It enables building IoT solutions with spatial intelligence so that in the end it models physical environment as a virtual map.
One of the examples of using Azure Digital Twins is related to finding free rooms in the office where a meeting can be arranged. Let’s say that there are six rooms dedicated to organizing meetings and video conferences. Having the information about which room is actually not booked and free together with the information about the air quality in it could be very helpful. This is where Azure Digital Twins solution can help.
What is Azure Sphere?
Azure Sphere is a solution for creating highly secured, connected micro-controller (MCU) devices.
It consists of three main parts:
- Secured Micro-controller Unit (MCU) – crossover class of MCU with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity
- Secured OS – highly-secured OS from Microsoft that creates a trustworthy defence-in-depth platform
- Cloud Security – Azure Sphere Security Service guards every Azure Sphere device by renewing security, identifying emerging threats, and brokering trust among devices and cloud
Azure Sphere integrates with Azure cloud services such as Azure IoT Hub that’s why we can securely pass collected data. Therefore, I recommend watching the below short video to see Azure Sphere structure.
To sum up:
In the article, I have described the Internet of Things as the network of devices which can communicate with each other and send collected data to the Internet. First of all, I have presented some real-world examples like tracking containers or measuring whether the temperature is correct. What is more, Microsoft Azure cloud provides services such as Azure IoT Hub. It enables bi-directional communication between the devices and cloud or Azure Digital Twins which using spatial intelligence to visualize the environment of connected IoT devices. Finally, Azure Sphere is a solution from Microsoft which enables creating secured and Internet-connected microcontroller (MCU) devices.