Internet of Things (IoT) 101
There are a lot of things that we take for granted like internet and electricity. We use them daily, but very few us really know how they work. If we take the internet as an example, terms like a server, DNS, HTTP protocol, router, etc., are words familiar to our ear but it won’t be easy for most of us to explain correctly. As the internet of things becomes a hype topic for all of us every day, every lighting professional needs to know better these terms or even more terms like a beacon, node, mesh, network star topology, etc..
To be able to clearly understand IoT, first, we need to understand how the internet works.
The internet is simply a wire. A wire which connects the computers and let them share data with each other. This data sharing happens through a protocol called HTTP (the Hypertext Transfer Protocol). A computer which is connected to the internet all time is called as Server. And every server and actually anything connected to the internet has an Internet Protocol (IP) address something like 126.96.36.199. So when your computer – named client – connects to the internet through an internet service provider (ISP), it uses a browser (Chrome, Firefox etc). When you want the visit a website, actually you are visiting a server hosting that website and the browser using HTTP protocols receive the website info and show it to you. Of course, as it’s hard to remember an IP address like 188.8.131.52, we also have domain names like google.com or facebook.com. So the internet is a place where computers connect and share data within themselves.
When we say internet of things (IoT), we mean that instead of only computers, in today’s world other devices also connects to the internet. Like your thermostat, air conditioning or even weighing machine, so they can share data with other devices or you can control them over the internet. As an example, you can start your thermostat, right after you get into your car going back home from work. This data sharing happens over a protocol which critical for IoT applications.
There are wired (DALI, KNX etc) and wireless protocols (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee etc). A protocol is like a language, there are rules and regulations for these devices to “understand” each other. And every protocol comes with advantages and disadvantages. Speed, interoperability, security etc. To be able to compare protocols is also a crucial part of understanding IoT.
An IoT application or if we’d like to call anything “smart”, it should contain two principle part. First, a sensor or a way to receive data. Second, a processor or a way to react upon that data received. If we explain it from a classic IoT application, finding the empty spots in a car park. You need sensors to see if a parking space is empty or not and a processor needs to direct this information to a system where you can check the empty areas with your mobile phone.
This abstract would take forever if I need to explain all these terms in writing. (like Node, Beacon, Network Types etc).
But I should mention clearly that lighting will and is playing a fundamental role within IoT for one simple reason, indoor or outdoor, we – light fittings – constitute a structure already with electricity. So we should utilize this chance to make lighting more integrated into this process. And it’s crucial for lighting designers to understand these terms in order to be able to assess new technologies and apply to their design process. How does the audience benefit from your presentation? This talk will focus on merely explaining all these terms for lighting designers so that they can ask the right questions to the industry who offers IoT solutions and utilize these new technologies into their design process.