Introduction

IoT has revolutionized modern technology with its seamless connectivity of devices under one umbrella. In this internet-driven world, which one is not an element of IoT? Our Smartwatches, mobile applications, laptops, iPads, Tablets, or electronic devices such as refrigerators, ACs, Digital locks, etc., are sending data to these IoT networks. These IoT systems are built upon various elements, features, layers, and their respective function. And at this post, we will take an in-depth look at the different perspectives of IoT layers in the IT infrastructure.

Curious to know how IoT works? Let’s start with a simple definition for the working of IoT before moving further towards understanding the IoT layers.

In this article we’ll explore:

  1. Perception Layer
  2. Connectivity Layer
  3. Edge Layer
  4. Processing Layer
  5. Application Layer
  6. Business Layer
  7. Security Layer 

What is IoT?

To understand how IoT works, you must know what it is. Internet of Things (IoT) is an interconnected system of physical devices embedded with software and sensors to streamline information across the network via the internet. These IoT networks have shown exceptional data collection, analysis, reporting, and prediction behavior for integration into future planning.

Though IoT is a trending technology with unlimited future potential yet, there are no single or a particular set of rules for the components of IoT. Various organizations have adopted features of IoT in their premises as several benefits have emerged from their integrations.

Elements of IoT

There are many technological aspects, layers, applications, and Components of IoT networks. But most of these IoT architectures are built upon core fundamentals.

– Smarter Devices in a different form

– Network and Gateway that allows devices to be part of the IoT

– Middleware that includes data storage spaces and advances predicting capabilities

– End-user applications

IoT Layers

These Elements of IoT define the fundamentals of almost every IoT system on the globe. Still, they are divided into multiple architecture layers to further refine the overall IoT network.

These IoT layers are :

  • Perception Layer that manages smart devices across the system.
  • Connectivity/Transport Layer allows transferring data from the cloud to devices and vice-versa, different aspects of gateways and networks.
  • Processing Layer that controls and manages IoT levels for streamlining data across the system.  
  • Application Layer that aids in the procedures of analytics, device control, and reporting to end-users.

With continuous changes in the IT environment, many organizations have added three additional layers to their infrastructure. Here is an IoT Block diagram showing the various stages of IoT architecture layers.

  • Business layer that derives information and decision-making analysis from data.
  • Security Layer that covers all aspects of protecting the whole IoT architecture
  • Edge Computing Layer that works at an edge or near the device information collection.

IoT Block Diagram for layers

1. Perception Layer 

These IoT layers form the components of the internet physical design of IoT, acting as a medium between the digital and real world. In the IoT architecture layers, this perception layer has the main function of transforming analog signals into the digital form and vice versa. These come in a different multitude of shape and sizes with:

  • Sensors: They are very small devices or systems built to understand and detect the change in their environment and further streamline information to their system. Generally, these sensors are quite small and take even less power to perform their task. Sensors have the unique ability to detect physical parameters such as humidity or temperature, then transforming them into electronic signals.
  • Actuators: These represent a part of the machine that allows an electrical signal to be transformed into physical actions. These Actuators play a crucial role as components of IoT networks.
  • Machine and Devices: They are the main devices that have actuators and sensors.

In IoT architecture, there is no limitation of location or distance between two or more devices that can be spread across the globe.

2. Connectivity Layer

Here in the second Connectivity layer, communication takes center stage between the physical layer of devices and IoT architecture. This communication takes place via two methods;

First directly by either TCP or UDP/IP stack;

Second, gateways act as a link between Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN), thus providing a path for information to pass through multiple protocols.

So, which one element is not IoT? Several network technologies are integrated across IoT systems that include:

  • WiFi, the most popular and versatile technique used across data-driven technologies. WiFi modems are suitable for Smart homes, personal offices, and even corporate offices for seamless communication between LAN and WAN, respectively.
  • Ethernet represents the hardware that supports fixed or permanent devices such as video cameras, gaming consoles, and security installations.
  • Bluetooth is another widely used technology suited mainly for communication between devices within a short range. A perfect example would be headphones that can work on small power and simultaneously share fewer data over the network.
  • NFC (Near Field Communications) allows communication between a very short distance of 4 inches or less.
  • LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network), designed and built to match the IoT usage across long distances. These low-power WAN devices can last as much as 10+ years while consuming low power throughout. However, it can send signals to give precise information over a long periodic duration. These include devices for smart buildings, smart fields, smart cities, etc.
  • ZigBee is another advanced wireless networking technology that consumes low power and can offer small data-sharing ability. One of the unique features of IoT is its capability to handle up to 65,000 nodes in its premises. ZigBee is built with the main focus for home automation and also has shown remarkable success for medical, scientific, and industrial protocols.
  • Cellular networks are ideally suited for communication on a global scale with more trust and reliability. For IoT, there are two broad IoT levels of the cellular network as
  • LTE-M is Long Term Evolution for Machines that provides a very high-speed exchange of data and smooth direct cloud communication.
  • NB-IoT as Narrowband that offers small data exchange using low-frequency channels respectively.

There are also messaging protocols present in the IoT system that allows seamless data sharing. Here is a list of top protocols present in the IoT architecture layers as of now.

  • Data Distribution Service (DDS) represents a machine-to-machine real-time messaging framework in IoT systems.
  • Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) provides server protocols for servers via peer-to-peer data exchange.
  • Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) defines the protocols for constrained devices that use low power and low memory, such as wireless sensors.
  • Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) represents the messaging protocol standards for low-powered devices using TCP/IP for seamless data communication.

3. Edge Layer 

In the early stages, with IoT networks gaining size and numbers, latency becomes one of the major hurdles. And when multiple devices tried connecting with the main center, it clogged the system delaying the procedure. Here edge computing offered a unique solution that accelerated the growth of IoT Systems overall.

Now with the edge IoT layers, systems can process and analyze the information close to the source as much as possible. Edge has now become the standard for the 5th Generation of mobile networks (5G), offering systems to connect with more devices at a lower latency than the prevailing 4G standards. All the procedures for the IoT networks take place at the edge. Thus saving time, resources and further resulting in real-time reactions and improved performance.

4. Processing Layer

IoT systems are designed to capture, store, and process data for further requirements in this layer. In the processing layer, there are two main stages.

  • Data Accumulation

Every device is sending millions of data streams across the IoT network. Here data comes in various forms, speeds, and sizes. Separating the essential data from these large streams is a primary concern that professionals must prioritize in this layer. Unstructured data in raw form such as photos and video streams can be quite enormous and must be done efficiently to gather intelligence factors for the business. Professionals must have a thorough understanding of the business procedures to pinpoint data requirements precisely and help procure future benefits.

  • Data Abstraction

Once the data accumulation stage is finished, selected data is taken out from the large data for application to optimize their business procedures. Here the data abstraction follows the path as:

  • Collecting all the data from all IoT and non-IoT systems (CRM, ERP, & ERM)
  • Using data virtualization to make data accessible from a single location
  • Managing raw data in multiple forms

Interoperability among devices and architecture plays a crucial role in the processing layer. Once data accumulation and abstraction are complete, it is easy for data analysts to use business acumen in fetching intelligence factors.  

5. Application Layer 

In this layer, Data is further processed and analyzed to gather business intelligence. Here IoT systems get connected with middleware or software that can understand data more precisely.

Some examples of the Application layer include:

  • Business decision-making software’s
  • Device control and monitoring services
  • Analytics solutions built with Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence
  • Mobile Application for further interactions

Each IoT system is built with its particular goals and objectives to match with business specifications. At present, most of the IoT Applications are working at a varying complexity and operate a multitude of technology stacks performing specific tasks for businesses.

6. Business Layer

Once IoT data is procured, it is valuable only if it applies to business planning and strategy. Every business has specific goals and objectives that it wants to accomplish by gathering intelligence from data. Business owners and stakeholders use data from past and present data to plan precisely for the future.

Today Data analysis has become the new oil for industries to enhance their productivity. Businesses are competing to get more data into their business for analysis and decision-making. Here software, CRM, and business intelligence programs have gained a lot of popularity in industries for superior performance.

7. Security Layer 

With modern challenges, security has become one of the main necessities of IT architecture. Data breach, tracking malicious software, and hacking are the main challenges with Security Layer in integrating IoT systems.  

  • Device Security 

The first point of security in the IoT layers starts with the devices themselves. Most of the manufacturers follow security guidelines to install in both firmware and hardware for IoT integration. Some of the essential measures are:

  • Secure boot process to avoid any malicious code running on a device
  • Using Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chips in combination with cryptographic keys for devices endpoint protections
  • Extra physical layer to avoid direct access via the device
  • Regular updates for security patches
  • Cloud Security

Now Clouds are taking over from the traditional server for data storage and communication. Their data security is of paramount importance, especially for IoT systems. Mechanisms include multiple authorization factors and encryptions to avoid any data breach. Here the process of verifying any new device is an essential crux that must have strict regulations for

device identity management.

  • Connection Security

While transferring data across the network, it must be encrypted from an end-to-end point across the IoT system. Here messaging protocols such as DDS, AMQP, and MQTT are integrated to secure sensitive information from any breach. The use of TSL cryptographic protocol is recommended industry standard across IoT architecture for data communication.

Conclusion

IoT is one of the emerging technologies in the global IT industry, as more businesses are shifting towards these futuristic solutions. Though elements of IoT form the core fundamentals for a comprehensive IT system, the IoT Layers lay down the path for the overall network’s success. Each layer has a specific scope and role that caters to solving the IoT complexity across the network.

The Perception layer is responsible for converting signals from analog to digital and vice-versa, the Connectivity layer for easing data transformation, and Edge for lowering system latency. While the Processing layer refines the data, the Application layer analyses the data, the Business layer delivers intelligence solutions, and the Security layer makes sure to protect the data at any cost.

For a small business, it can be quite challenging to work with IoT layers of systems. But, most of the top global organizations such as AWS, CISCO, IBM, Microsoft, etc., offer end-to-end solutions for businesses to integrate  features of IoT in their premises. They offer comprehensive device control and management, data encryption measures, and seamless transformation to the future IoT systems. So update yourself with all the features of IoT and how IoT works and stay one step ahead.

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