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#1 Posted : 04 September 2019 12:48:34(UTC)

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Things. A “thing” is an object equipped with sensors that gather data which will be transferred over a network and actuators that allow things to act (for example, to switch on or off the light, to open or close a door, to increase or decrease engine rotation speed and more). This concept includes fridges, street lamps, buildings, vehicles, production machinery, rehabilitation equipment and everything else imaginable. Sensors are not in all cases physically attached to the things: sensors may need to monitor, for example, what happens in the closest environment to a thing.

Gateways. Data goes from things to the cloud and vice versa through the gateways. A gateway provides connectivity between things and the cloud part of the IoT solution, enables data preprocessing and filtering before moving it to the cloud (to reduce the volume of data for detailed processing and storing) and transmits control commands going from the cloud to things. Things then execute commands using their actuators.

Cloud gateway facilitates data compression and secure data transmission between field gateways and cloud IoT servers. It also ensures compatibility with various protocols and communicates with field gateways using different protocols depending on what protocol is supported by gateways.

Streaming data processor ensures effective transition of input data to a data lake and control applications. No data can be occasionally lost or corrupted.

Data lake. A data lake is used for storing the data generated by connected devices in its natural format. Big data comes in "batches" or in “streams”. When the data is needed for meaningful insights it’s extracted from a data lake and loaded to a big data warehouse.

Big data warehouse. Filtered and preprocessed data needed for meaningful insights is extracted from a data lake to a big data warehouse. A big data warehouse contains only cleaned, structured and matched data (compared to a data lake which contains all sorts of data generated by sensors). Also, data warehouse stores context information about things and sensors (for example, where sensors are installed) and the commands control applications send to things.

Data analytics. Data analysts can use data from the big data warehouse to find trends and gain actionable insights. When analyzed (and in many cases – visualized in schemes, diagrams, infographics) big data show, for example, the performance of devices, help identify inefficiencies and work out the ways to improve an IoT system (make it more reliable, more customer-oriented). Also, the correlations and patterns found manually can further contribute to creating algorithms for control applications.

Machine learning and the models ML generates. With machine learning, there is an opportunity to create more precise and more efficient models for control applications. Models are regularly updated (for example, once in a week or once in a month) based on the historical data accumulated in a big data warehouse. When the applicability and efficiency of new models are tested and approved by data analysts, new models are used by control applications.

Control applications send automatic commands and alerts to actuators, for example:
- Windows of a smart home can receive an automatic command to open or close depending on the forecasts taken from the weather service.
- When sensors show that the soil is dry, watering systems get an automatic command to water plants.
- Sensors help monitor the state of industrial equipment, and in case of a pre-failure situation, an IoT system generates and sends automatic notifications to field engineers.

The commands sent by control apps to actuators can be also additionally stored in a big data warehouse. This may help investigate problematic cases (for example, a control app sends commands, but they are not performed by actuators – then connectivity, gateways and actuators need to be checked). On the other side, storing commands from control apps may contribute to security, as an IoT system can identify that some commands are too strange or come in too big amounts which may evidence security breaches (as well as other problems which need investigation and corrective measures).

Control applications can be either rule-based or machine-learning based. In the first case, control apps work according to the rules stated by specialists. In the second case, control apps are using models which are regularly updated (once in a week, once in a month depending on the specifics of an IoT system) with the historical data stored in a big data warehouse.

Although control apps ensure better automation of an IoT system, there should be always an option for users to influence the behavior of such applications (for example, in cases of emergency or when it turns out that an IoT system is badly tuned to perform certain actions).

User applications are a software component of an IoT system which enables the connection of users to an IoT system and gives the options to monitor and control their smart things (while they are connected to a network of similar things, for example, homes or cars and controlled by a central system). With a mobile or web app, users can monitor the state of their things, send commands to control applications, set the options of automatic behavior (automatic notifications and actions when certain data comes from sensors).

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