What is IoT? 30 FAQs (and should-ask questions) answered

By Colin I’Anson


What is the Internet of Things? What is the IIoT? Learn the answers to these FAQs (and some should-ask questions).

40,500—The number of monthly Internet searches on the term Internet of Things.

20—The number of answers you’ll find to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) and should-ask questions (SAQ) about the Internet of Things (IoT) below—answers that can turn you from someone who’s searching to someone who understands the IoT. Answers to the FAQs were obtained from actual searches and are questions you may have asked.

Scan the SAQs first. When done, you’ll possess the best and latest understanding of IoT.

Becoming an IoT-knowledgeable IT decision-maker is like going on an adventure. Starting your IoT project will be exciting, challenging, productive, and rewarding. No two projects will ever be the same.

Let’s start.

Internet of Things 101: Answers to SAQs about the IoT

How do you avoid wasting money on IoT?

Target high-value business outcomes and ensure that the solution is sustainable. The solution should work reliably for years into the future. Develop a mindset that enables you to identify a problem that is looking for an answer and not an IoT idea looking for a problem.

What’s an insight, what’s a business outcome, and how does an insight become an action?

Having insight is knowing something has or will happen—for example, knowing that a machine is about to break, possessing information about a problem, or knowing how to resolve a problem by scheduling a repair. The insight will be a part of solving a business problem. After careful thought on what the insight is saying, an action plan can be put in place.

Where does artificial intelligence fit?

Machine learning plays an important role in IoT, as it can yield insights from difficult-to-handle data. Machine learning calculations can often occur at the edge, because of the data volume. Once a system learns how to solve a problem using tools in the cloud or in an enterprise’s data center, the learning can then be deployed to an inferencing engine at the edge to run in real time.


Where does data science fit with IoT?

Data science, and particularly analytics, is used to systematically extract insights from data. For example, the occurrence of rare, random-looking patterns in data streams are early warning signs of a failure. It is a good first step toward AI.

Do I need to be reasonably numerate with IoT to succeed?

You don’t need a degree. However, you must be able to imagine what can be done with existing data (numbers) and new data derived from IoT measurements. For example, if a manufacturing process fails, adding extra measurement points will help detect where the failures originate. Conducting extra measurements and making data comparisons throughout a process provides insight.

Is it important to use the edge with IoT?

Data processing that happens at the location where data is created is key. Local insights are used to obtain rapid local action, and data need not be transported. For example, a building can be monitored by scheduling occasional reports (for example, once a minute), rather than continuously sending data to the cloud or a data center. Writing simple applications in an edge compute system is easier, since the resources can be dedicated to that task alone. Also, getting a solution production-ready is also easier, as fewer moving parts exist.

Must security be a huge concern with IoT?

Yes. IoT presents a large attack surface, so it is key that networking at the edge can be trusted and remains easy to use. Huge numbers of devices are an attractive target for bad guys to break into and misuse the computational capabilities. For example, a mass-scale denial-of-service attack can be launched through compromised IoT devices. Greenfield deployments often present security-by-design opportunities from HPE Pointnext Services. General-purpose Wi-Fi is insufficient, as IoT devices that lack keyboards cannot log into Wi-Fi systems using a “welcome” page. Rather, devices are given restricted entry onto the network, which employs AI to establish a profile of normal operation. For example, if a video camera is used, the camera should send video. However, if the camera accesses websites, it is functioning incorrectly. Controls can be configured to automatically isolate the device. This approach requires user and entity behavior analytics—for example, Aruba IntroSpect.

What is IIoT?

Industrial IoT is used in the manufacturing industry. It is the applications of IoT to industrial challenges.

Are IoT and digitization the same?

IoT is strictly an aspect of digitization (using data to drive a business), but in practice, the terms are used interchangeably with little consequence.

What is a thing? What is not a thing?

Anything! Any tangible object in the real world can be a thing, but data must be retrievable from the thing for it to be considered IoT. In the crudest case, that might involve mounting a camera in front of some analogue dials and taking pictures to record activities.

Now that your SAQs have been answered, let’s cover answers to FAQs about the IoT.

Answers to FAQs about the IoT

What is IoT in simple terms?

IoT is architecture that measures interactions in the real world, providing data that enhances the personal and business lives of users and creates new business opportunities. IoT illuminates data using direct evidence from the physical world to bring insights that drive action.

What is an example of IoT?

A video camera that collects and inspects images to identify defects is one example. In fact, HPE has a video case study, involving asset monitoring and production performance, that was conducted to automatically determine output status and prepare information to share across an organization (quality, operations, finance, customer support, engineering, data scientists, etc.).

Can Alexa be part of IoT?

Yes. As an application user interface that is part of the IoT ecosystem, Alexa can be used to report or command IoT actions.

What are examples of smart devices?

The smartphone is an obvious example of a smart device. It contains a user interface and sensors used by applications loaded on the device and is, therefore, a source of real-world data and a place to consume IoT insights. Other smart device examples include self-driving cars or sports and running watches, which collect and give feedback on runner data.

Why should we learn about IoT?

Learning about IoT helps IT decision-makers propose innovations that can drive improved business and personal outcomes. Implementing new solutions can save money and time, as well as improve safety and efficiency. But (and it is a huge but), as you focus on gaining useful outcomes that have valuable personal or business outcomes, don’t chase ideas that sound cute yet have little value. Bypass the tendency to prefer “favorite” ideas. It’s key to good decision-making and obtaining good returns on investment.

What is the importance of data growth in IoT?

The rapid expansion of data increases the volume of insights that can be extracted, enabling new business outcomes and opportunities. For example, on rotating machines (huge numbers of these exist), local sensors can monitor machine sounds to:

  1. Detect early stages of failure before a breakdown occurs,
  2. Show that a device is performing well, or
  3. Indicate that a next-scheduled maintenance can be cancelled.

Rotating machines become the foundation of a huge set of use cases. There are so many types of rotating machines, including where every electric motor in the world is found!

What is the role of artificial intelligence in IoT?

AI can be used to interpret data from IoT information obtained from the physical world, analyzed using data science and AI.

What are examples of IoT used in devices?

Examples include a robotic manufacturing machine, a physical environment sensor (like temperature, humidity, and light), or a remote-control light switch. Another example involves measuring the health of each physical system on a car (engine, brakes, transmission, satellite navigation, etc.) and determining if maintenance can be delayed (saving money) or brought forward (avoiding breakdown or failure). By doing this, a positive experience of the car can be maintained. This may please the owner who does not change vehicles very often. For the planet’s sake, maximizing the use of everything we make is essential.

What devices are part of IoT?

Almost everything we touch can be a part of IoT, but they must be able to provide information directly (from sensors) or indirectly (from video camera).

What are IoT applications?

An IoT application is used to gain insights from data. It can run in the cloud or in a data center at the edge—anywhere. It can run in your smartphone.

What are example applications of IoT?

IoT application examples include:

  • A house security camera that records and detects changes, while alerting a smartphone
  • An elevator-monitoring system that tracks proper functioning, so that engineers can make scheduled maintenance at a convenient time before failure
  • Drivers who are directed to vacant parking for their car in a smart city
  • Hospital patient monitoring
  • Listening for earthquakes

What is the future of IoT?

IoT will appear to vanish, as we will not explicitly see it. IoT will become a part of daily life everywhere. Already IoT applications are part of our everyday life.

Is IoT easy?

Brilliant question! Yes, IoT can be easy, but people make it difficult by misunderstanding how to obtain and use data to produce business outcomes they will value. Perfection is not essential, which makes IoT easier. If 50 percent of the benefit is easy to obtain at low cost, grab it now!

Is there too much hype?

Yes. So much time is wasted on trivial, low-value, and impractical use cases that decision-makers are becoming immune to IoT hype.

How does IoT work?

The workings of IoT happens in four steps:

  1. Collect data from the real world
  2. Analyze that data (possibly adding other data sources)
  3. Produce an insight
  4. Translate the insight into action that you can take to realize the experience in an outcome

What is IoT programming?

IoT programming involves working with data to produce outcomes. Besides using programming languages, well-known data analysis frameworks used in data science have a major role to play.

Which language is better for IoT?

Language is use case-dependent. Python works and is a great starting place, as many know how to use it.

Is Python good for IoT?

Yes, Python is great for starting and experimenting with Raspberry Pi, for example. Arduino is another great platform for learning using C/C++.

Is coding required for IoT?

IoT does not always require coding. Phones driven by Alexa may download apps that require simple configuration. At home, I use Kasa and Any.do. With other examples, the app will consist of tools you configure to get answers. PTC ThingWorx is an example.

How long does it take to learn IoT?

The bigger question is, how long does it take to unlearn IoT assumptions? IoT has hundreds of use cases. The numerous diversities can be confusing, since there are flavors of the same use case in different industries and different systems, providing thousands of examples. So let’s change the question to this: How long does it take to apply IoT to get an outcome that helps resolve a problem?

It is important to identify a problem looking for an answer and avoid using an IoT idea to look for a problem, which happens too often. So, for home automation, where the apps are built using components from smartphone app stores, it takes an evening to get started. To get a Raspberry Pi running with input/output in the physical world takes a day on average, assuming you can use a Raspberry Pi. For a first business application, a few days, maybe weeks, may be needed, depending on the complexity. Once you have experience with the first use case, it becomes easier, and then it takes three to five intensive weeks to understand the core use cases associated with the main outcomes.

Now you don’t need to wait around for the perfect time or wonder where to begin.

Make this the year you implement IoT platforms that get better ROI—platforms that make your work life efficient and effective.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.

Copyright 2020 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP.  Originally published on Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s thought leadership platform “Enterprise.nxt”, written by Colin I’Anson, https://www.hpe.com/us/en/insights/articles/what-is-iot–30-faqs-2003.html. Reproduced with Permission.


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