The Internet of Things (IoT) is simply a term that describes the avalanche of new kind of devices connected through the internet. This includes sensors, generators, switches etc. The number of these devices connected today and in the future will not only exceed the Earth’s population, but will be much much more.

Most of these devices are simple in nature. Take for instance a refrigerator connected to the internet. It needs to send status about itself, say every hour. Also it needs to send an SOS message when something goes wrong. If you look at the data that is sent to the central command, it’s quite mundane in nature. The variety is restricted to 2 types: Status and Error. Overall for both these message a single bit can denote the type of message and remaining say 4 bytes for data. This is not at all that big. But imagine millions of refrigerators connected to the internet, signalling every hour. Now we are talking volumes. Variety may not be that much, but if you consider different types of devices, there you go, you have variety too.

However, remember that these devices do not need a complicated protocol stack like IP to manage sent / received data. The edge devices are quite simple in nature. And require a lightweight protocol to transmit and receive data. Thus we come across three different types of devices in the Internet of Things world :

  1. Edge Devices
  2. Propagators
  3. Integrators

The edge devices are the individual devices like sensors. The propagators are the devices which aggregate the messages received from most of these edge devices. More or less like a router. They know where to send the data (to other propagators or integrators) and formatting the message to an internet friendly way. Propagators are responsible for making the edge device data internet friendly. It transmits either the individual messages or aggregated or pruned data on to the internet. The Integrators receive the data from propagators and analyse them. (typically big data analytic tools).  If the communications is two-way, then integrators send a message back to the propagators which in turn covert the IP message and forward it to the edge devices.

The communication from edge devices are called chirps. They chirp regularly and the propagators are responsible for converting the chirps into IP friendly format.In two-way communication, the IP packet is converted to chirps by propagators and sent back to the edge devices.

The Internet of Things will explode in the coming age and you will soon find most of the devices connected to the internet through Wi-Fi, Wired, ZigBee or other formats. Be ready for a more user friendly world.