The Internet-of-Things (IoT) product is like a wedding party. You want it to be perfect. However, throwing a wedding party will always face various hiccups. Whatever efforts you take, the relatives of your spouse won’t be satisfied. At the same time, you can’t allow your IoT product to be imperfect, otherwise you’ll lose customers and money.
To ensure your IoT solution is good enough to present it to people, you have to manage its architecture to compose your product in the most effective way. Like the architecture of any other digital product, learning about IoT architecture is boring as hell. The JatApp team, as a company that puts creativity at the core of its solutions, accepts the challenge and will try to pin down the concept of IoT architecture, so you’ll be able to understand what type of architecture you need for your IoT product.
Different layers of the same pie
The main difficulty with learning about IoT architecture is that there is no common standard or classification that clearly defines individual components of an IoT solution. That’s like the recipe of your favorite pie, everyone has their own. That is why we suggest you get familiar with the most common types of IoT architecture, but before you do that, let’s provide an IoT architecture definition.
As a matter of fact, IoT architecture is a summary of components that create an IoT solution: hardware, software, protocols, gateways, and any other physical and logical elements that make an IoT solution work. Even though there is no distinct description of a perfect IoT architecture, there are common ways that divide IoT solutions into three, five, six, and seven interdependent levels.
Breaking IoT architecture into three layers is the most basic and general way to look at your IoT solution. At the same time, having only three layers makes your architecture plain, which is an evident benefit. Any architecture aims at simplifying the solution’s structure, which means three layers are good for the simplest IoT projects.
These layers are the following:
- Perception. This is the hardware layer. Sensors, connected devices, and actuators are all here.
- Network. Data goes through this layer, so it connects the perception layer with the application layer. Data and gateways are the main players at this layer as they bring the message to the back-end service of an IoT application.
- Application. That’s what users see and can click or tap. This layer is the starting point of data going through the application from connected devices and back. For instance, the JatApp team worked on development of the application for an autonomous platform for powerbank rental. Actually, with the help of this app, a user can rent a powerbank, get notified about leaving the connection area, and observe how much energy the powerbank has left. Please, excuse us for such clumsy repetition, but the app here represents the application layer in an IoT solution.
Needless to say, such scope of IoT architecture is somewhat limited but it can be sufficient for simple and small IoT projects that don’t require any sophistication.
Five-layered architecture includes already familiar to you perception, network, and application. But you can refine your IoT product pie with two extra layers: middleware layer and business layer.
Middleware layer comes after the network and presents storage, data processing, and decision-making based on the data taken from the network.
As for the business layer, it doesn’t depend on any technology, it’s actually one of the ways users can see how the entire IoT network architecture works. Usually, the business layer includes flowcharts, dashboards, and such to visualize performance of the entire system.
For example, the JatApp team developed a monitoring platform for electric vehicles charging stations to enable the client, businesses, and electric vehicles drivers to observe the status of charging points. In this case, the web and mobile application serve the purpose of a business layer once users can monitor performance status of connected charging stations.
Solution’s screen with charging points connectivity status
This type of architecture is different from those we’ve already covered. There are the following components of this IoT architecture:
- IoT devices. The layer of devices includes not only connected items but also any supplementary hardware like connectors, Internet gateways, power blocks and so on. In other words, this layer is all about hardware and nothing else.
- Edge computing. You can spot the term fog computing that means the same thing. The main principle behind this concept is bringing data sources as close as possible to the connected devices. Imagine your data cloud as a real cloud in the sky. Do you see the edges of this cloud? That is where data nodes are located to make sure that data goes to IoT devices faster and safer. Beyond a doubt, those nodes have to be a separate layer in the IoT architecture.
- Connectivity and data transport. It is somewhat similar to network layer but it specifically aims at moving data back and forth between layers while the network layer’s scale is connection of the IoT system to backend services.
- IoT platforms. Modern IoT platforms usually exist in clouds, where the whole IoT stack assembles together. That’s why the main purpose of IoT platforms is to connect data, IoT devices, and applications in one efficient system. Actually, IoT platforms are a subject to a big discussion, which is why we recommend you read our dedicated article.
- Data management. Your IoT system needs to do a lot of things with data. Gathering, storage, modeling according to business logic, sorting, and other processes require a special attention and a separate layer for them.
- Application. Application means application, and we’ve already discussed it.
That is the most detailed IoT architecture you can often encounter. We need to say that more IoT layers are possible, since every single IoT product has its unique requirements that you can satisfy by dividing its architecture into as many layers as necessary to ensure that it works like a well-oiled machine. That is the only principle JatApp follows when we work on IoT solutions.
Okay, enough for philosophic digressions, let’s describe the layers:
- Physical devices and controllers. We have already talked about this type of layer. Since there is no need to repeat it again, we’ll jump into the next layer right away.
- Connectivity. This layer is responsible for making the hardware connected and capable of sending data to the rest of the network. Also, data gathered with a connected device is processed at this level.
- Edge computing. Have been there, discussed that.
- Data accumulation. In other words, it is a storage layer. In the era of Big Data, you need to manage your cloud storage as a separate entity, otherwise numerous problems can unexpectedly arise.
- Data abstraction. By the same token, management of different types of data plus authorization of access to it are processes that can’t be managed on the go together with other tasks. For that reason, data aggregation and access take their own layer in the IoT architecture.
- Application. The principle of this layer doesn’t change in any type of architecture. We won’t repeat ourselves here as well.
- Collaboration and processes. By collaboration and processes some kind of extended business layer and logic is meant. This layer is better explained with an example, and we have a relevant one. JatApp developed the user interface/user experience (UI/UX) design for a building energy management system powered with artificial intelligence (AI). The system gathers data from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) sensors and adjusts HVAC performance to create the most acceptable living conditions inside the building. Although, the initial data about the building and its HVAC system should be submitted manually to supply AI with enough information to process. Under these circumstances, the collaboration and processes layer represents such interaction between users, connected devices, and the whole IoT network.
Build your IoT product the way you want
We have described the most prominent IoT architecture types, while there are no rules or standards to follow. You need to think about your product first and then what architecture will suit it best. One way or another, composing the right IoT structure for your product requires a strong tech team who can nail such tasks without having any major challenges.
JatApp can provide you with professional experts who can develop a quality IoT solution. Our company has the largest pool of talents in Eastern Europe, which is why we deliver products that satisfy 99% of our customers.
Overcome your IoT architecture challenges by contacting us. We’ll reach out to you as soon as possible.