What is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (or IoT technology as it is known) simply refers to the inter-connection of devices over the internet. This ability creates opportunities for integrating every day physical world objects (electricity meters to toasters) into computer-based systems (smart electricity meters to smart toasters), resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit.
According to Gartner, there will be nearly 20.8 billion devices on the Internet of things by 2020. These devices may already be in your home in the guise of smart lighting, smart heating or even something like the new Amazon Echo.
IoT for businesses
However, IoT is far more than just a home gadget. It can be scaled up to include organisations, industry and even central Government. IoT systems can be employed by supermarkets, automatically knowing when shelf items need to be replenished; by cities, to monitor and adjust traffic flow in real time and in healthcare, providing constant, live monitoring and providing timely alerts and potentially saving lives.
Azure Cloud Computing
Azure is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform. It provides a wide range of cloud services, including a suite of services for IoT technology. These include the IoT Event Hub, Notification Hubs, Machine Learning and Power BI. Solutions running on Microsoft Azure can be rapidly developed, scaled out from a few to a million devices and the information then accessed anywhere in the world on multiple devices. Learn more about Silversand’s Azure support and IoT systems.
A Customised IoT System for the Silversands Office
To demonstrate these capabilities, we have created a simple IoT system example here at Silversands: a solution to monitor, record, analyse and display, in real time, the temperature and light levels.
Microsoft micro:bit PXT
For an IoT sensor we chose the BBC Microbit, an inexpensive versatile embedded device that contains a wide range of sensors which are simple to program, utilising the Microsoft Programming Experience Toolkit (PXT).
Light and temperature levels are transmitted from the Microbit to a host PC, either through a USB or a Bluetooth connection.
.NET Console Application
To receive the information, a .NET console application was written in C#. This samples the information transmitted from the Microbit and relays it to the IoT Cloud. It should be noted that this is the only element that has been traditionally developed in this example.
Microsoft Azure Event Hub
Within the IoT Cloud, the information is received via the Microsoft Azure Event Hub.
Microsoft define an Azure Event Hub as “a hyper-scale telemetry ingestion service that collects, transforms, and stores millions of events”. I like to think of the Event Hub as a very large bucket where events can pour in fast as you want.
Microsoft Azure Event Stream
After being received within the Event Hub the information is transformed and streamed out to Microsoft Power BI for visualisation via an Azure Stream Analytics Job. The stream can be likened to a hole in the bucket with a specific filter, only allowing events meeting a specific criterion to stream through. Multiple streams can then be configured to stream events to different locations.
In addition to transforming and streaming the incoming events to the defined outputs, the service allows alerts to be configured. In the screenshot an alert has been created to automatically send an email, in the case we stop receiving events.
Microsoft Power BI Dashboard
As already mentioned, for our example, we chose to stream the readings to Microsoft Power BI. Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based business analytics service that presents real time data in easy to understand dashboards, allowing users to make rapid decisions on time-sensitive data and to easily see emergent trends as they happen. Dashboards can be viewed in real time via the web browser, on a tablet, a smartphone, on a smartwatch and even by posing a question to Cortana.
Microsoft Power BI Dashboard Alerts
One of the most useful features of the Power BI dashboard is the ability to quickly and simply set threshold alerts on the data. By simply clicking on the Temperature tile, a user can create an alert notification, sending an email notification them when the room is too cold.
Implement an IoT System for Business
This is a very simple example of what’s possible. It took a very short time to set up but clearly illustrates the potential for companies to adopt IoT systems within an organisations infrastructure, from simple operational tasks to highly complex data monitoring, display and analysis.
To summarise, The Internet of Things is far more than just a buzzword. It provides exciting opportunities to centralise, understand and act on the information within your business and Microsoft provides the end to end tools to accomplish this.
If you would like more information on how we can help you with IoT applications and technology, Power BI or any of the Microsoft products mentioned here, please get in touch with Silversands, an Internet of Things company by calling 01202 360000 or fill out the form below.