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The Complexity Behind the Internet of Things

December 18, 2017

Transport electrification and real-time information systems are gaining more and more ground within the population, but also in development projects. Consequently, a growing demand for smart and connected objects has emerged. This is what we call the Internet of Things. Indeed, the Internet of Things can make transportation services smarter. Cars, trains, buses and bicycles are increasingly equipped with sensors to process and enhance information. Now we have access to mobile apps that track our bus route in real time. This is actually the case of the Société des transports de Montréal, which developed an application like this in 2017. The daily use of cell phones is accelerating the demand for instant access to information, resulting in numerous connectivity projects.

What’s the Internet of Things?

It’s the addition of connectivity technologies to traditional objects that allow them to interact more efficiently with the user, their environment and other objects, transmit data remotely and facilitate control. With these features, the products then become of a changing and flexible nature, thus bringing several functional as well as commercial benefits. By 2020, the Gartner Institute plans more than 50 billion connected objects on the market

With these new demands for smart and connected products, industries must adapt and, above all, integrate this change. They can now benefit from true closed-loop product lifecycle management, where they can track, manage, and control product information at any stage of their lifecycle, anytime and anywhere in the world. There is, however, some complexity behind the Internet of Things.

How do smart and connected objects work?

Smart and connected products have three main components:

  • Physical components

These are the basic components of the traditional product. They include the mechanical and electrical parts of the product. In a bus, for example, they correspond, among others, to the engine block, the tires and the batteries.

  • Smart components

They include sensors, microprocessors, data storage, controls, software, and generally, an integrated operating system and an improved user interface. In a bus, for example, these are components such as the engine control unit, the anti-lock braking system, the rain-sensing automated windshield wipers and the touch screens. In many products, software replaces hardware components or allows a single physical device to operate at different levels.

  • Connectivity components

They include ports, antennas, and communication protocols that allow information exchange with the product. We also observe these components in buses that allow automatic updating of location data to allow users to follow the bus in real time.

Smart components amplify the capabilities and value of physical components, while connectivity amplifies the capabilities and value of smart components and allows some of them to exist outside of the physical product itself. This interaction generates a virtuous cycle that results in improved value that the product can offer to both the user and the manufacturer.

Challenges and issues overcome with Merkur

With the complexity behind the Internet of Things in mind, we now need to know how to apply it appropriately. In particular, several challenges and issues arise from the connectivity between objects such as the integration of all the components mentioned above, the tests and the security of the information. Specialist help is usually needed and recommended. At Merkur, our expert engineers in mechatronics, embedded systems and computing work to integrate system connectivity.

If you are considering integrating the Internet of Things into your future products or systems, Merkur can support you in defining and implementing your IoT strategy, in researching the best adapted technologies and in developing applications and innovative features integrated into your products.

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