Azure Internet of Things (also known as Azure IoT) is a collection of cloud services managed by Microsoft that monitor, connect and control billions of IoT assets. Basically, this is a solution that operates in the cloud and is made up of 1 or more IoT devices and 1 or more back-end services that communicate with one another. Organizations across all industries use Azure IoT to help them improve their business and achieve their IoT goals.
There are three main parts that make up an IoT solution – devices, back-end services, and communication between the two. In this blog, we’ll dig in a little more into these components, different IoT services, and possible challenges.
How to Use Azure IoT
IoT devices are pretty much anything that has a sensor attached to it and can transmit data from one object to another or to people with the help of the internet. Typically, they are attached to a particular object that operates through the internet, enabling the transfer of data among objects or people automatically without human intervention. It’s also important to note that many of these devices can communicate through a Wi-Fi chip as well. Some examples of IoT devices that work with Azure IoT may include:
- Pressure sensors on a remote oil pump
- Temperature and humidity sensors in an air-conditioning unit
- Accelerometers in an elevator
- Presence sensors in a room
With Azure IoT Hub you can connect, manage and scale your IoT devices to communicate securely with back-end services in both directions. Here are some examples of how this communication works:
- Your device may send temperature from a mobile refrigeration truck every 5 minutes to an IoT Hub.
- The back-end service can ask the device to send telemetry more frequently to help diagnose a problem.
- Your device can send alerts based on the values read from its sensors. For example, if monitoring a batch reactor in a chemical plant, you may want to send an alert when the temperatures exceeds a certain value.
Here are some of the functions a back-end service can provide:
- Receiving telemetry at scale from your devices, and determining how to process and store that data.
- Analyzing the telemetry to provide insights, either in real-time or after the fact.
- Sending commands from the cloud to a specific device.
- Provisioning devices and control which devices can connect to your infrastructure.
- Control the state of your devices and monitor their activities.
Azure IoT Services Offered
Microsoft offers eight IoT services in Azure. With so many different options it can be confusing to figure out which one best fits your needs. Depending on how much help and control you want in building your own solution will affect which service is the best one for you. Here are the available services and what they can be used for:
- IoT Central: This application platform makes the creation of IoT solutions more simple and helps reduce the load and cost of IoT management operations, and development. This service is intended for straightforward solutions that don’t require a significant amount of service customization.
- IoT solution accelerators: This is a group of PaaS solutions that can be used to accelerate development of an IoT solution.
- IoT Hub: This service allows you to monitor and control billions of IoT devices by logging into an IoT hub from your devices. This is especially helpful if you need communication that goes both ways between your devices and back-end. This is the primary service for IoT solution accelerators and IoT Central.
- IoT Hub Device Provisioning Service: This service helps IoT Hub in that you can use this to securely provision devices to your IoT hub. Instead of provisioning millions of devices one at a time, this service gives you the ability to quickly and easily provision millions of devices all at once.
- IoT Edge: This service can be used to analyze data on IoT devices instead of in the cloud. This is a service that builds on top of IoT Hub.
- Azure Digital Twins: This service enables you to create comprehensive models of the physical environment.
- Time Series Insights: This service allows you to store, visualize, and query extensive amounts of time series data that is generated by an IoT device.
- Azure Maps: This service provides geographic data to web and mobile applications.
Things to consider
All IoT devices have different characteristics when compared to other clients, such as apps and browsers. Azure IoT devices, tools and data analytics may help you manage these to achieve your IoT goals. But, adopting IoT technologies can present its own set of challenges. While reducing IoT application costs and easing development efforts are important things to consider when implementing an IoT solution, connecting devices securely and reliably is often the biggest challenge most organizations encounter when using IoT services.