Understanding IoT devices is an important addition to your knowledge. Building your own can be an increasingly important skill set.
Internet of Things devices are everywhere. Close to 40 billion and counting. I find it harder to buy household or automotive products that aren’t connected. So, I am writing a short series of articles about how you can build your own.
Understanding IoT devices is aided by a ton of online information. I will just focus on how we can build them to support our radio hobbies. Basically, I find a lot of ways to automate things we have always done manually. Remember the old days of standing up to change channels on your television?
At the core, IoT devices do two things. First, you can use them to collect information A simple example is a remote thermometer that shows up on your home network. Second, you can use them to perform actions. A simple example is a smart light bulb that responds to your voice commends over Alexa. Third, some do both. You can set up an IoT light sensor or thermometer to respond to changes in daylight or temperature.
The heart of IoT is a microcontroller and wireless system on chip, like the NodeMCU. Costs $3. Use the general purpose inputs and outputs (GPIO) to connect to things like sensors, relays, motors or other neat modules. Then, you can use the wireless to request and receive data (read a sensor) or to send commands (close a relay, turn a motor.)
While the NodeMCU focuses on 802.11 wireless networks, other devices simply send and receive data directly over UHF. Some also use Bluetooth. I find it most useful to get my IoT device to show up on my home network, so I can use it anywhere in and around my house.
Understanding IoT Devices – How To Connect
So, once you have your device online, how do you connect with it? For me, the simplest approach is just to write a windows client program and connect using a TCP socket. A socket is two numbers: internet address and connection port. But, that’s me.
If you are not into writing programs, you can point your IoT device towards the cloud, and just connect using a web browser. Or, you can use a Raspberry Pi to build a hub in your house for your IoT devices. Various software and standards are available to mediate your connections. It’s even easy to write an App for your Android phone using visual tools.