Andrew Prokop | February 01, 2016 |
Internet of Things: Hardware

If you haven't been paying attention to IoT (Internet of Things), you've been missing out on one of the most important technology trends in the last several years. Simply put, IoT assigns IP addresses to everything from thermostats to refrigerators. This allows these devices to participate in a control and information Web that allows even the humblest of gadgets to become part of comprehensive, network- and Internet-based solutions.

Examples of real life IoT include:

  • Jewelry store chain, Alex and Ani, uses IoT technology to track customer movement throughout a store. This allows each store to optimize product displays to maximize sales.
  • UPS equips its trucks with IoT sensors that monitor and report on speed, miles per gallon, and the health of the engine.
  • John Deere created IoT devices that inform farmers of the moisture content and temperature of the soil on their farms.
  • Disney's MagicBands allow vacationers to do everything from buy lunch, go through turnstiles, and make reservations for special attractions.

I could go on and on about IoT products and solutions, but I am sure you get the point. Gathering data from all these disparate data points allows us to monitor, control, and implement change from centralized, network-based services. The more we know about something in real-time, the easier it becomes to achieve the results we desire.

I am a software guy, and I tend to approach everything from the standpoint of computer languages and coding. I figured that if you write enough lines of Java code you have yourself an IoT solution. Of course, software without the hardware to run it is just a bunch of worthless bits and bytes.

The more I explore IoT and the world of embedded sensors and wearable devices, the more I see how important its ecosystem of development boards is. Let's face it, you can't expect someone to walk around with a PC strapped to his or her arm. You want specialized hardware that can be miniaturized to the point where the wearer is oblivious to its size.

Despite my software slant, it didn't take me too much time and effort to gain a real appreciation for the platforms that developers are turning to when they want to hang an IP address off a parking meter or headband. That investigation led me to this list of the top boards used by the leading IoT solutions. While it's far from complete, these six hardware platforms are found in many of the leading IoT solutions.

A closer look at some of the top boards used by the leading IoT solutions.
Internet of Things: Hardware A closer look at some of the top boards used by the leading IoT solutions.

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