IoT Technology

Rectangle 17

Learn about the technology underpinning the Internet of Things (IoT) with a special focus on device positioning and location tracking. Demystify the IoT technology stack to drive maximum value from commercial and industrial device deployments.

An Orientation to IoT Applications

The term IoT is broadly applicable to a wide range of devices and objects. It is used to describe virtually any type of physical object that is connected to the Internet in order to communicate with other devices or systems. From there, it’s possible to divide the IoT space into three main categories by end user:

  • Commercial IoT refers to devices and systems for business and enterprise use. These can vary broadly by sector. IoT is increasingly leveraged in healthcare, event venues, office buildings, and more.
  • Consumer IoT refers to B2C systems or products, such as wearablespersonal medical alert devices, or mobile phones.   
  • Industrial IoT refers to devices and systems used in manufacturing or industrial purposes. Examples include supply chain asset tracking and fleet tracking

This page explains the technological foundations of large-scale IoT deployments across all of these categories. It should be useful for businesses looking to create or improve IoT products or services, as well as those developing internal or proprietary IoT systems for asset tracking, fleet tracking, or any other specialized logistics application.

Learn More About IoT Use Cases

What are the Core Elements of IoT Technology?

Regardless of the end user, all IoT systems have a set of core technical requirements. These requirements can be broadly grouped into the following categories, and each category could be fulfilled by a wide range of solutions. 

  • Hardware: Hardware refers to the physical components of IoT devices, which vary greatly depending on the use case. Consumer IoT often includes devices such as laptops, phones, or wearables; popular commercial and industrial IoT hardware includes smart appliances and machines, IoT sensors, smart city infrastructure, and more.
  • Software: Every IoT system needs some kind of software to give human operators insights and control. This requirement can be fulfilled by a device’s native operating system or an application-specific IoT platform. 
  • Connectivity: Network connectivity allows the devices to communicate with each other and with the system software. Learn more about IoT connection types.     
  • Positioning: Most IoT use cases either require or can benefit from device positioning capabilities – the ability to track and/or respond to the location of individual IoT devices or sensors. Considering this functionality independently from other IoT technology can help identify optimization opportunities.

Designing a cost-effective IoT solution is often a question of building a tech stack that meets the needs of the use case for the lowest cumulative cost. 

White Paper: Making the Internet of Everything a Reality

Why do IoT Devices Need Positioning?

Device positioning capabilities often play a key role in the utility and value of IoT systems. In some cases, they are central to the system’s core function, as is the case with asset tracking, fleet tracking, and personal safety devices. These devices are essentially useless if they can’t convey their location. 

There are also instances where positioning adds value to the end user in the form of location-based services, which may be as simple as automatically setting a device’s clock or as complex as triggering specific notifications and activities when a device crosses a specific threshold. Location data can also be valuable to device manufacturers. For example, OEMs and leasing companies may be interested to confirm where products are being shipped and used. 

Because some degree of positioning capabilities may be offered by other parts of the IoT tech stack, positioning needs can sometimes be an afterthought when considering an IoT project’s technical requirements. However, some circumstances exist where a system's connectivity, network, hardware, or software limitations don’t support the level of positioning that the use case calls for. In these cases, an additional positioning integration is useful.

Additionally, understanding positioning options can shed light on ways to reduce costs of an IoT deployment without sacrificing functionality. For instance, a software-based positioning solution can add positioning to low-resource devices without significantly impacting hardware costs or bandwidth requirements.

Locating IoT Devices: Focus on LPWAN Networks

How do you Determine IoT Device Positioning Needs?

Evaluating an IoT system’s positioning needs can help determine software, hardware, and bandwidth requirements. It can also help keep costs low by ensuring that valuable resources aren’t wasted by delivering a higher level of device positioning than the use case calls for. 

Not every device requires high-precision, real-time location tracking. Frequency, accuracy, and timing of location reporting are determined by the application. Questions to consider when adding location to an IoT device include:

  • How frequently do you need location?  Will devices need to be traced in real-time, or do you only need to know the location during certain events or intervals?
  • How accurate does the location need to be?  Can you justify allocating the resources required to deliver pinpoint accuracy, or can you save money with a lower-resource or flexible positioning option?
  • Does the device itself need to know its location?  Will there be an interface on the device that allows location data to be accessed or is the location only useful to a centralized service? The answer to this may make certain technologies more appealing than others.

Generally, higher frequency and precision requirements call for higher device and network resources, but even in these cases, certain implementation strategies can help reduce bandwidth and power demands. Access the white paper to learn more about IoT positioning techniques to preserve battery life and network resources.

What is the Best IoT Positioning Solution?

Software-based hybrid Wi-Fi positioning technology can help optimize location capabilities with minimal BOM impact. This solution supports positioning needs for global IoT coverage, indoors and outdoors, whether devices are online and offline, effectively providing the benefits of Wi-Fi, cellular, and GPS/GNSS positioning technologies with the flexibility, ease of integration, and scalability benefits of software implementation. 

Skyhook's Precision Location for IoT 

Skyhook Precision Location hybrid positioning software can be used to bring smartphone-level IoT positioning to nearly any type of connected device. Skyhook is the leading independent location solutions provider and Precision Location technology is found on devices from leading brands worldwide. Advantages of Precision Location include:

  • Multiple integration options suitable for low- and high-resource devices alike
  • Flexible configurations to support battery and bandwidth preservation
  • Reliable, accurate indoor and outdoor positioning on any device worldwide
  • Support for offline device positioning and reverse geocoding

Contact us to talk to a location expert about the best positioning options for your IoT application, or to start your next IoT project with Precision Location.

Additional Resources for IoT Positioning

Talk to a Positioning Expert

Ask your location questions, or share your mobile phone positioning challenges. We’ll be in touch to answer your questions and explain how Skyhook can work for your unique application.