Today’s digital world is seeing the advent of billions of devices including computers, laptops, mobile phones, electronic and electrical appliances, and so on. These devices are found almost everywhere and they can be connected together to create better applications. With the number of devices growing at a staggering pace, businesses are forced to build solutions that can link these devices together and communicate with them to report, manage and analyze the data generated from these devices. Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the common methods to connect these devices together through the internet with the help of software or sensors.

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What Is AWS IoT?

By definition, Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT is a managed cloud service offering (platform) that allows connected devices to interact with AWS cloud applications as well as other devices. The AWS IoT platform offers bidirectional and secure communication between the connected devices and the AWS cloud over the internet. The devices could be anything - from appliances, sensors to microcontrollers. The platform connects IoT devices to the cloud and allows them to interact with each other and various IoT applications in a secure manner.

The intelligence comes into picture where it helps the business to collect and measure data, analyze and store it within the AWS cloud infrastructure for further processing. Businesses can also create their own applications that will allow users to control the devices through mobile phones, tablets or laptops. Once your business is connected to the AWS cloud platform, you can easily manage your application (or solution) through the AWS console.

The AWS IoT platform is built on the AWS cloud infrastructure which is used by various enterprises around the world. As a result, enterprises can easily take advantage of the AWS IoT platform, build IoT solutions for any possible use case and scale the business according to their requirements. Connecting devices together opens up a plethora of use cases and helps businesses to drive down the cost while achieving improved productivity and efficiency. What’s more interesting is that when integrated with Artificial Intelligence (AI) services, the devices can be connected without an internet connection.

So, why should you use AWS IoT?

AWS Cloud infrastructure offers serverless services and tools on which businesses can develop their applications. Provisioning capabilities and scalability needs are automatically taken care of within the infrastructure. Especially, for startup companies, this reduces the cost of developing an initial prototype product as well as the maintenance costs. Being serverless means that businesses have to pay only for what they use within the infrastructure.

AWS IoT is built on a robust, scalable and secure infrastructure that can cater to billions of devices and messages. While security is a key for businesses, AWS ensures that the data exchange between the platform and the devices remains secure throughout. With inbuilt security mechanisms like authentication, authorization, encryption, the platform ensures security during every step of the data exchange process. Businesses can also enforce their own security policies to monitor the data exchange process.

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How Your Devices And Apps Access AWS IOT?

AWS IoT core offers businesses the flexibility to choose from different communication protocols such as Message Queuing and Telemetry Transport (MQTT), MQTT over Websockets Secure (WSS), Hypertext Transfer Protocol - Secure (HTTPS), and Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN). 

Businesses looking to build applications to connect to devices can take advantage of the following interfaces offered by AWS IoT: 

AWS IoT Device SDKs

The AWS IoT Device SDKs offer open-source libraries, developer documentation guides with samples that help developers to build solutions or products to connect the devices to the AWS cloud. The SDK can be used on IoT devices and supports programming languages such as C++, Python, Java, JavaScript along with support for native Android and iOS. The SDK enables businesses to set up a two-way communication between the devices and the AWS IoT platform.

AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN

The AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN gives businesses the option to connect wireless devices that use the long range WAN protocol for long-range and low-power connectivity with the AWS cloud setup. Customers can set up a private LoRaWAN network by connecting the devices to the AWS cloud. This eliminates the need to set up, operate and maintain a custom LoRaWAN network server (LNS) infrastructure. 

The AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN has inbuilt capabilities to manage the device connections to the cloud. It enables businesses to send messages to the applications through API calls. It also has built-in capabilities with the AWS IoT Core Rules engine. The device data is automatically transformed as per the requirement and routed to the cloud. On the operational front, the AWS IoT core for LoRaWAN significantly reduces the cost of managing devices with its flexible, pay-as-you-go pricing model. Businesses can take advantage of being able to reliably scale their setup based on the needs and in a cost-effective manner.

AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI)

The AWS CLI allows users to control (interact with) multiple instances of AWS services through command line inputs. Users can run the commands on Windows, Linux and macOS to manage policies, rules, objects, certificates. The CLI provides businesses with direct access to the public APIs of the different AWS services. For instance, the business can develop/customize custom CLI scripts to manage the devices.

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AWS IoT API

Businesses can develop applications or solutions using the HTTP or HTTPS protocol. Similar to the AWS CLI, users can use the APIs to programmatically manage policies, objects, rules, certificates specific to the endpoints.

AWS IoT Services

AWS IoT offers a range of services to connect with the devices, operate and collect data from the devices and perform specific actions on the data and store the information in the AWS cloud. These services are divided into three major types - Device Software, Connectivity and Control Services, and Analytics services. Let’s explore these services in detail in the below sections - 

Device Software

AWS provides dedicated services to connect the devices and operate them at the edge. Few of the device software services are as follows - 

FreeRTOS - AWS offers FreeRTOS, an open-source and real-time operating system, to deploy and manage devices such as sensors (microcontrollers). In recent years, microcontrollers are used in various devices such as sensors, fitness bands, electrical appliances, and so on. Connecting these devices to the cloud can open up numerous benefits when using these devices.

One of the advantages of this operating system is its ease of use, robustness and reliability. This service is made available under the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) open source license. Devices that do not have the compute power or the memory capability to carry out small tasks can take advantage of the FreeRTOS to connect to the cloud or with other devices. The operating system provides the support to run low-power devices which makes it easy for devices to connect with other edge devices.

AWS IoT Greengrass - Greengrass is an open-source runtime and cloud service service that allows businesses to build, deploy, and manage device software faster and in an intelligent manner. It works on the principle that allows devices to be local to the data that is generated and use the cloud to store the data, perform data management and real-time analytics. Messaging between the local devices can be set up via the MQTT protocol along with a secure connection to the cloud infrastructure.

You can build components that can be easily added or removed from the infrastructure. If your business is looking for an option of having a less centralized processing platform for managing the IoT devices, then AWS IoT Greengrass is your go-to service. Developers can implement the concept of machine learning, add Docker containers and securely communicate with the rest of the devices.

Connectivity and Control Services

AWS provides dedicated services to secure the devices, control and manage the devices directly from the cloud. Few of the services are:

AWS IoT Core - The AWS IoT core service allows all connected devices to securely interact with the applications running on the AWS cloud infrastructure as well as other devices. Businesses can connect billions of devices and send millions of messages to the AWS cloud infrastructure in a secure manner.

The AWS IoT Device SDK, as explained in the earlier section, helps to connect the hardware device (or a mobile application) to the AWS IoT core. This means that devices can connect with the AWS IoT core, authenticate and exchange the messages with the AWS IoT core by using communication protocols like MQTT, HTTP/HTTPS or MQTT over Web Socket Protocols.

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AWS IoT Device Defender - One of the challenging tasks for businesses is the increase in the number of IoT devices and the pressure to maintain security and monitor the devices. AWS offers the Device Defender tool to keep on top of security threats and issues that exist in the IoT environment setup. Businesses can configure audits to monitor the IoT environments, set up Device Defender to monitor the IoT environments and configure the defender to automatically take actions on common issues that can occur in the IoT environment. This ensures that the IoT configurations are not deviating from the best practices established within the organization.

The Device Defender can also be customized to trigger out custom notifications (alerts) when something is not right in the environment. One of the common examples is unexpected traffic peaks that might indicate a possible DDoS attack. In these cases, the defender service will trigger an alarm when there is a spike in the traffic. This ensures you can take action on time to avoid any security threats in the IoT environment.

AWS IoT Device Management - IoT environments contain millions of devices. It becomes important for the business to keep a track of these devices, monitor them for any security threats as well as manage the devices. With AWS IoT Device Management, businesses can easily manage devices, securely register, organize, and monitor the devices at ease. You can also troubleshoot the device’ functionality as well as push firmware updates (OTA). The Device Management also offers the capability for users to update the device software after the device has been put into use in the field. The AWS IoT Device Management helps businesses to reduce the cost and effort in managing large IoT device deployments.

The business benefit of using the device management service is that you can onboard devices faster, add them to possible groups and set up policies for each device group. This makes it easy to manage devices, apply firmware updates and set up how devices communicate with other devices in the group. That’s not all! It becomes easy to find the location of devices in real-time based on device specific parameters like device state, device id, device type and so on.

Analytics Services

AWS IoT offers analytics services that can work faster and effectively on the data received from the devices and perform operations to extract meaningful value from the data. Few of the services are as follows - 

AWS IoT SiteWise - SiteWise is a managed service offering from AWS that simplifies the collection, organization and analysis of data from industrial equipment at scale. SiteWise generates real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) for industrial customers to make better business decisions. Once the SiteWise is configured in the customer’s IoT environment and data from the devices reaches the AWS cloud, the analytics process kicks in and the service automatically computes the metrics during the interval defined by the customer. These metrics can be viewed directly on the SiteWise console or on custom applications that run on top of the console. By implementing SiteWise in their IoT environment, businesses can leave it to the service to monitor and keep track of their devices and focus on better optimization of their business process. 

AWS IoT Events - AWS IoT events is also a managed service offering that simplifies the efforts needed to detect and respond to events from various IoT sensors and applications. Unlike the classical case of building custom applications for data collection, applying business logic to detect an event and then triggering a new application to respond to the event, with Events, the process is simpler and capable of detecting events from multiple sources and responding to them based on a simple “if-then-else” business logic.

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Few advantages of using AWS IoT Events is that you can easily ingest various sources of data and trigger notifications/alarms as required by the business process. Writing rules is not a complicated task - just simple “if-then-else” statements. For example, when the temperature of the device reaches a specific point, trigger an action to initiate device cooldown sequence. In normal circumstances, the device shall continue to report telemetry data at regular intervals.

AWS IoT Analytics - AWS IoT Analytics is a managed service offering that makes it simpler for businesses to run and operationalize sophisticated analytics on massive volumes of IoT data. It can automatically support petabytes of IoT data. The analytics service performs automation on each of the steps that are required to analyze the data from IoT devices. The service can also collect only the required data (as configured by the business), process and enrich the data with additional information, and store the processed data in the cloud. The stored data can be accessed from the storage by running simple queries built using the SQL query engine. The other advantage of using AWS IoT analytics is the support for applying machine learning to the IoT data with Jupyter notebooks. For example, businesses can apply machine learning algorithms to the data generated from the devices to produce a health score for each device. Similar to the other services, the analytics service is a pay-as-you-go service that can scale automatically to support petabytes of IoT data.

AWS IoT Use Cases

In this section, let’s take a look at some of the industrial use cases where AWS IoT can be effectively put in use.

Build Optimized Industrial Applications

AWS IoT allows businesses to create industrial IoT applications along with cloud computing and data analytics. With AWS IoT in place, businesses can deploy various sensors across their operational facility to generate data. The data can be collected from each source, analyzed to identify any potential gaps from the original process and trigger necessary action in case of any failures. By implementing IoT, industries can transform their existing business models to improve the business productivity and performance. 

Few real-time use cases examples can be to monitor the condition of industrial assets and generate reports in case of excessive temperature, vibration, and so on. Another classic case is to detect the status of the equipment, perform a health check and predict their maintenance schedule. By doing this, industries can avoid unexpected equipment breakdown and disruption to the process.

Develop Connected Consumer Applications

This is a classic IoT example - AWS IoT helps to connect home-based appliances together and securely build a scalable IoT solution. The solution can collect, analyze, process, store the data from these devices on the AWS cloud as well as take necessary action on this data. This helps to build solutions and experiences that deliver value to both businesses and consumers.

The real-time use case example of connected consumer applications include setting up a connected home network. Say, for instance, critical elements in the home such as security camera, gas leak detectors, water leak detectors etc., can be connected with IoT sensors to automatically detect leaks or threats. In such cases, machine learning can be applied on the events and it can automatically raise an alert to an application running on the owner’s mobile phone. What’s more interesting is that all these data computation can happen locally without the need for an internet connection.

Develop Connected Mobility Solutions to Manage Vehicle Data

AWS IoT allows you to integrate different vehicle and mobility based solutions to enhance the business’ brand value. The IoT technology enables customers to interact with their vehicles through their personal gadgets. One of the real-time implementations of AWS IoT is the integration with Harman and Verizon to build the Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology. With sensors built into the vehicle, the vehicle can interact with the environment and retrieve real-time information about weather, road conditions, traffic and so on. For more such real-time connected mobility solutions, visit the Connected Mobility documentation on the AWS website.

Build Smart Applications That Solve Environmental Challenges

With AWS IoT, businesses can develop commercial IoT applications that solve challenges in infrastructure, health, and the environment. AWS has built a strong repository of ready-to-use solutions for you to get started to build smart applications. The Solution Repository is the best place to get started with reference architectures that can help you solve the most common IoT use cases in industries and a common home-based scenario.

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Customers Using AWS IoT

AWS IoT offers solutions and functionality for emerging start-up businesses to large enterprise companies. Companies can build a wide range of IoT solutions for almost any use case across a wide range of devices. As a result, a lot of leading companies around the world have chosen AWS IoT for their business needs. Few of the prominent customers using AWS IoT are listed below - 

Amway - One of the leading retail brands around the world, Amway implemented an IoT solution and launched their first internet-connected product (Atmosphere Sky Air Treatment System) in less than 14 months. Read more in this case study on how Amway delivered an agile IoT strategy with its new WiFi and Bluetooth connection.

Honda - Honda Motor Co. Ltd, in association with Amazon Web Services Professional Services built a serverless connected car platform aiming to reduce operational workloads, cut costs and push services at a faster rate.

Fleet Complete - Fleet Complete deployed AWS to implement the cloud technology to innovate and grow at a faster pace. With sensors fitted to fleet vehicles and connected to the cloud infrastructure, Fleet Complete was able to collect and analyze almost 50 terabytes of IoT data within the AWS cloud. This gave fleet customers a better sense of understanding of the vehicle conditions, driver behavior, and more.

For more similar customer success stories, refer to the AWS IoT Customers page and filter the list of customers based on location or the business segment.

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Wrapping Up

The future of Internet of Things (IoT) has a potential future in the years to come. Amazon IoT offers a great combination of the IoT technology with the cloud infrastructure. It offers services and solutions to connect and manage billions of devices. This gives the opportunity for businesses to transform their strategies and operating model. 

If you are looking for a career in the industry and want to master your skill set in the world of AWS IoT? Make sure to check out the list of certifications and job opportunities available to propel your career as a AWS Solutions Architect. We also recommend you to check out Simplilearn’s Top 90 AWS Interview Questions and Answers that will help you refine and master your interview skills on the AWS concepts. You must also explore and enroll in our AWS Solutions Architect program to get a strong hold of the domain and prove your expertise and skills to potential employers.

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