5 Crucial IoT Ecosystem Components — Part 1

August 5, 2020 - 7 minutes read

By now, everyone has heard of the Internet of Things (IoT). Since its rapid rise in the tech industry a few years ago, IoT development has become an essential part of nearly every vertical and niche. In fact, we’re on track to having 21.5 billion IoT devices connected by 2025. This isn’t so surprising when you consider that IoT can be integrated into everything from home appliances to children’s toys to automated industrial equipment.

Consumer demands are only shifting more towards smart, connected products. Look no further than smartwatches, electronic door locks, robot vacuums, and GPS-enabled pet collars to see evidence of this. It’s really no wonder why; connecting these assets to the Internet offers them more capabilities and opportunities for better efficiency.

But we must remember that IoT operates on a vast network comprised of various components that work together to form a cohesive data ecosystem. Understanding the factors at play here, such as how data is collected, devices are connected, and autonomous actions are implemented, is vital to comprehending how IoT works.

In the first chapter of this special two-part series, we’ll delve into the basic definition of an IoT ecosystem and the first component you need to make your own IoT system succeed.

Wait, What’s an IoT Ecosystem?

Regardless of the objective, you can always break down an IoT system into two elements: the object you intend to make intelligent and the embedded system that provides the connectivity to do so. It may sound simple, but things become drastically more complex when we examine the second part.

Sensors, actuators, data management, and more all play an integral role in making your embedded system function. They are what actually enable your object to be programmable and capable of interaction with assets or humans. To understand this better, let’s take the connected doorbell for example.

Connected doorbells can detect a visitor at your door, even if he or she hasn’t rung your bell. It then displays this data in video or voice format. This elegant solution needs multiple components. Once the visitor is detected, information must be interpreted, sent, and communicated to the user. Keep in mind that this doesn’t even consider the ability to open the lock remotely.

As different use cases are constructed, the definition of what constitutes an IoT ecosystem is greatly expanding. Any ingredient that’s involved in connected organizations or users to their devices would fall into this category. And besides the visible elements like hardware or user interfaces, “invisible” components such as software or storage must also be accounted for.

Embedded Components

Whether you’re running a manufacturing facility outside of Dallas, Texas, or launching a new tech toy across the United States, sensors and actuators form the backbone of your IoT ecosystem. Data is the oil of every IoT machine, and these two tools allow you to attain accurate, credible information.


Sometimes called “detectors,” sensors capture the slightest changes in your environment. As a result, sensors shine a light on relevant aspects needed to improve your system in real-time or later down the line in post-processing.

Sensors may be small pieces of hardware, but don’t underestimate their benefits. They can gather information on factors like temperature, pressure, moisture, motion, and more. It’s not unusual for an IoT device to employ various types of sensors to collect a wide range of data. This usually allows the device to perform multiple functions.

For instance, our smartphones are capable of motion detection, GPS location, fingerprint recognition, and camera features. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Another prime example is smart ACs or thermostat controls; these can sense both temperature and humidity simultaneously. Since different applications strive to accomplish different objectives, each one will use a different group of sensors.

To achieve automation based on specific triggers, sensors are essential. Let’s revisit our smart AC example to see why. Let’s say a user sets their automated room temperature to stay between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. When the room’s temperature goes over 75 degrees, the sensor will pick this up and trigger the AC system to cool it down. If the room drops below 70 degrees, the sensor will “tell” the AC via a transmitter to heat up the room so it falls back in the appropriate range.

Perhaps the best part of sensors is that they are now extremely affordable and smaller than ever before thanks to vast advancements in technology.


Think of actuators as the opposite of sensors. Just as the word “sensors” implies that they sense, “actuators” act! When they receive a signal, they cause an action. Basically, once a sensor detects an environmental change, it’s up to the actuator to make the appropriate response occur.

For smart ACs, actuators are the components actually controlling the heating and cooling. If a person exits this smart-controlled environment or it reaches a satisfactory temperature, the sensor will then trigger the actuator to stop the airflow.

Just as with sensors, there are various types of actuators to use, depending on your unique situation. Besides turning something on or off, they can also control valves or implement actions such as gripping or turning — both of which are crucial actions for numerous industrial applications.

Stay Tuned for the Next 4 Components

Did you enjoy the first chapter in our “Essential IoT Components” series? If so, then stay tuned! In a blog post next week, we’ll round out this series with the final four components you need to make your IoT system a success.

In the meantime, let us know in the comments how you utilize IoT in your day-to-day or business operations!

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