If you’ve read my post about process automation you’ll understand how data integration is key to making automation possible and how integration data from various APIs can allow you to do that with information-centric processes, but what if your process touches hardware in the real world?

This is where the “Internet of Things” (IOT) comes in. IOT simply means connecting sensors or actuators (motors etc) to some sort of API layer and that in turn allows your process automation software to address this hardware

The basic principle is generally that there will be some sort of gateway that exposes data either directly as an API, or via some lower level protocol (e.g. a serial port) to a system that does, and a one or more sensors (read) or actuators (write) that communicate with that gateway

There are many different IOT devices available off the shelf, but also many different protocols for them to communicate. However, whilst for some purposes it may be possible to use a single range of off the shelf products for all your IOT needs, in others multiple types will be needed and some certain activities bespoke hardware will be required, either because of the sensing required, or because of other considerations such as size or form factor

This in turn means that installing sensors to support a real world process might well become a new data integration task, bringing together data from many different types of hardware into a powerful integrated system