Once the stuff of science fiction, the ability for home appliances and other products to talk to each other is now a reality thanks to the Internet of Things. As the name suggests, items ranging from watches to refrigerators are linked to one another across the internet, allowing users to program and customize settings and features from remote locations. The IoT is fast and away becoming a game-changer for product design in the modern age.

For most people, the introduction to and interaction with the IoT is entirely from the user-end. This follows a similar pattern seen with the technology of the past. People embraced telephones, automobiles, and personal computers without knowing much about how they function. Yet some folks are determined to understand how a certain technology works. Such individuals are no doubt curious about what makes the IoT a possibility.

The core component of IoT is the ability of different computers to communicate with one another. The internet as we know is the foundation for this communication, but its infrastructure assumes the talking is between personal computers and servers. For the IoT to function, a much more diverse array of devices must be able to talk to each other. This requires an application program interface, which consists of a set series of communication protocols to be used for developing programs for IoT devices.

Despite the development of a near-universal form of communication, the potential for mistakes in IoT programming is still present. For new IoT technology to work, the programs involved have to undergo reliable API testing prior to implementation. This ensures the product has the ability to talk to the multitude of devices it could be expected to encounter as a part of the IoT.

The system architecture for the Internet of Things comes down to three tiers. The first is the devices themselves, followed by the edge gateway and the cloud. Users are typically only aware of the first tier. The second tier consists of the sensor data aggregation systems meant to facilitate functionality. These include data pre-processing and establishing connectivity. The third tier includes event queuing and the handling of communications across all tiers.

The final key component of the IoT is the network used for devices to talk to each other. While API could be considered the language being used, the network represents the medium through which the language travels. Popular examples of short-range networks used in IoT include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Networks used for medium to long-range communication include LTE and satellite. Ethernet represents the most popular network used for wired IoT communication. It’s not unusual for more than one of these networks to be used for devices to communicate with each other.

The Internet of Things is an extraordinary leap in consumer technology. But the elements required to make it happen go beyond the devices themselves. The software and protocol driving the communication between devices across short and long distances are essential for the successful utilization of IoT technology. While certainly not a requirement for properly using IoT-enabled products, understanding a bit more about what makes it work helps us to become more appreciative of the tech at our disposal.