illustration of layers of iotYour first thought about the Internet of Things (IoT) might be of a “smart” device or sensor. However, building an IoT solution requires thought into six distinct layers, each with its own considerations and security implications.

The CompTIA IoT Advisory Council recently published a white paper called The Six Layers of an IoT Solution guide, which breaks down these layers and provides overarching guidance on IoT security to give IT solution practitioners more holistic knowledge of IoT solutions.

Technology vendors estimate about 75% of IoT projects fail (, generally due to a lack of understanding of IoT technology and what it can provide. By understanding these layers early in the IoT Workshop process, your team will have a better chance of adopting an IoT solution that not only sticks, but benefits your business.

So, what are the six layers of IoT?

Layer 1: IoT devices

IoT devices are the “things” of IoT and can be as diverse as their applications—from incredibly small, low-powered devices with limited functionality such as temperature monitors, to large, high-powered equipment that collects, processes and transmits multiple types of data, like an autonomous vehicle.

Each IoT device has five components:

  • Sensors/actuators/indicators: A sensor is used to collect data, while an indicator or actuator responds to data.
  • Compute: This is the “brains” of the IoT device. All IoT devices need some form of on-board compute in order to collect, store and transmit data.
  • Connectivity: Every IoT device must transmit or receive data from the device to the data management location, which could be at the edge, within your core data center or in the cloud.
  • Power: This energy source will power the device’s compute, sensors or actuators/indicators, as well as data transport.
  • Housing: The housing of an IoT device protects it from its operational environment. After all, many IoT devices are designed to prevent the need for humans to access dangerous environments—like those with excessive heat, water or vibration.

Layer 2: Edge computing

IoT edges are network hubs that often combine operational technology (OT) data and informational technology (IT) data.

With edge computing, computation and data analytics are brought closer to the source of the data —where things and people produce or consume that information. In the case of IoT, this source of data is the sensor.

While edge computing is not necessarily required in all IoT solution deployments, it can offer robust benefits in certain instances, like minimized latency, reduced bandwidth, threat mitigation and improved reliability.

Layer 3: Connectivity and data transport

IoT connectivity is the actual collection and transfer of data between devices and/or systems over a data connection. When choosing to connect an IoT device, the proximity of the device to a network is an important consideration, as are power, latency and cost requirements.

Two types of connectivity to consider are:

  • Short Range
    • Includes Bluetooth (BLE), Zigbee, Ultra-Wideband, WiFi, LoRa, Z-Wave
  • Wide Area Network (WAN)
    • Includes 4G/LTE, 5G, Sigfox, Satcom, wired connection

Layer 4: IoT platforms

An IoT platform pulls all the elements of the IoT stack together; however, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to IoT platforms.

Before selecting a platform, it’s important to evaluate your options from different perspectives, including considerations for proper technology selection and customizability. The right IoT platform for your business should, at a minimum:

  • Connect all of your hardware, including sensors and devices
  • Handle different hardware and software communication protocols
  • Provide security features for devices and users
  • Collect, visualize and analyze data the sensors and devices gather
  • Integrate with your business systems, applications and web services

Layer 5: Data management

The value of data is at the heart of every IoT solution. Data drives decisions, creates revenue, reduces cost, and improves quality.

To that end, there are eight data planning considerations to keep in mind when designing your IoT data management model:

  1. Derived insight response time: How quickly do you need insight from the sensor? The answer will help determine the supporting infrastructure you will need to meet your insight requirements.
  2. Data collection: IoT infrastructure often serves as the nucleus to integrate data from multiple sensors— and this data must be modeled processed to achieve your desired outcome.
  3. Data modeling: Modeling is necessary to normalize this data across all platforms and sensor groups.
  4. Data quality: The life span of the sensor should be monitored to ensure that time-sensitive and reliable data is being captured and delivered.
  5. Data transport: Data transport can have a major impact on the ROI of your IoT project. The more data you transport, the more it will cost in bandwidth, compute and storage.
  6. Data storage: There are multiple options in data storage, and several locations to store and compute data, including on-prem, on the edge or in the cloud.
  7. Data processing: This is where standardization, filtering and enriching the data occurs. As each solution varies, so will your data processing needs.
  8. Data governance: Your governing model should include how the data is captured and whether it is integrated or filtered as part of the process.

Layer 6: Applications

IoT applications are limited only by your imagination and ingenuity, but there are patterns emerging around typical uses and verticals for this technology. Some examples of applications include:

  • Collecting operational data
  • Real-time asset monitoring
  • Tracking customer behavior
  • Location tracking
  • Machinery sensors
  • Fleet management

One use case may fit multiple IoT categories, allowing multiple vertical entries, IoT categories and horizontal markets with a single application.

IoT security 

Security is a critical component of each layer of your IoT solution and should be taken seriously. Cybercriminals can target IoT devices to gain access to sensitive or valuable information, or to take control of an asset or a service, like an access control system.

When designing an IoT solution, consider that cybercriminals may target either an IoT-related device, or use your IoT device as a means of accessing a network where another asset is the target—as in the case of some recent supply chain attacks.

Building your IoT solution 

Understanding the layers of an IoT solution and choosing the right components are just two small pieces of the IoT solution life cycle—but can be critical to the success of your project.

Read CompTIA’s full Six Layers of an IoT Solution guide to learn more about the preparatory groundwork needed to build an IoT solution that delivers a flexible and sustainable framework for success.

If your organization is considering using IoT technologies to benefit your business, or is looking to start a new project, be sure to contact us, visit for more information, or call 800-460-1237.