Monday, January 19, 2015

Reducing the cost of IoT devices with the ESP8266

The ESP8266 Wi-Fi System-on-Chip from Espressif Systems is a highly integrated SoC designed for the needs of modern Wi-Fi-connected embedded systems, appliances, sensors and other cost-sensitive, Wi-Fi-enabled Internet-of-Things applications.

This high-performance wireless SoC aims to provide Wi-Fi capabilities in embedded systems with strong functionality at a low cost. It has powerful on-board processing and storage capabilities that allow it to be integrated with sensors or other application-specific peripheral devices via its general-purpose digital I/O ports with minimal development effort and potentially without the need for any separate microcontroller in many typical applications.

The ESP8266 provides single-band (2.4 GHz) Wi-Fi connectivity using the 802.11b/g/n standards and supports WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption.

The high degree of on-chip integration minimises the bill of materials in your design, with a low-power Tensilica 80 MHz 32-bit processor core, RAM, ROM and GPIOs, power management module, and all RF front-end components such as the clock generation, PLLs, LNA and power amplifier all integrated on the 32-pin QFN chip.

This means that your complete Wi-Fi connected solution requires minimal external components and minimal PCB area. The ESP8266 offers a complete and self-contained wireless networking solution, including an integrated TCP/IP stack - and it can either provide Wi-Fi connectivity and networking functions to a separate application processor in your design or host your application itself in the chip's on-board application processor.

Where the ESP8266 serves as an external Wi-Fi bridge to a separate application processor in your design, Wi-Fi connectivity is added to the host processor via a simple UART or SPI interface to the ESP8266. As long as your microcontroller has a spare serial UART or an SPI interface you're ready to go, so you can straightforwardly interface the ESP8266 to essentially any microcontroller in your existing design.

The ESP8266 has also been designed with energy-efficient mobile and battery-powered applications in mind, with an architecture that minimises power consumption and provides a sleep mode and deep-sleep mode to minimise power use in your design at times when Wi-Fi network connectivity is not actively being used.

With a wide range of interfaces including SPI, SDIO, UART and I2C, the ESP8266 can be used for interfacing to external EEPROM and Flash memory, ADC/DACs, external audio codecs, or other sensors and peripherals that can connect to these serial interfaces.

In stand-alone mode at least one external flash memory chip to boot from is needed. The chipset also incorporates 16 programmable general-purpose digital I/O pins, which can be configured in software with a range of flexible interrupt and output options.

Espressif has released a complete Software Development Kit for the ESP8266, along with a VirtualBox Ubuntu image that provides you with a complete ready-to-go tool chain including gcc and all the other tools you'll need to develop and build code for the Xtensa core in the chip.

Included in the SDK are SSL, JSON and lightweightIP (lwIP) libraries, providing the capabilities for a range of typical Internet-of-Things applications. Example code is provided to demonstrate the use of the chip's UART, I2C and SPI interfaces as well as general-purpose digital I/O.

Espressif provides an ESP8266 Internet-of-Things SDK, which is specifically aimed at IoT applications. Although this SDK is only partially open source and some libraries are provided as binary blobs, a fully open-source third-party tool chain for development on the Xtensa CPU architecture is separately available.

A range of other third-party software development tools and interpreters are available or in development for the ESP8266, including the nodeMCU Lua interpreter and an ESP8266 port of the MicroPython embedded Python project, allowing you to use these scripting languages if you choose. There is also firmware available for the ESP8266 that implements MQTT-based message brokering for Internet-of-Things applications.

The ESP8266 is notable in that it is one of the few chip-level 802.11 Wi-Fi devices on the market, along with the Texas Instruments CC3000-series chipsets, which is available in small-volume distribution and with publicly-available datasheets and documentation, meaning that this device is accessible to small-volume businesses and small, independent developers in a way that 802.11 chipsets from major vendors such as Broadcom or Realtek generally aren't.

Alternative Wi-Fi modules and devices such as the Spark Photon offer features such as USB connectivity, more memory, more I/O and a more familiar ARM architecture, but they are more expensive - the Photon is close to USD $20, for example.

The Spark Photon is a very simple breakout board that just provides an antenna and a voltage regulator for USI's WM-N-BM-09 Wi-Fi module, which implements Broadcom's standardised WICED ecosystem with a STM32 Cortex-M3 microcontroller core alongside Broadcom's BCM43362 Wi-Fi radio.

As another example of relatively low-cost embedded Wi-Fi solution, there are similar boards coming from China today for about $10 based on the MXchip MX1081 chipset, which also incorporates the Broadcom BCM43362 core alongside a STM32 microcontroller.

The Texas Instruments CC3200 Internet-of-Things SoC also aims to provide a complete single-chip IoT solution based around an ARM Cortex-M4 80 MHz CPU core and integrated Wi-Fi radio along with a flexible range of digital I/O interfaces and an integrated ADC.

The CC3200 offers extensive, good quality, English documentation, development tools and resources along with an ARM core that is more popular and familiar with developers than the ESP8266's Xtensa core. The CC3200 is distributed in small volumes and has publicly available documentation and development tools as with the ESP8266, however the ESP8266 has the advantage of its relatively low cost even in small volumes.

With the appearance of such low-cost IoT capable chipsets on the market, bringing your Internet-enabled product ideas to market can be much faster, simpler and even cheaper than you ever expected. And here at the LX Group we have the team, experience and technology to bring your ideas to life.

Getting started is easy - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.




Monday, January 12, 2015

GadgetKeeper – a new IoT platform for common hardware

Every few weeks it seems that a new Internet-of-Things platform appears, and thus we have a new platform to explore – GadgetKeeper. This new product provides a complete development and application platform for the Internet of Things, a full application design, runtime and intelligence environment which allows you to rapidly prototype and rapidly create IoT solutions to connect your sensors, devices and equipment ("Things") with people and systems.

GadgetKeeper provides a simple development environment, robust APIs and worry-free hosting, allowing you to accelerate your application development and take advantage of simple scalability as your application and your number of devices grows.

You can easily integrate your application with external IT systems through GadgetKeeper's powerful APIs, web services, and the completely hands-free cloud hosting environment provided by GadgetKeeper that automatically scales to meet any demand, whether you're serving several devices or several million.

The designers of the platform believe that every smart device has inherently unique characteristics. Therefore, GadgetKeeper models the attributes of any given device with a unique "Thing". A "Thing" within GadgetKeeper is a model that could correspond to an Internet service accessed externally via the API or a real-world gadget such as appliance, sensor or other physical device.

GadgetKeeper's mission is to provide the best IoT software and application platform for developers, manufacturers, service providers and consumers, allowing you to make and use smart, Internet-connected products, send updated sensor information from IoT devices directly to the server, and to control, integrate and manage your devices remotely.

The platform provides server-side JavaScript support, a powerful UI and an API to handle interaction between your things, to manage and to integrate your IoT solutions. You can use JavaScript to program your server side logic – whenever it's a property, method or event trigger. From your code you can fire events, call methods and properties or call external systems.

GadgetKeeper supports a powerful server-side API for integration with external services, allowing you to interact with services such as email, HTTP, SMS, Twitter and more. Furthermore it supports communication between your things and the GadgetKeeper platform using a selection of many different protocols.

You can connect your devices to the GadgetKeeper API using REST or JSON-RPC over the top of TCP sockets, HTTP or MQTT at the transport layer.

The platform employs a so-called "Reach Thing Model" to model the characteristics of your devices - a full object model for your things including properties, methods and events. Things are not just "data logging" entities, but they are smart objects that can interact with each other and the world. Properties and methods can be handled by a thing or by its server-side proxy, and events can likewise be fired either by a thing or by its server-side proxy.

The GadgetKeeper platform also provides flexible event handling, where events from your things are easy to handle by creating event triggers that "listen" for thing events and react to them in a defined way. JavaScript can be used to define complex event handling logic.

There is also a provision for a comprehensive capability for event storage and time-series data storage. All events fired by things are recorded to event storage and numerical values are extracted and recorded in time-series data. Data can be displayed on interactive dashboards, which can also be set up for the monitoring and management of your devices.

GadgetKeeper is compatible with popular hardware platforms such as the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone. Machine-to-machine platforms for instrumentation and wireless sensor networks in industrial applications such as the CloudGate and TSTMote systems are also supported.

GadgetKeeper provides usage examples for these platforms, along with documentation and tutorials for the setup and provisioning of these systems to talk to GadgetKeeper so you can get up and running easily.

Integration tutorials are also provided to get you up and running with API integration of your GadgetKeeper Internet-of-Things application into external services such as Twitter.

Overall there is a great amount of promise with the GadgetKeeper platform at this stage, however like every other Internet-of-Things platform there are many options and variables to take into account before selecting the right system for your needs.

And no matter what your requirements are, from concept to final product - here at the LX Group we have the experience and expertise to solve your IoT power problems right through to a whole system to meet your needs.

Getting started is easy - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.

Monday, January 5, 2015

OpenIoT – Open-source middleware for the Internet of Things

OpenIoT is a generic middleware platform for Internet-of-Things applications, which allows you to link together Internet-connected devices and semantic Web services via a friendly user interface, working either in Cloud Computing environments or with a local server.

This platform is available as a Virtual Development Kit, providing a complete cloud solution for the Internet of Things which allows you to easily get up and running getting information from sensor clouds and connecting this information with Web services without worrying about exactly what different sensors are being used.

The OpenIoT middleware enables the easy scalability of sensor networks and the addition of new, cost-effective sensors in an intrinsically flexible framework, and aims to provide a complete middleware for Internet-of-Things applications, connected sensors and wireless sensor networks.

OpenIoT is building a novel platform for IoT applications, which includes powerful capabilities such as the ability to compose (dynamically and on-demand) non-trivial IoT services using a cloud-based and utility-based paradigm.

With an aim to facilitate open access to a wide range of technologies for Internet-connected sensors and other objects exposed as "services", the creators claim that OpenIOT is the first open-source project to provide the means for setting up, managing and using a sensor cloud in this way.

With the ability to support large-scale deployments by co-scheduling access from thousands of simultaneous users to millions of sensors and actuators, OpenIoT will be well placed for all IoT-based solutions of all sizes, and it will have a small number of its own open (public data) sensing services for anyone to send queries to.

The OpenIoT project explores efficient ways to use and manage cloud environments for IoT entities and resources, such as sensors, actuators and smart devices, and the management of utility-based, pay-as-you-go business models for IoT networks and services.

The platform will provide instantiations of cloud-based and utility-based IoT sensor and data management services, using the OpenIoT adaptive middleware framework for deploying and providing IoT services in cloud environments to enable the concept of "sensors as a service" business models for commercial IoT applications.

OpenIoT supports flexible configuration and deployment of algorithms for collecting and filtering the large volumes of data that are collected by networks of Internet-connected objects, and processing and detecting those events that are determined to be particularly interesting and relevant to application or business outcomes.

As OpenIoT is a completely open-source project, and all its source code is available for download – developers and end-users can examine and openly use the OpenIoT platform. You can use the OpenIoT source code to create innovative services, to extend OpenIoT with new sensor wrappers, or to improve the OpenIoT platform itself.

Furthermore, OpenIoT also aims to provide the capacity for semantically annotating sensor data, according to the W3C Semantic Sensor Networks specification, streaming the data collected from various sensors to a cloud computing infrastructure, dynamically discovering and querying sensors and their data, composing and delivering IoT services that comprise data from multiple sensors and visualising IoT data using many different options such as maps and graphs.

An example application area where OpenIoT has been targeted is the improvement of efficiency in industrial operations such as manufacturing and agriculture. The OpenIoT platform can be used for intelligent sensing in manufacturing environments where it offers rapid integration of data from sensors and other devices in the manufacturing environment, dynamic and intelligent discovery of new sensors in factories, and analysis of data collected from the factory floor.

The OpenIoT platform enables the dynamic selection of sensors along with the nearly-real-time fusion of sensor data in order to deliver any manufacturing indicators that are required - not just sets of inflexible, pre-configured indicators. This can increase the agility of decision-making and of the manufacturing process.

One example of this is an agricultural application - where farmers and researchers can benefit from an instantaneous crop performance analysis platform that is powered by OpenIoT, using a wide range of distributed remote sensors gathering various types of data in order to build models that predict crop yields.

Every year Australian grain breeders plant up to a million small test plots of wheat and barley across the country to find the best high-yielding varieties. The Phenonet application developed by OpenIoT in partnership with the CSIRO is an interesting demonstration of the capability of the OpenIoT platform, using advanced sensor network technology to gather environmental data from crop trials at a much higher resolution than traditional methods and providing an OpenIoT-powered high-performance, real-time online data analysis platform that allows scientists and farmers to visualise, process and extract both real-time and long-term crop performance information.

The Phenonet project enables plant breeders and farmers to compare and evaluate the performance of different grain varieties using real-time measurements from a variety of remote sensors. By combining these measurements with each plant's genetic profile, plant scientists can distinguish the effects of microclimate and genetics, thus improving the accuracy and speed of plant breeding which leads to better crop quality and increased agricultural yields.

This is only one of an almost infinite number of applications that can be harnessed with the OpenIoT platform. And no matter what your requirements are, from concept to final product - here at the LX Group we have the experience and expertise to solve your IoT power problems right through to a whole system to meet your needs.

Getting started is easy - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thoughts on powering IoT nodes

Today, Internet-of-Things and wireless-sensor networks are finding an increasing range uses of consumer, industrial and medical applications. Such networks often employ a large number of distributed nodes, without interconnecting cables, which can't practically be connected to the power grid - and it is attractive to keep the need for battery recharging and replacement to an absolute minimum through the use of efficient, careful design choices as well as ambient energy harvesting technology.

Power-efficient wireless sensor nodes can take advantage of some form of energy harvesting power supply, employing energy sources such as solar photovoltaic, vibrational energy harvesters or thermoelectric generators to minimise maintenance and extend battery life - possibly completely eliminating batteries entirely - if the power consumption of the system is small enough and a capacitor is employed for energy storage.

Energy harvesting management ICs that manage the accumulation of energy in a capacitor over a period of time to enable short bursts of relatively high power consumption, such as when a node wakes up and transmits a burst of data, are particularly well suited to low-power wireless sensor nodes.

In many applications, solar photovoltaic are the most familiar choice for low-power sensor and telemetry nodes operating outdoors, for example in agricultural and meteorological applications.

Energy-efficient wireless network nodes can be engineered using modern RF microcontroller system-on-chip devices, turning on and off sensors and peripheral hardware devices when they are not required or putting them into low-power sleep modes when not actively in use.

Similarly, the RF transceiver can be switched into a very-low-power sleep state until the microcontroller decides that a transmission of collected sensor data is required. The microcontroller can then wake up the radio, perform the required transmission, and the radio goes back to sleep.

In some cases, a burst of data transmission across the wireless network might only occur when a small, intermittent energy-harvesting power supply has accumulated enough energy in a capacitor to power a transmission.

With most of the components of the system - the microcontroller, radio and sensors - each kept offline or asleep for the largest practical amount of time, efficiently designed wireless sensor nodes may achieve operating timescales as long as years off a single battery.

Today's typical wireless RF microcontroller system-on-chips targeted at Internet-of-Things applications typically consume about 1-5 microwatts in their "sleep" state, increasing to about 0.5-1.0 milliwatts with the microcontroller active, and up to about 50 milliwatts for brief periods during active radio transmission.

As an example of the active development in this field, the International Electrotechnical Commission has recently ratified the new ISO/IEC 14543-3-10 standard, specifying a Wireless-Short-Packet protocol optimised for ultra-low-power and energy-harvesting nodes in wireless sensor networks.

It is the first and only existing standard for wireless applications that is also optimised for energy harvesting solutions, aimed at energy-harvesting wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks with ultra-low power consumption.

For a small, low-power embedded device that receives a reasonable amount of sun each day, a moderately small solar panel is perfectly capable of supplying sufficient power, on average, to run a small, basic wireless network node consisting of a microcontroller, some sensors and an embedded low-power Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 802.15.4/ZigBee radio transceiver.

In many applications, solar photovoltaic is the most familiar, relatively mature choice for low-power network nodes operating outdoors or under good indoor light conditions. However, other technologies suitable for harvesting small amounts of power from the ambient environment exist. For example, a wireless sensor node set up to monitor bearing wear in a generator could employ a piezoelectric crystal as a vibrational energy harvester, converting motor vibration into usable energy.

As an example of a controller IC one may use for the power supply in a small solar powered system, the Linear Technology LTC3105 is a high-efficiency step-up DC/DC converter that can operate from input voltages as low as 225 millivolts, with a built-in maximum power point controller (MPPC). As well as solar cells, this device is well suited to other low voltage, high impedance energy harvesting transducers such as thermoelectric generators.

For some systems it is also practical to use batteries alone - for example, lithium-ion, lithium-polymer or nickel metal-hydride batteries - and rely on user intervention to simply recharge and replace the batteries where needed.

Lithium-ion batteries provide good energy density and many convenient cycles of repeated charge and discharge, but these batteries require precise control to avoid over-discharge or over-charge conditions which can permanently damage the battery.

Despite their risk of fire and damage if mishandled, lithium-ion batteries provide very good discharge current capability, high energy density, and the ability to survive many repeated charge cycles embedded inside devices which are charged and used without their battery being replaced.

Libelium's WaspMote platform is an open-source wireless sensor network platform specifically focussed on the implementation of low-power modes, allowing individual battery-powered nodes (or "motes") to be completely autonomous and to run for many months or years without maintenance.

Depending on the duty cycle, types of sensors and the radio used, it is possible for a WaspMote node to run for as long as five years on a single battery, making WaspMote one good example of a hardware and software platform that is well suited to the use of solar power and other energy harvesting technologies in energy-efficient wireless sensor networks and Internet-of-Things applications.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of the options available to ensure your IoT nodes are powered effectively, and here at the LX Group we have the experience and expertise to solve your IoT power problems right through to a whole system to meet your needs.

Getting started is easy - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Agile and Embedded Hardware Development - a Successful Partnership

Moving away from a "waterfall" development process to a process that incorporates Agile methods, at least to some extent, can noticeably improve the quality and reduce schedules for the engineering of both hardware and software products.

However, in the case of a hardware-engineering task such as the physical design and layout of a complex printed circuit board or an ASIC we can't simply release a half-complete iteration at any time and expect to get anything which is remotely functional or useful.

Although there are some important differences between hardware and software to consider when applying Agile methods, Agile is still valuable in the hardware domain.

When it comes to the layout of a printed circuit board, or the layout of an ASIC, this physical design iteration may take several weeks or even months to perform, to get from the netlist to working hardware. To get it right, several iterations may be required. Even when the time has been taken to complete this iteration, it may not make any sense, in terms of economics or customer value, to release this iteration to the customer.

Modular design and engineering is a valuable strategy for making Agile methods work in hardware development. Software developers have long understood this, using modular architectures such as object-oriented programming which limit the costly ripple effect of engineering changes in a tightly integrated system.

However, commercial electronic hardware designs tend to be highly integrated, not modular - since modular hardware systems tend to be more expensive. The cost of engineering changes, however, is higher in a more integrated system.

The use of modular components, FPGAs, pre-manufactured modules or development boards is particularly attractive during research and development for the rapid evaluation and prototyping of different circuits and component choices.

Although requirements for miniaturisation, cost, weight or reliability (e.g.. removal of connectors) may lead to a final, finished product that looks very different to the modular prototype version on the R&D lab bench, Agile techniques such as rapid iteration and the rapid delivery of new prototypes at the end of each sprint can be particularly relevant and useful during this stage of product design even though they may be somewhat less applicable later.

Agile hardware developers do not have any one solution for the question of modularity, since market forces tend to push us away from modularity. Increasing modularity typically increases the cost of hardware, as well as factors such as hardware size and weight which may be critical for some products, pushing us back towards increased integration and miniaturisation where the "cost of change" is higher.

Unlike software, hardware systems tend to have a much greater cost of change, and this means more time is required to recover the cost of each change. This tends to lengthen the optimal release rate for a hardware project incorporating Agile techniques, as compared to a software product.

Although many aspects of hardware product design, such as PCB layout, physical design of ASICs and tooling for plastic moulding are intrinsically time consuming and relatively expensive to iterate, many other aspects of hardware design such as electrical rule checking, ASIC verification, documentation, and the development of the firmware and software that is intrinsically associated with the hardware in most modern embedded devices are intrinsically more similar to the software development tasks that Agile methods were originally developed for.

Therefore, Agile methods lend themselves to these parts of the development of a hardware project very well, even if some other aspects of hardware development are not quite as well suited. The same is also true in the case of hardware logic that is implemented in an FPGA or CPLD - particularly during prototyping or R&D phases, where an FPGA may be used instead of bespoke ASIC hardware.

Depending on time and cost constraints for the project, it is also possible that an FPGA or other programmable logic device may be kept in the final production hardware, instead of an ASIC, which does provide a benefit in terms of agility.

The fact that it is generally not profitable to release new iterations of hardware products continuously to customers does not preclude us from taking advantage of Agile methods to develop our hardware products more continuously, in smaller batches, and to realise the Agile principle that the highest priority is to satisfy the customer early through continuous delivery of value.

Although this is often taken to mean continuous delivery of newly updated software or hardware products, continuous improvement in the value delivered to the customer doesn't necessarily mean continuous expensive iterations in physical design, manufacturing and tooling for new hardware delivered to the customer - incremental improvements in customer value can be achieved using the previous iteration of physical hardware that is already in the hands of customers.

Therefore Agile project management techniques can be very useful and applicable to the design of hardware products – although the agile techniques that are employed and the way and time when they're employed can be somewhat different to the application of Agile techniques in the software industry.

Here at the LX Group we can work with the development methods of all our current and future clients – and can put Agile development methods to work for your success.

Getting started is easy - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Introducing the Industrial Internet Consortium

The Industrial Internet Consortium, or IIC, is a global not-for-profit partnership of industry, government and academia which was founded early in 2014 to bring together many different organisations and technologies which are well placed to accelerate the growth of the "Industrial Internet" by identifying, assembling and promoting best practices in the development of industrial Internet, machine-to-machine and "Internet-of-Things" technologies.

The diverse membership base of the IIC includes large and small technology innovators, vertical market leaders, researchers, universities and government organisations.

The goals of the IIC are to drive innovation through the creation of new industry-oriented use-cases and test beds for real-world industrial Internet applications, to define and develop the reference architectures and frameworks necessary for interoperability in Industrial Internet applications, to influence the global standards-development processes for Internet and industrial systems, to facilitate open forums to share and exchange real-world ideas, practices, lessons and insights, and to build confidence around new and innovative approaches to security in industrial embedded systems with network connectivity.

Membership of the Industrial Internet Consortium is open to all entities and organisations with an interest in accelerating the implementation of the Industrial Internet using open standards, and a revenue-based system of membership fees makes membership accessible to academics and small companies.

Founded by AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, Intel and IBM – the IIC’s goal is to become as an open-membership consortium to try and break down the barriers of closed technology "silos" to support better access to big data - with improved integration of the physical and digital worlds, unlocking enhancements in business value for industry. Today, the list of IIC members includes ThingWorx, Bosch, Telstra, the University of Pennsylvania, and many more.

The consortium formed in the belief that as the physical and the digital worlds collide through increased use of machine-to-machine and Internet-of-Things technologies, particularly in industrial applications, organisations need to be able to more easily connect and optimise assets and operations to drive agility across all industrial sectors.

These goals can be reached by identifying the requirements for open interoperability standards and defining common architectures to connect smart devices, machines, people and processes that will help to accelerate more reliable access to big data from industrial systems and hence unlock yields in business value.

With their aim to take the lead in establishing interoperability across various industrial environments for a more connected world, the Consortium was chartered with the objectives of also encouraging innovation in the Industrial Internet sector by utilising existing use cases, and creating new use cases and test beds, for real-world Industrial Internet applications and by delivering best practices, reference architectures, case studies and standards requirements to improve the ease of interoperable deployment of connected technologies in industry.

The IIC operates with global scope and openness to international membership, based on the Consortium's recognition that in today’s global economy members need to collaborate with colleagues across the world to address the unique challenges of incorporating the digital with the physical.

Globally integrated enterprises run factories and source parts and materials from across the globe. Smarter cities and governments across the world will utilise and benefit from the Industrial Internet, and this will likely enable smarter buildings, improvements in energy efficiency and smart energy management, better emergency communication and responsiveness.

While much of the initial industrial support that founded the Consortium comes out of the United States, the scope of the IIC is worldwide.

The IIC views the technology industry at the precipice of a major technological shift, where smart machines will communicate and connect in ways that will lead to transformational business outcomes. Any company that wants to have a voice in setting the direction for the Industrial Internet is encouraged to join the Consortium. IIC members are developing critical collaborative relationships with leaders in technology, manufacturing, academia and the government on working committees.

Members can participate in IIC research, test bed and standard-building activities, while members also gain an immediate, visible platform for their opinions. IIC members are encouraged to join one of several collaborative working committees: technology, architecture, or security working committees, for example.

There are many different organisations working on industrial, academic and governmental coordination and cooperation in the development of standards and technologies for emerging Internet-of-Things and machine-to-machine applications.

All these organisations have similar, overlapping goals of delivering best practices, reference architectures, case studies, and standards requirements to make the deployment of connected technologies easier. While other organisations focus more on developing standards, the IIC has more of a focus towards creating frameworks, use cases and test beds for real-world applications across various industrial environments.

As the consortium is founded by such strong organisations, it is sure to be another success in the world of the Internet of Things. And if you’re considering working in this field, our experienced award-winning engineering team can harness embedded hardware and software for your success in the IoT space.

Getting started is easy - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Realising IoT devices with the new PSoC-4 BLE from Cypress

The new PSoC-4 BLE series of programmable system-on-chip devices from Cypress enables system designers to create low-power, sensor-based wirelessly-connected systems using integrated programmable analogue front ends, programmable digital peripherals - industry-leading CapSense touch sensor capability for user interfaces all integrated together with a Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Low Energy) radio and an ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller in a compact and cost-effective single-chip solution.

This highly-integrated one-chip Bluetooth Low Energy platform enables you to easily design low-power, wirelessly-connected solutions that are particularly well suited to real-time, low-power Internet-of-Things applications.

Bluetooth Low Energy has several potential benefits over Wi-Fi in some wireless connectivity applications, including minimal connection latency and very good energy efficiency, allowing for "always-on" smart, connected devices that run off small batteries for many months or even more than a year while seamlessly being embedded into everyday physical objects and the environment around us.

This makes the platform ideal for IoT end-node applications despite offering data rate and throughput that is lower than in Wi-Fi-based solutions. By combining the Bluetooth Low Energy radio with a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 processor in a single chip and adding flexible general-purpose analogue and digital peripherals - the PSoC 4 BLE platform aims to provide the right combination of processing horsepower and low power consumption with flexible and precise interfaces for external peripherals such as ADCs and sensors.

You can interface your Bluetooth-connected system with multiple different sensors easily by integrating custom analogue front ends and programmable digital peripherals around the high-performance 48 MHz ARM Cortex-M0 processor core, with no need for any extra chips.

The PSoC 4 BLE platform includes the Bluetooth Low Energy Protocol Stack and Profiles in an intuitive and easy-to-use GUI-based configuration tool, simplifying the design of your BLE systems. The PSoC 4 BLE chipsets reduce the complexity of RF antenna-matching network design by including an integrated balun, which also helps reduce the component count and the PCB footprint of your system.

A PSoC 4 BLE development kit has been designed by Cypress to allow for maximum flexibility in your design whilst also being as easy to use as possible and offering compatibility with standard Arduino-compatible "shields" when used in conjunction with appropriate software.

This development kit is built around easy to use PSoC 4 BLE and PRoC (Programmable Radio-on-Chip) BLE development modules which are complete, self-contained systems that include the main chip with all its I/O pins exposed for development, a tuned PCB antenna on board, power circuitry and easy access to programming pins.

You can simply hook up some sensors, LEDs and a coin-cell battery and you're ready to go with your complete single-chip Bluetooth LE-enabled wireless sensor network device with analogue and digital acquisition on board. You can even design reliable, sophisticated and sleek user interfaces with Cypress' CapSense capacitive touch-sensing technology, delivering superior noise immunity, water tolerance and proximity sensing in touch-sensitive applications such as user control panels.

Furthermore, these modules are FCC certified, so they can be deployed in your commercial products without requiring the certification that you may require for a bespoke RF design to meet FCC Part 15 regulatory requirements. These Cypress PSoC 4 BLE modules also meet CE and Canadian RSS-210 radio certification standards, so they're ready to go into these markets in your commercial designs.

The Bluetooth Low Energy Pioneer Kit from Cypress enables customers to evaluate and develop BLE projects using the Cypress PSoC 4 BLE and PRoC BLE devices. The low-cost BLE Pioneer Kit includes example projects for common BLE profiles and example smartphone apps for both iOS and Android with full source code provided, allowing you to get up and running in no time with the development of Bluetooth Low Energy solutions for IoT applications.

You can design complete, sensor-based BLE systems easily with Cypress PSoC Creator, taking advantage of its vast catalogue of pre-characterised and production ready PSoC firmware "components" which enable you to concurrently design hardware and firmware with easy drag-and-drop assembly of modular software. For example, the Bluetooth Low Energy 4.1 specification has been abstracted into the new Bluetooth Smart "component" in PSoC Creator.

The Cypress PSoC 4 BLE development kit includes a Bluetooth Low Energy USB dongle that pairs with the CySmart BLE master emulation tool from Cypress, converting your Windows PC into a powerful Bluetooth LE debugging environment.

The kit design and layout allows for customers to easily develop embedded solutions that require both mixed-signal analog and digital capabilities along with wireless Bluetooth LE connectivity and highly optimised power efficiency without sacrificing microcontroller performance.

The development kit supports system-level designs using the Cypress PSoC Creator development environment, which includes numerous example projects to enable you to get started creating Bluetooth Low Energy connected, mixed-signal analogue embedded designs such as wireless sensor networks and IoT product designs as easily and as quickly as possible.

If this platform is of interest to your organisation – and you need an experienced partner to progress with - join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.