Friday, August 28, 2015

Upgrade your Internet-of-Things product to LTE Wireless with Colibri

Not only here in Australia but in parts of the USA and other countries, cellular providers are closing down their 2G GSM network to reallocate spectrum to their faster UMTS 3G and LTE wireless networks.

This shutdown will have a great effect on existing cellular M2M applications as a large percentage were designed around inexpensive GPRS modules – or before UMTs was available. Soon all these devices will be rendered inoperable and will need to be redesigned or replaced with radio hardware that can access the newer cellular networks.

There are many chipsets and modules to choose from, and one new example is the Colibri LTE Platform from Sequans Communications - a chipset solution for mobile LTE (commonly marketed as 4G LTE) cellular connectivity, specifically aimed at Internet-of-Things and M2M applications.

Colibri LTE is a part of the Sequans Streamlite LTE family of chipset products for 4G connectivity in IoT applications, designed for use in devices such as embedded Internet-connected sensors requiring wireless cellular connectivity, tablets, mobile routers or other portable devices.

Their LTE chipset is designed to support Category 4 LTE user equipment, providing a downlink rate up to 150 Mbps and an uplink rate up to 50 Mbps, providing plenty of bandwidth for current and future applications.

The Colibri platform comprises dedicated ICs for the RF platform and the baseband processor, an integrated IoT applications processor in the baseband IC that runs Sequans' carrier-proven LTE protocol stack, an IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) client, and a comprehensive software package for over-the-air device management and packet routing.

Colibri have designed their products with optimisations for IoT and M2M applications in mind - providing low power consumption and high performance at a relatively low cost. This enables an affordable connectivity for mass-market IoT and M2M products.

Furthermore, the high-level integration and highly efficient architecture provide a strong balance of features and performance while achieving very low price points for cost-sensitive M2M and IoT applications.

Colibri's software suite is based on more than a decade of proven field experience. It is running in major 4G deployments around the world and is one of the most mature solutions in the global 4G ecosystem. It includes the entire LTE Release 10 software stack along with the drivers and host applications required for a complete 4G system.

There is much more than just data – as Colibri supports VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and Wi-Fi SoftAP as well as Active Interference Rejection (AIR) technology - which is an innovative and powerful interference mitigation algorithm implemented on all Sequans LTE platforms.

AIR has been tested and proven at both the system and link levels and has been shown to significantly improve user experience and increase network capacity, especially near the cell edge where signal is weak.

For designers of embedded devices in IoT and M2M applications, the Colibri EZ-Link LTE hardware modules offer complete, single-mode LTE solutions based on the Colibri chipset and platform, simplifying integration and shortening the time to market for the development of hardware devices and products with cellular connectivity.

These modules are ideal for adding LTE connectivity to embedded devices and the ever-expanding array of new types of IoT products now going wireless for the first time. EZLink LTE modules come pre-tested, pre-integrated and pre-certified for easy drop-in integration into your design, with IoT-friendly interfaces, LP-DDR SDRAM, embedded boot Flash and power management included.

These compact hardware modules, available in either the M.2 PC card form factor or an ultra-small surface-mountable LGA form factor, are based on the Colibri LTE chipset platform and include all the other elements necessary for a complete LTE modem system - allowing for a simplified, cost-effective, all-in-one solution for adding LTE connectivity to numerous types of IoT, M2M, consumer electronics and mobile computing devices.

These modules incorporate the Colibri LTE platform along with all the other elements required for a complete LTE modem system, including an LTE-optimised transceiver, a complete dual-band RF front-end for LTE bands 4 and 13, and key peripheral interfaces, all in a single compact package.

Voice and data are supported – including Voice over LTE, Wi-Fi SoftAP, and all major operating systems such as Windows, Android, ChromeOS, Linux and MacOS. Interfacing with hardware is easy thanks to support for a wide variety of hardware interfaces - including USB 2.0, HSIC, SDIO, SPI and high-speed UART.

According to Sequans, the availability of these powerful and compact yet low-cost chipset solutions for 4G LTE, already certified for use with Verizon Wireless in the United States, the world's leading LTE network, will accelerate adoption of single-mode LTE across the whole spectrum of IoT and M2M applications.

Game-changing efficiencies built into the Colibri platform mean that the costs of embedded LTE modules are now at or below 3G costs for the first time, making the move from 3G to the high bandwidth of 4G/LTE connectivity very attractive in a range of embedded mobile, M2M and IoT applications where the appropriate Telco network infrastructure exists.

Colibri is just one of many UMTS and LTE wireless options available for your new or existing Internet of Things application, and here at the LX Group our team can help you move past the 2G shutdown and enable longevity for your products. Getting started is easy – 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, August 17, 2015

Multiplatform Internet-of-Things development with CloudPlugs

CloudPlugs is an end-to-end platform that provides cloud computing services for Internet-of-Things applications - with features including a trigger management engine, geolocation engine, database and storage engine and a billing engine.

Their new SmartPlug Apps cloud-based IDE allows the development of CloudPlugs IoT applications from the cloud, along with cloud-based automation that enables the remote deployment, configuration, update and management of devices.

IoT applications can be developed in JavaScript using the SmartPlug cloud based IDE, or with your favourite JavaScript development tool, anywhere, any time, on any browser. Whether you are a home user, an appliance manufacturer or a service provider, the CloudPlugs cloud service allows you to develop, deploy and manage as many as thousands of Internet-connected devices quickly without the need to develop and manage your own IT infrastructure to support them.

CloudPlugs offers the SmartPlug agent as the backbone of their IoT platform, which they claim is the most powerful and secure agent available for IoT devices. It is a secure, robust and lightweight yet powerful software agent with full lifecycle management capabilities for IoT gateways and other devices - enabling secure and efficient communications with the CloudPlugs IoT platform through their PlugNet protocol.

The platform supports local communications through multiple interfaces and protocols simultaneously, enabling devices with different physical interfaces and protocols to communicate. Devices and gateways powered by SmartPlug can easily exchange data with and control other devices, and scripts can be developed in the cloud and deployed to thousands of SmartPlugs with one click.

CloudPlugs offers maximum flexibility by delivering its end-to-end IoT connectivity platform as a subscription service as well as for in-house deployments. There is no limit on the number of prototype virtual devices that you can create and test in CloudPlugs, even with a free account.

The free account allows you to get started with free evaluation or hobbyist use of CloudPlugs, with up to 10 physical devices, up to 100Mb of storage and 100Mb of bandwidth per month. This is designed to allow individuals or small businesses to use the CloudPlugs platform to manage IoT devices as well as providing a free evaluation platform for larger users.

Moving up to a paid business subscription allows you to use as many devices as you want, with as much storage and bandwidth as your devices need, and a pay-as-you-use elastic pricing model which scales as your IoT business grows - where you're only paying for the bandwidth and resources you're actually using.

You can also choose a white-label CloudPlugs deployment in order to deliver IoT services, devices and management dashboards to customers under your own brand, along with in-house deployment on your own servers if desired for security or compliance reasons.

CloudPlugs uses a flexible and powerful MQTT-based publish-and-subscribe architecture, where things and applications subscribe to channels to publish their information and to read or issue control commands. Channels are data structures that allow things and applications to publish and to read data. Things or applications publish data into channels, or subscribe to channels to read data.

Channels can be created manually through the platform, or created dynamically. This dynamic management of channels means that they will automatically disappear if all the data published to that channel is deleted and will be created on-the-fly as data gets published to a newly specified channel by devices, removing the need for manual and inflexible configuration of channels.

Your devices and applications communicate with each other by subscribing to the same channels through MQTT, REST, WebSockets or the PlugNet protocol. Devices or "things" that use MQTT can connect and exchange data with other things that use the MQTT or WebSockets protocols, and if you've already developed existing products or devices that communicate using MQTT then it's easy to get started connecting them to the CloudPlugs platform by modifying the MQTT logic to communicate to the CloudPlugs backend service.

To get started connecting your IoT things to the CloudPlugs platform, you need a CloudPlugs account - along with an appropriate hardware platform such as an Android device, an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Libelium Waspmote or many others. Next you'll need a software library that will be integrated with your controller firmware, and these are supplied for free download from CloudPlugs to cover a range of supported devices.

A wide range of different hardware and software platforms can easily and quickly be connected to the CloudPlugs platform using a lightweight REST API, which allows for almost any contemporary or future hardware platform to be integrated into the system.

CloudPlugs libraries are designed to give developers maximum flexibility and choice for the development and integration of applications to monitor and manage their IoT devices, and libraries are available that enable the development of software for integration with CloudPlugs using a range of different programming languages and environments - including Node.js, JavaScript, C, PHP, Android, Arduino and Objective-C.

These supported platforms cover a wide range of applications, including networking, development on embedded platforms such as the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone, and the Objective-C development of iOS apps.

Getting started with Cloudplugs can be easily achieved – for any purpose from initial experimenting with the Internet-of-Things to a full system. Here at the LX Group we’re ready to partner with you to meet your Internet-of-Things product goals, and can work with your ideas and more to bring them to reality. Getting started is easy – 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, August 7, 2015

Interact with Smartphone users using Beacons

As smartphone use becomes prevalent in today’s society, they can not only be used for voice and data communication – later models equipped with Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) can also receive messages over a short range from new Bluetooth LE-equipped devices known as Beacons.

As always Google is on the forefront of Beacon technology, and their new beacon platform enables contextual experiences for users through mobile interactions with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons. These beacons are simple, low-power devices which send one-way BLE signals that can be read by nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Beacons can be deployed in fixed places such as businesses, museums, and bus stops, and also on movable objects such as vehicles. Deploying BLE beacons in your venue or attaching them to physical assets that you manage is a good way to give users a location-aware experience via their mobile devices, with contextual and timely information for users which is relevant to their local environment.

Google's beacon platform consists of several components, starting with the beacon hardware. Lightweight and power-efficient BLE beacons transmit Bluetooth beacon frames, such as Eddystone frames, at a defined interval.

The Proximity Beacon API can be used to register any beacon that supports Eddystone, the iBeacon specification or the AltBeacon specification, so you've got a wide range of compatible hardware choices.

The next key component is Google's Eddystone, an open beacon format that can communicate with Android and iOS devices, aimed at improving interoperable BLE beacon-based applications and services. Eddystone is designed with transparency and robustness in mind, building upon lessons learned from working with industry partners in existing deployments, as well as the wider beacon user community, and it's released under the Apache 2.0 open-source license.

The Eddystone protocol specification defines a BLE message format for proximity beacon messages, and it describes several different frame types that may be used individually or in combination to create beacons that can be used for a variety of applications.

Different frame types can typically be interleaved by a single beacon, for example 100 transmissions of an Eddystone UID frame for location identification followed by one Eddystone TLM telemetry frame for a health status check, then a repeat of that cycle.

The final key component of the beacon platform is the Proximity Beacon API, which allows you to administer data associated with the beacons that your application uses. The Proximity Beacon API allows you to manage your beacons, register and update beacons, add "attachments" to beacons via the cloud, and monitor the status and health of beacons by monitoring parameters such as battery level.

To make it easy to learn about the Proximity Beacon API and to get started using it, Google provides proximity beacon sample apps for both iOS and Android mobile platforms.

The Proximity Beacon API allows you to manage data associated with your BLE beacons using a REST interface. The Proximity Beacon API allows you to register beacons to the cloud, with beacon attachments hosted on Google's servers.

After you register a beacon with the Proximity Beacon API you can associate attachments that are stored in the cloud, which means you can manage and update the information associated with each beacon even after the beacons are deployed.

The Proximity Beacon API, in combination with Eddystone's telemetry broadcast type, helps you to manage your beacons and ensure that your beacon fleet is behaving as it should. Eddystone-TLM frames allow your beacons to report their status to client devices.

For most beacons, these frames are transmitted at regular intervals throughout the device lifetime. You can use the diagnostics and monitoring tools in the Proximity Beacon API to get health statistics from the beacon network and to identify any erroneous behaviours, such as a beacon with a low battery, allowing you to allocate maintenance where it's needed with beacons in the field, ensuring that your users have a consistently great experience.

You can use attachments to provide data which is specific to one or more beacons, enabling your apps to react to the user's location. Since attachments are stored in the cloud, the Proximity Beacon API provides a scalable, low-latency way to manage and update the data associated with your deployed beacons, ensuring that your users always see the latest available data and eliminating the need to manually re-provision beacons.

After attachments have been added to beacons using the Proximity Beacon API, you can retrieve them in your app using the Nearby Messages API.

Using Google's Nearby API, you can extend the functionality of Eddystone and the Google Beacon Platform, allowing your iOS or Android app to detect nearby beacons and execute their attachments, giving users a rich and interactive proximity-based experience.

Users' devices can use Bluetooth beacons as a signal to improve other location-based tools, such as the Place Picker, which assists users in selecting nearby locations of interest such as local businesses. With the Nearby API, you can build apps that detect beacons and retrieve messages that you wish to associate with each beacon and process within your app.

Examples could include showing the bus schedule when a user is waiting at a bus stop or providing ticket availability at a theatre kiosk. When you've added an attachment to your beacon using the Proximity Beacon API, the Nearby Messages API allows your mobile app to retrieve the attached message or content when the user's device detects the beacon.

Here at the LX Group we’re ready to partner with you to realise your Beacon requirements, Internet-of-Things ideas and more to bring them to reality. Getting started is easy – 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, August 2, 2015

Upgrade Zigbee-based hardware with the new Freescale Kinetis KW2x Family

The exponential increase of chipsets aimed at the Internet-of-Things market has offers a huge variety of new IP-based products to choose from, which may cause the appearance that older standards such as ZigBee are waning in popularity. However, nothing could be further from the truth, and one example is the new Kinetis KW2x microcontroller family from Freescale Semiconductor.

The Kinetis KW2x is a series of wireless system-on-chip devices aimed at meeting the increased processing and memory requirements associated with applications that use advanced 802.15.4/ZigBee stacks and communications standards in modern Internet-of-Things applications, such as ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0 and the ZigBee Internet Protocol specification, today and into the future.

These devices integrate a 50 MHz ARM Cortex-M4 processor with an 802.15.4-compliant 2.4 GHz RF transceiver on a single chip, providing a low-power, compact, single-chip integrated solution for 802.15.4/ZigBee wireless mesh network applications in home automation, healthcare, smart energy and consumer electronics.

The KW2x family expands on the successful Kinetis microcontroller portfolio based on the ARM Cortex-M4 core, with the software protocol stacks, development tools and IDE all compatible with the existing family of Kinetis MCUs and the ZigBee protocol seamlessly integrated into Kinetis software development tools - allowing you to rapidly get started programming and creating wireless mesh networks for your embedded and IoT applications.

Specifications are rich, as the Kinetis KW2x family integrates a class-leading 2.4 GHz RF transceiver, a Cortex-M4 core and a robust feature set for a powerful, secure and low-power IEEE 802.15.4 wireless solution all integrated on a single die.

These wireless MCUs offer up to 512 KB of flash, 64 KB of RAM and up to 64 KB of FlexMemory. Dual PAN support allows this platform to simultaneously participate in two ZigBee networks, making it useful in complex ZigBee installations or in router or gateway applications.

The KW2x family supports the ZigBee IP network stack, the RF4CE standard, and the ZigBee Home Automation, ZigBee Smart Energy 1.x and ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0 ZigBee application profiles, enabling a broad range of applications.

Along with reducing product size and reducing bill-of-materials cost with a highly integrated solution - the KW2x product line offers strong power efficiency and long battery life in portable, battery-powered Internet of Things applications.

 The radio subsystem supports the 2.4 GHz ISM band as well as the 2.36-2.4 GHz MBAN (medical body-area network) band, and offers high power efficiency for its transmit power, along with fast antenna diversity, transmit power up to +8 dBm and a receiver sensitivity of -102 dBm, offering very long communication range.

The microcontroller provides enough memory to run complicated protocol stacks on a single IC while also providing plenty of space for user application code.

According to Freescale, this family of devices provides greater processing performance and larger flash and RAM options compared to other similar devices on the market, helping smart IoT appliances and consumer automation products avoid obsolescence as 802.15.4/ZigBee specifications evolve, with the ability to meet future standards and new ZigBee application profiles via firmware updates on the same hardware.

The Kinetis KW2x wireless MCU family provides plenty of Flash and RAM, allowing engineers to quickly upgrade products with new features, including over-the-air remote firmware updates, without the need for costly and relatively difficult replacements of the hardware in users' homes and other installations.

For applications that require more flexibility, the KW2x platform optionally provides 64 kB of "FlexMemory", that allows users to configure part of the on-chip flash memory as additional flash memory or enhanced EEPROM. This means users can choose how that memory is allocated between program and data storage, for example if extra EEPROM space is desired for storing configuration data.

The KW2x family offers reduced power consumption and an increased RF link budget, along with antenna diversity which improves reliability of the radio link, particularly in environments where multipath interference is a problem.

The IEEE 802.15.4 2.4GHz transceiver is designed to reduce transmission power where appropriate, and run in a low-power mode when commanded, helping to achieve strong power efficiency. These devices include hardware assisted dual personal area network support, which means that a single device can communicate wirelessly on two different ZigBee networks, simultaneously using two different PAN IDs.

This makes these chipsets attractive for gateway or router applications in home or building automation networks, connecting together different smart energy or home automation networks without the need for multiple radios.

Security has not been forgotten – as Freescale have integrated advanced security features usually found in higher-end processors, providing security and cryptographic functions including key generation, secure memory and tamper detect functionality.

Secure Flash protects the code and data from unauthorised access or modification, while tamper detection can identify events and asynchronously erase secure RAM, generating an interrupt so the application firmware can take additional actions, including a system reset.

A dedicated cryptographic acceleration unit supports a set of specialised operations to improve the throughput of encryption and decryption operations as well as message digest functions. These features address the growing attention and the need for strong security in embedded SCADA and automation systems as well as connected Internet-of-Things consumer products in the home.

As leaders in Zigbee-based product development, we’re ready to work together with you to develop new product designs, or reviewing and upgrade any existing versions with you for your success. Getting started is easy – 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, July 20, 2015

Researching the future of the Internet of Things with ELLIOT

The Experiential Living Lab for the Internet of Things (ELLIOT) project is a European research project that aims to develop an experiential platform for Internet of Things research, where users and the public are directly involved in co-creating, exploring and experimenting with new ideas, technologies, potential market opportunities and concepts related to IoT applications and services - particularly where UX and user interaction design is concerned.

The ELLIOT program is designed to support research into the potential impact of the IoT and other emerging information technologies in the context of what the ELLIOT consortium calls the "Open User Centred Innovation" paradigm and the "Living Lab" approach.

Established by a consortium of European universities, institutions and private industries - ELLIOT is a three-year research program built around four main aims - firstly, to study and develop a set of "KSB" (Knowledge, Social and Business) Experience Models integrating social, technical, economic, legal and ethical dimensions related to the use of emerging IoT technologies and services into a single, holistic meta model.

Secondly, the project aims to design and develop an "Experiential Platform" where these KSB Experience Models will be implemented to allow people to explore and experience socially-enabled IoT technology and other information technology including the validation of this technology and evaluation of its impact. This experiential platform will operate as a knowledge and experience-gathering testbed environment in the context of the IoT.

Thirdly, the project aims to explore the potential of collaborative UI design techniques and tools such as serious gaming, participative requirements engineering and requirements validation in the context of the IoT.

Finally, one of the core objectives of the ELLIOT research program is to experiment within a series of "Living Labs", each composed of a physical space, a information space architecture and a social community of users of that space. The project is expected to facilitate increased adoption of IoT technologies in Europe and to enhance the potential of collaborative industry, academic and public-sector innovation for the discovery of novel IoT applications, services and business opportunities which bridge the gap between these emerging technologies, industry stakeholders and the public.

The ELLIOT project's "experiential" approach has been explored and its technology platform experimented with in different use-cases belonging to six different sectors, namely Wellbeing, Logistics, Environment, Retail, Remote Medical Assistance, and Energy-Efficient Offices, in order to validate the capacity for users and the public to co-create innovative and useful IoT-based services in these domains.

Starting from these use-cases, it is expected that the ELLIOT project will contribute to a new, user-centric approach to novel product and service development with IoT technologies, while also being applicable to IT products and services more generally, through the use of this "Experiential Platform" and the progressive extension of the use of this platform into other use-cases and industrial sectors.

The engagement of users in the research and innovation process behind new products and services is attracting more attention in technology design today, across many industrial sectors. This is especially true in business domains where users and citizens have a crucial role in the adoption of new services that they collaboratively create on top of new information and communication technologies.

This is particularly relevant when it comes to the Internet of Things, finding use-cases for IoT technologies, along with researching the markets for new IoT products and services. Examples of business domains that ELLIOT has identified as important, where the project aims to contribute valuable research, include "eHealth", "eInclusion", "eManufacturing", "eParticipation" and ICT for Environment as well as ICT for Energy.

To explore, to experiment with, and validate the experiential research and innovation approach that ELLIOT applies, several scenarios have been conducted in different "Living Labs", each implementing different kinds of IoT experiences. These Living Labs are composed of a physical space such as a building, a civil architecture, a laboratory, an urban or rural zone, equipped with advanced ICT infrastructure for communication and collaboration such as wired networks, wireless terrestrial networks or wireless satellite networks.

The need for this user-participative approach is increasingly being recognised, and the "Living Lab" model is becoming more popular. A "Living Lab" is an open innovation environment in a real-life setting in which experiential research and innovation is supported by the availability of a technology platform for designing innovative applications and services.

The European Network of Living Labs comprises 274 diverse and mature "Living Labs" covering a wide range of application domains. Most of them are already operational in different domains spanning from eHealth to Energy Optimisation and Efficiency, from Intelligent Mobility to Inclusion of the elderly and disadvantaged people and Rural Development.

The project also aims to identify, experiment with and explore IoT-oriented user co-creation tools and techniques. Co-creation, as it's defined by ELLIOT, in an IoT-oriented environment is akin to the co-creation processes of software development which is very common, for example, in the open-source software development community.

Transferring the experience of the open-source software movement into an IoT-oriented "user co-creation" process through practices such as gamification and "serious gaming" is another approach that ELLIOT is investigating with the potential to enhance IoT-relevant collaborative development capabilities and to accelerate take-up and adoption of these practices.

We look forward to the results and news from the ELLIOT program, however here at the LX Group we’re always working on current and new IoT-based products for a wide range of clients.

If your organisation is considering new product design, or reviewing an existing version - your next step is to contact the team at the LX Group where we not only share your passion for embedded hardware and the Internet-of-Things - our team of solutions architects, engineers and specialists is ready to partner with you for your success in the IoT marketplace. Getting started is easy – 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, July 13, 2015

Zetta – an API-first Internet-of-Things platform

Here at the LX Group we’re always interested in new Internet-of-Things platforms, and the latest discovery by our team is a new entrant called Zetta. This is a new open-source Internet-of-Things platform that is built on Node.js, and designed for creating IoT servers and networked applications that run across multiple distributed devices, computers and the cloud.

Zetta aims to create an "API-First" Internet-of-Things platform - where any connected physical device and every Internet-connected "Thing" is exposed as an API, with REST APIs, WebSockets and reactive programming combined into a platform that is well suited for assembling many devices into data-intensive, real-time sensor networks or other Web-connected IoT applications.

Unlike other IoT platforms, Zetta servers can run in the cloud, on PCs, or on many different types of embedded hardware platforms and single-board computers such as a BeagleBone or Raspberry Pi.

With Zetta you can link these devices together, with each other and with cloud platforms such as Heroku, to create geo-distributed networks with an architecture that is optimised for data-intensive, real-time Big Data and streaming applications.

Furthermore, Zetta allows you to observe and react to device behaviour using code and using visualisation tools so that you gain actionable insights and take insightful actions based on physical data from IoT devices. You can also stream data into machine analytics platforms like Splunk.

And although you can run Zetta on lightweight hardware off the cloud, the platform allows you to assemble smartphone apps, device apps and cloud apps together into large, complex and adaptive "systems of systems" that operate at scale in the physical world of home automation, smart transportation, wearable computing and more.

Zetta also supports lightweight embedded microcontroller hardware such as the Arduino and Particle Core. Zetta communicates with these types of devices and exposes every device in the network, including these small devices, through a REST API both locally and in the cloud.

In a typical Zetta deployment a Zetta server will run on a hardware hub such as a BeagleBone Black, Intel Edison, or Raspberry Pi. This hardware hub device connects to other devices, and hosts the Zetta server itself which coordinates interactions with devices and generates HTTP APIs that an API consumer can interact with.

A typical Zetta deployment is built around a hub-and-spoke model, where the spokes are constrained devices and the hub devices have more computing power. For example, Zetta will run on a device such as a Raspberry Pi which is the hub, and this hub may be connected to "spoke" devices such as an Arduino.

End-node devices can be connected using Zetta even when these devices are low-cost, power efficient microcontrollers that don't have the processing or memory capacity to run Zetta directly. As Zetta is built in pure JavaScript on node.js, and while the hub device needs to support node.js - the endpoint hardware devices do not.

Zetta software servers have the capability to run on the end-node hardware device if this device has the capacity, on a nearby hub device such as a BeagleBone or Intel Edison, or in the cloud - and these Zetta servers are the same wherever they run.

As well as the Zetta server running on the hub hardware, another Zetta server lives in the cloud, using the exact same node package as the hub server - and the Zetta server on the hardware hub will connect to the server in the cloud. Zetta will then expose an API to any consumers at the cloud endpoint.

When the "spoke" device communicates with the hub, there are Zetta drivers that mediate between different protocols. For example, a Zetta driver could talk serial between the hub and the spoke device, and mediate that serial protocol into a Web API.

These drivers are responsible for interacting with the device on the physical level, providing device models that are then taken and used to generate HTTP and Javascript APIs for use in Zetta, and Zetta will mediate from HTTP to the particular protocols used for hardware devices.

There are existing drivers published for a wealth of different hardware and interoperability applications, such as serial device connectivity for any platform, connectivity with consumer devices such as the Phillips Hue and the Belkin Wemo, serial SMS text message connectivity using inexpensive SIMCOM SIM800 GPRS modules, connectivity with the Google Glass and the Pinoccio mesh network platform - to name but a few.

Along with device drivers, Zetta "Scouts" are another key component of the Zetta server, and these serve as a discovery mechanism for determining what devices are on the network and whether any devices require system resources to speak a specific protocol.

Scouts will search for devices using a particular protocol, and report this information back to Zetta. Scouts can also use information such as a MAC address to fingerprint devices, identifying whether or not Zetta has interacted with the device before, and ensuring any relevant data such as security credentials are seamlessly provided by the server when interacting with that device again.

If the Zetta hub device has connectivity directly to the Internet (with its own external IP address) then Zetta will communicate directly with cloud services such as Heroku via simple HTTP APIs and WebSockets. If the hub is behind a router, then the z2z protocol is used.

Zetta servers allow for establishing a secure tunnelled link between two servers, which helps take care of network configurations and mechanisms such as firewalls that can traditionally make setup and provisioning difficult for Internet-connected IoT cloud services.

As Zetta can run on a wide range of inexpensive hardware, it can certainly be considered as as low-cost entrant to the Internet-of-Things platform market.

If this is of interest to you, your next step is to contact the team at the LX Group where we not only share your passion for embedded hardware and the Internet-of-Things - our team of solutions architects, engineers and specialists is ready to partner with you for your success in the IoT marketplace. Getting started is easy – 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, July 6, 2015

Simplify Internet-of-Things hardware requirements with Texas Instruments’ CC3200

The CC3200 WiFi system-on-chip from Texas Instruments - a new entrant into the Texas instruments SimpleLink wireless connectivity family, aims to provide an easy to use, power-efficient "Internet on a Chip" platform that is specifically aimed at Internet-of-Things applications.

As a single-chip solution, the CC3200 offers a programmable microcontroller, memory and peripherals such as ADC and DAC all built-in alongside the Wi-Fi radio – giving you an easy, compact and cost-effective platform with which to design applications that include Wi-Fi connectivity in a wide range of industrial, consumer and home electronics applications.

The CC3200 is a complete platform for wireless IoT connectivity - including supporting software, sample applications, tools, user and programming guides and reference designs. By offering a very low power consumption, the CC3200 is well suited to battery-operated devices, with a power-efficient radio subsystem and advanced low power microcontroller sleep modes. An example of this is the hibernate with RTC mode that requires less than 4 micro amps of current.

Based around a powerful and industry-standard 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller core running at 80 MHz, together with an on-board Wi-Fi radio, the CC3200 can replace a microcontroller and a separate communications chipset in many embedded or Internet-of-Things applications.

Furthermore the CC3200 offers easy development of wireless products, with fast Wi-Fi connection, a full on-chip network stack, cloud support and robust security protocols on board. The device includes a wide variety of peripherals in the applications MCU, including a fast parallel camera interface, I2S, SD/MMC, UART, SPI, I2C, and four-channel ADC.

The Wi-Fi network processor contains an additional dedicated ARM MCU that completely offloads the applications MCU, and a 802.11 b/g/n radio, baseband, and MAC with a powerful crypto engine for fast, secure Internet connections with 256-bit encryption – along with support for Station, Access Point, and Wi-Fi Direct modes.

Security is covered as the CC3200 provides the ability to securely and easily connect embedded devices to secure Wi-Fi networks using a Web browser, phone or tablet app, with multiple options for easy provisioning including TI's SmartConfig technology, WPS or AP mode.

This means that the SSID and password for your wireless LAN does not need to be hard-coded into firmware, and provisioning your device to connect to a different network in the field can easily be accomplished without a firmware change. The CC3200 makes it easy to build embedded wirelessly networked and Internet-connected applications, requiring no prior Wi-Fi experience to get your product connected.

Learning more about the CC3200 is easy thanks to the extensive documentation and development tools provided by Texas Instruments. Rapid prototyping is possible thanks to compatibility with the simple “Energia” development environment, and compatibility with TI's extensive LaunchPad and BoosterPack ecosystem of development boards and hardware evaluation peripherals.

The ARM Cortex-M4 provides the CC3200 with a core microcontroller that is popular and well supported in the embedded development community, and silicon is available in small volumes, making it accessible for prototype purposes and for small-scale developers.

Similarly, all relevant datasheets and documentation for the CC3200 are publicly available from the Texas Instruments website without approval or NDA. The CC3200 comes in a compact QFN package with fully integrated RF front-end and analogue subsystems, allowing developers to put the device directly onto a PCB with minimal RF engineering expertise and minimal board real estate.

To make it easy to get started, TI also provides various kits and software tools, a FCC-certified LaunchPad development module, reference designs, development documentation and sample applications, alongside community support through their "Engineer 2 Engineer" forum.

The CC3200 LaunchPad is an evaluation and development platform for the CC3200 wireless connectivity SoC, which features on-board JTAG emulation and includes sensors for a full out-of-the-box experience. This board can be directly connected to a PC for use with development tools such as TI's Code Composer Studio and IAR Embedded Workbench.

The SDK for the CC3200 SimpleLink Wi-Fi platform contains drivers for the CC3200 system-on-chip microcontroller, documentation to get you started, and code for more than 40 sample applications. It also contains the tools you need in one place, to flash firmware to the device, configure software parameters and provision wireless network parameters such as SSID and authentication.

Furthermore the Internet and cloud-side possibilities are enhanced thanks to Texas Instruments’ and their partner companies – who have established a cloud ecosystem for Internet-of-Things applications, which helps designers and manufacturers using TI connectivity solutions to easily and rapidly connect their IoT designs to cloud-computing Internet services.

The TI IoT cloud ecosystem is made up of a number of IoT cloud service providers that provide a range of different value-adding services on top of TI's IoT hardware solutions, providing options to meet the Internet-of-Things needs of IoT product designers and manufacturers with known compatibility and interoperability across the IoT stack from the silicon to the Web services level. 

Partners include 2lemetry, Arrayent, ExoSite, Xively and IBM - and these companies have teamed up with TI to provide a range of cloud-connected demo applications, documentation and resources specifically aimed at the SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3200 LaunchPad and other compatible IoT hardware products.

At this point we hope you realise that the CC3200 offers an compact, secure and power-saving option for your current or future Internet-of-Things device. The next step is to contact the team at the LX Group where we not only share your passion for embedded hardware and the Internet-of-Things - our team of solutions architects, engineers and specialists is ready to partner with you for your success in the IoT marketplace. Getting started is easy – 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.