2020–20 years of IoT

It’s 2020 and I’m almost 30 years old. In 2040 I will be almost 50. We’ll come back to that as we go on…

Retrospective

About 20 years ago I got my first mobile phone, bulky and amazing. Battery lasted for a week, all I could do was to make a call and send a text message. Let’s have a look back. A good intro into Cellular IoT if you are not familiar with the topic: https://blog.nordicsemi.com/getconnected/what-is-cellular-iot.

  • 1982 — Ideas about “IoT” type solutions start to appear
  • 1991 — CELLPAC mobile data protocol created as the foundation of GPRS
  • 1991–2G service launched in Finland
  • 1999 — Kevin Ashton coins the term Internet of Things: https://www.postscapes.com/iot-history/
  • 2000 — GPRS (2.5G) mobile data transmission becomes generally available — first connected IoT devices through a mobile network
  • 2020–2G networks being phased out, sunsets mostly planned 2020–2025

Guiding principles

To navigate the exponential growth in IoT demand and technical availability, we are creating future-proof solutions by making them:

  • always upgradable
  • always automatically tested
  • always originating from trusted sources
  • “LoRaWAN tracker” with GPS for rugged applications — a self-contained device with GPS and a battery designed to be left in the field for a decade and send data
  • “NB-IoT sensor” outdoor industrial infrastructure — a self-contained device installed in the field collecting sensor data and reporting them to the cloud for a decade or two
IRNAS development for Smart Parks
IRNAS development for Izoelektro

Always upgradable

The next 20 years are likely to present a significant evolution in the two key technologies presently used, namely NB-IoT and LoRaWAN for long-range communication and Bluetooth and NFC for short-range.

  • a bad communication configuration, for example on mobile network APN setting, wrong band or not adjusting the device according to the changes of the mobile operator
  • the unit running out of battery prematurely
  • other random events that are much more difficult to predict but as well may not be very frequent.
  • Local communication enables a service technician to perform a number of key tasks:
  • — Physical connector: If the device is easily accessible and trained personnel is using it
  • — NFC: Wireless communication with good security due to short distance, good for waterproof devices and smartphone compatibility
  • — Bluetooth: Wireless communication in the short-range which is great if the device is mounted inaccessibly. It offers additional options such as using drones or other automated solutions to come in the range and perform actions. It also offers the capability of local device clustering.
  • Remote communication is the link to the world and the cloud
  • — LoRaWAN
  • — NB-IoT/LTE-M1
  • — other options
  • Backup communication to be able to receive limited data out-of-band
  • — Lacuna.space — enables the use of the same LoRaWAN module to send data to space and terrestrial gateways, only an appropriate antenna is required.

Always automatically tested

The rapid evolution of IoT solutions drives the development cycles to be short and effective with a significant portion of development on the firmware side happening well after the hardware is deployed in the field. The latest advances in embedded system automated testing enable the creation of automated validation solutions as part of the development process.

  • Developer automated testing setup, increasing development efficiency: we develop firmware with real-time power consumption monitoring, develop drivers and hardware interfacing code with continuous integration support and tests. All our firmware functions are unit tested, emulated or cross-compiled on a computer.
  • Continuous integration testing of the full solution: during the development, as well as continuously over the lifetime of the product we perform (a suitable version of) device integration testing, on actual hardware, validating the operation in various scenarios, end-to-end.
  • Production testing: validating that every device operates correctly at the point of production. This step is most often coupled with device provisioning and shipping mode configuration.

Always from trusted source

IoT solutions for industrial applications have significant added value to their field of application. That said, that is true only if they are long-term reliable in their performance, which always tends to depend on cost considerations. While it is often possible to find a cheaper hardware component, the true cost of it is difficult to determine. Primarily, it consists of validation costs to make sure the component works as defined in all expected and unexpected cases. Furthermore, it is dependent also on the required firmware support and a number of well-defined features as well as the reputability of the source. As we’ve seen it ourselves time and time again, risky choices for direct hardware cost-saving often lead to efforts in development that are hard to predict and hard to manage. The reduced cost of the component itself really only becomes significant in the case of large-scale manufacturing.

Conclusion

Building a solution that will work in 2040 (when I’m almost 50!) is entirely feasible today with technologies and solutions currently available. To enable such a long lifetime from the communication perspective, a suitable technology must be chosen and the whole solution must be very rigorously tested. At IRNAS we strive to continuously improve our development methods and grow as a novel solution provider. Often we also encounter gaps in technology and tools and end up creating our own, making them openly available or creating a spin-off like Testnik.io to make our job easier in the future and our solutions more sustainable today!

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Institute IRNAS

Institute IRNAS

We are applying today’s knowledge to create systems for an open future.