Greg Fyke, Marketing Director, IoT Wireless Products, Silicon Labs
There are three key areas of improvement in IoT applications: interoperability, complexity and security. Connected devices must be able interpret the same set of data and be controlled by a single application. This can be achieved by either using a common application layer or by interworking in gateways or the cloud. Connectivity is becoming simpler with advances in software, development tools and hardware reference designs, but it needs to reach a state “plug-and-play” simplicity to be adopted on a broader scale. The need for security is ever paramount; sharing data between connected devices requires trust and access requires authentication. When all of these elements come together, the IoT reaps the benefit of the network effect. Seamlessly interconnected devices can accomplish so much more than a collection of connected silos.
David Hall, Principal Product Manager, National Instruments
The increasing data throughput requirements – combined with increasing device density – is a key challenge driving the development of new wireless technologies. For example, the next generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ax, is explicitly aimed at solving some of these network density challenges – and is billed as high efficiency WLAN (HEW). To address density challenges, one of the proposed features of 802.11ax is dynamic clear channel assessment (CCA). Using this feature, an access point can dynamically sense other nearby transmitters and adjust its own output power to avoid interference.
In addition to 802.11ax, the requirement for higher data throughput is also introducing new wireless technologies at millimeter wave frequencies. For example, present-day 802.11ad and a future 802.11ay specification will enable higher data throughput at 60 GHz.
Looking toward the future, the use of evolving wireless networking technologies – from 802.11ac to 802.11ax – inherently adds greater product complexity and higher test cost. As wireless devices evolve to address the requirements of the IoT, NI is committed to solving the challenges of wireless test with a platform-based approach that lowers the cost of wireless test.
Alan Grau, President, Icon Labs
One of the biggest challenges for IoT device and system developers is providing security for the very small endpoints that will make up the majority of IoT devices and sensors. Traditional approaches of isolating them using a secure gateway or other partitioning mechanism won’t work because these Things are often sensors that can exist anywhere in the world – often not behind traditional security perimeters.
Even the smallest of these devices need to have security built in. Due to cost, size, battery and performance constraints, many of these devices will not have built in hardware based security. But that does not mean that designers should just ignore security. We are providing software based security solutions for very small devices, down to 8 bit MCUs, requiring as little as 8Kb of memory. Providing a scalable security solution that will support these devices is critical. Obviously the security capability will scale with the device, but it is important that it still be included.
Security, like the IoT, is an inherently complex topic that encompasses protecting data at rest and in transit, ensuring secure boot, securely updating firmware, intrusion detection, and certificate management. Consideration must be given to the selection of encryption algorithms, secure key storage and hardware security features.
Against this backdrop of complexity, users expect devices that are intuitive to use and reliable, or put more bluntly, NOT complex.
To successfully manage this complexity, developers can leverage IoT ready platforms, security solutions and software stacks. Engineer’s jobs are not getting any easier, but fortunately there are tools and solutions to help.
Vesa Jokitulppo, Senior Product Manager, Embedded Power Product Line, GE’s Critical Power Business
Boldest predictions put the worldwide market for IoT solutions in 2020 in the trillions of dollars and billions of connected devices—cars, smart meters, smart appliances, media devices, light bulbs, wearables, home automation—and Industrial Internet devices that monitor and control infrastructure assets in aviation, oil and gas, transportation, power generation and distribution, manufacturing, healthcare and mining. These solutions have the potential to generate vast amounts of data.
Wi-Fi and low-power technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy, Zwave and Zigbee will play an important role carrying IoT signaling and data traffic, however, they are not suitable for all types of IoT devices. For example, devices that require the ubiquitous nature of cellular will add significant strain to cellular network capacity. Service providers will need to use new and innovative technologies to manage this congestion.
One of the solutions, which already is on the rise, is the use of small cells to build additional capacity. Without access to base station node’s 48-volt power rail and with limited space and cooling airflow, the power architecture of small-cell remote radio heads (RRH) requires new thinking. Modern power electronics like fanless, conduction-cooled power supplies help to satisfy challenging design restrictions for small-cell RRH designs. For fast time to market, minimized development risk and high reliability, savvy developers can combine these power supplies, such as GE’s CLP0212, with ruggedized point-of-load power (PoL) modules to provide accurate voltage conversion for both the 0.6-3 volt computing electronics and 32-48 volt power amplifiers typically used in small-cell RRH designs.
At the other end of the radio link, there will be a multitude of diverse IoT devices developed by innovative companies with new solutions to real-world consumer or industrial problems. The convergence of affordable miniaturized electronics for computing and wireless connectivity and the simultaneous rise of cloud computing have enabled IoT and Industrial Internet solutions for these problems. As with any emerging industry, however, time to market will be a significant key to success. Solutions like GE rectifiers and PoL modules provide power designers with easy, fast and low-risk products to enhance their design and development strategy while also allowing designers to focus on value adding features.
Suma Madapur, Technical Marketing Director – RF, Avnet Electronics Marketing
Lower power to ensure longer lasting battery, low latency and high-reliability communication at moderate data rates are essential to achieve the level of connectivity that IoT is promising. A future cellular standard could present a unified solution that jointly optimizes the wireless access network for both IoT and M2M communications.
Security is also a critical issue for Internet connected systems. Since IoT cuts across different sectors and embraces multiple devices and networks, the threats are at many different levels. Every new interface between devices, networks, platforms and users, is the potential for a new weak link. IoT by definition relies on lots of data with high levels of search-ability and analysis which also means that the data must exist in plain text, which presents multiple threats. To ensure the privacy of the end users, security has to be built in at device level with sensors and microcontrollers and continues through the networks, platforms and into the cloud.
Brian Rosema, Director of IIoT Strategy, Red Lion Controls
There are three key wireless networking challenges for successful Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) implementation, including reliable communication, security and control. Let’s examine each:
Existing hardware tends to communicate with any one of hundreds of different protocols. Many are not Ethernet based, but instead serial RS-232 or RS-485. Also, many legacy protocols are not ideal for Ethernet or cellular transmission. Users should not be expected to replace perfectly functional equipment just to provide a method to communicate between devices. Coupled with cellular M2M devices, protocol conversion provides a powerful end-to-end connectivity solution that enables organizations to extend equipment lifespan and reduce total cost of ownership.
System security is at risk anytime a control network is used in conjunction with Local Area Networks (LAN) that allow remote access and control. Red Lion’s industrial cellular M2M products offer secure (https) access, user authentication, Access Control Lists (ACL), whitelists and blacklists to effectively lock down network access. For increased security over cellular or wired Wide Area Network (WAN) connections, users can also configure NAT, IPsec, SSL and Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections/tunnels to ensure data is safe from end to end. Syslog servers are also available to track accounts and access attempts. Cellular carriers also provide private network options and private Access Point Node (APN) solutions that completely isolate cellular links from the “open” Internet. Users can even implement VPN/tunnel connections over these private solutions to further isolate and protect data.
Until recently, control for remote industrial processes was centralized and required large dedicated networks to maintain communication. With Red Lion’s RAM® industrial cellular RTUs, organizations are now able to drive control to the edge with simplified configuration on the device. Ongoing control of remote assets is essential to providing a safe fully-functional IIoT solution regardless of location.
Roger Schroder, Engineering Manager, Stahlin Non-Metallic Enclosures
IoT is a major driver for deploying wireless hubs and routers in a variety of environmental conditions.
Since many of these wireless hubs will be located in corrosive or harsh environments, designers need to investigate and determine the best protective enclosure material to ensure uninterrupted communication.
Many designers have discovered that non-metallic enclosures are a good option when faced with the need for compact housing because it protects the wireless device without having to add antennas or extensions. Another key benefit—non-ferrous aspects ensure reliable wireless signals to mobile assets and data handling devices. Plus, the insulated properties of non-metallic enclosures protect electronics against lighting strikes and external arc-flash sources.
Non-metallic materials are easily modified (simple to drill cutouts for audio/video connections) and withstand extreme cold and heat. Finally, non-metallics provide the user with a strong and durable enclosure that performs in a variety of challenging environments.
To ensure success, as the population of these wireless hubs grows exponentially, it makes sense to utilize non-metallic enclosure material properties for wireless IoT applications.
Yuna Shin, Leviton Senior Product Manager, Copper Solutions
Wireless devices are a significant contributor to the rise of IoT, and with the increasing demand for wireless connectivity it’s important to have a flexible, scalable, and reliable structured cabling backbone to support the required bandwidth. Existing cabling infrastructures may not be capable of providing the bandwidth needed for optimal performance. Many enterprise and mission-critical networks already rely on more powerful 10GbE speeds over Category 6A infrastructures, with an eye toward future 40GbE networks over Category 8 cabling.
Power requirements for devices communicating over wireless networks have also increased, placing considerable energy demands on supporting infrastructures. Structured cabling technology advancements such as Energy Efficient Ethernet (EEE) and port intelligence, as well as improvements in Category 6A cable and connector designs, have reduced power usage. EEE also sets the stage for implementing wake-on-LAN (WoL) and power back-off features to further reduce power consumption and increase energy efficiency.
Jay Torgerson, Wireless Business Development Manager, Anritsu
Flexible and cost-effective test solutions will play an important role to ensure products work as designed, without impacting other users and the network. They must efficiently analyze RF signals and communication protocol exchanges, along with security features, as they interface with the network and each other. Everybody involved in the standards-making process knows that one size will not fit all when it comes to test and certification, due to multiple evolving technologies.
Many IoT product designers may not have wireless technology experience, and therefore will rely on intelligent, easy-to-use test equipment to meet their broad and changing testing needs. Features such as simple test setup wizards and auto-ranging parameters, and good technical support allow developers to be operational quickly. Additionally, testing must be meaningful, fast and repeatable. Unattended, automated testing allows engineers to conduct repeatable tests while they perform other product development tasks that can help bring products to market faster.
Filed Under: Industrial automation