10 Internet of Things (IoT) Design Considerations: Antenna and Cloud

7. Antenna

Most IoT products use wireless technologies to connect with the world. The type and number of wireless technologies used will impact the type and number of antennas needed. For example, 900MHz, 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios all may have different requirements for antenna design.

Module manufacturers often provide multiple options for antennas, such as an on-board chip or ceramic antennas. They may also offer a wire (or “whip”) antenna, a “trace” antenna, or a “pin-out” so the manufacturer can add their own antenna (either internal or external connector elsewhere on the circuit board). In addition manufacturers may offer U.FL (also called IPEX) connectors for external. In this case, the connection from the U.FL connector to the external antenna is accomplished with a short coaxial “pigtail” that has the mating U.FL connector on one end and the mating connector for the antenna on the other end. The costs of the pigtail and antenna are often overlooked but need to be included in a manufacturer’s BOM for their designs.

When selecting between internal and external antennas, designers must consider the material (metal, plastic, etc.) of the housing and the potential placement of the product within a home or business. If a product is placed behind a couch or under a desk, it may have difficulty getting a wireless signal from the nearest gateway, access point, or router. Metal housings almost always require an external antenna design because the metal in the housing greatly reduces the amount of radio frequencies getting in or out of the housing.

8. Cloud

By definition, most IoT applications include some Cloud-based component. Many manufacturers entering the IoT space are new to Cloud development, which makes decision-making for Cloud applications, such as how and when a product will connect to the Cloud, difficult.

“How” an IoT-enabled device communicates with a cloud application refers to what protocol is being used to communicate with the Cloud. Many early IoT implementations followed a proprietary protocol, where the device manufacturer implements its own protocol to communicate with its cloud applications. Recently, more companies have become aware that a standard protocol is needed for IoT communications to be successful and have started providing third party, end-to-end solutions with platforms to develop and host applications.

“When” an IoT device connects to the cloud, refers to the frequency of data exchange with the cloud application. Devices that are always on (connected to a power supply) can easily stay connected to the cloud constantly. This improves the ability to be “near real time” when communicating with the Cloud application. Battery-powered devices often only connect to the internet and send data periodically in order to conserve battery life. In this case there is a delay, as the device has to re-establish its connection to the wireless router and then to the Cloud server. Battery-powered devices should also consider a “heart-beat,” so that the device connects to the Cloud application periodically without an event to trigger it. This allows the application to know the device is still online and has power or battery-life remaining for when an event does occur.

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Companies help animate Naperville North robotics projects

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What is 6-foot 5-inches tall and can haul recycling totes and bins to the curb?

For members of the Huskie Robotics Team at Naperville North High School, the answer is obvious. It’s their new robot.

More than 70 students from Naperville North, as well as a handful of Naperville Central students, are building a tall, 120-pound robot as part of this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition.

The Huskie Robotics Team would not be able to function without the assistance of corporate sponsors, said robotics sponsor and science teacher, Mark Rowzee.

Not only do the companies provide monetary support, but many send mentors to work with students.

On any given night, six or seven engineering and other professionals will be on hand to offer whatever help students need. Rowzee estimated mentors devoted more than 300 hours of assistance last year.

This year, Molex and the Exelon Corp. joined the long list of Huskie Robotics sponsors that include Navistar, Grid Connect, Create Cut Invent, ConnectSense, the Motorola Solutions Foundation and Lextech.

Read more at the Naperville Sun.

Going the Distance: How Range Affects IoT Design

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When it comes to designing products for the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) market, there are many development options. Designers must consider choices for hardware and software, Internet connection method and device power, to name a few.

When making these decisions, there is often one factor that will influence all these choices: distance. The network range required for IoT devices plays a surprisingly important role even in the smallest design decisions. After all, the transmission of data is at the core of IoT devices. Transmission range depends on the type of network used, the environment it will be used in, and the types of data being communicated.

Consider the following questions:

  • Will the device be used inside one building or between buildings?
  • Will the device need to transmit data through walls or floors?
  • Is transmission impacted by buildings or trees?
  • Will the device connect to a nearby existing network or to a cellular network miles away?
  • Will the device send show tourists of information, such as text messages, or longer information, such as videos or files?

Read more at Remote Magazine or download the PDF now.

January 2015 Newsletter – Link Round Up

 

10 Internet of Things Design Considerations [White Paper] – Connecting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) is essential to manufacturers looking to stay competitive within their industry. Adding IoT capabilities gives consumers more features. It also allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customer while discovering new product use cases and applications that open them up to new revenue streams. > Download the White Paper

How the First Apple HomeKit Products Will Work – The first collection of Apple HomeKit-compatible products were quietly announced last week at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, and we saw everything from smart plugs and sensors to garage door openers and locks. There’s nothing too sexy about those types of appliances, but we were able to learn more about how Apple HomeKit and its vision for the smart home will work. > Read more at Mashable

The ConnectSense Smart Outlet Will Give You Command of Your Walls – After months of speculation, we’re finally getting some dirt on which products will work with Apple’s HomeKit once it launches. The Grid Connect ConnectSense Smart Outlet replaces a standard wall outlet and includes a USB port. It’s available for preorder now and should start shipping this quarter. > Read more at CNET

My 2015 Internet of Things Wishlist – The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most hyped technology of 2014 and 2015 promises even more innovative IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology will surface. Building on the growth of IoT in 2014, the IoT will see even more explosive growth and innovation in 2015. Although I have several predictions of what will happen in the IoT world this year, I have one big item on my wish list that involves cellular carriers. > Read more at Embedded Computing Design

Grid Connect’s Biggest Takeaways About the Smart Home Space at CES 2015 – A few members of the Grid Connect and ConnectSense teams were excited to attend CES this year. While a lot of time was spent in the booth demoing the ConnectSense Smart Outlet, we were able to stretch our legs and explore many other CES exhibits as well. Home automation was a big aspect of the show this year and we were definitely proud to be contributing to it. > Read more at ConnectSense.com

 

10 Internet of Things (IoT) Design Considerations: Power and Size

5. Power

Power considerations need to be made when connecting a product to the IoT. Products already using a wall outlet will not have an issue. Manufacturers of products not using a wall outlet will have to consider how their power source will affect their product’s design.

IoT devices running on batteries will have to make hardware decisions based on power conservation. There are also a variety of different types of batteries to be taken into consideration: alkaline, lithium (rechargeable) and coin. There are also AA, AAA, coin cell, C, D, 9V, or custom batteries to choose from. As noted earlier, wireless technologies have different power requirements based on use-cases. Once a manufacturer understands how long and how often a device will be connected and the wireless network is chosen, a properly sized and type of battery can be chosen.

Another source of power for Ethernet-based devices is Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). This technology is popular for low-wattage IP phones and security cameras. Recent advancements and new switching technology is pushing the wattage available through PoE to new levels, thus opening up new possibilities for more power-hungry applications and devices.

6. Size

Many manufacturers start testing the IoT waters by modifying their existing product designs to add networking technologies. Because these devices already exist, many early entrants into the IoT world fail to redesign the product to allow for its newly added connectivity. Fortunately, there are a number of compact modules available for networking technologies that will fit in a manufacturer’s existing products.

These small modules are different though. Some modules are surface mount, others through-hole or pin-header and some still use a specialized mating connector. Also, how the network connector or antenna connector are integrated into the product vary from module to module. Designers must consider the space they have available on their circuit boards and/or in the product’s enclosures to allow whatever technology selected to be used in existing designs.

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CES 2015: Grid Connect’s Biggest Takeaways about the Smart Home Space

A few members of the Grid Connect and ConnectSense teams were excited to attend CES this year. While a lot of time was spent in the booth demoing the ConnectSense Smart Outlet, we were able to stretch our legs and explore many other CES exhibits as well. Home automation was a big aspect of the show this year and we were definitely proud to be contributing to it.

Now that it’s been a week since we’ve returned to the office and had some time to reflect, here are some takeaways we gathered from the Smart Home section of the show…

“Home automation was the belle of the ball at CES 2015. There were a lot of new and exciting products.  I feel like 2015 will be the year that home automation comes into focus and goes mainstream.  The winners in this market are going to be those who focus and build best in class devices that interoperate with other companies devices through standards like HomeKitAllSeenOICThread and others. The losers in this market will be those that try to do it all themselves and build every device under the sun on their system. In the end, what is good for consumers is good for this market. Companies that keep that in mind will do well.”

– Adam Justice, Vice President of Grid Connect and Founder of ConnectSense

“Wow! As always, the CES was an amazing event. We saw companies in the home automation space introducing products to broaden their product line, while others jumped in where they hadn’t played before.  There seems to be more and more devices every time I check Gizmodo or Mashable. Unfortunately, a lot of them are the same ol’ same ol’…innovation wins with me every time!

The big question is, what company will win the platform war? Are you developing your own ecosystem of devices ‘on an island’ of their own? Companies need to make sure the applications or the products are upgradable to future standards to take advantage of new features and capabilities. The last thing anyone wants to do is continually replace their devices or systems when new features are enabled.”

– John Marchiando, Vice President of Business Development at Grid Connect

“There are a lot of people and companies who want to be involved. Many devices are similar to each other so companies must separate themselves from their competition through the features and benefits of their products. They must also make sure to deliver on their promises about the capabilities of each device. Consumers are going to have to research different companies and their products to make sure they are finding the right devices for their needs and ideally, compatible with other home automation products they have now or will have in the future.

As a consumer, my biggest takeaway was that any product I buy needs to be worth the price tag. If the features and benefits are not up to par, or if it just plain doesn’t work, it’s not going to be in my house.”

– Brittney Borowicz, Marketing Manager at Grid Connect

And on the first time exhibiting at CES…

“As a first timer, the CES show is massive. The investment of the big companies like Intel, Samsung, LG are unbelievable. Our booth was in the Innovation area, which was fun to see all the different types of companies that were doing cool things. Our new Smart Outlet was well received and demoing it with Siri is a cool feature.  We will be back at CES next year, in the Smart Home section of the show.”

– Mike Justice, President and CEO of Grid Connect

What was your biggest takeaway about the smart home from CES 2015?

Beyond the IoT Hype: A Primer for Security Dealers

Wicked or wickedly good Internet of Things impacts home security, smart home, appliances.

Craving more hype? Then say hello to the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT will be everywhere, will do everything, will touch everyone — and generate trillions of dollars. It will be on every wrist, imprinted into bike shorts and on cans of green beans; it will reside in every home, office, factory, hospital room, school desk, and tent worldwide. The mighty IoT may one day spew out data streams of monoicosebyte proportions, all seemingly in a nanosecond. (Monoicosebytes are 9x exponential steps beyond the terabyte.)

If you’re counting, it will be the fourth industrial revolution — the ultimate tipping point. The paramount of all paradigm shifts. The most disorderly of disruptive technologies.

IDC, a global tech market intelligence firm with an awesome ability to count objects before they exist, claims the installed base of connected things will be 212 billion by the end of 2020. These IDC crystal-ballers say Internet of Things will be “a new construct in the information and communications tech world,” and they peg IoT spending at $8.9 trillion by 2020.

Predictable with any market “ready to explode,” there is even more research to prove the point.

Read more at SDM Magazine or download the PDF now.

Smarten up your home with Apple HomeKit

Apple didn’t attend last week’s gadget show but its presence was felt. Many companies have designed “smart” home products that integrate with Apple’s HomeKit, an emerging technology for controlling lights and appliances through a mobile app. There are other efforts to unify smart-home devices, but many of them rely on individual partnerships. That approach is slower than simply having everyone use a common set of tools — in this case, HomeKit.

The easiest way to start is with a HomeKit power plug, such as ones that iHome, iDevices and Grid Connect soon plan to sell for $40 to $80 each. Your appliance hooks into that plug, which then goes into a regular electric outlet. The HomeKit power plug has a HomeKit-certified chipset with a wireless connection to get instructions from the app.

Read more at the Washington Post or download the PDF now.

How the first Apple HomeKit products will work

The first collection of Apple HomeKit-compatible products were quietly announced last week at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, and we saw everything from smart plugs and sensors to garage door openers and locks.

There’s nothing too sexy about those types of appliances, but we were able to learn more about how Apple HomeKit and its vision for the smart home will work.

Let’s take a closer look by narrowing in on one of the new products. Grid Connect’s ConnectSense Smart Outlet

Read more at Mashable or download the PDF now.

10 Internet of Things (IoT) Design Considerations: Features and User Interface

3. Features

The IoT allows companies to add features to their product that were never possible before. These features have a wide range of benefits and functions including automatic software updates (over-the-air), smart home and office connectivity, reminders for maintenance, special offers, recall notices and upgrades and remote or local access and control. It is also important for designers to work with their marketing team to be sure the features desired by marketing are not limited by the hardware and networking technologies selected by the engineers.

These features extend new benefits to manufacturers as well. The features that consumers use can provide manufacturers with valuable insight to their products and applications of those products. For example, washing machine may have 20 different functions on it, but because it is connected, the manufacturer can learn which functions the consumer uses and why and then improve the washer’s product design over time. This same connected washing machine can also email or call its owner to let them know when a part is starting to fail and needs to be fixed before a problem arises. These new features also open the manufacturer to new revenue streams presented by the data collected from the smart device. A company that sells a connected washing machine can sell data on detergent use to the companies that carry those products so that they can have better information on their customer as well.

4. User Interface

Today’s consumers and business owners expect multiple ways to access and control the world around them. How are your buyers going to interface with your product? Options are numerous and range from using a smart home panel or gateway to an on-product LCD/LED display that can be paired with LEDs or push buttons. In addition, apps to monitor and control connected devices can be web-based or available for on-the-go consumers with smart phones. The type of product and its possible use-cases are important considerations when designing a product that can communicate information to its user.

Wi-Fi-enabled IoT devices may have the ability to act as a soft access point (soft AP) to allow a user to “join” its network locally with a smart phone, laptop or tablet. Soft APs make product LED/LCD displays unnecessary since the screen of the connected device will serve the same purpose.

Using a soft AP does not preclude the module from also connecting to the Internet and cloud-based services with some Wi-Fi modules. This dual-mode is very attractive because the user can access the product remotely and locally, depending on the features and use-cases for the product.

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>  For more information, please call Grid Connect Inc. at +1 (630) 245-1445, or email us at iot@gridconnect.com.