Cloud Services are the Future of the IoT

By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The Internet of Things (IoT) is composed of an assortment of connected devices, but without cloud computing services, these devices wouldn’t have much more functionality than the standard household device. This is because the cloud allows devices to outsource the analysis and storage of any data that is collected through their connected sensors. The cloud’s internet-based computing methods act as the brain for IoT devices, removing the boundaries of inter-device, memory and space constrictions.

The IoT is growing at an exponential rate, making cloud services more important than they have ever been before. In order for the cloud infrastructure to accommodate for the mass amount of data being stored and transferred within the cloud, it will need to be developed at a rate similar to IoT technology. The cloud was designed on the very basis of being able to store information remotely, making it the optimum environment for the interconnectivity of internet-enabled devices. If the IoT industry plans to succeed, it is critical that the significance of cloud services is recognized.

There are many benefits offered by the cloud that would enhance the world of smart technology. The ingenious decision to move the serious data processing functionality of these devices to the cloud has opened the door for further technological advancements. Using the cloud for big data storage and analytics has done two main things that have helped enable the accelerated development of IoT technology. The first thing it does is enable devices to be smaller and use less power, making them much easier to integrate within any home environment. The second is that it makes it possible to continuously update the firmware as needed, which removes the burden from consumers and allows devices to be used for longer periods of time.

The overall accessibility and user-friendliness of IoT devices can be accredited to the power of the cloud. Having devices that every consumer can deploy within their smart homes is definitely a positive for the IoT. That being said, the cloud is able to do so much more for smart technology than simply make it easier for consumers to use devices. Creating a network of devices is entirely dependent upon having a reliable method of communication. The implementation of cloud infrastructure in IoT devices enables the ability to utilize multiple devices in a single network, while communicating simultaneously. Once multiple devices are communicating within the same cloud, the information and data that is collected can be accessed by all devices, thus establishing a more synchronized system.

This always available, web-based service is a perfect vehicle for helping the IoT thrive. Current cloud infrastructure isn’t quite large enough to support the expected rise in IoT devices over the next couple of years. That being said, more advanced cloud infrastructures are being developed to help compensate for the influx of connected technology. As the network of devices continue to grow, it will be crucial that the capabilities of the cloud are maintained as it is truly the only technology available that is equipped for storing and analyzing all the data created by the IoT.

Grid Connect is an All-Inclusive Development Partner

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A Complete Development Partner for Hardware, Software, Apps and Cloud Services

Grid Connect Inc. has one of the best engineering teams in the world. Our strong development team can quickly and effectively implement your partial or complete networking/cloud-based or embedded product. For more than 20 years we have been helping customers put networking technology into their products. In the past the focus has been Ethernet, serial and propriety networks. Now days, the focus is on wireless networks like Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth/BLE and 900 MHz.

A few of Grid Connect’s many development capabilities include:

  • Designing, layout and quick turn prototype hardware
  • Designing, programming and debugging embedded software
  • Designing and building iOS and Android smart phone and tablet applications
  • Designing, building and rolling out complete cloud/web applications
  • Embedded Linux or Real-time OS driver development
  • SSL security and hardware and software encryption option
  • Production of custom hardware
  • Embedded Web page development
  • Pre-loading of custom/customer firmware on to standard modules
  • Complete diagnostic testing of hardware and software prior to shipment
  • Work with test labs to complete FCC, CE, UL, and RoHS certifications
  • Custom labeling

 

The ConnectSense Case Study

With the ConnectSense brand of products, we took Grid Connect’s embedded networking expertise and put it to use in the consumer home automation/Internet of Things marketplace. In creating ConnectSense, we built a full end-to-end solution, which incorporated custom hardware, embedded Linux development, a custom cloud solution, and custom enclosures and sensors.

Since releasing ConnectSense to the market in 2013, we have continued to move our technology forward. With the ConnectSense Smart Outlet we have made great strides in easy setup and provisioning of devices, smaller and more affordable designs and development of apps for iOS. The ConnectSense Smart Outlet also represents the first generation of devices that are Apple HomeKit-enabled allowing for great features such as Siri voice control, end-to-end encryption and ease of use.

The ConnectSense product line allows Grid Connect to prove out its technology at scale and improve it over time. This allows us to then take that same great technology and help customers implement IoT solutions in their own products. Rather than starting from scratch, our customers benefit from our wealth of knowledge developing IoT products. This allows for quick time to market, lower cost implementations and less custom work required on projects.


To discuss development partner solutions for your company, please call the Grid Connect office at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

Grid Connect is Connecting the Internet of Things

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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 customers while discovering new product use cases and applications that open them up to new revenue streams.

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a phrase used to describe making everyday objects “smart” by adding networking and connectivity to them. Grid Connect Inc.’s DNA has been IoT from the very beginning.

Grid Connect can supply your team with technology, custom engineering, expert knowledge and support at all levels of the IoT pyramid. We provide end-to-end solutions starting with your existing product and ending with a truly smart device.

All of our solutions are designed to fit your company’s needs and can include:

  • OEM solutions
  • Custom hardware
  • Custom firmware
  • Cloud development
  • App development

To further illustrate Grid Connect’s knowledge and abilities within the IoT marketplace, consumers can purchase our own product line of IoT-connected devices. ConnectSense is a family of wireless sensors for your home or business. Each sensor uses the Wi-Fi network in your location and communicates to the ConnectSense cloud application. The ConnectSense cloud stores data from your sensors and generates notifications when a rule you have set applies to your environment. For example, if the ConnectSense Water Sensor in your basement detects water, the sensor will communicate this change to the cloud application. From here, the cloud application will then determine what to do with this new information, such as send you a notification so that you can react appropriately.


If you are looking to add connectivity to your product, download “10 Internet of Things Design Considerations” and call Grid Connect at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

 

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

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.

10 Internet of Things (IoT) Design Considerations: Cost and Network

1. Cost

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. These added benefits for both parties come with a cost though. Connected devices come with higher manufacturing costs but can also be sold with a higher price tag as well.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections can be added to products for less than $10 in bill of materials costs. Other technologies, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth, can be added for a lower price but may require a separate bridge device to get that device on the Internet to access Cloud services.

2. Network

Manufacturers have many hardware and software options when it comes to network technology for their IoT-enabled products. Some devices can be directly connected to the Internet using networking such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi, which are based on the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). Other products may use wireless technologies; some of which include TCP/IP, but in the end will require a “gateway” to convert the chosen network to either Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Some of the many technologies available include:

10 IoT Design Considerations - Network Technology

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

Adding Connected Sensors to your Product for IoT [Podcast]

Want to connect your product to the Internet of Things? The first step is giving it sensors and then connectivity to the Internet of Things. In this episode of the IoT Inc Business Show, Adam Justice takes listeners through the two main approaches to get your products, assets, or environment to the next generation Interweb, known as the Internet of Things.

Here’s What We’ll Cover in this Episode

  • Business questions to ask when deciding retrofit vs. embedded.
  • Situations when retrofitting sensing/connectivity is a great way to get something to market quickly and stay competitive.
  • Why the first approach is often an add-on box that adds connectivity options and control to a current device then work on a strategy to build functionality into future generations of the product.
  • When retrofitting doesn’t make sense because of expense or effort – the metrics to be aware of and the characteristics of the product that kill this approach.
  • Criteria for when a bolt-on or retrofit makes sense.
  • General cost for an IoT add-on box to be sold with your product.
  • High-level steps to embedding sensors/connectivity.
  • How you find the sensors you need and the homework you need to do first.
  • Advice on how to work with a third-party to help with sensor selection.
  • Costs associated with sensor selection.
  • Sensor business models.
  • Approach of fog vs. cloud computing – when each makes sense.
  • Adam’s thoughts on standard bodies, consortiums and associations.
  • Back-end consideration of your IoT cloud or platform.
  • Thoughts on data ownership – what Adam calls the sawdust model

To listen to the IoT Inc Business Show podcast featuring Adam Justice, click here.

10 Things to consider – DIY cloud based home security VS. home security companies

I recently purchased my first home. While the property was vacant and owned by the bank, the screens were split in an effort to try to break into the home. Luckily the doors and windows were locked at the time and the offender decided to walk away. This made me consider security when I moved in and I weighed some options. I want to feel safe while away from home and wanted to be prepared for a break in, but the costs associated with security systems are way too high. This is why I decided to go with a DYI solution and ended up installing the ConnectSense line of products. I now have peace of mind with no additional costs and without the headaches involved with home security service providers. The following is a list of things to consider before jumping into a conventional security service.

1. Installation

Most home security companies require a technician to come and install security systems. Not only are you inviting a stranger into your house, but this could cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. It is especially expensive if your home isn’t pre-wired or you go with an elaborate system. With DIY security sensors like ConnectSense, you do not need to run cables because they are wireless, you can mount them anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection, and the installation takes less than 5 minutes for a non-technical person.

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2. Monthly Fees

Monthly fees for a monitored security system can range anywhere from $25 to over $100 a month and typically require a several year contract. That usually exceeds the average annual homeowner’s policy discount for having the service. These fees do not apply to a DIY security network. The system automatically does the monitoring for you and will send you a notification in the event there is a security threat.

3. False Alarms

Approximately 80% of reported alarms are false alarms. When this alarm is received by a security monitoring center and they contact the police, you will be billed for the false alarm. With cloud based DIY sensors like ConnectSense, you get notified directly (via email, phone call, text, or tweet) instead of it going through a monitoring center. You can use your own judgment whether or not to call the police. This will save you from expensive false alarm fees.

4. Response Time

False alarms overwhelm security monitoring centers do to the high amount of them. To avoid these false alarms, monitoring centers set rules that allows the resident as long as 2 minutes to disable the alarm before they notify you or the police. This gives an intruder 2 extra minutes. With a ConnectSense security system, you personally get notified within a minute of a security threat.

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5. Activating/Deactivating

Monitored home security systems work only if you remember to activate them. This requires you to arm the system whenever you leave and disarm the system whenever you get home. With cloud based home security systems like ConnectSense, there is a scheduler that allows you to select what times and what days of the week you want to receive notifications for specific sensors. You can essentially make a schedule for when the security system, or part of the security system, is active and when it is not active.

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6. Power Outages

Most monitored security systems will not work with a power outage. Even if they have a battery backup, it will work for at most a day. ConnectSense cloud based security sensors can be powered by outlet or batteries. On batteries, these sensors will work up to 3 years. All you need is a backup battery for your Wi-Fi access point.

7. Remote Accessibility/Deactivation

With monitored home security, in the event of a false alarm, if you want to remotely disable the alarm, you would have to call your security monitoring center and tell them to disable the alarm. With cloud based DIY security like ConnectSense, you can adjust rules and disable sensors from any device with an internet connection.

8. Environmental Monitoring

Most home security companies have some basic environmental monitoring sensors available that are geared toward safety. These are usually smoke detectors and CO2 sensors. With cloud based sensors like ConnectSense you can add other sensors like temperature and humidity sensors, water sensors for detecting basement floods, light sensors, and motion sensors. And all sensors can also trigger output devices such as a smart alarm siren strobe, 0-10VDC digital output, or a power relay output in order to control a sump pump, cooling system, audible alarm system, etc.

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9. Use of Third Party Sensors

Home security companies require you to pay for and use their own sensors. With ConnectSense, you are able to use any third party sensor with a dry contact output using a dry contact input device. There is also a 4-20mA solution as well.

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10. Expandability

With home security companies, you have to call them to add more sensors, and schedule them to install them for you if you ever want to expand you service. This is costly and inconvenient. With cloud based solutions like ConnectSense you add sensors to your account and are able to manage them individually. Expansion is simple and cost nothing more than the cost of the hardware.