June 26, 2020 | Denise Rael
Moving intelligence to the edge can lead to systems with better real-time performance, better power efficiency and enhanced security. But more intelligence requires more code,...
Developing for the Internet of Things (IoT) is difficult.
When you’re designing an IoT edge device, there are usually tough constraints on cost, size and power consumption.
But more than that, the specific requirements of the IoT create new challenges. With more and more processing typically happening at the edge, your connected devices need the right combination of performance, functionality, and efficiency. You need to take into account scalability and security, and you need a flexible architecture for an internet connection that can be adapted for new designs.
Let’s look at some of these areas in more detail, and how designers can meet the new challenges of the IoT.
In real-time control, system processing needs to be performed at the edge (in your IoT device), to optimize system responsiveness, and to avoid any delays or latency due to communicating with the cloud. Processing at the endpoint also reduces communication overhead, which can be important when the available bandwidth is low, and it can also improve security.
And in the industrial IoT, every application is different. There’s no optimized, one-size-fits-all solution, and current approaches to endpoint design typically result in solutions that are too big, too power-hungry and too expensive.
To meet these processing demands, IoT endpoints require a platform that can deliver performance, functionality, and power, with the flexibility to adapt to individual requirements.
One approach is the SmartEdge™ platform, developed by S3semi. As well as including a powerful microcontroller, the SmartEdge platform integrates key functions into one chip, including calibration, control, and secure communication features, and an analog front end to connect to sensors.
But the key benefit of SmartEdge is that it can be customized for every end application, to make sure it optimizes performance and cost – up to 80% less bill of materials (BOM) cost than comparable solutions. Custom embedded software can be developed for each use case.
Another key area for IoT designs is memory. To hit performance targets in a range of emerging IoT devices, there is a perception that memory must be expensive and power-hungry. This can be particularly true as IoT devices add more functionality and new wireless protocols, which means they need more memory than can be cost-effectively provided by on-chip Flash or SRAM, yet with requirements that are still well below the size of the smallest DRAM parts.
An innovative solution is EcoXiP non-volatile memory from Adesto, which replaces expensive, energy-inefficient architectures. EcoXiP’s innovative and intelligent low power architecture works hand in hand with the system processor’s cache controller, to allow even time-critical code to be executed directly out of non-volatile memory, without the power penalty associated with high-speed flash. This eliminates the need for additional flash devices and expensive integrated flash inside the processor device. The result is a lower-cost, low-power system that delivers blazingly fast processing performance.
So, we’ve discussed the IoT device itself – what about the connection to other devices and ultimately to the internet?
The complexity required in IoT applications is growing as traditional and emerging networking protocols need to co-exist. There’s an abundance of industrial IoT protocols to support vertical-specific applications, such as LON and BACnet for building automation, Modbus and Profinet for industrial automation, M-Bus for energy metering, and Zigbee or Z-Wave for commercial applications to name just a few, plus web services interfaces like MQTT and REST.
Developing IoT solutions from scratch requires deep and broad technical knowledge about communication protocol stacks, networking, data models and so on, and therefore the process of introducing a new product can be slow and complex. Designers need a head start; otherwise, the time to deploy IoT solutions can stretch into many months or even years. This is where an out-of-the-box edge server platform can cut the time required and offer the flexibility to handle almost any connectivity option required.
In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that with the right platform you can deploy IoT applications in an afternoon. For example, SmartServer™ IoT, developed by Echelon, provides an edge platform that simplifies deployment and can handle almost any requirement you could throw at it – saving time, so designers can focus on their applications.
In this article, we’ve presented three solutions that can greatly simplify IoT applications, as well as reducing cost and power consumption.
Following the recent acquisitions of S3semi and Echelon by Adesto, these three solutions are now available from one company. Overall, Adesto can offer a broad portfolio for the IoT: from non-volatile memory to custom mixed-signal and RF ASICs, to flexible edge servers.
Adesto now offers the essential building blocks for the IoT, so customers can take control of things in a connected world.
Designing for the IoT is still a tough challenge, but by using the right blocks, you can make it quicker and easier – and can build a better IoT solution.