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Aggregating data protocols from Internet of Things

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Internet of Things? M2M? TCP/IP? Bluetooth LE? LTE?

But cellular data networking also uses data plans, which can make it less attractive when wireless data only needs to travel short distances, especially if that data is of low value. Wi-Fi, of course, requires no data plans.

But even if connections are line of sight, its maximum range can be measured in kilometers. Low energy Bluetooth (Bluetooth LE) will be an important connection option for tablets and smartphones, but Bluetooth LE has even less range than Wi-Fi. Every wireless option has its own advantages.

Early adoption of the Internet of Things
The ability to connect disparate data protocols will remain as important as ever, but the sheer numbers of connected devices is expected to explode. Simple protocol converters will continue to be very important, but the industrial Internet of Things will also call for single-box solutions that can aggregate multiple data streams and multiple protocols and move all of that data up to the cloud.

These devices will require robust security, as wireless connections are inherently more vulnerable. And they'll need to be robust, resilient and increasingly autonomous, as they'll be tasked to function in increasingly remote locations and increasingly harsh environments.

My colleague has been addressing many of these issues at a test site out in the Arizona Desert. It's a tank monitoring system for a well owners co-op. Among other things, the system predicts system failures by measuring and aggregating pump current, and making decisions based on changes detected over time. It can send a text message to a technician to schedule preemptive maintenance before a catastrophic failure.

In an earlier incarnation, it used I/O radios to transmit data from pressure sensors, current sensors and level sensors to a radio modem. The radio modem then connected to a 3G cellular router, which provided Internet backhaul via the cellular telephone network.

The router had built-in firewalls and powerful security protocols, and when combined with Virtual Private Networking (VPN) it was able to use the cellular system as securely as if it were proprietary infrastructure (figure 1).

Figure 2: As additional devices and protocols have been added to the system, it is taking better advantage of the router's ability to function as a data aggregator with multiple backhaul options.

New features and functionality have been steadily added. An IP security camera is now attached to the router's Ethernet port, for example. Remote Wi-Fi sensors have also been added, which bypass the I/O radios and connect directly to the cellular router.

When the project began, with the I/O radios reporting their data to the cellular router, I think it would be fair to say that the cellular router was simply being used as a protocol converter with cellular backhaul. But as additional devices and protocols have been added to the system, it is taking better advantage of the router's ability to function as a data aggregator with multiple backhaul options (figure 2).

The system has migrated away from the old Internet model, and has begun to apply the techniques of the Internet of Things.

But you'll note that there was no need to discard the old remote sensors. They're still connected, and they're still doing their jobs.

About the author
Mike Fahrion is the director of product management at B&B Electronics and the company's Internet of Things strategist.

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