Increasing device intelligence with less hardware and the Internet of Things

12th March 2013

There has been much discussion about the increasing possibilities available to existing systems by using the Internet of Things for two way transmission of data for logging and control purposes. However there is so much more than just working with data in a more efficient and cheaper method.

The concept and reality of the Internet of Things also allows devices to have increased levels of intelligence to further their defined tasks. This may sound like science-fiction, however it is possible – and already demonstrated in may consumer devices. For example – recent smart phones can download and install operating system updates without any intervention by or technical knowledge required from the user.

Using this same method your IoT devices – if designed appropriately – can be updated with new firmware just like our example smart phones. You can do this with two methods – by either using existing hardware such as “Electric Imp” modules that can be fitted in existing hardware, or creating new or re-designed hardware with the appropriate microcontroller/wireless chip combination.

When your devices can remain connected – or connect when necessary, they can also offload processing requirements to the cloud service or other connected server hardware. By programming your devices to simply send, receive and act on data the processing work can be offloaded to the server-side, reducing the requirement for faster device CPU speed, memory and so on. This in turn can reduce the hardware purchase cost, physical size, and also the power requirements for the device – saving money at all stages of operation.

All this sounds great – and has been put into practice in many fields. Let’s run through a few examples from a wide variety of examples.

Remote Point-of-Sale devices – Within the broad field of vending machines, point-of-sale devices, unattended ticketing machines and more – so much can be done to make stakeholders’ lives easier and cheaper. Product prices can be updated in real-time; data from the POS machine can be served to the central host giving real-time data and sales analysis; environmental data can be used to price cold drinks in real-time – for example when the local temperature increases or you know a certain area will be busier than usual – increase the drink price. The concept of supply and demand can be tweaked to your advantage with the right technology. And of course service calls and device monitoring can occur.

Passenger Information Systems – Almost every public transport system has some sort of PIDS (Passenger Information Display System), however their level of usefulness is usually determined by the ability of the system to run on-time. Remote displays may be programmed with timetable data to show when services should arrive, and on-board displays can show the “next station is…” type of data.

However when things go wrong – such as diversions, breakdowns, late-running or data required in an emergency – this data cannot be updated by local operators or staff in unattended stations. Thus the ability for a bus or train to communicate with a central server can allow relevant data to be displayed in real-time to the required PIDS units. Redundancy can be employed to allow for various failures, for example RFID technology at a railway station can be used to detect when a particular train arrives and departs. And when timetables change, stations are altered or new information is required to be displayed – it can all be done remotely or even while on the move.
Cube Satellites – In the last twelve months various groups have been working on tiny satellites that are launched into space along with regular commercial satellite payloads. Although this is a far-out example, it’s a demonstration of what we’re talking about. Each of these tiny satellites contain inexpensive consumer-level microcontrollers that control sixteen AVRs each running their own firmware, collating data and sending it back to earth via UHF radio link. The firmware for each of these AVRs can be uploaded and thus alter the satellite’s function when required.
The IoT is more than just wireless data – it’s about control. Having more control over your assets and revenue stream can increase business efficiency and profitability. With the right applications and minds on the task, even the simplest thing can be constantly tweaked to maximise gains. Here at the LX Group we can discuss and understand your requirements and goals – then help you navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve your problems. We can create or tailor just about anything from a wireless temperature sensor to a complete Internet-enabled system for you. For more information or a confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124. 

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.  Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.

Muhammad AwaisIncreasing device intelligence with less hardware and the Internet of Things

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