Moving forward from our last instalment about the recent rise of the Internet of Things, in this article we’ll start to examine some of the major IoT systems that are already on the market in order to help determine which of them may be suitable for integration into your next or current project. At this time this isn’t an exhaustive list – however the three systems examined below each offer a wide variety of functionality which is implemented in different ways.
The first system is the “Electric Imp”. This is a simple yet powerful client hardware and cloud service system with a focus on simple implementation. The hardware consists of a device which is the same physical format as an SD memory card, and a unique identification IC which is fitted to your product. The Electric Imp card contains an industry-standard 802.11b/g/n WiFi transceiver and antenna, and a Cortex-M3 microcontroller with GPIO, I2C and SPI bus support and more.
The physical size of the hardware makes the Imp system relatively simple to integrate into existing and new products, and the hardware cost can be well under Au$30 in volume. To make things happen, software for the Electric Imp is created using an online IDE which is then transmitted to the required Imp via the Internet. This software allows your product to interact with web services, servers, smart phone applications and more. Furthermore the software can be updated and broadcast without any user operations, allowing bug-fixed and new features to be seamlessly rolled out.
However the Electric Imp is still in “developer” mode – considered as a late beta. Nevertheless it offers an inexpensive and theoretically trouble-free option for IoT integration. For more information, visit the Electric Imp website.
The second system is “Ninja Blocks” – developed locally in Australia, and finding global success. The Ninja Block is based around a combination of a BeagleBone Linux computer and a customised Arduino-compatible – and connected to the Internet. The system allows interaction with a cloud service (the “platform”) and variety of customised devices such as temperature and motion sensors, and also allows connection to commercially-available devices such as RF-wireless power outlets and alarm sensors.
Devices communicate with the Ninja Block via RF or USB cable, and the cloud interaction is provided by the cloud-based Ninja Platform. Once new devices are added to the Ninja Block, they are recognised by the cloud-based platform and the end user can create rules which interact with sensors and actuators. Furthermore smartphone applications can be developed for local interactions. Finally, the Ninja Blocks system is designed for the end-user in mind, allowing your customers to either create their own rules for your products – however you can also integrate your own API.
Due to the success of the system it is envisaged that a market for devices to interact with the Ninja Blocks will grow – and thus the opportunity lies in creating new products to interact with the system. Furthermore the system hardware has been open-sourced, allowing much faster and cheaper device design. For more information visit the website.
The final system we examine is the “ioBridge” system. This is the most mature of the three systems examined, and possibly spans the gap between the Electric Imp and Ninja Blocks. Almost any kind of device can be designed to integrate into the ioBridge systems, and as with the other two work with cloud-based servers/services and local mobile applications.
One benefit of the ioBridge service is the established development environment and the ioBridge company can create bespoke web applications for your product that integrates their hardware. However as it was before the “rush of Open Source” the ioBridge system is closed-source and licensing is required to create devices to work with it. If you’re looking for an IoT system this may not be the most cost-effective hardware solution, unless your product is designed specifically for customers already entrenched in the ioBridge ecosystem. For more information visit their website.
Although the Internet of Things may sound simple, and the goal is to be for the end user – as product developers there is much to take into account. The market hasn’t even come near the point of maturity – however all the options available are exciting and have great possibilities for automation, connectivity and making customers’ lives easier. Just as the manufacturers of video recorder units had competing standards in the 1980s, so do the IoT systems of today. It is too early to decide the winner, however each system has its’ pros and cons for each of your applications.
Here at the LX Group we can discuss and understand your requirements and goals – then help you navigate the various IoT options available to help solve your problems. We can tailor anything from a modified 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. https://lx-group.com.au
Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.