All posts tagged: Hardware

The panStamp development environment for wireless sensor networks and Internet-of-Things applications is based around compact, low-cost microcontroller boards including a built-in sub-gigahertz radio transceiver, providing the necessary connectivity and processing power to create autonomous low-power wireless sensor and actuator nodes with almost everything contained in a 24-pin DIP module that is compact, low-cost, easy to program and to use.

It’s easy for anybody to get started with the open-source panStamp platform, allowing you to measure almost anything by connecting a panStamp up to some sensors, connecting a small battery, writing some simple Arduino-compatible code and transmitting data wirelessly, providing a convenient solution for any kind of project needing low-power wireless communications or telemetry, such as home automation, energy metering, robot control or weather monitoring. 

The panStamp platform makes it easy and accessible to get started creating wireless sensor networks and other wireless systems for both professional and hobbyist users.

Modules are very easy to program and configure, and they can be plugged into many different kinds of commercially available base boards containing different sensors, actuators and power supplies, or the user can develop their own custom base-board hardware to meet their needs, with all the complexity of the microcontroller and radio hardware contained on the panStamp module. 

Wireless boards run a compact stack and communicate with each other using a simple protocol called SWAP, using the 868 or 915 MHz ISM radio bands, offering lower congestion and longer range compared to 2.4 GHz solutions. The lightweight, open-source SWAP protocol that powers the panStamp radio stack is designed for use with Texas Instruments CC11xx radio hardware in resource-constrained wireless sensor network and machine-to-machine applications, typically consuming only about 7kB of flash and less than 1kB of RAM.

Everything has been designed to perform efficiently, quickly and with good power efficiency with one of the most compact wireless stacks on the market, allowing developers to focus on their applications without worrying about low-level details of the microcontroller and radio implementation. 

However, the platform is all free and open-source, so those details of low-level implementation are available for developers to look at if you want to. The panStamp project provides a complete solution to allow you to build wireless sensor networks that are connected to the cloud – not only microcontroller and sensor boards, but also the communications stack, protocol definitions, network controller and management tools to get your network of sensors up and running and connected to cloud services. 


From the data collection and actuation to transmission, data management, event handling and IP tunnelling, panStamp aims to provide easy connectivity of wireless devices to cloud services and other Internet-of-Things services in a way that is accessible regardless of your technical background.

Most of the core features of panStamps hardware, such as power management, the real-time clock and the RF transceiver are controlled inside the panStamp library, so the user doesn’t have to deal with the 
low-level programming required to control these hardware peripherals. To consider some of the standard base-boards available for use with panStamp modules, a good starting point is panStick, which is a USB-connected motherboard for panStamps. 

The panStick is used to program panStamps, and also acts as a serial gateway from your PC to the wireless network. You simply place a panStamp on the panStick, program the panStamp with the modem application, and plug the dongle into your computer. This is the simplest way to connect panStamp RF networks to any software on your PC, including the SWAPdmt device management tool for SWAP networks and the Lagarto software for cloud service connectivity.

The panStamp shield for Raspberry Pi adds connectivity to panStamp radio networks on the Raspberry Pi via its UART, combining low-power wireless connectivity with the Pi’s Ethernet or 802.11 networking and more powerful computing capacity, providing a gateway from the panStamp network to the Internet without the size or power consumption of a traditional PC. 

This shield essentially provides the Raspberry Pi with an RF “modem”, as well as providing a DS1338 real-time clock with battery backup to allow the Raspberry Pi to keep the current time without power or network connectivity.

The panStamp AVR module is based around an Atmel ATmega328P microcontroller and TI CC1101 radio transceiver, and is fully compatible with the Arduino bootloader and IDE. Developers can create their own programs and upload them to panStamps using the standard Arduino IDE, making the panStamp platform very accessible and easy for everybody to get started with, especially if you have previous Arduino experience. 

The more powerful, advanced panStamp NRG module is based around the TI CC430F5137, which combines TI’s MSP430 low-power 16-bit microcontroller with a sub-gigahertz radio transceiver on the die, providing a neat, single-chip, power-efficient solution for sub-gigahertz wireless sensor networks. 

The panStamp NRG module is fully compatible with the Energia IDE, a port of the Arduino IDE for the Texas Instruments MSP430/Stellaris microcontroller family. This allows the developer to easily get started with software development for these relatively powerful 16-bit, power-efficient microcontrollers with the same ease of use and same language and development environment that will be familiar to Arduino users.

The radio hardware used in panStamps can typically achieve a transmission range of about 200 meters in open spaces at 38400 bps and 0 dB transmission power, using only a small wire antenna. Using higher transmission power configurations, external high-gain antennas connected to the SMA connector available on panStamp boards, or slower bit rates, it is likely that substantially larger transmission distances could be achieved if this is what your application requires.

The Lagarto software platform allows you to monitor and control panStamp devices remotely from your PC or Raspberry Pi, process the data coming in from your network of devices and deliver it out to the network or the Internet using different mechanisms, for example for connectivity to cloud services. Lagarto is an open automation platform for use with SWAP networks, panStamps and other low-power wireless sensor network technologies, connecting SWAP networks to the IP domain and to the Internet. It is a lightweight solution, designed to run on low-power LAN connected platforms such as embedded plug computers and the Raspberry Pi. Lagarto’s extended automation module has the capability to run complex tasks locally and also connect local networks to remote data services. 

Furthermore the cosm, GroveStreams, ThingSpeak and openSense Internet-of-Things web services are currently supported with connectivity to Lagarto out of the box at the present time, with support for new platforms likely to be added in the future.

Also, panStamps are now officially supported in OpenRemote, a powerful open-source home automation software for iOS and Android devices. One of the major attractive features of OpenRemote is the capacity for anyone to create custom graphic layouts for their preferred mobile platforms for free using OpenRemote’s online designer, uploading the generated files to a computer running OpenRemote Controller and have these custom controller layouts on their mobile device interoperable with a wide range of automation hardware including but not limited to panStamps.

Thanks to the open-source nature and low hardware cost of this platform, it’s simple to get prototypes of IoT systems up and running – which also translates to lowering the cost of the system development through to the final product. However if you need any form of guidance from consulting through to end-product manufacturing and support – we can partner with you – finding synergy with your ideas and our experience to create final products that exceed your expectations.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisThe IoT made simple with panStamp

GroveStreams is a powerful cloud platform that provides storage and analytics for the Internet of Things, providing Big Data analytics in the cloud and allowing you to capture, analyse and make decisions on data as it arrives. This essentially provides powerful decision-making capabilities to many users and devices and allows you to easily aggregate, visualise and analyse data arriving from many different sensors and data sources.

The included data-streaming analytics are designed to scale to meet your demand for data, so that your business or organisation can quickly react to changes in the data environment – and changes in the physical sensor environment – as those changes are happening. GroveStreams isn’t just built to allow you react to data, it’s also built to allow your devices to react accordingly by using the open, platform independent, GroveStreams API.

The proliferation of devices that generate data in wireless sensor networks, environmental sensing, home and building automation, and Internet-of-Things applications and systems increases every day, and GroveStreams offers a system that can effectively capture, analyse and react to these emerging Big Data sources in a timely manner, with cloud-based scalability and reliability.

GroveStreams is an open cloud-based platform that any organisation, user or device can take advantage of, with an open API and free accounts for low-traffic hobbyist, experimenter or evaluation users. The platform specialises in capturing, analysing and acting on large amounts of time-series data points and streams, with the ability to manage large numbers of different data streams for each organisation.

Each stream can store over 60 million data points or samples, meaning that a stream of sensor data collected once per second can be logged continuously for just under two years in a single continuous data stream.

The GroveStreams platform provides sample timing accurate to the millisecond, and support for many different data types such as integers and floating-point numbers with user-defined physical units, text strings, dates and times and geographic coordinates, along with actionable data analytics such as user-defined roll-ups of data over time, interval gap detection to allow you to monitor the quality and reliability of sensor data streams as they arrive, data streams that are derived from internal or external RSS feeds, calculations and basic statistical processing on data streams, and derived data streams that are derived from arithmetical or statistical operations on other streams of sensor data.

For example, a stream of temperature data in degrees Fahrenheit may be generated by taking another data stream which receives temperature measurements in degrees Celsius from a sensor and applying a mathematical transformation to this stream, or a stream of energy use data from an energy sensor might be multiplied by another stream containing real-time energy pricing information (cents per kilowatt-hour) derived from an RSS feed, allowing an accurate measurement of accumulated energy cost.

GroveStreams provides for the easy aggregation of large numbers of different data streams, and customisable drag-and-drop HTML dashboarding for flexible, customisable dashboarding and visualisation of your data streams, along with live charts and grids which can be embedded within external Web pages, allowing embedding of data displays within external web pages – although they are still served from the GroveStreams cloud infrastructure.


New components and streams can register themselves automatically and appear in existing dashboards and aggregation analytics as they upload their initial feed data, minimising the need for difficult configuration of new components and streams to connect them into existing dashboards or analytics.

All components and streams provide their own RSS feeds, and RSS feeds can be added to your custom dashboards for viewing within the dashboards. It is also possible to configure sensor-driven, data-driven event monitoring with customisable HTTP call, email or SMS notifications – in response to sensor readings and data values, or in response to time-series trends and statistics derived from your data.

GroveStreams also provides Maps functionality, allowing you to spatially map your data from networks of devices that are equipped with GPS or other capability for location awareness. Distances between devices, speeds, and locations can be tracked and mapped, as well as being subject to all the processing techniques applicable to other data streams. And by providing user role-based security, with public/private web UI settings, you can make your organisation accessible to only your users or also to anonymous guest users, with the ability to set guest access rights to control the way that public users work with your data.

Futhermore a RESTful API is provided with almost all the functionality of GroveStreams exposed out via the public API, including fine-grained API access security. Basic examples to get you started with the API are provided for use with Java, Python, and even for use with Ethernet-enabled Arduinos, allowing you to easily get started with cloud data connectivity from your sensors and physical devices.

A fully browser-based user interface is provided, entirely in HTML without plugins such as Flash, allowing flexible, convenient use of the browser interface across all mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. GroveStreams can even be re-branded as your “own” application provided to your commercial customers, with your own look, feel and brand identity – while all the cloud infrastructure and hosting under the bonnet is handled by GroveStreams.

GroveStreams is free for small users. Large users will only be billed for what they use (the number of transactions, the number of streams, etc). Once a user’s account exceeds the free metric amounts, they will be required to register a credit card with their account. Billing metrics are constantly gathered and can be monitored in an organisation owner’s account page. For users who aren’t organisation owners, it’s free.

Anyone who needs to collect large amounts of time-series data, monitor it, analyse it and react to this data or data from other devices quickly could benefit from connectivity to the GroveStreams service. Whether you want to monitor one data stream from a single source or many more streams from many sources, GroveStreams is likely to be useful for many different users, including utilities, sensor/device driven organisations or businesses that would benefit from near-real-time sensor data collection and analytics in the cloud. With accounts provided completely free for small-scale users, GroveStreams is also an attractive and accessible platform for electronics hobbyists, open-source enthusiasts and Arduino users looking to get started with a cloud service for data storage, analytics and visualisation for networks of Internet-of-Things sensors and devices.

And thus the possibility of harnessing the Internet of Things is made possible once again by a new platform with many possibilties. Here at the LX Group we can partner with you – finding synergy with your ideas and our experience to create final products that exceed your expectations.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisReal-time data analysis with the IoT and GroveStreams

The new Wi-Go system from Avnet is a complete development, prototyping and experimentation platform aimed primarily at wireless data acquisition, wireless sensor networks, automation and Internet-of-Things applications – based on the Freescale Freedom Development Platform for Freescale Kinetis microcontrollers.

Avnet Wi-Go offers designers a complete solution for developing real-world IoT applications by combining Freescale’s Xtrinsic sensor technology with a powerful Kinetis-L microcontroller and an embedded Wi-Fi module.

The Wi-Go system adds Wi-Fi capability to the Freedom platform and includes a built-in 800 mAh lithium-polymer battery which can provide up to days of power for portable, wireless data acquisition from the platform’s on-board suite of sensors, along with an on-board flash memory IC to facilitate data storage and provide additional storage for things such as complex webpages which may be served up from the Wi-Go board, providing a powerful and flexible wireless sensor platform at a low cost.

To keep initial cost low, the Avnet Wi-Go is a two-board set comprised of a Freescale Freedom development board mated to an Avnet Wi-Go module. No other components arerequired to get started developing your own Internet-of-Things products and devices. The Freescale Freedom development platform is a small, low-power, cost-effective evaluation and development environmenbt aimed at quick prototyping and demonstration of applications of the Kinetis microcontroller family.

The Kinetis family offers an easy-to-use mass-storage device mode flash programmer, a virtual serial port and classic programming and run-control capabilities. The Wi-Go wireless accessory module extends this platform with a powerful suite of sensors, integrated battery and USB charging system, and wireless networking to meet an increasing demand for wireless sensor systems, portable data acquisition and connected, battery-powered Internet-of-Things applications.

The Wi-Go platform’s flexible sensor suite includes Freescale’s MMA8451Q accelerometer for 3D acceleration sensing, the MAG3110 low-power digital 3D magnetometer sensor for magnetic heading sensing, the Xtrinsic MPL3115A2 barometric pressure sensor, which provides pressure, altitude and temperature information, Vishay’s TEMT6200 ambient light sensor for light level sensing, a MAX8856 and MAX8625A for the power supply subsystem, including battery monitoring and smart charging, power management and efficient buck-boost regulation to maximise the system’s battery life.

These sensors are combined with the Kinetis KL25Z128VLK4-Cortex-M0+ microcontroller, operating at up to 48 MHz with 128 kb of flash and 16 kb of SRAM along with a full-speed USB controller and support for the sophisticated and open-standard OpenSDA USB serial and debugging interface, alongside Murata’s LBWAIZZVK7 Wi-Fi radio module, which is based on the Texas Instruments CC3000 SimpleLink 802.11b/g chipset.


 As the WiFi communication hardware of the Avnet Wi-Go system are based on the CC3000 chipset, it supports TI’s SmartConfig network configuration tool, allowing easy configuration and provisioning of the wireless network settings for new Wi-Go devices on the network simply by using the SmartConfig app freely provided by TI on a smartphone connected to the wireless LAN.

 The Wi-Go platform is also equipped with a S25FL216K low-power, 2 megabyte serial flash memory, flexible power supply options, a capacitive touch “slider”, an RGB LED and three discrete user LEDs as input and output devices for user interaction. The Wi-Go board also provides expansion I/O pins in a form factor that accepts Arduino-compatible “shields”, making it compatible with a rich ecosystem of third-party expansion hardware.

 Example code is provided to set up a filesystem on the flash memory or to communicate with the flash in binary mode, along with other working code examples and libraries for communication with each of the other sensors, peripheral devices and WiFi radio present on the board.

 Reference code and examples are provided to implement full end-to-end Internet-of-Things applications with Web services such as Exosite – for example using the TI SmartConfig app to configure wireless network connectivity, using cloud services client connection code to send data up to Exosite on the web, and streaming this data over the Web to an Android application which performs fusion of different sensor data and displays its results. It’s easy to get started logging sensor measurements on a Web service, for example, or to use a Web service to remotely select the colour of the RGB LED on the Wi-Go board.

A free cloud-based compiler is provided with each development board purchased, along with a free Freescale Xtrinsic sensor fusion toolbox application and a free connection to Avnet’s Exosite cloud services for up to two of your devices. A series of several videos is also offered by Avnet, outlining the capabilities of the Wi-Go platform in order to assist designers in creating Wi-Go based wireless applications.

 These videos cover topics such as Xtrinsic sensor fusion on the Wi-Go platform, cloud capabilities of Wi-Go, and Web server and network configuration for Wi-Go. Finally, the Wi-Go platform is open-source, and designers have access to all design files and source code, which is an attractive feature for engineers looking to reduce the time to market for products and systems developed for Internet-of-Things applications.

 And that is always one of the main goals of IoT product development – time to market. If you have a great prototype or idea – and need to take it to the market, our team of engineers can help you in all steps of product design, from the idea to the finished product. To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisWireless data acquisition with Avnet Wi-Go
Wearable computing is in the news again, with new smart watch offerings from Samsung and others, Nike cutting back their development of wearable technology, and existing and emerging offerings such as Google Glass, the Pebble smart watch and Nike’s FuelBand fitness monitor also attracting growing interest in the media.

But can this diverse range of products from different manufacturers interoperate effectively with each other and with other devices? Are proprietary devices and protocols user friendly in wearable applications, or are open standards and interoperability between different vendors important for success of the wearable computing industry? Let’s look at the need for standards in wearable computing, and the pros and cons of open standards in the context of wearable computing. 

Many companies, including smaller startups as well as major international brands such as Google and Nike are attempting to find leading positions in the emerging consumer market for wearable computing. For example MapMyFitness, a company developing an online platform for use with wearable health and fitness data-logging, is aiming to support connectivity with some 400 different devices. 

Furthermore they’re one of 10 app makers partnering with Jawbone on its recently announced Up wrist-monitor platform which also aims to attract developers – and that’s just the offering from one small company in the wearable-computing market, focussing on health and fitness devices, such as heart-rate monitors and shoe-mounted exercise loggers. 

This type of wearable technology accounts for one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the wearable computing market. But such interoperability with a large number of different devices assumes that open standards and protocols, such as Bluetooth Low Energy and ANT, are widely adopted across the industry. 

Although some vendors such as Google are likely to have good support for open standards and strong utilisation of open-source operating systems such as Android, other industry players such as Nike or Apple are much less likely to concern themselves with openness and interoperability if they can bring a product ecosystem to market which “just works” for consumers whilst using closed, proprietary protocols and standards.

Right now, much of the data collected from wrist monitors such as Jawbone’s Up, as well as heart-rate monitors, sleep-pattern sensing devices, bicycling cyclometers and more exist in digital silos. It’s not easy to look at the different collections of data at the same time to determine, for example, if a series of poor running performances might have been related to several nights of fitful sleep. 

But if open standards are used, then correlation and fusion of the data from different sources in the same place is possible, allowing more interesting conclusions to be derived from the data. Because of the size, weight, battery life and user interface constraints associated with wearable devices, such devices tend to use relatively low-power microcontrollers – not relatively powerful CPUs like those found in mobile phones, and tend to use minimalist sensors, memory and storage, meaning that each device tends to be optimised to do only one particular task and do it well, unlike general-purpose PCs or smartphones. 

Although a Pebble smart watch enhances your user experience when using your smartphone, it’s not a fitness data-logging device – it’s a separate device that fulfils a different basic set of functionality. However, there is still some potential for value in interoperability and data exchange between these kinds of devices. 

Wearable electronic devices of this kind can be most useful when multiple devices are combined into networks – for example, a smart watch for at-a-glance message display, a heart rate monitor and a pedometer sensor, all networked back to a central smartphone. But are the full spectrum of wearable devices that you choose to use going to all be compatible with the smartphone you use? 

Samsung recently unveiled its first serious piece of wearable computing technology, the Galaxy Gear, although the device is currently only compatible with the Galaxy Note III and the third-generation Galaxy Note 10.1. Although the Sony SmartWatch 2, for example, is widely compatible with Android devices, is it likely that the rumoured Apple iWatch will offer compatibility with Android? Probably not. 


On the other hand, it is likely that choosing multiple different devices from the same manufacturer – if the types of sensors and devices you want to use exist – is likely to “just work” with the best possible compatibility and reliability, even if this means promoting closed, locked-in systems and proprietary protocols which may be used. And many non-technical customers just want consumer electronics that “just works” without any real care for open standards.

Today, smart watches and fitness bands can track physical activity through the most basic metrics, such as step counting. With more sophisticated accelerometers and algorithms, devices such as the Nike FuelBand can make a guess at what kind of activity you’re actually doing. 

Some devices, like the Basis watch, track heart rate. Combined with a smartphone and/or smart watch, multiple different devices like this comprise a personal, body-worn wireless sensor network of sorts – and open standards are obviously valuable in realising the true flexibility and power of such a network. You can use RunKeeper on your iPhone, for example, or Android phone or via any web browser, but you can’t get RunKeeper’s data to sync with MapMyFitness. 

And if you’re using a Nike FuelBand, you can’t translate proprietary Nike “fuel points” into data that’s usable by other fitness-tracking apps. Wouldn’t it be nice if this data was openly portable and easy to integrate into other fitness applications?

Fragmentation of compatibility of hardware and software between different versions of operating systems such as Android and wearable computing devices is also an emerging concern that should be considered, to deliver the best possible user experience. A “companion app” is an application that runs on the smartphone which communicates with the smartwatch or other wearable device in a personal network. Sometimes these apps are available on both major platforms, but sometimes they aren’t. 

Even if they are, it often means that a person has to purchase a version of the app for each platform. Companion apps may be increasingly going away, replaced by what amount to “plug-ins” that install into the app that runs in the device’s own app, along with a piece that’s copied onto your smart watch or other wearable device. 

But this approach just creates an entirely new microclimate inside each operating system’s ecosystem, which is not ideal. Now smart watch apps must be downloaded into another app which takes care of communication between the two in a cross-platform environment, adding complexity. When we bring Samsung into the equation it gets even worse; now you’ve got to have specific hardware for the peripheral to even work! On paper it may work great, but in reality this is a user experience nightmare, and careful design for user-friendliness along with cross-platform compatibility is important here.

Privacy, of course, becomes a big concern that many people have when it comes to omnipresent wearable cameras recording video at all times, or wearable devices gathering intimate data on what your body is doing, in health or fitness datalogging applications. 

At the same time as technical standards and protocols are developed and standardised, society needs to be developing and thinking about social and legal standards to deal with the new technology – to protect the privacy of health data, and to deal with the presence of omnipresent photography and recording in public spaces using devices such as Google Glass without over-the-top hatred or suspicion of the technology due to the privacy concerns. 

Device manufacturers can also play a role here, in enabling public understanding and acceptance of what the technology does and does not do, and what measures are put in place to manage the data with good standards of privacy.

Nevertheless the wearable electronics market is growing, and there are many opportunities if the designer can hit the sweet spot of creating a genuinely useful and usable product. And if you have the idea, and looking for a partner to help bring that idea to a finished product – we’re ready to work with you for your success. 

As experts not only embedded hardware but also full idea-to-delivery of products, our consultants and engineers can work with you to meet your goals. The first step is to join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisStandards and Wearable Computing

Let’s take a brief look at the FreeRTOS operating system, and the FreeRTOS+Nabto platform. It’s the market-leading, real-time operating system (RTOS) for embedded systems that is not only open-source, high quality and well supported – but also provides strong cross-platform support across 33 different architectures, access to high-quality training and information, pre-configured example projects and a growing user community.

Furthermore FreeRTOS is available in a high-reliability TUV-approved version for demanding, safety-critical applications – providing peace of mind to commercial users, with strict configuration management to ensure high quality development of the FreeRTOS project’s code, and FreeRTOS is free to embed in commercial products without any requirement to expose your proprietary source code.

By combining the FreeRTOS real-time operating system with the patented Nabto peer-to-peer remote access communication platform for embedded systems, you can harness a simple and secure HTML5 or native application interface for your end users, along with an adaptive and flexible data-acquisition interface for data collection, central analysis and monitoring systems.

The resulting combined system brings simplicity, platform independence, inclusive cloud hosting services and entry level access to Nabto’s Internet-of-Things solution together into an interesting easy yet powerful real-time platform for use with embedded Internet-of-Things systems.

FreeRTOS+Nabto is a small piece of C code that, when integrated into an embedded networked device, allows that device to be remotely accessed and controlled through a rich web-based or native iOS or Android app-based interface or intelligent data acquisition system – consuming less than 23 Kb of flash in a typical system including both the FreeRTOS kernel and the IP stack.

Each device has a unique URL, allowing the device to be automatically located across the Internet, and the Nabto technology allows secure, authenticated and bandwidth-efficient peer-to-peer connections to be established even when the device is deployed behind a NAT firewall which removes the complexity of configuring firewall penetration for embedded Internet-of-Things devices in enterprise environments. 

FreeRTOS+Nabto enabled devices can also be accessed over the local network in the absence of Internet connectivity. As FreeRTOS+Nabto is a new, simple, cross-platform and fully integrated solution for the Internet of Things, it provides a cloud infrastructure that enables IoT devices to be accessed through a rich user interface running in a web browser or a smartphone app – requiring the device itself to only supply the live sensor data and no other components of the interface, supplying this data via UDP in a lightweight way.


This means that the embedded devices themselves can be kept simple, power-efficient and lightweight – the use of cloud technologies means small FreeRTOS+Nabto devices can be given rich user interfaces without the need for any on-board filesystem or a TCP/IP stack, only relatively lightweight UDP/IP networking support.

These rich user interfaces can be accessed locally via the LAN or anywhere in the world via the Internet, from a computer, tablet or smartphone, with local device discovery and unique and resolvable URLs for each FreeRTOS+Nabto device provided over the chosen domain (LAN or Internet), solving the traditionally difficult problem of naming and uniquely identifying devices in large Internet-of-Things networks.

Using FreeRTOS+Nabto you can connect to a remote IoT device wherever that device is at the time of the connection simply by knowing the device’s unique URL, and being securely authenticated as a legitimate user, with the system handling all the networking, routing and encryption necessary to securely network your IoT devices, address and find them – across the LAN or across the Internet.

All you need to do as an application developer is compile the source code, write a single interface function, and make use of the FreeRTOS+Nabto fully managed cloud service. Instructions and tutorials are provided to make this easy for you, with a strong community of users and the availability of professional support for commercial customers.

Different web content can be served to different geographic regions, moving the burden of internationalisation from the embedded device into the cloud, allowing for even smaller code size and simpler more maintainable designs. All the network routing and protocol details are encapsulated within the FreeRTOS+Nabto product and its inclusive cloud hosting service, enabling FreeRTOS+Nabto to interface with the user’s application source code through a single C function, and enabling FreeRTOS+Nabto to be accessible to users and developers without an advanced level of existing networking expertise.

The FreeRTOS+Nabto platform includes a fully documented live online example that is running on a small real-world microcontroller and a separate project that uses the FreeRTOS Windows simulator. The Windows simulator version creates live virtual FreeRTOS+Nabto nodes on a local network to allow FreeRTOS+Nabto to be evaluated quickly and easily and without the need to purchase any specific hardware.

Although the simulator differs from FreeRTOS running on real hardware in that it does not exhibit real-time behaviour, the ability to set up a development environment, create and experiment with FreeRTOS+Nabto Internet-of-Things applications on a local network before purchasing any specific hardware is still a very useful and attractive capability.

Thanks to the open nature of FreeRTOS, it can be used in a wide range of embedded hardware and become part of your new or existing IoT products. As experts not only embedded hardware but also full idea-to-delivery of products, our consultants and engineers can work with you to meet your goals.

The first step is to join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisFreeRTOS – the cross-platform OS for Embedded Hardware

The Pinoccio platform is based around the Pinoccio “Scout” board – a small, inexpensive microcontroller development board based on the Atmel ATmega256RFR2 microcontroller with built-in 802.15.4 2.4 GHz radio, aimed at quick and easy development of wireless, mesh-networked systems and projects without worrying about common challenges such as efficient battery power management, FCC certification and mesh networking protocols.

This hardware offers an integrated Web platform and API so you can easily get started talking to the Web with your project right out of the box, and a built-in lithium polymer battery on every board that is recharged via the same micro-USB port used for programming, with a battery runtime from days up to over a year depending on the software configuration and how the microcontroller and radio are used.

Pinoccio aims to provide an inexpensive but powerful, FCC-certified, power-efficient, mesh-networked and Internet-ready platform for easily accessible Arduino-style development, wireless sensor networks and Internet-of-Things experimentation.

A network of Pinoccio nodes are connected together via a lightweight 802.15.4 mesh network, using the 802.15.4 radio incorporated in every board to network with any other board that shares its Personal Area Network (PAN) ID.

At one or more nodes in the network, the Pinoccio node is equipped with a Pinoccio Wi-Fi board, based on the Gainspan GS1011MEPS 802.11 WiFi module, that connects the 802.15.4 mesh network to your wireless LAN. This means that every Pinoccio node is connected to the LAN and to the Internet, but with a substantially cost and substantially lower power consumption than would be needed if every node in the network was equipped with an 802.11 wireless LAN chipset.

The ATmega256RFR2 draws less than 20mA of current with its microcontroller and RF transmitter running during active transmission – about 10% of the current consumption of a typical Wi-Fi device. The ATmega256RFR2 can be put into sleep states with far lower power consumption as well, with “wake-on-radio” capability to wake up the microcontroller when the wireless network indicates.

With a WiFi connection on at least one node, every Pinoccio board in the mesh network is connected to the Internet. Routing between nodes is supported, so if board A and board C are out of reach of each other, but they can both reach a board B, then B will route packets for A and C to reach each other.

Even if one of the Scouts is out of WiFi range, the others will route its data up to the Web. Pinoccio uses a lightweight mesh networking stack by default – not ZigBee, for example, although there is no reason why advanced users can’t deploy a ZigBee stack on the Pinoccio hardware if they wish.

This coordinator-less mesh network stack is a lightweight alternative to coordinator-based network architectures. Several network configurations are possible, including the traditional coordinator/router/end-node, as well as a completely decentralised peer-to-peer mesh network with routing.

All Pinoccio Scout nodes can be programmed wirelessly, over the air, in a way that is fully compatible with the Arduino IDE – each node in the 802.15.4 network simply appears, with the Pinoccio networking software installed, as a virtual Arduino-compatible serial port in the Arduino IDE.

Without WiFi connectivity, however, users do still have the option of programming each board directly from a PC, via the USB port, just like any Arduino-compatible device, and more advanced users can talk to the chip via traditional hardware interfaces like ISP and JTAG.

You can have your Pinoccio boards scattered all over an area on a wireless mesh network, each doing their thing, and when you need to update the code on one, some, or all of them you can just do so wirelessly from your computer.

If you have Pinoccio boards within an installation, which are difficult to get to, you can easily update their software over-the-air, post-installation, offering a level of convenience that is hard to achieve with other microcontroller development platforms.

You can update a range of boards by listing several of them, or send an update to all boards in the network at once, sending out a single update broadcast. A single update could be sent out to 100 Pinoccio boards if they all need to be updated, and they would all receive the broadcast and update themselves.

The real value of the Pinoccio platform doesn’t just come from the Pinoccio Scout boards, but from the entire stack – from the physical hardware to the API and Web service and back. This includes features like over-the-air firmware updates, optimised mesh networking and the ability to easily move data between multiple Pinoccio boards across the mesh network, to the Web and back again.


Along with easy routing, discovery and beaconing, provisioning a new Pinoccio WiFi bridge node to the larger Web, and the use of low-bandwidth-friendly protocols like MQTT, Pinoccio is a platform that provides a high level of openness and interoperability.

Pinoccio is aimed at being very easy to use, power efficient, Arduino compatible, and completely open source, providing a complete end-to-end ecosystem for building the Internet-of-Things, but with open standards and without proprietary lock-in.

The Pinoccio API completes the last mile between your network of Pinoccio hardware and the Web, allowing you to send and receive messages between your board and the API. However, using the Pinoccio API is totally optional – you own your data, and you can run your own web server to talk to your Pinoccio devices if you wish. Every Pinoccio board can have its own REST-based URL, and it can respond to HTTP POST and GET requests, with the 802.15.4 mesh network and the WiFi bridge doing all the routing for you.

Pinoccio aims to support websockets and webhooks, allowing easy connectivity with Web services, and saves and logs all the data pushed to the API from your devices.

Unlike some other options on the market such as Electric Imp, Pinoccio offers a pre-baked end-to-end platform and Web service with a tightly integrated web-hardware experience to allow everybody to easily, quickly get up and running with a network of devices talking to a Web service – without locking you in and forcing you to only use their servers and Web services with their hardware.

The Pinoccio Scout is open-source hardware – you can download the hardware schematics, board layout and bootloaders freely. Pinoccio strives to use open, industry-standard protocols that are standardised by groups such as IETF and OASIS where possible.

Pinoccio currently uses MQTT as the core messaging protocol for the Pinoccio API on top of Atmel’s Lightweight Mesh Protocol and the IEEE 802.15.4 MAC and radio physical layer, and is considering moving towards 6LoWPAN and RPL in future once these standards are more mature and more work is done in this area in the IETF working group.

One vision of future work that the Pinoccio team has is to have each board accessible from the Internet with a unique IP address, using IPv6/6LoWPAN and a WiFi bridge at one node. Shying away from non-standard protocols, Pinoccio supports HTTP and MQTT-S (MQTT for Sensor Networks) out of the box – but, again, without locking you into any particular choices, if you’re willing to put a bit of work in yourself to implement other protocols.

Pinoccio has good security capability available in every part of the network stack, which is attractive for automation networks and Internet-of-Things applications. The ATmega256RFR2 microcontroller has hardware-based AES128 encryption, along with a true hardware random number generator.

It’s simply a matter of defining a shared secret in your code to enable encryption for the entire mesh network. With the support for TLS sockets in the Pinoccio WiFi module, complete encryption is supported from the device to the Web.

Although still in the beta stage, the Pinoccio system holds great promise as an inexpensive and open mesh networking system which could be applied to new or existing IoT-enabled products.

If this is of interest, or you need guidance for any or all stages of product design – the first step is to discuss your needs with our team of experienced engineers that can help you in all steps of product design, from the idea to the finished product.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisPinoccio – an upcoming Mesh Networking Platform

Since the early days of computer and networking development in the late 20th century, the open-source hardware and software movement have become a growing force in the world of agile product development.

Using such open-source methods may seem to be a great idea, however there are some potential advantages and disadvantages of choosing to use open-source software and hardware – both using other people’s existing open software or hardware technology, or releasing your own intellectual property as open-source software or hardware for use in the development of Internet-of-Things solutions. What are some of the potential benefits and challenges associated with open source?

For some proponents of open source technology, the most important advantage of open source technology is that it is “free as in free speech”, and this means that software, updates, or other technology or support cannot be withheld by some company – åjust because it decides that you shouldn’t be using their software any more for whatever reason; they can’t just take their ball and go home.

With open-source software or hardware nobody can stop you from using it down the line, and there is at least some form of future access to the technology, even if it is obsolete, less popular or less well supported in the future.

Another key selling point often associated with open software or open hardware is that it is often, if not usually, free as in zero money. Sometimes developers or software vendors may provide an upgraded product, special features or special paid maintenance or support for an open source product – where these special features are commercialised on top of an underlying open-source platform, but generally the underlying open software or hardware technology is freely available for you to work with.

With modern Internet bandwidth, free software can easily be distributed in minutes via Internet download, without the cost of distributing or producing physical disk media. This makes it possible to get free software into the hands of users cheaply and conveniently, which is obviously good for the user, but also good for the software developer because new software can reach many users much faster, getting used in people’s hands sooner and with much greater potential uptake. This can be particularly attractive to small, independent developers.

Obviously in the case of Open Hardware this is a little different, since hardware still costs money to manufacture. However, Open Hardware generally means that design information such as schematics or CAD/CAM design files are freely downloadable for users to look at or potentially incorporate into modified versions or their own electronic designs.

This re-use of existing designs and technology, if you’re happy with the terms of the open-source licenses that may be used, can make design and prototyping faster, potentially getting your product to market (or a potential product or prototype ready for the investment or crowdfunding stage) that much faster.

In many cases, an open source software or hardware project is developed by one person who is often frequently directly accessible to users for direct advice or support. Many authors will provide helpful, patient support – often with a direct level of technical literacy that you’re often not likely to get from commercial “user support” staff reading from a script.

Even if you can’t talk directly to the developer, many open source software or hardware projects will have some kind of associated mailing list or web forum for community discussion, where other users or developers can help you out with advice and support.

Open source software and hardware allows you to get “under the hood” with the design details in a way that you can’t with proprietary technology. This means that you can inspect the engineering, fix problems, identify potential vulnerabilities, and extend or modify the engineering to suit the needs of your application. This is clearly in contrast to closed software or hardware where you are basically at the mercy of the commercial developers when it comes to future development suggestions, security advisories or bug fixes.

One argument in favour of open source technology is that it can be more secure – with many developers and users looking over the source code, security vulnerabilities become much more visible. Whereas closed source software depends to some extent on “security through obscurity”, open source software brings with it an expectation that having lots of users and developers looking through open-source code, maintaining, developing and tweaking it results in better, more secure software – where potential vulnerabilities are detected and corrected.

Applying this sort of “peer-review” to open source software means that the white-hat hackers are able to keep ahead of the black-hat hackers – or, at least, any unfair potential advantage that the black-hat hackers have is minimised.

Nevertheless, we must recognise that this applies a bit differently to hardware than it does to software. If a security vulnerability is discovered in a piece of software and it is openly discussed, a patch can rapidly be developed to correct it and deployed freely to everybody using that software, quickly and easily, thanks to the Internet.

However, if a security vulnerability is discovered in some hardware system which is used by tens of thousands of customers worldwide, what happens if it is not possible to deploy a software or firmware update to correct the problem?

If fixing the vulnerability requires actually buying new hardware to replace an otherwise mostly functional hardware device it is clear that customers may be reluctant to do this, and many systems may be left insecure. In such a situation, if a security vulnerability is discovered and discussed openly then this can easily have more negative effect on security than it does a positive effect, at least in the short term, or in small businesses or home environments where the hardware upgrade may be financially prohibitive.

Another potential advantage of open source technology is that it encourages commercial technology companies to try harder to make their own offerings more attractive, and it encourages innovation and competition – especially when the agility and speed of development by individual open source software or hardware developers, or small businesses, is taken into account.

Open source technology raises the bar, effectively, by saying to customers that this certain set of functionality is what you can get “free as in free beer” – and, to be honest, this is as far as it needs to go for “open source motivation” with some customers. This sends a message to commercial vendors that they may need to offer superior functionality, superior support or usability in order to remain competitive with open-source offerings.


Commercial developers can’t rest on their laurels, and are constantly motivated to innovate and improve their product. Otherwise, an open source product will come along that eats their lunch – as long as it is providing a comparable level of quality, usability and support.

On the other hand, smaller existing commercial hardware or software offerings may not be able to compete with a product that is available for free, and some may argue that open source competition can create a situation to anticompetitive “dumping” – dumping a whole bunch of product on the market at low or no cost in an effort to drive prices down, potentially forcing competitors out of business.

Thus when considering the use of open-source technologies for your next product design or iteration – there are many perspectives to take into account. Do you keep your product “open” and take advantage of the cost savings – but risk higher levels of competition? Or do you work with a closed or existing commercially-available ecosystem?

There’s much to consider, and if you’re not sure which way to turn – the first step is to discuss your needs with our team of experienced engineers that can help you in all steps of product design, from the idea to the finished product.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisThoughts on Open-source Product Development

The Internet-of-things market is growing exponentially – and to some observers it may seem to be an unchecked industry with regards to standards and compatibility. However it isn’t too late to define workable standards – and just that is being done with the International Telecommunications Union’s Internet-of-Things Global Standards Initiative.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the International Telecommunications Union is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.

This group coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards – ITU’s standards-making efforts are its best known and oldest activity.

The ITU’s Internet of Things Global Standards Initiative (IoT GSI) is an initiative of the ITU’s standardisation group that promotes a unified approach for the development of technical standards and recommendations to enable the best possible standardisation and interoperability of the Internet of Things on a global scale.

This international initiative of standardisation has the potential to benefit everybody, from the developers and vendors of Internet-of-Things products and solutions through to consumers. Recommendations developed by the IoT GSI are developed in collaboration with other standards developing organisations – allowing developers, vendors and providers working in the emerging Internet-of-Things industry worldwide to offer a wide range of Internet-of-Things technologies in a standardised and interoperable way. The IoT-GSI also aims to act as an umbrella for further development of IoT standards worldwide.

The purpose of IoT-GSI is to provide a visible single location for information on and development of IoT standards, these being the detailed standards necessary for IoT deployment and to give service providers the means to offer the wide range of services expected from the IoT with a high degree of global standardisation.

By building on the work of other ITU standardisation group efforts in other areas such as network aspects of identification, ubiquitous sensor networks and machine-to-machine communications – the ITU can hopefully bring together different IoT-related standardisation groups both within the ITU and in the wider industry to develop detailed standards for IoT deployment.

From the global perspective of technical standardisation, the IoT can be viewed as a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting physical and virtual things based on new, and existing, interoperable information and communication technologies. ITU sees enormous potential in the Internet of Things, and hence enormous value and importance in these standardisation efforts, harmonising different approaches to the architecture of the IoT worldwide.

The ITU sees the IoT GSI as important because the deep changes to the fundamental approaches being taken to the provision of situation-aware telecommunication services from network-connected things, and the associated breadth of topics that need to be addressed, are well beyond what could be covered within any particular study group following routine standards development processes.
Furthermore the GSI also provides essential external visibility for the ITU standardisation group’s work, and is a clear and obvious place to go for information on the sector’s work in this particular area. Indeed, it serves as a banner under which to unify all the IoT-relevant activities being carried out within the ITU standardisation group.


Once finished, the IoT GSI aims to have developed a consistent definition of what the Internet of Things actually is, to provide a common working platform bringing together different standards-making, industry and academic representatives, and to develop consistent standards for IoT deployments – taking into account the work already done in other standards development organisations, and recognising that global coordination is the key to widespread success of the IoT.

To meet these objectives, the ITU Joint Coordination Activity on the Internet of Things (JCA IoT) was formed in 2006, bringing together representatives from numerous standards developing organisations, including industry forums and consortia, working in IoT-related areas.

The Joint Coordination Activity provides a platform to exchange IoT information and discuss coordination matters, avoiding overlap and duplicated effort. One of the activities of the JCA is to maintain the ITU’s IoT Standards Roadmap that includes standards from the worldwide ecosystem of standards development organisations that are either approved already or presently under development.

ITU’s IoT-GSI acts as an umbrella for the various standardisation efforts worldwide. Founded on the principle of international cooperation between governments and the private sector, ITU represents a unique global forum through which governments and industry can work towards consensus on a wide range of issues affecting the future direction of this increasingly important industry.

The technology community has highlighted a need to focus standards work in one place, distributing expert resources efficiently and avoiding the emergence of competitive approaches and the GSI responds to this, promoting a unified approach for the development of technical standards and recommendations in order to best enable the IoT efficiently and consistently on a global scale.

Recommendations developed under the IoT-GSI by the various ITU standardisation groups in collaboration with other standards developing organisations will enable technology and service providers worldwide to offer the wide range of services and products that are expected to emerge from the Internet-of-Things industry in the most interoperable and consistent way.

Although doing so may be tempting from an economical perspective, ignoring standards in your IoT-enabled product design could cost you more in the long term, by losing interoperability with other systems – or even scaring off potential customers. Therefore it’s important to be aware of the options in the market and how they can benefit your situation.

Here at the LX Group we have experience in developing IoT systems using various platforms, and can help with any or all stages of product design – to bring your ideas to life.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisThe IoT Global Standards Initiative

Wireless inductive charging, where electrical energy is transferred from a power supply to a portable electronic device without the need to plug in a physical wired connection, offers many potential advantages for both the consumer and industrial electronics industry, for such things as portable and wearable battery-powered devices and portable Internet-of-Things-enabled items. Let’s take a brief look at the current state of inductive charging technology, and its potential prospects for the future.

Wireless inductive charging typically uses an induction coil to create an alternating electromagnetic field from within a charging base station along with a second coil in a portable electronic device that takes power from the electromagnetic field and converts it back into electrical current, which is generally used to charge a battery in the device.

Typically, these systems consist of a flat transmitter coil and a flat receiver coil that are coupled by mutual inductance to form a flat transformer – with the flat coils hidden away within the small space inside the charging surface and portable device, along with appropriate electronics to drive the transmission coil with an alternating current at an appropriately high frequency and to rectify and regulate the received power on the receiver side and to negotiate and control the power transmission.

Wireless charging systems have many potential advantages, along with some potential disadvantages. Wireless power systems for portable devices are convenient to use, requiring a device such as a smartphone to simply be put onto a charging pad to charge – it can easily be picked up and used when desired without unplugging cables. Wireless power systems are also physically robust, without wear and tear on connectors and sockets that are otherwise plugged and unplugged frequently, with the possibility of wear or breakage.

Without mechanical connectors, wireless power systems are also resilient against environmental factors such as dirt or debris in the connector, corrosion, exposure to water or other contamination from the environment.

Wireless power systems are particularly attractive in the field of implanted medical electronics, allowing power transfer to devices such as pacemakers without surgical removal and replacement of batteries, or connectivity through ports in the skin, both of which carry some risks such as the possibility of infection.

However, wireless charging does mean extra electronics, and some added cost and complexity. There is also a decrease in efficiency, with increased charger power consumption and an increase in heat dissipation in the charger and the portable device.

Samsung Wireless charger

The amount of power that can practically be transferred is also limited, and charge times for portable devices can be increased. One test of the Qi wireless charging system showed that charging a Google Nexus 7 took nearly three times as long as using a conventional power supply.

There are several wireless charging standards that are being developed or already on the market, including the Qi wireless charging standard which is one of the dominant offerings at the present time. The Qi inductive charging system can supply up to 5 watts of power (equivalent to a conventional 5V 1A smartphone charger), operating at a frequency between 110 and 205 kHz in low-power mode and 80 to 300 kHz in medium-power mode.

The Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) standard is a little newer than the Qi standard, and employs a higher frequency of 6.78 MHz for power transfer, along with 2.4 GHz for negotiation and control signals. The A4WP wireless power standard also employs resonant energy transfer techniques to maximise efficiency of power transfer.

Wireless power technology has now come into the mainstream with many companies seeking to adopt the technology to provide a competitive edge to their products in the marketplace. This is mainly being driven by the smartphone industry, but as the technology becomes more widespread it is likely to see wider uptake into all kinds of other portable electronics including battery-powered wireless sensor network nodes and other Internet-of-Things technologies, to improve convenience and ease of maintenance compared to conventional battery replacement or recharging.

A few examples of smartphones already on the market that support inductive charging technology include the Lumia smartphone from Nokia, the Nexus 4 from LG Electronics, and the Droid DNA. Oral-B rechargeable toothbrushes have used inductive charging since the early 1990s.

The Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) is the largest technology alliance in the wireless charging industry. Established in late 2008, WPC has nearly 150 member companies including major mobile device and semiconductor companies. The consortium introduced the Qi inductive power standard in late 2010, and this standard has developed a relatively strong foothold in the inductive charging sector.

Since Qi was introduced, more than 30 companies have shipped mobile phones using its embedded wireless charging capabilities. Those phones are designed to power up on compatible charging mats and cradles, alarm clocks and music players, and the inside surfaces of some new car models. Toyota announced in December that the 2013 Toyota Avalon Limited (in foreign markets) will be the first car to offer wireless charging with a Qi-powered console included under the dashboard.

From a competitive standpoint, WPC is up against two other notable organisations: the Alliance for Wireless Power, which includes early industry evangelist Powermat, along with Samsung, Qualcomm and others; and the Power Matters Alliance, which is supported by Powermat as well as Google, AT&T, and other significant industry players.

For now, the WPC leads the way, and its open platform theoretically offers the easiest path for companies planning new product development that supports wireless charging options. The next few years will show just how well WPC can deliver on new commercial products and the promise of wireless charging for the future.

Qi inductive technology is already increasingly widespread in the market, built into products such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, Nokia Lumia 920, and Google Nexus phones and tablets. However, greater consolidation of standards is likely to be needed for inductive charging to develop widespread industry and consumer adoption.

Multiple different inductive charging pads required for multiple devices are not attractive to consumers, and are unlikely to be cost effective. Adoption of a unified, open, industry-wide standard for inductive charging of portable electronics would solve this problem – however, a consistent, industry-wide open charging standard adopted by all major industry players including Apple can’t even be agreed to in the context of conventional plug-in charging interfaces, so it should not be taken for granted that such a universally accepted consolidated standard will emerge in the inductive charging sector.

However for bespoke products or working with existing technology, wireless charging can be integrated for the advantage of your business and customers. Here at the LX Group our team of engineers can help with any or all stages of product design to bring your ideas to life.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisThe state of Wireless Charging

Although not the loudest player in the Internet-of-Things market, Microsoft is increasingly pitching its Windows Embedded operating system product family as a central hub of operating system choices for the connected devices, services and data making up the Internet of Things.

Let’s take a brief look at the Windows Embedded product family and the role it can play in embedded computing and Internet-of-Things applications. Not to be outdone by Java, Linux, or other options in the market, Microsoft is staking its own claim in the Internet-of-Things and connected-device operating system space, pitching the Windows Embedded family of operating systems at applications such as vending machines, robotic controls and industrial automation, point-of-sale terminals and registers, and rugged industrial tablets.

As well as selling the Windows Embedded family of operating systems for embedded electronics, Microsoft’s Windows Embedded business group utilises its Intelligent Systems Initiative to help clients leverage the data output of the Internet of Things.

Microsoft is touting its applications such as SQL Server to manage data in the Internet-of-Things environment, Windows Azure cloud solutions to provide common computing and integration, its various business intelligence tools to analyse data from connected devices and networks, and its various system management tools to manage the whole fabric.

With a broad family of existing product offerings and industry experience mean that Microsoft is well positioned to support a whole fabric of embedded operating systems, database handling, cloud services and Internet-of-Things derived business intelligence products built around the Internet of Things, not just operating systems for isolated embedded devices.

Due to their breadth of experience, Microsoft is one of the few technology providers that can be reasonably be expected to provide a complete technology stack for the Internet of Things, as a one-stop-shop solution provider.

Microsoft’s Intelligent Systems Initiative complements the Windows Embedded product line, helping clients to leverage the data traffic that the Internet of Things generates by providing database, authentication, analytical and visualisation capabilities for IoT data, targeting markets such as the automotive, manufacturing and retail point-of-sale industries.

With their portfolio of Windows Embedded operating systems, you can scale to fit the hardware capabilities available in the embedded devices used, with hardware limitations such as small size, low energy consumption, and limited memory or processing power.

The familiar Microsoft .NET Micro Framework is aimed at very lightweight microcontrollers with significant memory constraints, such as the well-known mbed platform – whilst other offerings in the Windows Embedded family such as Windows Embedded Compact 2013, Windows Embedded Automotive 7, Windows Embedded 8 Handheld and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry are aimed at different market segments including automotive devices such as in-car entertainment and navigation, industrial applications, or specialised handheld terminals or data entry devices.

Windows Embedded devices can be managed as Microsoft Active Directory objects, allowing good security and also making the administration of a network of portable, embedded devices a relatively familiar task for system and network administrators who already work with Active Directory in a Windows network environment.

Furthermore. Windows Embedded operating systems can also leverage Microsoft’s core development tools and platforms such as C#, Visual Basic, .NET and Visual Studio, meaning that Windows Embedded customers have access to an extremely large worldwide community of developers who already have extensive familiarity and certification in using these common development tools.

Developers can also extend the power beyond the operating system itself by leveraging Microsoft’s portfolio of server and cloud solutions to fuel Microsoft’s services approach for the Internet of Things and to provide analysis and visualisation of the data traffic from the IoT.

Microsoft’s complementary capabilities include SQL Server, System Centre, the Windows Azure platform, Forefront Client Security and Sharepoint Server, among others. The integration of these capabilities with Windows Embedded operating systems enable Microsoft to provide its own internally-developed and in-house supported structured stack of Internet of Things solutions in a way that few other companies can match.

With Windows Embedded, device manufacturers have access to familiar development tools such as Visual Studio 2012 and Expression Blend 5 that help reduce time to market, and support for a variety of security and anti-malware features ensures the solution is secure and stable.

Windows Embedded

Features like Bitlocker and compatibility with a variety of anti-malware solutions help protect the integrity of the device and the data. Other features such as Windows Secure Boot and Hibernate-Once-Resume-Many protect the device during bootup to prevent the loading of unauthorised apps and to ensure that all devices start up consistently every time, important in a remote embedded deployment where maintenance is impossible or undesirable.

The modular nature of Windows Embedded 8 Standard provides OEMs with the flexibility to tailor their solution precisely to the customer’s needs, with each component addressing a variety of aspects of the platform, including the bootable core, Windows functionality, industry-specific needs, the launching of custom shells and the use of write filters and lockdown features.

Other customisation tools include the Image Builder Wizard and Image Configuration Editor, both of which enable you to omit unwanted functionality and reduce memory requirements as well as potential security vulnerabilities that may exist in unneeded components.

As some of the tools from Microsoft are familiar with a huge proportion of software engineers, developing your IoT product or system’s embedded firmware and other code can be somewhat streamlined – leaving you with the hardware and networking design issues. This is where the LX Group can partner with you to develop any or all stages and bring your ideas to life.

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and 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 AwaisWindows Embedded – a Platform for Electronics and Intelligent Systems