All posts tagged: intelligence

Continuing from our previous articles which are focusing on a range of currently-available Internet-of-Things systems, we now move forward and explore another addition to the Internet-of-Things marketplace in more detail – the system known as “ThingSpeak”. Considered to be one of the first openly-available IoT platforms, ThingSpeak operates on their own free server platform, or you can run the software on your own personal servers – and as the entire system is open-source, it’s easier to work with and customise.

As with the other systems examined, ThingSpeak gives your devices the opportunity to interact with a server for simple tasks such as data collection and analysis, to integration with your own custom APIs for specific purposes. Due to the open-source nature the start-up cost can be almost zero, and unlike other systems ThingSpeak is hardware agnostic – giving your design team many hardware options. However as always, let’s consider the main two components in more detail.


Hardware – You don’t need to purchase special base units or proprietary devices. As long as your hardware is connected to the Internet and can send and receive HTTP requests – you’re ready to go. For rapid prototyping, examples are given using many platforms including netduino, Arduino, mbed, and even with the competitive Twine hardware. This gives you a variety of MCU platforms from Atmel and ARM Cortex providers to work with, and as these development platforms are either open-source or inexpensive, your team can be up and running in a short period of time.

Furthermore creating your own devices can be quite inexpensive – a simple device based on an Atmel AVR and Ethernet interface can be manufactured for less than $20 in volume, and doesn’t require any software licensing expenses. To save on hardware costs, it could be preferable to have various sensors in a group communicate back to one connected device via inexpensive Nordic NRF24L01 wireless transceivers – and the connected device can thus gather the data into the require fields for transmission back to ThingSpeak.

Software – Thanks to the open-source nature of ThingSpeak either working with the existing server software or creating your own APIs isn’t a challenge. Interaction is easy with simple HTTP requests to send and receive data, which has a useful form. Each data transmission is stored in a ThingSpeak “channel”. Each of these channels allows storage and transmission of eight fields with 255 alphanumeric characters each, plus four fields for location (description, latitude, longitude and elevation – ideal for GPS), a “status update” field and time/date stamp. Data sent over the channels can be public or private – with access via your own devices and software finalising the security.


Once sent to the server this data can be downloaded for further analysis, or monitoring using various HTTP-enabled entities – from a simple web page, mobile application or other connected device. Various triggers can be created to generate alerts for various parameters, and can be sent using email, twitter, or other connected services such as an SMS gateway. After being in operation for almost three years, the platform has matured to a reliable service that has exposed many developers to its way of doing things, so support and documentation is becoming easier to find.

Overall the ThingSpeak system offers your organisation a low barrier to the Internet of Things. Creating a proof-of-concept device or prototype hardware interface can be done with existing or inexpensive parts, and the use of ThingSpeak’s free server can make an idea become reality in a short period of time. And once you device on the service, by internalising the server software, you can have complete control and security over your data.

If you’re interested in moving forward with your own system based on the ThingSpeak, we have a wealth of experience with the required hardware options, and the team to guide you through the entire process – from understanding your needs to creating the required hardware interfaces and supplying firmware and support for your particular needs.

Our goal is to find and implement the best system for our customers, and this is where the LX Group can partner with you for your success. We can create or tailor just about anything from a wireless temperature sensor to a complete Internet-enabled system for you – within your required time-frame and your budget. 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 AwaisLX Group examines the ThingSpeak IoT Platform

There’s more to the Internet of Things than just deciding upon the desired outcome, designing and selecting the appropriate hardware, software and network infrastructure required to enable things to communicate with each other. You may even have systems in place to analyse data from the system as described in our previous article about the industrial Internet.

However you can take the system further – by planning the processes of how various entities can work together to find synergy and more opportunity from the investment. These entities can be classed as individual Internet of Things installations. Some organisations such as Cisco Systems have even coined a new term – the “Internet of Everything” – which takes into account the people, data, things – and the processes of how they can all work together.

This is an interesting development and not one unique to any particular manufacturer. However “uniqueness” in itself a possible hindrance when designing a system – as lack of compatibility with other systems can be a downfall over the longer term. So as part of the design process, you need to decide whether or not you want your system to communicate with others for the benefit of all involved.

In doing so the linked systems can work more efficiently together and make life easier for all. This involves coordinating various events in a way that may have been normally achieved by a person who would normally use two or more disparate systems at once to achieve a single goal. In other words – taking intelligent decision making to the next level.

This level of integration can be found in many areas, such as the consumer device and industrial fields. Let’s consider some broad examples of how processes can match two different systems to meet a common goal for the end user.

Traffic and vehicle systems – The ability to monitor traffic on major roads and arterials is nothing new, however the data generated can of course be used to broadcast traffic data for external services, alter signal timings, variable speed signs and other notices to motorists. Furthermore some vehicles now have GPS receivers which are pre-programmed with static speed limits and other warnings.

As a motorist your ultimate goal is to get to your destination as safe and as fast as legally possible. If the IoT system in the vehicle could interact with the separate traffic system – by submitting location and planned destination – a customised live route plan could be sent to the vehicle directing the driver to the optimum route. The vehicle could also take fuel consumption into account, the distance to travel – and interrogate the traffic system for the location of the nearest service station if required.

Commercial interests could also integrate live fuel pricing into the system to allow the vehicle to select the cheapest fuel as well. Finally the law enforcement aspect can also create some interesting scenarios that may not be popular with all – but useful to administration. Nevertheless all of these functions then remove the tasks away from the driver, allowing them to focus on driving and safety.

Intelligent hotel HVAC and water solutions – Running a large hotel includes a myriad of fixed and variable costs with respect to energy usage. Some buildings may utilised standard fixed-thermostat hot water boilers and air conditioning systems that may have a degree of adjustment, but still run when not entirely required in all areas of the hotel. By creating a system of processes that allow a hotel’s guest booking system to integrate with intelligent HVAC and water systems – real money can be saved on energy bills.

By re-engineering or installing new zone-based air conditioning systems into the building that allow greater control of output to various areas or zones, and individually-controlled hot water systems for each room (or each floor) the ability to shut down complete areas when required can be possible.If the hotel’s booking system could allow bookings to occur in certain areas – for example booking rooms in sequential order, whole zones or floors can be kept full with guests, and empty with vacant rooms. By creating processes for the booking system to communicate with the HVAC/water system – the minimum of energy required for booked rooms could be used and vacant areas could be shut down.

With customers pre-booking check-in times – individual hot water systems could be only activated a few hours before guest arrival and shut down until the next booking – saving more energy. Furthermore by capturing weather data and understanding the seasons, the booking system could ensure guests are booked into the cooler or warmer side of the building – thus reducing the impulse to “turn up the heat” or “crank up the air conditioning” upon arrival.As you can easily imagine, a fair amount of planning needs to be taken into consideration with regards to the processes involved in Internet of Things systems that may need to work together.

Even if you aren’t considering system interoperability – adding the ability for data interchange with other systems should be considered to avoid future obsolescence.Just as in the 1980s a wide variety of computer systems was reduced to a handful – in the 21st century connected technology in our “Internet of Everything” will need to work together in order to find success. Planning is the key, and understanding the requirements is paramount.If you have the needs, the ideas – and want to move forward with intelligent systems – you will set your organisation on the path to increased efficiency and profitability – and this is where the LX Group can partner with you for your success.

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 AwaisLX Group discusses Processes and the Internet of Things

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

Virtual reality allows user to interact with an environment that exists only in a computer

Virtual reality is a term that has been used frequently in sci-fi novels and movies. Virtual reality is a technology which allows the user to interact with an environment that exists only in a computer. Augmented reality, which is one of the newest innovations in the electronics industry, tries at superimposing a range of elements such as graphics, audio and other sense enhancements from computer screens onto real-time environments.

Virtual reality and augmented reality systems go far beyond the static graphics technology and try to assimilate the user’s movement and actions to create complex virtual worlds that can “trick” a person into believing that s/he is experiencing reality. These virtual environments have the capability to revolutionise how we view, interact and use information to perceive the world around us, and embedded technology is powering the future of these systems.

Virtual Reality (VR) is an artificial environment created with a computer and presented to the user in such a way that it appears and feels like a real environment. To experience a virtual reality environment, the user is required to wear special gloves, earphones and goggles, all of which receive inputs from the computer system. The computer continuously monitors and analyses the user’s actions and alters the information fed to the devices the user has worn. For example the goggles, track head movements and respond accordingly by sending a new video input which makes the user feel s/he is in a real environment. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world – for example, simulations for pilot or combat training – or it can differ significantly from reality – such as alien worlds and creatures depicted in Virtual Reality games.

In contrast, the goal of Augmented Reality (AR) is to add information and meaning to a real object or place. Unlike Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is not aimed at creating a simulated computer-based environment. Instead, it takes a real object or space that the user is viewing, as the foundation, and incorporates contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding of the object. For example, Augmented Reality can add data such as an audio commentary, location data, historical context or similar information that can make a user’s experience of a thing or a place more meaningful. Similarly, AR systems can be used to superimpose images from an X-ray or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanner directly onto a patient’s body to help a surgeon analyse and clearly understand the nature of a fracture or a tumour.

Augmented reality is the next step in Virtual Reality, created by combining information, digital data received from different devices and the internet, to create a surreal world which gets displayed to the user in such an intuitive fashion that the user may not be able to differentiate between the real world and its virtual augmentation.

Creating The Virtual World

Getting the right information at the right time and the right place is the key to the functioning of a VR and AR system. The basic requirements of both VR and AR systems are same – both depend on data generated from user movements and perspective to arrive at the information (text, visuals, sound etc.) to be provided to the user. AR systems and VR systems employ similar hardware technologies but differ in the complexity of the systems used. In general, the devices used in both VR and AR systems can be summarised as below.

Tracking devices: The “input” unit of a virtual system or tracking devices help sense the movements of the user to identify the user’s coordinates in real-time. The requirements for AR in such cases are much stricter than those for VR systems. VR systems use indoor tracking devices to track the entire body actions of a user to “transport” the user to a virtual environment. For example a flight or parachute-landing simulator simulates the movement of the user to display a real-life scene on a screen or a Head Mounted Device (HMD). In the case of AR, the tracking system uses a combination of indoor and outdoor tracking devices to recognize what a user is viewing at a given movement. For example, a handheld device showing information about a building or a piece of art the user is viewing.

Virtual and Augmented Reality with Embedded Systems

Scene processor: VR systems need to process and generate realistic images because they completely replace the real world with the virtual environment for the user. Thus, a complex and high performance intelligent embedded system capable of rendering text, graphics and sound to match user movements is critical in a VR environment. In AR, the virtual images only supplement the real world. Therefore, fewer virtual objects need to be drawn, and they do not necessarily have to be realistically rendered. However, an AR system needs to have the intelligence to interface with a centralised database or connect to a network, internet or GPS (Global Positioning System) to fetch and display the right information to the user. In addition, an AR system tracks the position and orientation of the user’s head so that the overlaid material can be aligned with the user’s view of the world.

Display device: The display devices used in AR may be less complex when compared to VR systems. For example, monochrome or low-resolution display may be adequate for some AR applications, while VR systems need to use full colour high-resolution display systems. Optical see-through Head Mounted Devices (HMD) with a small display device may be satisfactory in the case of an AR system because the user can still see the real world. However, a complex HMD that blocks the user’s view to the real-world is critical in the case of a VR system.

Difference between Virtual and Augmented Reality

  • Immersion

Virtual reality provides a totally immersive environment while Augmented Reality adds information to the user’s existing view of the world.

    • User senses

In Virtual Reality, a user has to be in a controlled environment, a simulator capsule or a head mounted device (HMD) that feeds the user visuals, sounds, motion, sensation and in some cases smell as well.

In Augmented Reality, the user maintains a sense of presence in real world and the information is generally displayed on HMD or a handheld device.

  • Complexity

Virtual Reality systems are complex since it needs to process all details associated with the virtual environment. Augmented Reality systems are less complex but needs to combine virtual and real worlds to provide a rich user experience.

Embedded intelligence

Similar to a central processing unit of a computer, the scene processor forms the core part of a VR or AR system where the data gets processed and results are generated for the user. Embedded systems are playing a vital role in creating advanced, intelligent and affordable scene generators for VR and AR systems. The increase in processing power and miniaturisation of embedded components are paving way to the creation of scene processors with higher processing power yet in sizes that fit inside the palm of the user. The use of embedded technology also supports interconnectivity of similar devices and also ensures connectivity to external systems, networks or internet to give a rich holistic user experience.

Virtual Reality Applications

  • Flight, parachute, vehicle simulation
  • Simulation for space missions
  • Robotics and tele-robotics
  • Sci-fi movies
  • Medical surgery simulation
  • Virtual Reality games
  • Amusement rides

Augmented Reality Applications

  • Pre-operative anatomy imaging of X-ray & MRI scans
  • Virtual HMDs to aid military combat operations
  • Virtual navigation systems
  • Shopping – providing enhanced reviews of goods
  • Sightseeing
  • Entertainment and education – in schools, exhibitions & museums


Though Virtual Reality has been around for some time, the incorporation of advanced embedded technologies is helping researchers improve the quality and control of the system. Augmented Reality, which is a relatively new advancement in electronics, has also scaled new heights with the use of Embedded Technology. The virtual systems of the future can be so advanced in the near future it could even work on the thoughts of the user. The potential of virtual systems are huge, and embedded systems that are powering it reach outstanding levels of interactivity.

About LX Group
LX Group incorporates LX Innovations, LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, and is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. They specialise in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

LX Group offers clients a range of professional solutions designed to take a new product idea from concept through to production and beyond. LX focuses on fully understanding all aspects of a client’s requirements (both technical and business) and works on creating custom-made solutions. LX Group’s expertise in developing electronic products enables a quicker design process and reduces cost in bringing a concept to reality.

Published by LX Group for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.

Muhammad AwaisVirtual and Augmented Reality with Embedded Systems

Factors driving the need for smart power grids

Electric power systems constitute fundamental infrastructures in of modern society. Often continental in scale, electric power grids and distribution networks connect the generating stations to virtually every home, office, factory and institution across the country. Increased bulk power transactions and large scale integration of renewable energy sources are posing challenges to high-voltage transmission systems.Environmental constraints and energy efficiency requirements also have significant effects on the design and operation of power transmission infrastructures. To address these challenges, power grids worldwide are undergoing a revolutionary transition to the so-called “Smart Grid”.

Smart Grids are designed to imbibe intelligent processes and methodologies to the power grids to improve their flexibility, reliability and overall efficiency.The electric power grid can be defined as a large system of high-tension cables that connects the power plants to consumers across a region. The grid is responsible for transmitting the generated power to the end-user. The electricity produced at power plants is usually “stepped up” to high voltages before it is transmitted through the grid. At a substation near the consumer, the power gets “stepped down” to voltage suitable for household and commercial use.

The beauty of the grid is that power can be bought and sold across vast expanses. Since the storage of electricity is very difficult, power grids support an optimal distribution of electricity allowing for a more balanced supply-and-demand equation. Also, minor transmission failures in one section of the grid can also be compensated for by using electricity available in another section of the grid.Due to expanding demand, higher fuel costs and pollution-related issues, there has been a recent push to develop smarter electrical grids that are more efficient, cost effective and robust. The introduction of renewable energy systems such as wind, solar, biomass and geothermal generation facilities also entail the use of complex power management techniques in the grid. Since the power generated from the renewable power systems heavily depend on environmental factors, the power grids need to have sufficient “intelligence” to switch the transmission on/off based on the power generated.

The Smart Grid
The Smart Grid is achieved by incorporating digital technology to power grids to deliver electricity from power plants to consumers in a more intelligent, efficient, and transparent way. The basic concept of the Smart Grid is to add monitoring, analysis, control and communication capabilities to the power in order to maximise the throughput of the system while reducing the energy consumption. As all systems are automated and metered, they track when and how much electricity is used. By analysing and reporting all critical usage and health statistics, Smart Grids help system engineers to better manage loads and effectively cater to power demands.

Smart Grid Architecture
Smart Grid architecture relies on embedded technology to manage an energy system and automatically track usage. The conventional power grid management was carried out manually by disparate teams situated at each section of the grid, i.e. power plant, substation etc.  The information available to these teams was mostly limited to their subsections alone and information about demand and outages were usually communicated through phone calls or fax messages.

In sharp contrast, Smart Grids allow for seamless transfer of information across the entire power grid. Embedded systems deployed at various points of the grid, from power generation to end-user consumption, help in analysing the critical characteristics of the system and also communicate it to other systems attached to the grid to achieve excellent energy management capabilities. Embedded systems are computers that can be integrated or “embedded” into a larger electrical or electronic equipment, to allow the equipment to have the necessary “intelligence” to function automatically. The use of embedded technology also allows the deployment of centralised Smart Energy Management Software to control the power available across the entire grid.

Interfacing with Electrical Appliances
Embedded systems are ubiquitous and are finding its use in almost all kinds of consumer and commercial equipment. Thus, a power delivery network built on embedded technology can far easily be interfaced with such equipment. This can ensure flow of electricity as well as information between the power plant and the equipment. The combined intelligence of the interconnected devices, coupled with automated control systems, can permit real-time power transactions and seamless interfaces among people, buildings, industrial plants, generation facilities and the electric network.

The information received from all the interconnected applications will enable the centralised energy management software to create an efficient power generation and transmission plan. An “intelligent” electric grid will also facilitate the proper delivery of electricity from renewable power systems such as wind, hydro and geothermal power plants that are often located at remote regions, far off from load centres. Additionally, interconnected systems will also enable faster detection of outages, correction of faults and quicker restoration of power supply. This will also improve the reliability of the grid and ensure security of the region as well.

The Smart Grid can be considered as a futuristic extension to the power grid and aims for better and efficient power management and consumption. Intelligent embedded power grids can create value up and down the chain – from efficient production of electricity in power plants to optimal supply and distribution of power to match the usage patterns of the end-users. The use of embedded technology would play a significant role in enhancing the “intelligence” of the existing power grids.

The primary advantage is that the grid can be transformed from an operator controlled and managed system to an “intelligent” automated network that works continuously to match the supply with the demand.  Smart power grids can dramatically improve the reliability, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of electric power delivery systems. Embedded and intelligent power grids is the way forward in ensuring a smarter, cleaner and a well-organised management of energy sources driving future growth requirements.

Published by LX Group for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.   

Muhammad AwaisIntelligence Embedded Power Grids