All posts tagged: Network

When considering an Internet-of-Things framework for an existing or new project, one of the greatest challenges is getting the system running within what is most likely a tight deadline. And part of the greater challenge is the choice of interface between you devices and the network – and how will they interact? At this juncture your decision can be to create a bespoke solution, or use an existing product. The latter is ideal for proof-of-concepts, quick jobs or just when you need to get a MVP (minimum viable product) through the door. With this in mind, we’ll check out one example of an existing solution that you may make use of – called “Twine”

Although originally an idea that was brought to fruition using crowdfunding via Kickstarter, Twine has now become one of many viable choices in the IoT marketplace. As usual, it consists of a hardware and software component – so let’s examine those and then see how they can work together to solve your problems.

Twine block

Hardware – The Twine devices are quite unassuming and compact, measuring approximately 70×71×20mm and can fit in the palm of your hand. With an elastomer coating they’re quite robust, however not water resistant or proof. These devices provide the link between the cloud-based software and a variety of hardware options. Inside each device already exists temperature, vibration and orientation sensors – and a port for external sensors. It connects via an 802.11b wireless network and is powered via a micro USB socket or 2 AAA cells.

You can also acquire a range of external sensors covering moisture, magnetic switches (for doors, etc) and also a breakout board to connect your own hardware. You can connect any device that outputs an analogue or digital signal with a 0~3.3 V range. Furthermore there’s also an Arduino shield for connection to that ubiquitous line of hardware. The last two options then give you the ability to quickly connect your own sensor or interface via an Arduino-compatible board other hardware with which you’d like to interact with over the cloud system. Therefore development costs of this additional hardware will be restrained due to the ease of interfacing with the sensor port or Arduino interface.

Software – There are two primary methods for interacting with the Twine hardware, with their proprietary cloud-based system or via HTTP to your own applications. Using the cloud-based method – you create a series of rules that can monitor incoming sensor data then make decisions based on the results. From simple things like email alerts notifying you of temperature changes to SMS text messages when a device has been physically moved – there are many possibilities that can be constructed in a short period of time. There’s also the option of receiving messages via twitter and text-to-voice call.

The process of creating applications for Twine doesn’t require any coding at all, so demonstrations of the system can be created and modified by general employees and management. Using an online drag-and-drop interface with simple condition parameters is used to generate actions based on the status of the connected sensors. However there is also the opportunity to have Twine directly interact with your own infrastructure using HTTP GET and POST requests. This is also preferable for those looking to keep their data within internal systems.


It can be said that Twine is not the most complex or customisable system on the market at the time of writing, however if your needs meet the capabilities then it can be a valid option. You can get a basic system operating in a few hours, and integrate other hardware in no time at all.

If you’re interested in moving forward with Twine or other platforms, we can guide you through the entire process, from simple installations for demonstration purposes to a complete system with customised external sensors and programming support. 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 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 examines Twine wireless sensor blocks

There are many methods of sending data between sensors and devices that require the data, and many newcomers to the industry may be aware of the usual digital data buses such as Serial Peripheral Interconnect (SPI for short) or the Inter-Integrated Circuit bus (known as the IIC or I2C bus). Although they are popular and many devices are available that communicate using these methods, they have several downfalls which can preclude them from some applications. These can include distance – the I2C bus requires repeater ICs fitted along the run after around 20 metres, and care must be taken to ensure the bus capacitance level stays below a certain amount; and interference – any digital signal is susceptible to interference from a variety of sources.

However there is a method of transferring signals and data that is both much simpler to understand and also reliable over long distances – the “4-20mA Current Loop”. This has been used successfully over many years to report analogue values back to a host system from a sensor and also transmit digital data (however not at any great speed).

How the “loop” (as we will now call it for brevity) works is very simple to understand – a DC current loop is formed with a power supply of between 12 to 40 VDC, with the sensor or device in series with system analysing the loop then back to the power supply, for example:

(Image courtesy National Instruments)

The device or sensor (such as the transducer in the image above) is powered by the current in the loop, which is convenient as seperate power runs are not required – saving installation cost and maintenance time.

The data gathered by the sensor is translated to a level of current flow, thus controlling the current flowing through the loop – which will fall between a range of four and twenty milliamps. Finally, the device at the end of the loop can simply measure the current using a simple analogue-to-digital converted and process as normal. This is therefore a method of transmitting either analogue or digital data.

Some systems can also transmit digital data at a slower speed, by simply turning the current on and off in a similar manner as basic logic systems – and although generally used by telegraph and telex systems in the previous century, there may still be applications for this in the future when no other wired alternative is possible. An example of this may be adding new sensors to an existing building with existing wiring that cannot be accessed completely for replacement or heritage reasons.

Almost any type of device that uses a current signal to transmit data can be used on the “loop”, such as position or rotation sensors – ideal for remotely monitoring a machine’s RPM or physical position; environmental sensors such as vibration, humidity and temperature; tank liquid level sensors – and many more. And the system makes troubleshooting quite simple – if current isn’t flowing in the loop, your system can alert to a faulty sensor or line immediately.

It is also possible to run more than one loop from a power supply, as long as each loop is in parallel and the power supply can source the total amount of current required by the individual loops, and that the systems measuring the current are in series with the device in its’ unique part of the loop. Furthermore some engineers have also been able to power other mutually-exclusive devices from the loop – such as ultra-low power TI MSP430 microcontrollers, as long as the current drawn by the new device falls within the tolerance of measurement by the end system. This method has also proved popular by those wishing to upgrade sensor networks without adding or replacing any existing wiring runs.

Thus it can be said that the 4~20 mA current loop system may not be the “latest technology”, but it can effectively solve problems in the right circumstances. However there are many options, and choosing the right one is a fundamental step for the success of your project. So if your design team is set in their ways, or you’re not sure which data communication method is best for your application – it’s time to discuss this with independent, experienced engineers.

At the LX Group we have experience designing a wide range of data gathering and control systems over short and long distances – and using this experience we can determine the most effective method of returning data and control signals no matter the application or geography. Our engineering team have developed a number of systems in this area and have extensive experience with the core technology requirements of such systems.

We understand the importance of high availability, accuracy and integrity of the systems, combined with the need for future proofing infrastructure rollouts. 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 the 4-20mA Current Loop

Burgeoning populations, urbanisation and globalisation are stressing transportation networks of major cities.  In most metropolitan cities around the world, the ever-increasing number of vehicles and the limitations in altering transportation infrastructure have led to higher traffic congestion and an increase in travel time.

The need of the hour is to implement intelligent, integrated and effective means of managing traffic flow. Devices built on embedded technology can aid in the development of smarter, integrated, efficient and inter-connected devices that can pave way to the development of a Smarter Traffic Management System. Embedded technology can not only make road transportation more intelligent but also save lives, time and money by reducing congestion, improving safety and minimising vehicle fuel consumption and emissions.

Steering traffic in cities is a very complex task, since improving efficiency involves the coordination of many factors, one of which is the management of signals at road intersections. In traditional traffic management systems, each intersection is controlled by a standalone controller that regulates traffic lights. These controllers work on a basic switching mechanism that control the traffic lights based on a preset interval, and are manually adjustable for peak, normal or low-traffic conditions. The disadvantage of this lies in the fact that traffic configurations change constantly, and since each of these devices work independently, they can seriously hinder smooth traffic flow.

Interconnected and intelligent Traffic Management Systems (TMS) can be the best solution to this problem. A centrally operated TMS can play a vital role in ensuring that the traffic signals work in tandem and complement each other to achieve smoother traffic flow. Intelligent devices built on embedded technology can significantly improve the interoperability and help in the creation of an Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS).

Advanced Traffic Management System – The Smarter Alternative

ATMS can be designed to coordinate the operation of all traffic signals to achieve seamless traffic management. The basis of ATMS is to have a control mechanism at each intersection that has the capability to analyse the traffic and decide when to turn the traffic lights on/off. An array of such systems interconnected through a network and in turn to central control system can enable easier coordination of signals and ensure smoother flow of traffic.

Components of an Advanced Traffic Management System

Traffic Sensors: A varied group of sensors can be deployed at the signals to detect the density of traffic. Sensors can be used to detect motion, density and number of vehicles. Advanced sensors built on embedded technology such as induction-based and proximity-based sensors can detect not only the volume of traffic but also the type and number of each category of vehicles. This can immensely aid understanding the nature of traffic and the timing of the signals at each intersection.

Control Mechanism: The fundamental element of an ATMS is the control mechanism employed at each intersection. The control mechanism will decide the timing of each signal for each direction of the intersection based on the inputs received. To arrive at the signal timing, the control mechanism will need to analyse the inputs it receives from the traffic sensors, the Central Control System or from other controllers at adjoining intersections in the ATMS’s network. The control mechanism can be based on embedded technology that can retain the logic to successfully carry out this task. Being based on embedded technology, these systems can be programmed to include complex algorithms to analyse the inputs and determine the exact time and duration for each signal.

Components of an Advanced Traffic Management System

Network: To achieve seamless operation, the control mechanism needs to be inter-connected with other control mechanisms in the ATMS and also the central computer. Wired or wireless networks can be employed to achieve this interconnectivity. Being based on an Embedded System, the control mechanism can be far easily interfaced with both wired as well as wireless networks. Through this network, the control mechanisms at each intersection will be able to share and receive information from other control mechanisms and the central computer to ensure the coordination of signal switching.

Central Control System: The core component of the ATMS is the Central Control System (CCS) which will orchestrate the entire operation of the ATMS. The CCS can be hosted at a central location where the designated personnel can view and manage the traffic operations. In addition to control of traffic signals, CCS will also offer wide-ranging surveillance capabilities, including various kinds of traffic detection and video surveillance. It can also be built to provide powerful traffic-control algorithms, including the potential for adaptive control and predictive surveillance. The section

“The Major Tasks of the Central Control System”
outlines the tasks to be performed by the CCS.

Benefits of a Smarter Traffic Management System

  • Enhanced Signal Coordination

Helps  achieve maximum “green wave” and enhanced flow of traffic

  •  Better Demand Prediction

Centralised analysis of traffic pattern to better determine traffic cycles and trends in movement

  • Reduced Carbon Emissions

Lesser vehicle idling ensures lesser carbon emission density

  • Increased Efficiency

Enhanced management of traffic can improve operational efficiencies

  • Faster Transit of Emergency Services

Ensures diversion of traffic for faster movement of emergency services such as ambulance, fire and security services

  • Enhanced Safety

Smooth flow of traffic can ensure safety of both commuters and pedestrians.

  • Improvement in Overall Experience

Seamless traffic movements can help improve traveller experience.

The Major Tasks of the Central Control System

  • Manage the master database

CCS organises and manages the traffic data into five categories: the event schedule, the traffic-responsive parameters, detector processing parameters, data logging, and event logging

  • Manage traffic light switch sequence

CCS computes the traffic patterns and sets/modifies the basic switching sequence for signals

  • Communicate with the Control Mechanism

CCS collects traffic information and provides the information on the switching patterns to the Control Mechanisms at each intersection.

  • Display data

CCS can provide a real-time view of the traffic parameters including video to the  authorised users to detect any abnormality and thus take necessary action.

  • Prepare reports

CCS extracts traffic data to aid planning and analysis.


Clearing congestion and improving how people and goods are moved cross-town and cross-region are critical, not only to address quality of life and a cleaner environment but also the economic viability and sustainability of the country as a whole. Traffic Management Systems like the SCATS  (Sydney CoordinatedTraffic management is an adaptation problem than an optimization problem Adaptive Traffic System) from the Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales, Australia has proven that effective and flawless management of traffic can be achieved by advanced thinking, strategic planning and integrated execution. However, the increased traffic on the roads calls for systems that have the potential to take quick decisions and ensure smoother flow of traffic. The use of embedded devices with “in-built intelligence” can ensure that the potential of systems such as SCATS is kept abreast to effectively adapt itself to the growing demands of traffic management in cities across the globe.

About LX-Group

LX Group 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’ expertise in developing electronic products enables a quicker design process and reduces cost in bringing a concept to reality.

Key Differentiators

–   Vast expertise in development and implementation of applications

–   Immense knowledge in design and manufacture of custom–built applications

–   Highly reliable team for design and delivery

–   Enhanced usability and efficiency in the long run

–   Lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) compared to generic applications

Keywords: traffic management, embedded system, transportation, traffic flow, signal management, lx , LX, LX Group, LX Group

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

Muhammad AwaisSmarter Traffic Management