All posts tagged: product

In the adoption of Agile project management practices to the development of hardware or combined hardware-software engineering projects, and the adaptations to common Agile techniques that may be applied for best results with hardware projects, let’s consider some of the challenges that may be faced and how you might address them.

For example, do you develop software and firmware only after you’ve developed and assembled an iteration of physical prototype hardware? Or do you develop an iteration of your software and firmware concurrently with the development and assembly of the corresponding hardware and use other methods such as simulation to stand in for the hardware until an iteration of the physical hardware is ready?

 When using Agile project management techniques, it is desirable to be able to rapidly produce and demonstrate a working prototype of your technology and to rapidly iterate and refine and build on each prototype without necessarily having a perfectly engineered product ready to go at the first iteration.  When you’re working with hardware, however, you need to deal with the lead time required to source components, to fabricate printed circuit boards, to have prototype layouts assembled by an external pick-and-place assembly contractor or to have custom plastics injection-moulded and so on.

 What if the lead-time required for these processes is longer than the time allocated to a particular iteration or sprint? These types of external supply and manufacturing dependencies are unique to hardware, and aren’t present in software development – so they present a unique challenge when trying to apply agile methods to the management of hardware projects.  While these constraints may seem like a daunting challenge to adoption of Agile in the hardware engineering industry, techniques and tools such as in-house rapid prototyping, 3D printing, CNC milling of simple PCBs and the like present part of a potential solution, allowing for rapid, agile iteration of hardware prototypes.

 A prototype iteration of a hardware system doesn’t have to physically involve hardware, either. Simulation and visualisation tools can play a valuable role of validating the design and performance of all the components that come together into a new product, even before a prototype is actually physically constructed. FPGAs and logic synthesis may also be valuable tools here, allowing for validation of soft cores before physical hardware is constructed.  One of the challenges for combined software and hardware development is that software can normally be developed fairly rapidly and the development broken down into smaller iterative chunks. Hardware, on the other hand, may require months to show a working component or feature, which has been implemented starting from scratch.


If the software development must wait for the hardware to be created before final testing, this can create significant testing delays. Hardware must also often follow strictly defined process models, meet compliance standards, and it can be difficult to make late changes to hardware. This means that feature creep can be difficult and expensive in hardware engineering, although Agile methods are traditionally more accepting of “feature creep” compared to traditional “waterfall” management methods.

Traditionally, the priority for embedded software, for example, would be to write the hardware drivers first, to allow evaluation of the new device and to allow testing. Testing is more complex when software must fit within a small, cheap microcontroller with limited resources in an embedded system, with timing well controlled to prevent race conditions and other timing issues. This means that at some point testing on the actual hardware is generally important.  A problem often seen when businesses who create hardware and the software that runs it face when trying to “go Agile” is that they attempt to take methods and practices developed for software (such as Scrum, an Agile project management framework), and try to use it for everything, including hardware development.

 Scrum is based upon “sprints” of relatively short lengths (two weeks to 30 days), with highly defined tasks that must be completed during the sprint. The nature of software development makes this an excellent framework for rapid progress; but scrum isn’t necessarily the best framework for hardware development. If the products are in a highly regulated industry, such as medical or aviation hardware, then the documentation must follow industry requirements for specification and design, as well as normal testing and functional requirements documentation. This makes it extremely difficult to use scrum by itself, since the processes for hardware are frequently much more rigid, defined, and design-oriented than those normally defined by scrum.

On the software side, because software must interface, communicate with, and control hardware, development issues using Agile are more complex for combined software/hardware projects, and the stories (definition of the functions for a specific feature) that the developers define for each sprint are accordingly more complex. Large projects with large amounts of hardware and software dependencies can be even more challenging.

 One method of dealing with hardware that isn’t ready to test is to decouple software and hardware development, via an abstraction layer, to allow software development to continue more rapidly. Can the interfaces to the hardware module be specified, and the specifics abstracted away to allow other parts of the hardware and software development to continue around the hardware component that is behind schedule?  The challenge is to find a method that allows the rapid development of software with concurrent development of the hardware, that can best meet the requirements of each process. A good approach can be the use of different Agile techniques for hardware projects than those used in software projects. Agile techniques are not abandoned – simply implemented a little differently, with different specific Agile techniques chosen for the most effective results.

With Commitment-Based Project Management (CBPM), which has been described as an “agile without using Agile” technique with broad applicability outside the software engineering sector, the emphasis is on the delivery of at least a component or piece of the hardware that works, in the case of an embedded computing or other combined hardware-software project, in order to allow the development or testing of the software that will work on that hardware component.  This is very different from the traditional “waterfall” project management approach, where the entire hardware system needs to be built first. While the “scrum” method for software projects is based on sprints with small portions of the software completed at a time, hardware development can benefit from a different approach.

 With Agile, both hardware and software features are broken down into smaller chunks – only the Agile methodology can be a bit different for each. Once software is working, it can be deployed either on any available hardware modules that are ready, or in a test or simulation environment.  This allows the early identification and fixing of race issues and bugs that arise, and reduces the amount of “fixing” and lengthy hours reworking that must occur during late integration and testing when the hardware is ready.

And that’s the goal of successful agile development – to reduce the total time required, decreasing errors, mistakes and the chances of unforseen events, which will increase the time to market for your new or revised product. Here at the LX Group you can leverage our product development expertise and experience for your total benefit. Our consultants, engineers and experts in many fields can guide you to your goal of product success. 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 AwaisChallenges of Agile Product Development

The Arrayent Connect Platform is an Internet-of-Things platform that enables you to connect your products to smartphone and Web applications, providing the value-add of cloud services and IoT connectivity with low cost and simplicity, particularly aimed at existing manufacturers of appliances and consumer electronics who want to add the value of Internet-of-Things connectivity into their existing products. 

Arrayent’s IoT platform has been optimised to maximise your product’s value by keeping extra hardware costs at a minimum, keeping devices simple, and pushing the majority of the IoT complexity to the cloud where possible. 

By ensuring that product installation “just works” and is friendly for end users. Arrayent’s plug-and-play installation process is designed to maximise customer satisfaction and reduce the costs of customer support for installation. 

Arrayent also aim to support strong scalability to as many as millions of devices. Therefore with the Arrayent IoT platform you can reliably and securely connect your products to the Internet for the same service cost, whether you’re connecting ten thousand devices or ten million.

There are four key components that make up the Arrayent Connect IoT platform – the Arrayent Connect Cloud, the Arrayent Connect Agent, the Arrayent mobile framework, and the Arrayent data analytics service. 

The Arrayent Connect Cloud is essentially a cloud-based Internet-of-Things operating system, and it is the heart of the Arrayent IoT platform. The Connect Cloud hosts your virtual device, the digital copy of your physical device to which your mobile apps connect. In this fashion, complex application code can reside in the cloud, enabling reduced overall product cost and maximising product extensibility. 

Arrayent Connect Cloud supports a growing list of services that are common across all Internet of Things applications. These services make it easy to functionality to your connected products, which adds value to the lives of your connected customers. 

The growing lists of features that add value to and extend the functionality of your products include alerts, over-the-air firmware updates, time series storage for data analysis, data services, user account management and more.

The Arrayent Connect Agent helps embedded developers to bring reliable connected products to market, functioning as a firmware module that manages your device’s session with the Arrayent Cloud and abstracts these responsibilities away from your embedded development team – enabling you to focus your resources on delivering a great product experience to your customers, with the emphasis being on developing a great product, not spending all your resources just on the IoT and cloud connectivity infrastructure. 

The Arrayent Connect Agent currently supports Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Z-Wave local- and personal-area networks and computing platforms from major silicon vendors such as Broadcom, Texas Instruments and Marvell, running operating systems such as Linux or FreeRTOS. And because of the cross-platform design of the Connect Agent, Arrayent can quickly spin up support for other platforms if a customer need exists.

The mobile framework for Arrayent’s Internet-of-Things platform helps mobile app developers to rapidly bring intuitive, reliable mobile apps to market for IoT connectivity with devices. The framework abstracts away the complexities involved with using the lower-level web service API and interfaces of Arrayent’s machine-to-machine Internet-of-Things platform into a more friendly presentation layer so that mobile developers can focus on building unique, branded user interfaces for your products. 

The Arrayent Data Analytics service delivers business intelligence reports common to all your products, such as device locations, interaction between devices and apps, peak usage trends, and more. Arrayent’s “Data Mart” services aggregate, normalise and filter your device data for connectivity with your existing analytics solutions. 

However, careful communication with consumers and market research is likely to be important here, as consumers are likely to be unhappy with any trend towards Internet-of-Things home automation and consumer electronic appliances “spying” on the consumer – even through behaviour such as turning lights on or opening garage doors at certain times – and transmitting that information back to the vendor for the purpose of business intelligence analytics without any obvious value, safeguards and control returned to the consumer.


The Arrayent platform supports over-the-air downloads for firmware updates to devices and network gateways, allowing embedded devices to always maintain the latest updates for optimal functionality and security into the future. 

Furthermore, with the Arrayent firmware download management application you can control the safe delivery and phased release of new firmware to the network, even in large-scale networks with hundreds of thousands of connected devices. 

Arrayent’s IoT cloud platform typically achieves end-to-end response times of about 200 to 400 milliseconds out to the Internet and back again, providing low latency for your connected devices. The platform is hosted across redundant servers mirrored across geographically separated data centres. 

If a hardware or network failure takes down one server, the data is still available at other locations, providing confidence that the Internet-of-Things connectivity cloud for your products is reliable. The platform supports alerts via email, SMS, iOS and Android push notifications and more, in response to programmable triggers from virtually any input data stream. Alerts can also trigger response actions in the product that generated the alert, or in other connected devices on the network.

All of this means there exists another option, another choice, another system to get your Internet-of-Things ideas from your notebook to reality. And doing just that with any system may seem like an impossible task. 

However with our team here at the LX group, it’s simple to get prototypes of your devices based on the Arrayent platform up and running – or right through to the final product. 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 AwaisEasily extend your products to the IoT with Arrayent

Intel’s new Edison development platform is the first in a series of low-cost, product-ready, general-purpose embedded computing platforms from Intel that are aimed at lowering the barriers to entry for work in Internet-of-Things and wearable computing applications for the entire community of developers and users, from hobbyists and makers to consumer electronics developers and industrial Internet-of-Things engineers.

The Edison packs a robust set of features into its small size, delivering strong performance built around a leading-edge dual-core Intel Atom system-on-chip combined with a separate single-core microcontroller, along with good hardware durability and a broad spectrum of hardware interfaces and software support.

These versatile features allow the platform to deliver strong value to a wide range of developers and users working with Internet-of-Things, wearable computing, and other embedded computing applications.

Thanks to the integrated Wi-Fi, integrated Bluetooth Low Energy, onboard memory and generous storage, and support for more than 30 different industry-standard hardware I/O interfaces via its 70-pin connector for integration with peripheral devices and other hardware, the Edison is ready for a wide range of applications.

Furthermore with out-of-the-box compatibility and support with software and tools such as Yocto Linux, the Arduino IDE, and the Python, Node.js and Wolfram languages, using the Edison with many open-source community software tools such as these enable ease of adoption and also inspire third-party app developers to build apps for consumers and industrial applications on top of the Intel Edison platform.

This is Intel’s second product targeted partially at the hobbyist, inventor and maker market, following Intel’s Arduino-compatible Galileo platform – however it isn’t limited to that market at all. The Edison development board is a computer only about the size of an SD card, and its unique combination of small size, power, rich capabilities and ecosystem support inspires creativity and enables rapid innovation from prototype to production for professional, hobbyist or education users.

Created for rapid innovation, prototyping and product development, Edison can be configured to be interoperable with just about any device, allowing you to quickly prototype simple interactive designs or tackle more complex projects with an embedded computer that offers much more power, onboard storage and networking capability than a simple 8-bit microcontroller.

During the development process Intel has reported an enthusiastic response to this product from Internet-of-Things entrepreneurs, engineers and the maker community, as well as consumer electronics and industrial machine-to-machine companies.

Intel has decided that in order to best address a broader range of market segments and customer needs, the Intel Edison platform will be extended to a family of different development boards, with notable enhancements over similar existing offerings that include the use of Intel’s leading-edge dual-core Atom system-on-chip, increased I/O capabilities and software support, and a new, simplified industrial design. 

Intel edison development board

These engineering improvements promise greater performance, increased durability and reductions in cost whilst keeping the device very compact. While Intel works to extend the family of its Quark system-on-chips, they have bought the Edison development board to market now in order to meet a broad range of market growth in the embedded and IoT sector.

Edison offers a dual-core, dual-threaded 500 MHz CPU combined with an additional external microcontroller and over 30 different I/O interfaces connected to external systems via a small 70-pin connector, providing a powerful and flexible hardware platform that offers solid performance and good value for wearable or small-form-factor application and hardware development.

System integration is easy as popular networking technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy are supported by the Edison platform with no extra hardware needed, and the board itself is only slightly physically larger than an SD card.

Intel believes the Edison platform will provide more value for embedded computing users with its simplified design process, increased durability and value for money, with this new family of different boards and products offering individuals and small, innovative companies a compelling platform to introduce smart and connected wearable computing designs and Internet-of-Things products that will delight people in new and unexpected ways.

As an example of the Edison platform in action, Intel has demonstrated the Mimo baby monitor from Rest Devices. Based on a tiny Edison-based computer packaged into a toy turtle the size of a baby’s hand, the system receives data from sensors worn on a baby’s clothing, monitoring temperature, breathing, motion and more, and transmits its information to a smartphone via Bluetooth Low Energy, eliminating the need for an external receiver.

Besides sending the baby’s data to an app on the parents’ iOS or Android device, this compact Edison-based wearable computer can trigger actions on connected devices, such as an automatic bottle warmer accompanying the system demonstrated by Intel and Rest Devices which also incorporates a networked Intel Edison board inside.

Thanks to the tiny size and ease of integration into existing and new designs, the Edison platform will accelerate the design and production of almost any connected device.

And with our team here at the LX group, it’s simple to get prototypes of your devices based on the Edison up and running – which also translates to lowering the cost of the system development through to the final product. 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 AwaisIntel Edison – embedded IoT made easy

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

Without too much fanfare another Internet-of-Things platform has been introduced to the market which deserves some exploration. Called XOBXOB (pronounced “zob-zob”), it is claimed to provide users with an easy to use Internet platform for building distributed networks of devices that communicate with the Internet and with each other.

XOBXOB is aimed particularly at ease of use in conjunction with Arduino or Arduino-compatible platforms, providing a cloud service for “Simple Internet for Things” in conjunction with the Arduino environment.

XOBXOB can be used in conjunction with an Arduino or compatible and Ethernet Shield, a Roving Networks WiFly module, or any Arduino-compatible hardware connected to a PC. If you don’t have any appropriate Ethernet or Wi-Fi connected hardware suitable for use with XOBXOB then the Arduino can use a downloadable “Connector”.

This is a small application from XOBXOB, available for Windows, Linux or OSX, which provides Internet connectivity between the XOBXOB service and your microcontroller board via your PC, without requiring the use of embedded Ethernet or Wi-Fi hardware.

Getting started with XOBXOB requires a physical thing, like an Arduino, or a virtual thing, like a web browser running on a smartphone or PC. Although you can get started with only one thing, XOBXOB is more interesting to get started with if you have multiple things that can talk to each other via XOBXOB, such as both an Arduino and a smartphone.


Although it’s easiest to get started with XOBXOB using an Arduino, you do not have to use an Arduino. More experienced users can use XOBXOB’s RESTful API to implement XOBXOB connectivity for essentially any device that can connect to the Internet.

Furthermore, the XOBXOB team continues to work on libraries and sample projects to make it easy to use other popular embedded computing platforms and single-board computers such as BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi.

Once you’ve got suitable hardware, you can register for an account on the XOBXOB website and get the private API token from your XOBXOB dashboard. You’ll also need to download and install the XOBXOB Arduino library.

XOBXOB makes it very easy to get started by including simple examples in the XOBXOB Arduino sketch library, such as a basic Internet-connected LED control program, using the XOBXOB service to control a LED (or any digital device) remotely via the Web.

These basic examples provide a quick way to test the network connectivity between your Arduino, your LAN and the Internet. When getting started with a XOBXOB Arduino sketch, remember that you’ll need to put your private XOBXOB API token (available via the XOBXOB dashboard) and the MAC address of your Ethernet device into the Arduino sketch.

There are three different libraries to use, depending on whether you’re using an Ethernet-equipped Arduino, a WiFly-equipped Arduino, or an Arduino connected to a PC with the Connector software.

With this example, you can then use the on/off panel on the XOBXOB dashboard to set the state of the LED on or off, and then click “SET”. You can also do a “GET” to retrieve the status of the digital output, which is useful if multiple users are controlling the state of the system. These kinds of set and get methods are likely to be familiar to users with some Java or other object-oriented programming experience.

More advanced example code is also included, for example to allow you to demonstrate Internet-connected control of a MAX7219-based 64-pixel LED display via the XOBXOB cloud service.


You can also send serial data to the microcontroller, for example, from a smartphone or any device with a web browser, anywhere in the world, connecting your physical world to the web in a very accessible way.

These more advanced examples are still simple to use and fast to get started with – you can use the XOBXOB service and XOBXOB’s sample projects and resources to get an elaborate demonstration of cloud-based control of a LED display or other device up and running in minutes.

The functions of the XOBXOB Arduino libraries are well documented in XOBXOB’s Arduino library guide, making it easy to move past the basic examples provided and implement XOBXOB connectivity for your own specific application.

For example, your Arduino code can control whatever you want to happen in the handler that corresponds to the ON/OFF button being used on the XOBXOB dashboard. XOBXOB works by creating small “mailboxes” called XOBs. To control additional devices from your XOBXOB dashboard, you create a new device in the dashboard, and give it a name.

Your Arduino code then needs to request that XOB by name in the “requestXOB” function, meaning that it will respond to that device on the cloud side when needed – multiple different devices can be independent of each other, or they can talk to each other if you like.

Your physical things can send and receive messages through a XOB, and by sharing XOBs, things can send messages to each other. In this regard, XOBXOB is a true Internet-of-Things platform, allowing machine-to-machine communications with packets of data travelling between connected devices.

The machine-to-user control and communications provided by the Web interface is only a part of the overall system – it is not just providing Web-based datalogging of temperature or other data collected from the hardware devices, it also provides the capability for machine-to-machine communications and basic bidirectional control of the hardware from the Web service.

Although the platform is skewed towards the Arduino-compatible hardware platform, this is still perfectly acceptable for a wide range of products and allows for rapid development due to the open-source nature of the platform. This allows us to bring your IoT product ideas to market in a much shorter period of time.

To find out if XOBXOB is an ideal fit, or to explore other options to solve your problems – 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 AwaisXOBXOB – the simple Internet-of-Things

Over a long period of time it has become apparent that in some parts of the electronics market, there is something of a “race to the bottom”, with cheap manufacturers and online vendors racing to promote and sell the absolute cheapest possible device that is claimed to deliver a given sort of functionality.

For example, this is particularly apparent in the ecosystem of cheap “Arduino-compatible” microcontroller development boards and “Arduino clones” coming out of the online Asia-based market, as well as in cheap derivatives and clones of other popular Open Hardware and Open Software products – as with RepRap-style 3D printer controller electronics

We’re not convinced that much good always comes from this demand (in some portion of the market) for ultra-cheap hardware with every possible corner cut off it. It is valuable to pay attention to the differences that may exist between genuine devices from a particular vendor and third-party “clone” devices – even if you think that Open Hardware means that a second-source vendor can and will reproduce the original hardware design faithfully.

Whilst low-cost devices may be technically suitable in some applications, if you know what the technical specifications of a given hardware device really are as it is manufactured, it is important to at least understand that you might be getting something largely unknown versus something with known, expected specifications and an expected standard of quality – and a “cheap” device may not actually make good economic sense at all.

Does anybody potentially win this “race to the bottom”? And will any good ever come of it, especially if you’re not aware of it and you go in trying to source your hardware without the right expectations?

Just as an example, we might consider the “Iteaduino Lite”, recently launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo as the “most inexpensive full-sized Arduino derivative board”, which is “nearly 100% Arduino compatible”. But is this really the same thing as an Arduino Uno, at a small fraction of the price?


Obviously there have to be some traps hiding somewhere. These kinds of issues may or may not be important in your particular application context, but you need to be aware of these kinds of issues when specifying and sourcing the components needed to accomplish the result that you want, reliably, at the best possible price.

The microcontroller used in the “Iteaduino Lite” is not an Atmel ATmega328 or any Atmel AVR microcontroller at all, but a LogicGreen LGT8F88A, an obscure low-cost Chinese-designed clone of the Atmel AVR that sort of resembles an ATmega88, with some differences.

The Atmel ATmega88 has only 8 kB of flash compared to 32 kB of flash in the ATmega328 commonly associated with “Arduino-compatible” devices, along with 1 kB of SRAM (compared to 2 kB on the ATmega328) and 512 bytes of internal EEPROM (compared to 1 kB on the ATmega328).

You need a custom-patched version of the Arduino IDE to add support for this hardware target; you can’t just use it with a stock installation of the Arduino IDE that you’ve downloaded and installed. Even if this microcontroller really is “close enough” to an Atmel ATmega88, which is not demonstrated, you have to recognise that the significant memory limitations of an ATmega88 compared to an ATmega328 that you might be used to in “Arduino-compatible” devices mean that it is likely that many existing Arduino programs that are tested and working on a real Arduino Uno or equivalent will not work on a device like this, even with support for that chip added to the Arduino IDE.

One of the root causes of this sort of problem is that terminology like “Arduino compatible” is not stringently defined, and there are no well controlled set of standards for what is Arduino-compatible and what is not so anybody can make up their own loose definition of Arduino-compatible so that their product satisfies this definition and gives them this marketing advantage.

If the firmware on the microcontroller is somehow corrupted or replaced, are the appropriate files, tool chain and documentation available to allow you to successfully re-flash it? It’s not clear that this is available. And if not, what happens then? Do you throw the hardware in the bin, and redesign the product?

Also note that a CP2102 has been used as the USB virtual UART chipset, as opposed to the ATmega8U2 or ATmega16U2 found on most modern Arduino or Arduino-compatible devices. How fast is this virtual UART? Probably significantly slower than the speeds you will expect from a real Arduino Uno or compatible device.

Furthermore, you’ll need the drivers for that chipset installed on your PC, and it is not established that good support exists for this device across all operating systems and it is easy to track down an appropriate driver for your PC. Successfully using a real Arduino on the same PC does not demonstrate that the correct driver for this device is installed – this is just adding another layer of potential confusion and difficulty, especially for beginners learning to work with microcontrollers and embedded systems for the first time.

In some of the photos it looks like they’re not even populating a crystal on the board. Are they using an internal RC oscillator? Then for best results the user should understand that that’s the case, and that you can’t have really accurate timing. Furthermore, the voltage regulators have been changed away from the original Arduino Uno reference design, presumably in order to cut cost – how well documented is that?

Are the specifications really trustworthy? They claim the maximum allowable input voltage for this board is 24V, but you can clearly see in the photos there are a couple of 25V rated tantalum caps in the power supply input part of the board, meaning that an input voltage of close to 24V is not realistically acceptable.

What is the realistic current output available from the 5V and 3.3V pins on the “Arduino” to power external loads? This is often highly variable in cheap Arduino clones where corners have been cut in the power supply and voltage regulator components.

Again, part of the reason for that is that there are no standards or interoperable industry specifications for the hardware that all the different manufacturers work to for “Arduino compatible” devices – compare this with the ATX computer power supply specification, which is well specified and is followed well by every hardware manufacturer in the industry, allowing high confidence in interoperability and compatibility between hardware from different vendors.

If a third-party company released Arduino-compatible products clearly labelled with their own brand, under their own name, with their own website where you could go to for support questions for that company’s products, and it was clear that this is not “from Arduino” but it’s released and supported and manufactured by a third-party company even though it is “Arduino-compatible” to some specified degree, then this would prevent the situation where somebody has problems with a cheap generic clone “Arduino” and then posts on the Arduino forums saying “I bought an Arduino and it is faulty!”. The official Arduino team in Italy, understandably, might get annoyed with this.

A lot of the cheap Chinese hardware makers and online vendors really fail to do this at all and this is what is potentially quite disruptive and annoying to the real owners of that hardware brand, for example the Arduino team in Italy. On the other hand, some other vendors of third-party Arduino-compatible hardware, such as Sparkfun or Freetronics for example, do identify their own products clearly and provide independent support for their products, which is a more responsible way to behave in this regard.


If you design a popular hardware product, such as Arduino for example, and openly release production-ready Gerber files to the public, does this encourage the unscrupulous manufacturing of “clone” hardware, by vendors who don’t change the manufacturer’s name or any of the details printed on the board at all?

If you release schematics or EDA files, but not finished Gerber PCB layout files, does this allow you to still have an open hardware design that can be examined and studied openly, without setting the hurdle quite so low for lazy or unscrupulous third-party manufacturers? This is an interesting issue to think about if you’re designing and releasing open source hardware.

Basically, lots of little subtle risks and complexities make a product like this harder to use, meaning that the appearance of value may not mean an increase in actual value for money at all. While these complexities and challenges may be understood and overcome by a user with more experience with electronics, they can be particularly challenging for less experienced users who might be just starting out learning to work with electronics and work with embedded systems – and this is particularly difficult where it affects a platform such as Arduino that is targeted at just this market.

In the case of a system like Arduino, which is specifically targeted at accessibility to beginners without a deep level of engineering knowledge, these cost-cutting measures are likely to have a particularly noticeable impact on the quality of the user experience – whereas for a device used mainly by more experienced, advanced users these issues would be more likely to be recognised and avoided, so the user would buy a product like this with realistic expectations about what they’re getting.

Although the example subject of our article is a popular consumer-level product, the points raised apply to all levels of hardware design and manufacturing. When developing your own products it can be tempting to keep searching for the absolute cheapest parts or components.

This may seem like a great idea at the time, however a few cents saved here or there will cost you and your end-user customers when the product fails due to low-quality components, premature end-of-life requiring a redesign, and loss of reputation for offering poorly-designed products.

To avoid all of these traps and more, you can have well-designed products that are made to last and also meet sensible budget requirements. Here at the LX Group our team of design engineers and work with your requirements and help you in any or all steps of product design to ensure your idea becomes a reliable, cost-effective and worthy product that will satisfy your customer requirements.

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 AwaisAvoiding the “Race to the Bottom”

Let’s take a brief overview of the web applications and cloud platform available from Exosite – a provider of Internet-of-things cloud services that help you collect, store, visualise and interact with data from your networked devices in the cloud. Exosite provides a cloud platform that can be connected to your Internet-connected sensors and other devices.

Once your device is connected, data is flowing into the cloud and you can set up logical rules to process and act on that data, log timestamped historical data or use Exosite’s built-in scripting language to process and interact with that data. Time-series information can be used to visualise, command or control devices, either in real time or in response to trends over time.

Their platform makes it easy for product developers to create cloud-capable connected products with a range of microcontrollers and RF solutions from different hardware vendors. Exosite’s “One Platform” and “Portal” families of cloud Platform-as-a-Service and web applications provide value to developers and device OEMs, helping to minimise risk and time to market for developers of Internet-of-Things connected products. Exosite can help you to quickly prototype and deploy systems to meet your needs for cloud-based remote access to devices and their data.

Exosite’s data platform is a hosted-served system that removes barriers to market entry and empowers companies to quickly prototype and deploy their own Internet-of-Things solutions using Exosite’s web service APIs. The system is designed with product developers in mind, meaning that it has a built-in framework that eliminates the complexity of infrastructure and simplifies IoT development. Exosite’s “One Platform” makes it easy for product developers to create cloud-capable products.

Furthermore the Exosite developer site provides a wealth of convenient user guides, API documentation, application notes and support information, as well as example source code and reference projects covering a range of different programming languages and architectures. There are libraries for interaction with the Exosite API in a range of different programming languages, allowing you to work with the languages that best suit your needs.

Working and maintaining the software is simplified as Exosite supports over-the-air firmware and software updates from their cloud service, if supported in the particular hardware used. This allows for remote wireless management of your devices, allowing firmware updates, feature enhancements, and other maintenance rolled out without the need for physical on-site service of hardware devices offers great value and convenience, improving user experience and reducing support costs for networks of Internet-of-Things connected devices.

With Exosite you can build pre-configured settings in the cloud for your families of devices, enabling newly manufactured devices to know exactly what version of software to install – right from the cloud, without any local intervention – as soon as they come online on the Internet.

As well as automatic provisioning, Exosite’s built-in device management tools make it easy to manage software installations and updates. When it comes time to update your devices in the field, you can simply upload your new content, select the device model type you would like to update, and hit deploy. Your new firmware is then deployed automatically, from the cloud, to every one of your connected devices of that type out there in the world. If those devices are not always connected to the Internet, they will automatically update themselves with the new software the next time they connect to the Internet.

Gathering data from an Exosite system isn’t difficult at all, and it allows you to aggregate and monitor data from your network of devices in the cloud in real time – as well as run powerful scripts to combine multiple lower-level inputs and build custom dashboards to report on defined metrics in an easily interpretable, visible way.

Exosite is easy to integrate with other systems, allowing you to easily push data out of its cloud platform into existing, external services. Since Exosite is based around cloud infrastructure, you can scale your application without having to worry about infrastructure or server administration.

You can build your own web app, or customise Exosite’s own app. You can get started with an Exosite developer account for free and use their simple but powerful set of APIs to start interacting with your devices in real time over the Internet. When you’re ready to scale up with your commercial solution, you can easily move up to a paid account, giving you an OEM-ready “white label” platform with the features and capabilities needed to build a business around your connected Internet-of-Things application.

For a better end-user experience designers can easily customise the website theme, control the user experience, configure device options and set up pricing plans for your customers, but you can grow at your own pace without worrying about the scalability of the underlying server infrastructure.

Exosite supports a range of open source and proprietary hardware development kits and platforms, reducing the time required to develop and build Internet-of-Things connected hardware solutions. For example, Exosite provides libraries for use with Ethernet-enabled Arduino and Arduino-compatible development boards, as well as support for development kits and development boards with network and Internet connectivity from hardware vendors such as Microchip and Texas Instruments.

exosite microchip

Combining these hardware development tools with Exosite’s cloud platform allows you to get online with cloud-connected hardware quickly, getting your sensor data online and getting physical devices interacting with the cloud. Exosite makes it easy to connect, manage, and share your sensor or device data online.

Testing or getting started with Exosite is simple, as the free developer account has everything you need to start interacting with your devices in real time over the Internet. You get a web dashboard account, full access to the API, a cloud scripting environment, and the ability to upgrade features a-la-carte.

This account is aimed at allowing you to build your own Internet-of-Things environment on a one-off basis. If you find value in it and want to deploy it as a business solution for a wider audience then you can easily upgrade to a paid “white label” account in order to do so. Finally the developer account includes two devices and one user, while a paid account gives you support for many more devices, many more users, SMS messaging capability from the cloud and more.

It’s no secret that the Internet-of-things not only holds a lot of promise for connected devices and the possible products you can profit with – however getting started can seem like a maze with literally scores of options, platforms and hardware types.

To make your start in the IoT as smooth and cost-effective as possible, partner with the LX Group. We have experience in all stages of IoT product development – along with every other stage of design to manufacturing. To get started, join us for 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 AwaisExosite – the rapid Internet-of-things development platform

The Bluetooth wireless data protocol has been in use for over ten years, and in recent time the new low energy standard has been introduced. This gives designers another option for wireless connectivity between devices with an extremely low power consumption. In the following we examine what it is, the benefits and implementation examples.

Bluetooth LE (for “low energy”) is aimed at novel applications of short-range wireless communication in connected Internet-of-Things devices for medical, fitness, sports, security and home entertainment applications, and was merged into the main Bluetooth specification as part of the Bluetooth Core Specification v4.0 in 2010.

Also known as “Bluetooth Smart”, it enables new applications of Bluetooth networking in small, power-efficient Internet-of-Things devices that can operate for months or even years on tiny coin cell batteries or other small-scale energy sources. Bluetooth LE devices offer ultra-low power consumption, particularly in idle or sleep modes, multi-vendor interoperability and low cost, whilst maintaining radio link range that is sufficiently long enough for the intended applications.


The Bluetooth LE protocol is not backwards-compatible with the “classic” Bluetooth – however, the Bluetooth 4.0 specification does allow for dual-mode Bluetooth implementations – where the device can communicate using both classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE. Whilst Bluetooth Low Energy uses a simpler modulation system than classic Bluetooth, it employs the same 2.4 GHz ISM band, allowing dual-mode devices to share a common antenna and RF electronics for both Classic and Bluetooth LE communication.

Small, power-efficient devices like wearable athletic and medical sensors are typically based on a single-mode Bluetooth LE system in order to minimise power consumption, size and cost. In devices like notebooks and smart phones, though, dual-mode Bluetooth is typically implemented, allowing communication with both Bluetooth LE and classic Bluetooth devices. When operated in Bluetooth LE mode, the Bluetooth LE stack is used whilst the RF hardware and antenna is usually the same set of hardware as used for classic Bluetooth operation.

Devices using Bluetooth LE typically have a power consumption, for Bluetooth communication, which is a fraction of that of classic Bluetooth devices. In many cases, devices can operate for a year or more on a single coin cell. This potentially makes Bluetooth LE very attractive for Internet-of-Things networks, telemetry and data logging from environmental sensor networks, for example.

Since many modern consumer devices such as mobile phones and notebooks have built-in Bluetooth LE support, data can be delivered directly to the user’s fingertips from the Bluetooth sensor network with no need for an intermediary gateway or router as would be required for an Internet-of-Things network employing other technologies such as 802.15.4 ZigBee. This direct interoperability with a large installed base of smart phones, tablets and notebooks could potentially be a very significant attraction of Bluetooth LE networks in wireless sensor network and Internet-of-Things applications.

An active Bluetooth radio has a peak current consumption on the order of about 10 milliamps, reduced to about 10 nanoamps (ideally) in sleep mode. In a Bluetooth LE system, the objective is to operate the radio with a very low duty cycle on the order of about 0.1-0.5%, resulting in average current consumption on the order of 10 microamps. At an average current consumption of 20 microamps, such a system could be operated off a typical CR2032 lithium coin cell (with a charge capacity of 230 milliamp-hours) for 1.3 years without battery replacement.

The lower power consumption of Bluetooth LE is not achieved by the nature of the radio transceiver itself (since the same RF hardware is typically used, in dual-mode Bluetooth devices), but by the design of the Bluetooth LE stack to allow low duty cycles for the radio and optimisation for transmission in small bursts – a Bluetooth LE device used for continuous data transfer would not have a lower power consumption than a classic Bluetooth device transmitting the same amount of data.


The Bluetooth specifications define many different profiles for Bluetooth LE devices – specifications for how a device works in particular families of applications. Manufacturers are expected to implement the appropriate profiles for their device in order to ensure compatibility between different devices from different vendors. A particular device may implement more than one profile – for example one device may contain both a heart rate monitor and a temperature sensor. Here is a non-exhaustive list of a few different Bluetooth LE profiles in use:

  • Health Thermometer Profile, for medical temperature measurement devices.
  • Glucose Monitor Profile, for medical blood glucose measurement and logging.
  • Proximity Profile, which allows one device to detect whether another device is within proximity, using RF signal strength to provide a rough range estimate. This is intended for security applications as an “electronic leash”, allowing the detection of devices being moved outside a controlled area.
  • Running Speed and Cadence profile, for monitoring and logging athletic performance.
  • Heart Rate Profile, for heart-rate measurement in medical and athletic applications.
  • Phone Alert Status Profile, which allows a client device to receive notifications (such as an incoming call or email message) from a smart phone. As an example, this is employed in the Pebble smart watch.

The Bluetooth LE shows a lot of promise, and with a minimal chip set cost gives the designer another cost-effective wireless protocol. And if this meets your needs but you’re not sure how to progress with a reliable implementation, we can partner with you to take care of this either in revisions of existing products or as part of new designs. With our experience in retail and commercial products we have the ability to target your product’s design to the required end-user market and all the steps required to make it happen.

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.

Muhammad AwaisLX Group discusses Bluetooth Low Energy

After the initial excitement of generating an idea for a new Internet of Things device, there’s still countless design considerations to take into account – some of which you may not have even heard of. And a fair amount of these will be generated by the needs of specific markets around the world. So let’s consider some of the challenges involved in designing an Internet-of-Things device or appliance and bringing it to the global market.

What are some of the different factors that need to be taken into account when bringing a hardware device to market internationally? The need for multi-voltage off-line power supplies and multi-lingual product manuals are well-known things we’re used to with all our technology products – but with modern Internet-of-Things gadgets employing Internet connectivity, cloud computing and wireless radio-frequency mesh networks, there are some increasingly important factors to consider which may not be as familiar to the design team.

For mains-powered systems, international differences in mains voltage and frequency are an obvious factor to start with to ensure compatibility with the worldwide market. Modern switch-mode power supplies can easily be designed to span the possible worldwide voltage range between 100 V AC and 240 V AC without manual switching or configuration, at grid frequencies between 50 and 60 Hz. However, it should be remembered that the mains voltage is only assured within a tolerance of around plus or minus 10 percent, so an example of a good input voltage specification for a well-designed modern SMPS might be 85-265 V RMS AC at a grid frequency of 50-60 Hz. Extra attention is needed in systems where a clock or timebase is derived from the frequency of the AC grid – in systems of this sort, manual specification of the frequency may be required even if the power supply itself does not care about the AC frequency.

lx1When designing and deploying wireless sensor networks, Internet-of-Things networks and similar modern technologies where radio communication is used, attention also needs to be paid to differing international allocations of RF spectrum and licensing requirements for the use of the RF spectrum. Spectrum allocations and licensing requirements for Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) bands differ between countries – for example, the 915 MHz band should not be used in countries outside ITU Region 2 except those countries that specifically allow it, such as Australia and Israel.

A device that operates with a certain frequency spectrum and power level that requires no license, or falls into a class license, in one country may not be able to be legally operated in another country without specific operator licensing. For example, some devices operating in the 70 cm (433 MHz) spectrum that fall within the Low Interference Potential Device (LIPD) class license in Australia and hence can be freely operated cannot be used in the United States except by licensed amateur radio operators. The European Union’s Reduction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) directive took effect in 2006, restricting the use of certain substances considered harmful to health and the environment, such as lead and cadmium, except in technological applications where elimination of these elements is not viable.

While RoHS compliance is not required for all electronic equipment sold throughout the world and is only strictly required for devices sold into the EU market, it is achieving widespread acceptance throughout the electronic manufacturing industry worldwide. However, in some specialised applications where extremely high reliability and resilience against factors such as tin-whisker formation is required, such as space and defence technology, these factors may take precedence over ROHS compliance and the use of lead-containing solder alloys and platings may be specified.

lx2Different testing organisations are responsible for setting and enforcing the standards for electrical safety and RF spectrum usage in different countries, and it can be challenging to keep track of the different testing requirements needed before bringing your product to market in every market country.

For example, Underwriters Laboratories is well known in the United States for their role in drafting safety standards and providing compliance testing procedures for safety-related factors, whilst approval from the FCC is required to recognise compliance with RF spectrum and electromagnetic interference requirements – a completely separate thing to safety certification. And for another example, the TUV provides a similar role in the verification of safety-related standard compliance in the German market.

Other social and socio-economic factors that might not be as obvious can affect the user experience your product provides in different customer markets – for example, a device that constantly needs to “phone home” to an Internet-connected service may not function effectively in a country without widely available, or reliable, Internet access. In a situation like this, it may be beneficial to have a system designed to store and buffer its collected data locally on a storage device and only synchronise with an Internet service occasionally when connectivity may be available.

In conclusion, there’s a myriad of not only standards but also operational considerations to take in account when designing your next product for the global market. However don’t let that put you off – the greater the challenge, the greater the possible success. But if you’re not sure about testing, standards, compliance, markets abroad or any other factor – parter with an organisation that does: the LX Group.

Here at the LX Group we have the experience and team to make things happen. With our experience with connected devices, embedded and wireless hardware/software design, and ability to transfer ideas from the whiteboard to the white box – we 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 AwaisDesigning Internet of Things Devices for the World

Moving forward from our last instalment about the recent rise of the Internet of Things, in this article we’ll start to examine some of the major IoT systems that are already on the market in order to help determine which of them may be suitable for integration into your next or current project. At this time this isn’t an exhaustive list – however the three systems examined below each offer a wide variety of functionality which is implemented in different ways.

The first system is the “Electric Imp”. This is a simple yet powerful client hardware and cloud service system with a focus on simple implementation. The hardware consists of a device which is the same physical format as an SD memory card, and a unique identification IC which is fitted to your product. The Electric Imp card contains an industry-standard 802.11b/g/n WiFi transceiver and antenna, and a Cortex-M3 microcontroller with GPIO, I2C and SPI bus support and more.

The physical size of the hardware makes the Imp system relatively simple to integrate into existing and new products, and the hardware cost can be well under Au$30 in volume. To make things happen, software for the Electric Imp is created using an online IDE which is then transmitted to the required Imp via the Internet. This software allows your product to interact with web services, servers, smart phone applications and more. Furthermore the software can be updated and broadcast without any user operations, allowing bug-fixed and new features to be seamlessly rolled out.

However the Electric Imp is still in “developer” mode – considered as a late beta. Nevertheless it offers an inexpensive and theoretically trouble-free option for IoT integration. For more information, visit the Electric Imp website.

The second system is “Ninja Blocks” – developed locally in Australia, and finding global success. The Ninja Block is based around a combination of a BeagleBone Linux computer and a customised Arduino-compatible – and connected to the Internet. The system allows interaction with a cloud service (the “platform”) and variety of customised devices such as temperature and motion sensors, and also allows connection to commercially-available devices such as RF-wireless power outlets and alarm sensors.

Devices communicate with the Ninja Block via RF or USB cable, and the cloud interaction is provided by the cloud-based Ninja Platform. Once new devices are added to the Ninja Block, they are recognised by the cloud-based platform and the end user can create rules which interact with sensors and actuators. Furthermore smartphone applications can be developed for local interactions. Finally, the Ninja Blocks system is designed for the end-user in mind, allowing your customers to either create their own rules for your products – however you can also integrate your own API.

Due to the success of the system it is envisaged that a market for devices to interact with the Ninja Blocks will grow – and thus the opportunity lies in creating new products to interact with the system. Furthermore the system hardware has been open-sourced, allowing much faster and cheaper device design. For more information visit the website.

The final system we examine is the “ioBridge” system. This is the most mature of the three systems examined, and possibly spans the gap between the Electric Imp and Ninja Blocks. Almost any kind of device can be designed to integrate into the ioBridge systems, and as with the other two work with cloud-based servers/services and local mobile applications.

One benefit of the ioBridge service is the established development environment and the ioBridge company can create bespoke web applications for your product that integrates their hardware. However as it was before the “rush of Open Source” the ioBridge system is closed-source and licensing is required to create devices to work with it. If you’re looking for an IoT system this may not be the most cost-effective hardware solution, unless your product is designed specifically for customers already entrenched in the ioBridge ecosystem. For more information visit their website.

Although the Internet of Things may sound simple, and the goal is to be for the end user – as product developers there is much to take into account. The market hasn’t even come near the point of maturity – however all the options available are exciting and have great possibilities for automation, connectivity and making customers’ lives easier. Just as the manufacturers of video recorder units had competing standards in the 1980s, so do the IoT systems of today. It is too early to decide the winner, however each system has its’ pros and cons for each of your applications.

Here at the LX Group we can discuss and understand your requirements and goals – then help you navigate the various IoT options available to help solve your problems. We can tailor anything from a modified sensor to a complete Internet-enabled system for you. For more information or a confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

 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 Internet of Things marketplace