All posts tagged: wireless

One of the greatest hindrances to a successful Internet-of-Things device is the amount of energy consumed and level of bandwidth required for a wireless solution. However, these challenges have been overcome and now your M2M and IoT-enabled devices with low-bandwidth requirements can take advantage of a brand new system that is ideal for the task – SigFox.

SigFox is a new wireless connectivity platform being deployed across many countries, whose aim is to provide low-power, wide-area network infrastructure across large areas, for connecting Internet-of-Things and Machine-to-Machine telemetry applications that have limited bandwidth needs.

By providing radio communications with embedded devices across a wide area, and without the relatively high cost of cellular telephone networks, SigFox aims to make it fairly easy to integrate their platform with your other software applications.

The SigFox network is highly scalable and built for a huge number of devices, offering a global wide-area cellular connectivity solution from customer’s devices right through to their software applications – with very strong energy efficiency. It has been estimated that over the next decade, 14% of the booming IoT market will be made up of connected objects using low-power, wide-area networks such as SigFox or LoRa.

The fundamentals of SigFox are this – separate antennas are deployed on towers across a wide geographic area, in a similar manner to a cellular network – and this new network receives and transmits data from IoT devices in the field, such as water meters or parking sensors.

Ultra-narrowband wireless technology allows very low transmission power levels to be used while still maintaining a robust radio link to the rest of the network. This means devices can run efficiently for a long time in power-constrained installations, for example in remote field devices which can’t easily have their batteries replaced.

SigFox networks are usually built with cells 30-50km apart in rural areas, however in urban areas where there is more potential for radio interference, as well as more obstructions – the distance between cells may be reduced to 10km or less. Between outdoor nodes with line-of-sight the range between connected nodes could be much larger, with line-of-sight link distances of potentially up to 1000 kilometres.

This long-range, wide-area coverage means that enormous areas, even whole countries, can practically be covered with a limited number of SigFox base stations – and this nation-scale connectivity is exactly what SigFox aims to achieve.

Any device within this radius of a SigFox base tower can be wirelessly connected to the SigFox IoT network, providing wireless connectivity essentially anywhere, with minimum infrastructure deployment, simplicity and low cost.

The overall SigFox network architecture has been designed to provide a scalable, high-capacity network, with high energy efficiency, while maintaining a simple star-shaped cellular network topology that is easy to roll out.

Furthermore, SigFox claims that each base station can handle communications with up to a million objects, with an overall system power consumption as small as a thousandth of that of a standard cellular network.

Power management with SigFox endpoint nodes is incredibly efficient – they can wake up whenever they need to send a message, send a quick transmission and then return to a low-power sleep state. This allows devices that periodically transmit sensor data over a network, for example, to achieve very good battery lifetimes – in one example case cited by SigFox, up to 20 years from a pair of AA batteries.

sigfox2Although the SigFox technology can’t accommodate heavy amounts of Internet data such as streaming media, it is well suited to carrying simple messages in Internet-of-Things and telemetry applications, employing lightweight transport protocols such as MQTT.

The SigFox network can carry up to 140 messages per object per day, or one message every 10 minutes, with a wireless throughput of up to 100 bits per second and a maximum message payload size of 12 bytes. SigFox employs ultra-narrowband radio communications in the ISM UHF bands, meaning that it can be deployed in most countries without device-specific radio spectrum licensing.

The specific frequency bands used for SigFox can vary according to the ISM spectrum allocations in different countries, with the 902 MHz band being used in the United States and the 868 MHz band used for most deployments in Europe. The SigFox ultra-narrow-band technology coexists well with other users of these frequencies, without collisions or capacity problems.

Thanks to SigFox’s aim to roll out their network to 60 countries over the next five years, with particular interest coming from the “smart grid” and energy management sector – we know this system will be a success. The SigFox network currently covers all of France (with 1200 base stations), Spain and the Netherlands, along with London, Manchester and several other UK cities.

However, this is not an international-only system – here in Australia we’re about to get started with SigFox, whose rollout will be announced this month. We predict a rapid take-up and look forward to working with future an existing customers to harness this exciting new technology.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

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 IoT 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 AwaisSigFox – a Wide-area Network for connecting your Internet-of-Things Devices

The Agile Manifesto is based around twelve principles, guiding concepts which build upon the four core values of Agile and support project teams in implementing Agile management methods, helping to lead to better project outcomes, better engineering and better customer satisfaction.

Let’s review these twelve principles of Agile project management and the relevance that they have to project management, particularly in the context of embedded computing, electronic engineering and product design projects.

The first principle is that it is the highest priority of an Agile project team to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable technology – and this remains true whether the product is software or hardware, embedded firmware, or any type of industrial design or engineering product.

Valuable engineering that is delivered to the customer early and continuously may not be the final product, but it might consist of rapid design iterations, demonstrations of certain subsystems or modules, proof-of-concept engineering, or prototypes constructed for demonstration using rapid manufacturing and rapid prototyping techniques such as 3D printing or digital logic synthesis in an FPGA.

The second of the core principles of Agile project management is that changing requirements should be welcomed, even late in development. This means that the customer should not be expected to provide a complete and concrete specification of all project requirements at the start of the project and never change or add to it.

Change should be welcomed, and Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. This principle applies equally for embedded design and hardware projects as it does for the management of software projects, however obviously there can be challenges when incorporating new requirements from the customer into a hardware project late in development.

For example, it may be difficult to incorporate new or different requirements into an existing PCB design and layout, requiring increased time and cost to design and fabricate a new PCB. In some cases, depending on size and mechanical requirements, using multiple modules and interconnected boards within a hardware system can allow for easier changes or the addition of new functionality without “wasting” existing hardware and its embodied time and money if a new iteration is required.

The use of programmable logic devices or FPGAs, or microcontrollers with their functionality reconfigurable in firmware, can also be useful in this regard – although this may increase cost or power consumption compared to a hardware system with application-specific, fixed functionality.

The third of the core principles of Agile management is to deliver working technology frequently, over a timescale of a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference towards keeping this timescale as short as possible.

Like the other principles we have discussed, this principle is also useful and applicable towards hardware projects. Although there may be insurmountable time constraints, such as lead time for components, PCB manufacturing or assembly, the rapid delivery of working iterations of hardware, even if it is just for a subsystem or a prototype that validates part of the overall system design, is a valuable goal and it is practical to achieve in most cases in a typical hardware project.

Another of the twelve principles of Agile is that working engineering that can be demonstrated, even if it is just a subsystem, a component, an experiment or prototype and not the “final” deliverable product, is the primary measure of project progress. Other metrics that might be applied to gauge project progress are of secondary value compared to the actual technology created.

Further core principles of Agile are that business people and customer representatives should work together intimately with developers and engineers throughout the project, with close contact and communication between them during project development, preferably every day, and that project teams should be built around motivated individuals on the development or engineering teams who are given the support and environment that they need to get the job done, as well as given the trust that they will get the job done without micromanagement.

 Among the other core principles of Agile project management are the principles that the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation, and the belief that Agile processes promote sustainable development and a sustainable use of the human resources of the team, where the sponsors, developers, engineers and users making up a project team should be able to maintain a constant pace of work indefinitely.


The remaining principles are that continuous attention to technical excellence, good engineering and good design enhances agility, that simplicity and the art of maximising the amount of work that does not need to be done is essential, and that the best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organising teams.

Finally, one of the core principles of Agile management is that it values regular adaptation to changing circumstances. Ideally, an agile team reflects on how to become more effective and then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly at regular intervals.

These Agile principles also retain their advantages and their potential usefulness irrespective of the technical nature of the particular project that you’re managing – there is no real difference between a software project or a project working with electronic hardware or any other kind of engineering or non-engineering project when it comes to understanding the potential benefits of these Agile values.

With some thought and buy-in by all members of your team, you can use Agile methods on a wide variety of projects. And if you’re looking for a partner in yoru project development, here at the LX Group we have the team, knowledge and experience to bring your ideas to life.

Getting started is easy – 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 AwaisPrinciples of Agile Development

The success or failure of new Internet-of-Things products is predicated on many factors, one of those being autonomy for portable devices – that is, how long the battery will last between charges. The less power your devices uses, the more attractive it will be to the end user and customer. And to help with this goal in mind, a new standard has emerged.

The International Electrotechnical Commission has recently ratified the new ISO/IEC 14543-3-10 standard, specifying a Wireless Short-Packet (WSP) protocol optimised for ultra-low-power and energy-harvesting nodes in wireless sensor networks.

It is the first and only existing standard for wireless applications that is also optimised for energy harvesting solutions, aimed at energy-harvesting wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks with ultra-low power consumption.

Devices in low-power wireless sensor networks and Internet-of-Things applications that utilise energy harvesting technology can draw energy from their surroundings – for example from vibration, light or heat sources. Energy harvesting enables the use of electronic control and automation systems that work independently of an external power supply, without maintenance and without ongoing energy costs for the nodes in the sensor network.

In some environments where harvesting of small amounts of energy from ambient sources is practical, this technology offers energy savings and fast and easy installation, without the need for power cables for example, along with reductions in ongoing maintenance requirements for battery-powered devices.

International standardisation will accelerate the development and implementation of energy-optimised wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks, with the potential to also open up new markets and areas of application for wireless sensor and IoT solutions. In addition to the existing established markets for home and building automation and energy efficiency technology, further application sectors such as the “smart home”, “smart grid” and solutions in industry, logistics and transport are likely to continue to emerge into the future, with a strong foundation of interoperability, standardisation and openness provided by this novel but field-proven standard.

However, this new IEC standard specifies the architecture and lower layer protocols – the physical layer, data link and networking layer. The higher layers in the OSI network model are not specified in this standard and other standards, either open standards or vendor-specific proprietary protocols, will be used to implement the higher layers of the network.

EnOcean, which develops energy harvesting wireless technology, is a pioneer in this field, and the company has been producing and marketing maintenance-free wireless sensor solutions for use in building and industrial automation for more than ten years, with EnOcean-based products currently installed in over 250,000 buildings around the world.

EnOcean’s wireless technology is already a firmly established technology for smart buildings, energy efficiency and automation applications. The EnOcean Alliance, a cooperative industry alliance established by EnOcean, sees the ratification of this new IEC standard as one of the key prerequisites for expanding the already highly successful, fast-growing ecosystem of EnOcean-enabled products and RF communication modules from EnOcean and other vendors.

Members of the EnOcean Alliance have already introduced more than 1200 interoperable EnOcean-based products, all of which comply with the new standard. Developers and manufacturers can therefore benefit from the EnOcean Alliance’s extensive practical experience, huge product range and installed base of products deployed by customers in the field along with many years of user education and familiarisation.

The EnOcean Alliance draws up the specifications of standardised applications and device profiles based on the IEC standard, with these “EnOcean Equipment Profiles” ensuring the interoperability of products from different vendors. These standardised profiles are optimised for ultra-low energy consumption, making them a useful, tried and tested complement to the new IEC wireless sensor networking standard and allowing smart, energy-efficient automation solutions to easily be realised that are non-proprietary and industry-neutral.

EnOcean’s technology pushes wireless sensor network technology and energy efficiency to the limits, with EnOcean’s range of self-powered wireless switches, sensors, controls and other modules combining small-scale energy-harvesting power supplies with ultra-low-power electronics and reliable wireless communications.

This enables developers to create self-powered wireless sensor solutions that are valuable for efficiently managing building, smart energy management and industrial applications. Together with the EnOcean Equipment Profiles drawn up by the EnOcean Alliance, this international standard lays the foundation for fully interoperable, open, self-powered wireless technology with a level of industry-wide standardisation comparable to today’s widely accepted protocols such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

enocean wireless standard 2

EnOcean’s technology allows fast development and marketing of new wireless solutions in building services, industry and other sectors, and standardised sensor profiles provide for interoperability of the resulting products. Devices from different manufacturers can then communicate and cooperate with other devices on the network.

Interoperability of different end-products based on EnOcean technology is an important success factor for the establishment of self-powered IoT and WSN technology in the market, and this is the reason the EnOcean Alliance pursues standardisation of communication profiles, ensuring that sensors from one manufacturer can communicate with receiver gateways of another, for example.

Software provided by the EnOcean Alliance also allows modular and versatile, user-friendly integration of these systems into end-user applications. End users thus have the entire product portfolio enabled by EnOcean and EnOcean’s self-powered energy-harvesting wireless sensor network technology at their disposal.

This allows vendors to focus on their product branding, services, support and installation, along with providing Internet services, mobile apps and other software products whilst using existing hardware and core technology – along with developing and offering hardware products to support their own specialised market niche, going beyond the existing portfolio of EnOcean-enabled products if this is desired.

And as a leading developer of IoT-enabled products, our team at the LX Group is ready to work together as your design partner to help reduce the power consumption of your new or existing product with the EnOcean standard or other options we can introduce.

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 AwaisEnOcean – the new low-power Wireless Standard

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

AllJoyn is an open-source project that aims to let compatible smart “things” around us in Internet-of-Things networks recognise each other and share resources and information across brands, networks and operating systems in an interoperable way.

Initially developed by the Qualcomm Innovation Centre, it is now a collaborative open-source project of the AllSeen Alliance – a non-profit consortium providing open-source Internet-of-Things solutions aimed at enabling widespread adoption of products, systems and services for what they call the “Internet of Everything”.

Their goal is to provide portable open-source software and frameworks for all major platforms and operating systems and creating elegant and accessible solutions for the smart home, its appliances and its gadgets.

As an open, universal, secure and programmable software and services framework, AllJoyn enables hardware manufacturers and software developers to create interoperable products that can discover, connect and communicate with other products enabled with AllJoyn support. 

These frameworks enable discovery and communication with devices nearby, with the Notification Service Framework making it easy for products or devices to broadcast and receive basic communications such as text, images, video or audio from other AllJoyn-enabled devices in the area. 

AllJoyn events allow for effective management of machine-to-machine interactions, with events and corresponding actions on one device that are discoverable and can be linked together to respond and execute on another AllJoyn-enabled device.

This platform aims to give manufacturers and developers the tools they need to invent new ways for smart things to work together, recognising that homes, cars and the things around us are getting smarter, and smart devices are becoming more numerous, every day. 

The AllJoyn Core Framework includes a set of service frameworks that are designed to address the desire for users to interact with their nearby things, in a way that is very simple and easy to use. AllJoyn’s universal software framework and core set of system services enable interoperability among connected products and software applications across different manufacturers and vendors to create dynamic proximal networks – focused only on the Internet-of-Things devices that are in your proximity, in particular, rather than all those Internet-connected devices and things that are mostly not directly relevant to you.

Thus AllJoyn aims to enable manufacturers to offer interoperable products and services that will engage and delight users in new, exciting and useful ways. AllJoyn is designed to be a powerful engine for enabling peer-to-peer experiences across connected devices, appliances and more. 

This can be enabled over a range of consumer products being limited only by your imagination – from the mobile devices that consumers always have with them, to the appliances and media equipment in the home, to the electronics in cars and the office equipment in the workplace. 

AllJoyn 1With AllJoyn you can significantly reduce the time, effort and cost of adding peer-to-peer features to your application. Whether you are developing for a smartphone, tablet, television, PC or embedded consumer electronics, AllJoyn is designed to provide the connectivity to enable groundbreaking new experiences. 

The tools are provided to enable the Internet-of-Things developer to add proximal peer-to-peer connectivity to your applications, from gaming, entertainment and social media to automation and enterprise applications, and empowers multiple people on different devices to share, interact and collaborate in real time, enhancing the user experience by asking others to join in the experience – from multiplayer games to business productivity tools, social networking, and “smart” home and building automation applications.

The ability of devices enabled by AllJoyn to send and receive notifications to other devices mean that devices in building automation or smart home applications can be controlled by data sources other than PCs or mobile devices. 

For example, devices can be controlled by and communicate with AllJoyn-enabled wearable computing devices such as Qualcomm’s Toq smartwatch. AllJoyn dynamically discovers and learns what nearby devices have specific interfaces and capabilities, for example allowing an AllJoyn service to detect all nearby AllJoyn-enabled devices with a built-in clock or timer and synchronising their time, all together at the same time. 

Because AllJoyn is proximal and does not need to go out over the Internet to a cloud service it is very fast and responsive, with no lag or latency, and without outside Internet connectivity being essential.

Smart AllJoyn gateways can detect and manage every AllJoyn-enabled device and app on a network, as well as controlling how much bandwidth each app and device gets, ensuring that everyone and every device gets the best connected experience.

With the AllJoyn ON application, it allows for easy discovery, connection and control of any AllJoyn devices nearby, and the AllJoyn Control Panel service framework allows devices with simple or limited user interfaces to expose their properties and controls via a remote, virtual, control panel. 

Those properties and controls can be dynamically rendered on a display such as a smartphone or tablet, for a richer user experience on devices that would not usually provide a rich user interface. The Control Panel service running on a device allows it to expose its capabilities to a control panel application running on a smartphone or tablet, which can use this data to render a graphical user interface for that device in a way that is completely independent of the manufacturer or device type. 

This virtual control panel can even expose controls with no direct physical analogs, allowing simple devices with limited physical UI to offer much deeper user interaction and convenience.

The AllJoyn framework allows for proximity peer-to-peer interaction over various transport layers. It is written in C++ at its core, and provides multiple different language bindings and complete reference implementations across various operating systems and chipsets, making it easy for developers to get started. 

Furthermore this provides an object-oriented approach to making peer-to-peer networking between connected devices easier, allowing developers to avoid the need to deal with lower-level network protocols and hardware.

As the market for Internet-of-Things increases, and the various growth of platform options such as AllJoyn appear, selecting the right platform for your application can be a nightmare. However with our team here at the LX group, it’s simple to get prototypes of your devices based on the AllJoyn 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 AwaisIoT Interoperability with the AllJoyn Platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

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

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

Muhammad AwaisReal-time data analysis with the IoT and GroveStreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 And that is always one of the main goals of IoT product development – time to market. If you have a great prototype or idea – and need to take it to the market, our team of engineers can help you in all steps of product design, from the idea to the finished product. To get started, join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

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

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

Muhammad AwaisWireless data acquisition with Avnet Wi-Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung Wireless charger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To get started, join us for an obligation-free and confidential discussion about your ideas and how we can help bring them to life – click here to contact us, or telephone 1800 810 124.

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

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

Muhammad AwaisThe state of Wireless Charging

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has recently announced the publication of the Bluetooth 4.1 Specification with some interesting improvements to the standard, which greatly increase the usability of this wireless technology in devices for the “Internet of Things”, which offers new applications that allow such devices to serve as both hub and peripheral devices.

This paves the way for Bluetooth 4.1-enabled devices such as sensors to connect directly to the Internet. It also allows devices such as fitness dataloggers and headsets to collate data from sensors such as temperature sensors and heart rate monitors over Bluetooth networks then report back to a smartphone or tablet with their collected data. In turn, those devices could be used as sensors that other devices can communicate with and pull data from.

This new profile is the first major update of the Bluetooth specification since version 4.0 was released in 2010, including the Low Energy specification, a subset of version 4.0. The version 4.1 updates are all software related, so it is possible for over-the-air firmware updates to upgrade existing Bluetooth 4.0 systems with new firmware, with no hardware changes or replacement, to make them Bluetooth 4.1 compatible.

Bluetooth 4.1 adds support for bulk data transfers at higher data rates, so that information collected from sensors over a period of time can be downloaded in bulk from multiple sensors. Bluetooth is still a low data-rate protocol compared to, say, Wi-Fi or Ethernet, but as Bluetooth is expected to handle ever-larger streams of data from embedded sensors this is a useful improvement – downloading data from sensors to a datalogging appliance might take, say, a few seconds instead of 10 or 20 for existing systems.

Bluetooth 4.1 allows Bluetooth devices to act as both a peripheral device and a hub at the same time, allowing a Bluetooth device that may have previously been networked with a smartphone or tablet to itself act as hub for other Bluetooth peripheral devices.

For example, your Bluetooth 4.1 enabled smart watch might be able to grab weight information logged from a Bluetooth-enabled scale and display it for you as well as being able to pass that data along to a smartphone. Bluetooth 4.1 also adds improvements to the sleep-wake cycle of the Bluetooth radio, allowing Bluetooth devices to automatically connect more easily (if allowed) without manual intervention.

Another example could be a bathroom scale that can automatically connect and download the distance walked from your Bluetooth-enabled pedometer or exercise tracker when you walk into the bathroom.

Bluetooth 4.1 improves coexistence between Bluetooth devices and 4G Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) cellular devices, to prevent potential interference. Although this is not a significant problem for Bluetooth 4.0 devices today this was considered to be a potential problem in future as more and more Bluetooth 4.0 devices are in use, talking to 4G connected smart-phones or tablets.

The new specification also increases the time-out period between devices, so that removing a Bluetooth device (such as your phone, for example) outside the proximity of another Bluetooth device it is connected to for a short moment and then back again may not mean that the Bluetooth connection has to be reconnected, improving user experience.

Furthermore it also lays the groundwork for IP-based connections between Bluetooth devices, in the same way a Wi-Fi router connects to multiple Wi-Fi devices, giving Bluetooth devices a way to talk directly to the Internet. Plus version 4.1 adds a standardised way to create a dedicated channel which could be used for IPv6 communications over Bluetooth in the future, enabling the possibility of native IPv6 networking from the Internet down to the LAN right down to wireless sensor nodes, in a similar way to how 6LoWPAN enables this type of connectivity for 802.15.4 wireless networks.

However, adding IPv6 connectivity to Bluetooth devices may substantially increase the power budget of battery-operated devices, especially Bluetooth Low Energy devices designed for extreme power efficiency, so this may not be an appropriate choice in all cases.


Such Internet connectivity directly to Bluetooth devices opens up interesting potential for the future development of Bluetooth, for example phone calls made over VoIP directly to a person’s Bluetooth headset, or the remote viewing of health data from medical sensor devices by healthcare professionals.

These improvements to the Bluetooth standard, such as IPv6 support, the ability to act as a hub instead of only as a peripheral, better radio sleep-wake cycles, timeout changes and improved data rates make Bluetooth 4.1 easier to use in the development of networks of wireless, power-efficient networked devices that aren’t intended to always be paired directly to a single Bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet – in other words, Internet-of-Things networks and devices.

As you have just read, the new Bluetooth profile offers a great amount of promise in terms of functionality and convenience for the end user. Here at the LX Group our engineers have an excellent understanding of many wireless platforms – including Bluetooth – and are ready to integrate it with your new and existing products.

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 AwaisBluetooth for the Internet-of-Things

The new ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0 (SEP2.0) ZigBee Application Profile brings with it powerful new ZigBee capabilities for smart energy metering and control networks. With its ability to transport rate, demand, and load management messages to and from networks of smart energy appliances and the “Smart Grid” across a wide variety of wired and wireless media, the profile promises to be a key element of residential energy management systems.

Capable of passing energy-related messages across a HAN, or Home Area Network, using numerous different types of wired or wireless physical media, SEP2.0 is aimed at enabling the next generation of interactive smart appliances, HVAC, lighting and energy management systems – a “Smart Grid” of energy-efficient technology.

An IP-based HAN enabled by ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0 makes it possible to manage every aspect of the energy consumption and production of a home or building, whilst moving the information around a network built entirely around the Internet Protocol and interconnected with existing networks and the Internet.

The ZigBee Smart Energy 1.0/1.1 Profile was originally developed to allow 802.15.4/ZigBee low-power wireless mesh networks to support communication between smart meters and products that monitor, control and automate the delivery and consumption of electricity – and potentially other household utilities such as gas and water, moving into the future.

The functionality of the Smart Energy 1.x Profile was primarily intended to support the functional requirements of smart meters being used by electricity, gas and water utilities to manage their distribution networks, automate their billing processes, and communicate with customers’ energy management systems.

ZigBee-enabled smart meters act as communications gateways between the utility and the consumer, enabling the exchange of messages about pricing, demand response and peak load management. At least this technical capacity exists in theory, but electricity retailers will only bother with it if they have a revenue model in implementing such technology.

The ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0 Profile was created in response to the need for a single protocol to communicate with the growing universe of energy-aware devices and systems that are becoming common in homes and commercial buildings. For that reason, a diverse range of Function Sets were defined under SEP2.0, including Demand Response and Load Control, Metering, Billing, Pre-Payment, Directed Messaging, Public Messaging, Price Information, Distributed Energy Resource Management and Plug-in Electric Vehicle Management.

One or more of these Function Sets can be used to implement one of the Device Types defined in SEP2.0, such as Meters, Smart Appliances, Load Controllers, Smart Thermostats, In-Premises Displays, Inverters and Plug-in Electric Vehicles to name just a few.

ZigBee Smart Energy 1.x access the MAC/PHY layers of the 802.15.4 radio hardware via the ZigBee Pro protocol stack, but SEP2.0 replaces the ZigBee Pro protocol stack with the ZigBee IP stack, which uses the 6LoWPAN protocol to encapsulate the proprietary ZigBee packet structure within a compressed IPv6 packet. At the transport layer, IP packets bearing messages containing standard ZigBee command and data packets are exchanged using the familiar HTTP and TCP protocols.

When used in combination with the SEP2.0 Application Profile, the ZigBee IP stack provides a media-independent interface between the network and MAC layers of the stack that allows SEP2.0 packets to be carried across nearly any IP-based network.

A recent version of SEP2.0 includes support for communication across ZigBee and 802.11 wireless LANs as well as powerline communication (PLC) networks. SEP2.0 will also have improved future support for 802.15.4g, where the physical layer of the ZigBee/802.15.4 network is a sub-gigahertz radio at, say, 900 MHz for long-range outdoor telemetry or environments where the 2.4 GHz spectrum is congested. Support is also improving for other popular network technologies such as Ethernet.

Amongst the first SEP2.0 enabled products to hit the market will be Energy Service Portals (ESPs) which serve as a bridge between an energy utility’s communication infrastructure and the IP-based Home Area Network. These portals are provided to consumers by utility companies, and use the SEP2.0 Energy Services Interface profile to provide a bridge between the SEP1.x protocol used by most existing smart meters and the home’s IP-based network.

Zigbee Smart Energy

A ZigBee-enabled home energy management system can employ multiple Application Profiles to provide unified control of all home energy systems. For example, a smart home energy management system may use the Smart Energy (SE) profile to pass the utility’s load management and demand response messages to the home’s major loads and energy sources.

The Home Automation (HA) and RF for Consumer Electronics (RF4CE) profiles may then be used to communicate with Smart Appliances, lighting systems and other consumer-controlled products. Energy-aware homes will also employ a large number of end-point applications such as smart thermostats, in-home energy displays (IHDs), and tablet-based control panels that use SEP2.0-enabled ZigBee or Wi-Fi radio links to communicate with the home’s ESI and other elements of its energy management system.

SEP2.0-equipped network endpoints may also be implemented with the physical layer of the network using power line communications, networking smart appliances without RF spectrum congestion.

The ZigBee Alliance has created well-defined provisions for interoperability with, and upgrade paths from, the earlier SEP1.x standard to SEP2.0, which is good news for engineers looking to upgrade or to interoperate with existing SEP1.x technology. There is no significant increase in the processing power required in your hardware, although the key generation and exchange functions in the SEP2.0 security layer may be tough for 8-bit microcontrollers to handle unless they have security acceleration capability, handling the cryptographic maths in dedicated hardware.

Unfortunately, in terms of memory, SEP2.0 and the applications it supports require significant increases in both flash and RAM over what is required for most SEP1.x applications. Storing the code for a SEP1.x stack, a small application profile and a simple user application requires roughly 160 kb of flash in a typical microcontroller, plus 10-12 kb of RAM. Implementing comparable functionality under SEP2.0 requires about 256 kb of flash and 24-32 kb of RAM.

As an example of an existing hardware reference solution targeting SEP2.0, Texas Instruments provides an example consisting of the CC2533 802.15.4 RF system-on-chip, which runs the MAC/PHY layers of the SEP2.0 stack on its built-in 8051 core, combined with one of TI’s ARM7 Stellaris 9000-series microcontrollers as the application processor, running the remainder of the network stack and the application code.

Most of the microcontrollers in this powerful family include a fully-integrated Ethernet MAC, CAN interface, USB host controller, and enough memory and processing power to implement many simple SEP2.0 applications.

It is also worth considering some of the highly integrated single-chip solutions on the market such as the Texas Instruments CC2538, which integrates a 2.4 GHz 802.15.4 radio, ARM Cortex-M3 32-bit microcontroller core, hardware security acceleration for SEP2.0 and plenty of flash and RAM to support the ZigBee IP stack, SEP2.0 profile and application code with support for over-the-air firmware flashing capability for updates in the field, all in a single chip.

As you have just read, the new profile offers a great amount of promise in terms of functionality and convenience for the end user. Here at the LX Group our engineers have an excellent understanding of the Zigbee platform and have put this to use to create various systems for a wide range of customers – and we can do this for you too.

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 AwaisThe new Zigbee Smart Energy 2.0 Application Profile