IoTize rejuvenates legacy systems with smartphone-compatibility
Francis Lamotte, Raisonance’s former CEO and now Keolabs’ Vice President after his company’s merger with Soliatis in 2012 explained the concept fairly simply.
“On one hand, Raisonance has been providing compilers and MCU development tools for nearly 30 years, on the other hand, we have been a provider of test equipment and emulators for smart cards for the last 15 years, including more recently for NFC chips. So the IoTize concept is really a fusion of our knowledge in both debugging and NFC-connectivity, connecting radio-capable modules through a board’s typically unused debug port”.
Measuring 25x35mm, the first IoTize prototype modules combine an NFC chip together with a co-processor to establish a direct connection between the legacy system’s processor (addressed through the debug port) and an NFC-enabled smartphone.
“The beauty of this approach is that the connection can be done without modifying the native firmware or hardware, and the smartphone application can be created very simply, only having to edit some HTML” emphasized Lamotte.
The IoTize module allows engineers to take their embedded system (from industrial designs to consumer goods) into the IoT sphere without any RF expertise nor any new certification process, while enabling different user accesses, say for remote configuration, maintenance or end-user personalization.
With the added connectivity, usage data could be leveraged by cloud analytics, to enhance user services or to better understand the users’ needs and manage product evolutions.
Practically, the module connects via a flex circuit, and could be stuck about anywhere inside an appliance’s housing, retroactively. Although the RF connection was demonstrated using near field communication, Keolabs says the same retrofit principle could apply with Bluetooth or Sigfox-equipped IoTize modules.
Currently, in standby mode the NFC-only module draws about 15uA from the system’s board it is hooked to, and between 4.5 and 5mA when channelling data. But after further design and power optimization, Lamotte hopes the communication could be entirely powered by the smarphone’s NFC reader field, while drawing under 10uA from the system’s board when in sleep mode.
As for additional communication channels such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or others, the board will have two modes: either the channels will be woken up from a very low power sleep mode by the smartphone’s NFC reader, or these channels would remain in listening mode (the power consumption depending on the final design’s components).
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