Promise of IoT – the next big application

Promise of IoT – the next big application

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Internet of Things, IoT, is emerging as a major growth area that holds the answer to this quest. IoT is happening today with leading operators reporting millions of connected devices in their networks. Proprietary low power wide area (LPWA) protocols are leading in the market for providing IoT connectivity while 3GPP wrestles with diverse proposals to arrive at industry standard protocols for IoT in Release 13. The fast emerging ecosystem for IoT has solutions in sight for building low-cost IoT end nodes that can have battery life of >10 years.

A large number of IoT networks and services are expected to be deployed in the next 3-5 years. In order to monetize these IoT networks, operators, existing or new, need to successfully grapple with three key issues. First, operators need to accept existence of both proprietary and standards-based IoT connectivity and prepare for hybrid IoT networks. Second, a focus on connectivity will not be sufficient to monetize IoT networks. Comprehensive data analytics will be needed to process data gathered from millions of connected devices to drive new applications and use cases. IoT network security and reliability is the third issue that is critical for commercialization and broader adoption. Programmable and flexible IoT gateways or hubs supporting multiple radio protocols, intelligent data gathering/ dissemination between Cloud and connected devices, and ensuring up-to-date secure links will play a pivotal role in solving these issues.

IoT requires low-power long range communication, asymmetric asynchronous low data rate connectivity, and low-cost end nodes with long battery life (>10 years). Attributes of IoT connectivity and devices are likely to vary based on the end market/ applications. 5G industry forums have classified IoT into two broad use cases: low energy massive machine communication and low latency mission critical machine type communication. Machine to machine communication is envisaged to be an integral part for both of these use cases. An example of low energy massive machine communication is a network of connected sensors and actuators that have the potential of bringing significant productivity and efficiency to industries such as health-care, shipping, agriculture, food industry, water and energy management, smart homes and buildings. Connected wearable gadgets are an integral part of this use case scenario and the hold promise of improving every aspect of our lives. The cost of a device, battery life, ease of deployment, and efficient asynchronous communication are the key requirements for low energy, massive machine type communication. Typical data rates per IoT node are in the range of 100 Kbps.

Industrial IoT, automotive, smart energy grids, traffic safety, and emergency response services are some of the examples of low latency machine type communications. Reliability, resiliency, and low latency are critical components for this segment. Typical data rates are in the range of 100 Kbps to 1 Mbps. Industrial IoT will bring multiple vertical markets within the fold of mobile broadband networks, opening new healthy revenue streams for operators.

Proprietary low power wide area network technologies such as LoRa, SigFox, Ingenu, Starfish, and Weightless exist today for IoT deployments. These technologies use unlicensed bands. For automotive, dedicated short range communication (DSRC) as known in the US and cooperative intelligent transport system (ITS) elsewhere are emerging Vehicle to Everything (V2X) radio connectivity solutions. This is primarily geared for safety applications. DSRC uses 75 MHz bandwidth, seven 10 MHz channels in a 5.9 GHz licensed spectrum. LTE offers a good framework to harmonize proprietary technologies and fragmented standards to provide scale, ease of deployment and maintenance. LTE-M, extension of LTE for machine to machine communication, as part of 3GPP RAN Release 12, narrow band LTE (NB-LTE) as part of 3GPP RAN Release 13, and extended coverage GSM (EC-GSM) as part of GEREAN Release 13 are standards based technologies that will use licensed spectrum.

Programmable and flexible IoT gateways or hubs distributed across the network, as shown in Figure 1, will play a pivotal role. In order to support hybrid technologies, IoT gateways will need to support multiple radio protocols depending on the installation point or service type. System flexibility and agility to harmonize existing proprietary technologies and evolving standards is a critical component for building economy of scales in the ecosystem to augment broader commercialization. Not only intelligent data gathering/ dissemination between Cloud and connected devices but also performing edge compute functions would be necessary in these gateways. For many IoT applications, data may be location specific and meaningful only for a short duration. In many cases, application latency constraints will necessitate distributed data processing. Edge compute and local storage could be essential in IoT gateways to overcome low latency requirements. System functions to secure links to connected devices and Cloud will also be needed in these gateways.

Figure 1: Conceptual diagram depicting role of IoT gateway in IoT network.

In addition to solving critical system issues, IoT gateways can act as test beds for running pilots for new applications and use cases for IoT networks. Instead of waiting for availability of optimal solutions or a complete ecosystem, operators can use these test beds to work closely with the supply chain in defining system requirements. These reasonably well-defined pilot case studies and associated business findings can help steer optimal solutions and network evolution to maximize revenue potential latent in IoT. IoT gateway with sufficient compute can also stimulate open source industry standard application development framework and a development community. Further, support for broadband LTE radio could enhance integrated services for applications such as personal smart phones to control smart homes or vehicular and passenger mobile broadband connectivity.

All programmable FPGAs and SoCs offer a good solution to meet the challenging requirements of IoT gateways and IoT test bed platforms to instantiate different radios on a need basis with built-in flexibility to adapt to evolving standards, perform edge compute, and secure links. Figure 2 shows a programmable and flexible IoT gateway conceptual block diagram that can be built using Xilinx 16nm Zynq UltraScale+™ MPSoC platform. The Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ platform has quad-core ARM® Cortex-A53 running up to 1.5 GHz, a dual-core ARM Cortex-R5 real time processing unit, integrated peripherals and connectivity cores, and built in advanced security, safety, and reliability functions. It has rich programmable fabric to host multiple radio technology instances along with backhaul and local storage connectivity. Xilinx baseband, radio, foundation DSP, and connectivity IPs can be leveraged in combination with the rich ARM software ecosystem to build flexible and extensible IoT gateway application development framework. The inherent flexibility and programmability of FPGA fabric allows easy updates to radio implementation independent of the application stack residing on the integrated processors. Standardizing on such platforms, stimulating open source industry standard application development framework and running pilot case studies are essential steps to jump start development and deployment of IoT based new services.

Figure 2: Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC All Programmable platform as an integrated IoT gateway.


If you enjoyed this article, you will like the following ones: don't miss them by subscribing to :    eeNews on Google News


Linked Articles