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COVER STORY


Connecting devices to the IoT the easy way


E


very month, we talk to customers who are highly experienced in their area of design, but for the first time are faced with connecting their products safely and securely to the Internet.


Most people are familiar with consumer IoT products such as smart speakers, however the IoT is also now becoming pervasive in many other area’s including industrial applications, for instance the drive to Industry 4.0 relies heavily on connecting machines to the Industrial IoT (IIoT). Companies are seeking to deliver products with online features such as remote monitoring and control capabilities to meet the demand for greater functionality, service level agreements and an improved user experience.


This means existing or new devices that you’d never have thought of as potential ‘Things’ on the Internet now need to be IoT or IIoT enabled to share data, monitor status and/or provide the ability to control or configure devices remotely.


Alvin Ferlance, Divisional Marketing Manager at Anglia outlines some of the challenges engineers will encounter when connecting ‘Things’ to the IoT and introduces an exceptionally welcome new product innovation which simplifies the whole process by delivering all the required technology in a single, easy to integrate solution.


How to put the ‘T’ in IoT


Connecting a ‘Thing’ (device) to the IoT requires three essential elements: a means of communication, airtime connectivity and a cloud-based platform to communicate with. These three elements need to work together seamlessly in a secure and scalable manner. Let’s look at these three elements separately.


First you need to choose or design the communication hardware and integrate it into your device, this allows the device to connect to the chosen communications network which it will use to share data, typically the preference here will be a cellular network because this gives the potential for global coverage and ability to roam. Connecting to a cellular network is the second stage and will require a SIM card and a data airtime package(s) in order to send all your data back and forth, obviously the activation, deactivation and billing of the SIMs will need to be managed across different regions and very often involves a management platform.


So far so good, the hardware elements are well understood and relatively simple to specify and implement, the SIM management is less so but still not beyond the capabilities of most design teams.


8 October 2020 Components in Electronics


Fig 1. Outline of building blocks and associated complexities of a typical IoT solution ecosystem


The challenges really start when you move to the third stage which involves getting your ‘Thing’ registered and connected to your chosen IoT platform provider, this IoT platform or ‘Cloud’ is where all the data generated by your device will be sent and provides functions which include data processing, storage and analytics and which ultimately allow you to visualise and manage your data. There are several Cloud services available on the market, however most companies will typically choose to partner with one of the more well-known platforms such as Amazon AWS IoT or Microsoft Azure. Connecting devices to a Cloud service may involve writing firmware and software as well as configuring the Cloud platform services and associated security, this is where most of the design time and debugging will be spent on a typical IoT device design prior to its deployment. A summary of the typical building blocks in a IoT solution can be seen in Fig 1.


The Terminal with a plug-and-play Cloud connection.


1. Choose communications hardware suitable for location of the device. Design a communication protocol.


2. Negotiate airtime plan with mobile network operator(s) and acquire SIMs for the device(s).


3. Manage the lifecycle of the SIM card(s) and manage individual airtime consumption.


4. Find a suitable cloud database for storing and managing data from the device(s).


5. Design an application to visualise the data. Monitor and manage the connected device(s).


6. Manage security certificates, the identity of the device(s) and enrolment into the cloud platform.


Fortunately, Thales (formerly Gemalto) have identified the challenges involved in getting ‘Things’ connected to the IoT and have simplified the process by combining all three of these elements into one, integrated and ready to use, solution. The Thales Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE Terminal is a plug-and-play IoT solution that ensures a consistent global ‘out of the box’ experience and behaviour for IoT deployments. The terminal has inbuilt intelligence which simplifies and automates ingestion of your device into the cloud including device security, provisioning, and connectivity into Amazon Web Services (AWS). The terminal is an AWS qualified device and is the world’s first plug and play IoT solution that automatically connects with AWS. Thales are a leader in cellular module technology and reliable global connectivity, they have worked in conjunction with system integrator and AWS connectivity partner Eseye to deliver the world’s fi rst integrated terminal that vastly simplifi es IoT device design and deployment, signifi cantly reducing device design and deployment timescales.


The LTE Terminal with Intelligent Cloud Connect The Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal is based on Thales award winning PLS62-W module with its powerful Java embedded system that delivers highly efficient Multi- Band Cat 1 LTE connectivity and fallback to 3G and 2G for global IoT solutions. The PLS62-W module provides 12 Band LTE, Seven Band 3G HSPA/UMTS and Quad-Band GSM for seamless coverage through roaming across various wireless networks. This allows the terminal to deliver optimized


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