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Today’s Industrial Internet of Things Solutions Are Built, Not Bought

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-Every industry and solution requires a
 

The article “Don’t hold your breath for the industrial IoT platform” by Cormac Foster caused quite the buzz when it made its debut on Gigaom last month. With rebuttals from industry players like Mike Dolbec, managing director of Venture Capital GE Software, we took notice.

What stood out the most? Despite the tensions expressed in reader comments, we agree with Foster and thought that some of the best points of the piece were overlooked.

What others overlooked is that Foster isn’t downplaying the role of the Industrial Internet of Things. He’s simply pointing to its enormity.

“The industrial IoT will eventually eclipse consumer markets, in terms of both the number of connected devices and the volume and value of connections. But the market’s potential is so large because it’s not just one market.”

We couldn’t agree more. The Industrial IoT is a mega trend, and its economic value add will show that in time. It is not a single market, but rather a market of markets. For example, our business at Digi International spans over half a dozen different vertical industries and even more underlying applications and use cases.

Different solutions may require different hardware approaches, networking technologies, cloud data storage, reporting and security requirements. We’ve had to learn the different languages of proprietary machines–becoming ‘machine linguists’ in the process.

To approach this vast “megatrend” landscape requires a versatile toolkit of wireless and embedded technologies and software and integration services, because each customer use case and scenario has its own optimized solution.

In the industrial world, you build an IoT solution, you don’t buy one. You might be able to go and buy a wearable at Best Buy or Target, but here in the Industrial IoT there’s no one-size fits all standard today. Furthermore, a lot of new entrants in the supplier space offer one point solution or one point product. They have a single hammer, so everyone’s problem is declared a nail. That’s why their ability to deliver value to customers is limited.

Industrial Internet of Things solutions today are about creating a strategic competitive advantage for your business. If it were easy to do–if you could just buy one off the shelf and implement it–would it be a real advantage? For how long? As early adopters of IoT realize the business benefits of lower costs or the ability to deliver superior customer service, laggards will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

As I said before, every industry and solution requires a different combination of technologies and approaches to get the job done. A solution for a city looking to reduce their electricity bill using a smart street lighting system is completely different than a medical device maker who needs to bluetooth-enable products. The same goes for someone deploying precision agriculture equipment, or industrial fuel tanks.

For example, wireless mesh networking technology often powers smart street lighting IoT projects, which can reduce electricity costs that can account for a big chunk of a city’s energy expenses. One of our customers’ systems, which gives city crews a view into every light and its status via a web application, helps cities save up to 85 percent on energy costs. And, with reduced CO2 emissions, it also helps to protect the environment.

The Bottom Line: There’s No Panacea or Single Standard today

Our IoT customer solutions span dozens of industries and hundreds of applications– each with different business goals and technology needs. So, yes, we have to agree with Foster. There’s no one Industrial IoT platform. We wouldn’t hold our breathe either. Internet of Things systems for commercial use are created with industry and application specifications in mind, as they should be. As Foster said, “the market’s potential is so large because it’s not just one market.”

Interested in learning more about today’s Industrial Internet of Things solutions? Here are a number of customers who are experiencing the benefits.

The Emerging Requirements for Next-Generation Single-Board Computers

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With the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine computing, application demands are increasing. From medical diagnostics and transportation to precision agriculture and entertainment, engineers today are challenged to find new ways to design in greater intelligence, connectivity, and performance. Not to mention that it’s required to do so while cutting costs, power consumption and size. Single Board Computers (SBC) are an ideal platform for quick and focused product design. They continue to evolve in sophistication, and the range of possibilities continues to expand.  As those capabilities grow, so do the choices for design engineers.  But what are the factors that matter most in SBC evaluation and selection?

Design needs always vary by application criteria, industry, and deployment environment, but the following criteria can serve as a springboard for the evaluation of SBC options.

  1. Processor Platform

At the heart of every SBC is the underlying application processor platform. Traditionally, the majority of SBCs were based on x86 platforms and somewhat derived from the typical desktop PC motherboard form factor. This is still evident in some of the form factor variants that are being utilized—Pico-ITX, Mini-ITX, microATX, EmbATX, and others. They range from “standalone” models to stackable solutions, like PC/104, to specialized “blades” for use in rack systems. ARM-based System-on-Chip (SoC) platforms are becoming more capable with an extended reach into the x86 performance bracket, low power consumption, broad operating system support and cost-effectiveness, the SBC now also is an extremely viable option for a host of new applications as well as potential replacement for existing x86 based solutions.

  1. Form Factorindustries_industrial_agriculture

SBCs are available in a wide variety of available “standard” form factors and continue to shrink, giving designers much greater latitude in how they create innovative devices and applications that can leverage a much higher level of computing power.  For instance, it’s possible today to create a compact SBC built on an ARM-based System-on-Module (SoM) solution with integrated, pre-certified 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in a footprint of just 50×50 mm, only 5-7 mm high. Such an SBC can provide scalable single to quad core Cortex-A9 SoC performance with a complete set of integrated peripherals and interfaces, from storage (SATA, SD) to user interface (up to four display, capacitive multi-touch). A level of computing power and flexibility paired with dramatically reduced power consumption and at a price point that was unthinkable at that size just a few years ago.

In addition, choosing an SBC design based on a SoM provides an almost seamless migration path to direct component integration once an application warrants a custom carrier board design due to increased volume and/or application-specific customization requirements. Given that the SoM stays the same when used on the customer board design, software transition is in principle minimal and the SBC may also act as a reference design for the customized product development effort.

  1. Reliability, Longevity, Availability

SBCs are often used in very specialized and environmentally challenging embedded applications. Specific industry standards related tests for temperature, shock, and vibration will ensure that the platform is able to operate reliably without failure.

The selection of components an SBC is designed with also has a significant importance in respect to product long-term availability. For example, a product like Digi International’s ConnectCore® 6 SBC is built using industrial temperature rated components, which contribute to overall reliability and long-term availability of parts.

Digi’s SBC is also built around the scalable ConnectCore 6 SoM. The ConnectCore 6 SOM is a Freescale i.MX6 based surface mount multichip module with integrated wireless connectivity. It eliminates the need for high-density module connectors, expensive multilevel board designs. It also increases durability in rugged environments and offers a unique long-term availability approach for embedded, industrial-grade Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Last but not least, it also enables you to move to a fully integrated, customized product design utilizing the single-component SoM without the traditional design complexities of a discrete design approach.

  1. Low Power Consumption

Today’s ARM-based SBC designs – even those that leverage quad-core processors – can achieve excellent power efficiency in both mobile and fixed-power applications. The inherent design advantages of the ARM platform and its advanced power-saving modes enable you to minimize and tune power consumption for applications, load, temperature, time of day, users, and other application specific criteria.  What’s more, it also helps you create thermally sound designs appropriate for the usage environment without the mandatory need for active cooling, which affects design complexity, longevity and most importantly reliability over time.

  1. Connectivity

The Internet of Things (IoT) is pervasive throughout almost all applications in virtually all vertical markets. Fully integrated and complete connectivity options must be considered and designed into a product from the beginning. Options include: Wi-Fi connectivity link to an existing network, serving Wi-Fi connectivity to clients connecting to your product for configuration or services, Bluetooth Classic for user device integration, Bluetooth Low Energy for data acquisition from low-power sensors, or even Ethernet for mandating wired network connections.

With connectivity comes the need for security and trusted communication. The next generation of SBCs are equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities and fully pre-certified 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz), software and driver support enterprise-grade Wi-Fi security such as WPA/WPA2-Enterprise, cellular connectivity, and other options to ensure your device is tied into larger computing grids. The SBC can be integrated into any existing IT environment.

Lastly, taking advantage of a secure cloud-enabled software platform such as Device Cloud allows you to build products for the IoT almost immediately, without any need to develop a costly and proprietary cloud infrastructure.

  1. Open Platforms

Most SBCs support industry-standard operating systems, including Linux, Android, and Microsoft Windows Embedded Compact. This reduces learning curves and costs while reducing risk and accelerating development activities.

However, engineers invariably want to customize and refine their device designs as well as make sure that access to relevant software and hardware design components is available right from the start. Be sure your chosen SBC provides full and royalty-free access to source code of the software platform support.

On the hardware side, access to functional and verified reference designs is as important as choosing a supplier that is established and present both locally and globally with their own and partner resources.

industries_medical_medical_devicesMedical Devices

For manufacturers in the life sciences industry, innovation is a non-negotiable requirement.  Product complexity—including the inherent need for products to have seamless wireless connectivity—continues to grow, making it essential to have efficient designs that leverage reliable components with the power and simplicity that reduce points of failure, including support for the long product lifecycles in this industry.

Medical and healthcare devices need to become connected in order to create efficiencies in areas such as patient safety, reimbursement, or even asset management/tracking. The complex and lengthy regulatory approvals further drive the need to shorten time-to-market and focus on core competencies instead of spending time on basic core system design efforts.

The right SBC or SoM solution plays an integral role in bringing innovative medical products to market quickly. As a result, device manufacturers are increasingly relying on them for devices such as infusion pumps, ventilators, implantable cardiac defibrillators, ECGs, bedside terminals, patient monitors, AEDs, and more.

Precision Agriculture

Today, farmers are able to more finely tune their crop management by observing, measuring, and responding to variability in their crops. For instance, crop-yield sensors mounted on GPS-equipped combines can use industrial-grade, ruggedized SBCs and SoMs to measure and analyze data related to chlorophyll levels, soil moisture – even aerial and satellite imagery. It then can intelligently operate variable-rate seeders, sprayers, and other farming equipment to optimize crop yields. Wireless connectivity for cellular or Wi-Fi network connectivity plus sensor integration through technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy adds a powerful, real-time connectivity to agriculture that drives a new level of efficiency.

Transportation

With focus on operational efficiency and safety, transportation applications are driving the need for connected and intelligent devices.

In situations that require rugged reliability that eliminates vibration concerns, embedded SBC and SoM solutions play a valuable role. In taxis, solutions can help optimize electric vehicles by controlling engine components while providing a fully integrated, state-of-the-art in-vehicle operator interface. In buses, monitoring systems can report emissions levels and the solution can operate fare-collection systems. On a commercial vessel, embedded solutions power connected navigation systems or highly sophisticated fish finders.

Consider taking advantage of connected SBCs and SoMs when building your next product. Significantly reduce your design risk while shortening your time-to-market, without sacrificing design flexibility.

 

Future of Healthcare: Life Science Intersecting with the Exponential Increase in Computing Power

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Life science is intersecting with the exponential increase in computing power, and as President and Managing Partner of Google Ventures (GV), Bill Maris sees great opportunities for new technology in the field. Today, Maris addressed a crowd of entrepreneurs and change makers at one of Chicago’s greatest startup and technology hubs, 1871.

Bill MarisAs we see with our customers’ Internet of Things deployments, every sector, from life sciences to retail and transportation, exponential increases in computing capacity open doors for advances that few see coming.

Maris summed up how technology has grown over the last 20 years: “What is 320,000 times better than it was before? Tech.”

As Maris pointed out, today we all have a device in our hands that connects us to the sum of human knowledge. And, the capacity of computer technology is on an exponential curve. In a world where you’re on an exponential curve, everything changes very quickly.

Pulling a page from Slack Founder Stewart Butterfield, Maris shared two photos to make his point. First, he showed a photo of the crowd at the 2008 presidential inauguration. How were people documenting the experience? With cameras— cameras with film. Fast forward to 2012, and how did people document that event? Digitally, with their phones. Each photo shows thousands of people with cameras and phones respectively. The pictures, side-by-side, paint the radical change that happened in less than four short years.

What does this have to do with technological advances in life sciences?

Everything, because the field of life sciences is currently experiencing this exponential curve, as it somewhat has in the past.

In the 1800s, Bloodletting basins were used to collect blood that was taken from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. When the basin was full, the patient was thought to be treated. In the 1950s medical professionals used the “iron lung,” a negative pressure ventilator. Today, the negative form of pressure ventilation has been entirely replaced by positive pressure ventilation or biphasic cuirass ventilation.Then, in 1957, the first chemical synthesis of penicillin was completed.

Today, exponential curves are steeper than ever. The Human Genome Project is a great example. In 2002, people thought it was impossible to sequence the genome to 100%. Here’s how the evolution looked: 1990: 0%; 2002: 1%; 2003: 100%.

So, what does the world look like in 2034? “Think about those exponential curves, and apply that math. This could mean diagnoses before you know you’re sick. You don’t change the oil in the car only when the car breaks down,” Maris said.

A major theme of Maris’ talk about the future warned that we should also look to make sure that technology is distributed and that its creators and adopters consider access. In our work, we’ve seen companies use technology as a means of creating access— a project by Orange Business Services and Almerys, Cardiauvergne, being a great example.   

In today’s world of exponential curves, what’s your business doing to ensure your evolution? How are you using computing power to impact patient and customer outcomes and revenue? We saw Maris’ talk as an invitation to beg the question. We’d love to hear about your innovations in the comments section below.

More on the innovations of Digi customers around the globe.

Bill Maris founded Google Ventures in 2009 and oversees all of the fund’s global activities. GV is one of the most active investors in the world, with approximately $1.6 billion under management, more than 250 portfolio companies and offices in Mountain View, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and London. The fund’s early track record includes investments in pioneers like Uber, Nest, DocuSign, and Cloudera; IPOs like Foundation Medicine and RetailMeNot; and exits to industry leaders like Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo.

Photo credit: Hyde Park Angels

Digi Visits Munich for Electronica 2014

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Last week Digi attended electronica 2014 in Munich, Germany– and it was a busy one. We unveiled the brand new XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit as well as our global distribution agreement with Mouser.  The event was a great opportunity to connect with some of the top minds in the industry as well as our partners and customers from around the globe.

We also shared three brand new demos!

One uses the ConnectCore 6 SBC to drive multiple high-definition displays. The other two demos feature XBee connected to the cloud. We built a street lighting demo to show how cities are using XBee and cloud control to make street lighting more energy efficient. Also on hand was an example cloud-based application built with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and the sensors on the kit’s development board.

All of our demos from the show and more can be seen in the pictures below.

 

As always, check out Digi events page for more info about which events you can find Digi at in the coming months. To learn more about the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit, click here.

Let Your Imagination Run Wireless with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit: Your Idea Deserves a Prototype

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Automated homes, drones, interactive art installations– XBee can be found nearly anywhere. And, more and more devices are using XBee to connect to the cloud. Connecting a device to the Internet should be simple, that’s why we built the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. XBee_Dev_Board_w_XBeeWith an XBee ZB module and an XBee Gateway, it’s easy to connect your robot, vehicle, sensors, or anything else to the Internet.

Maybe you want to build a mesh network to monitor the health of your garden or perhaps, you have a top secret idea for your business, but you’re unsure where to start. Here are a few examples to help familiarize yourself with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and go from idea to prototype and transform your imagination into reality:

3 Simple XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit Examples

Potentiometer
Potentiometer’s are ubiquitous when it comes to building with electronics and they make great starting point when familiarizing yourself with new technology. Here, we’ll connect this analog input to the cloud, so you can view the values on your Heroku-hosted dashboard. Potentiometers can be used for setting a level, determining an angle or just as a simple user interface adjustment. Nicknamed “pots,” these components are variable resistors. With a simple twist you can alter the amount of voltage that flows out through their center pin.

Push Button
Want to control the light in your room from where you’re sitting? If you answered yes, this example is a great place to start with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. Remote control of a button is perfect for projects that require user input, or anyplace you need to detect a change in device state. One you’ve built your circuit, you’ll be able to view the status of the button and control it from your web interface.photo (17)

Temperature 
Temperature monitoring is another great starting point with analog sensing. In this example we use everyone’s favorite temperature sensor, the TMP36 low-voltage linear sensor, which is included with your kit. After you’ve built this simple circuit, you can view the temperature on the dashboard.

Let’s Get Started
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what is possible with this new XBee kit. You can find all of these examples and more here, and check out the XBee Gallery to find what others have built with XBee.

Interested in getting an XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit? Head over here.

Security Vulnerability – POODLE – CVE-2014-3566

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Overview

In the last few weeks, We have had a number of questions regarding the new vulnerability nicknamed “POODLE” CVE-2014-3566.”  As for every vulnerability, we review each one carefully to determine the impact to our devices and services, and we try to make a recommendation to our customers on the anticipated impact of these vulnerabilities. In these last weeks, we have conducted a risk analysis of this new vulnerability, as well as we are testing all of our devices for this vulnerability. Since this new vulnerability is coming down on the heels of HeartBleed and Shellshock, I am anticipating that many people will be covering this new vulnerability.

Analysis13334048894_001d3e53d1_z

In our testing, we have found that many of our devices are impacted. This is in part because of the backward compatibility that we have built within our products. However, we have determined that very few customers are using these features, and we are actively removing the SSLv3 support for new firmware versions going forward. We have already fixed this issue in a number of devices, and we are in the middle of releasing new versions of firmware with this issue fixed.

Impact

As for every vulnerability, we review each one carefully to determine the impact to our devices and services, and we try to make a recommendation to our customers on the anticipated impact of these vulnerabilities. However, since we do not know each specific configuration and data that our customers are using for our products and services, it is always suggested that the customer review their unique situation and understand what the risk could be to their environment. However, we have found that with our products, that we rate this a “very low” impact.

Notice

Please check the official Digi and Etherios corporate response to poodle at http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=3619

 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email cloud.security@etherios.com, or security@digi.com

Mass Transit Demos and More at Arrow IoT Immersions

Digi will be at all four stops of Arrow’s IoT Immersions event. We’ll be traveling to Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Jose, and Boston over the coming months along with other leading tech companies sharing IoT technology and how it’s changing industries. At the show we’ll have three IoT demos to share with you. Here’s a little bit of information on what we’ll be up to during the event and where you can find us:

Mass Transit Bus with ConnectCore 6Digi at Arrow IoT Immersions
We’re extremely excited to be a part of the Mass Transit demo, which showcases how IoT tech is already changing our transit systems. Inside the bus, you will find a Digi ConnectCore 6. The ConnectCore 6, based on the Freescale i.MX6 processor, drives multiple high definition monitors that provide bus location data as well as vehicle diagnostic information to the driver. Other companies that will be on board this mass transit demo include: Intel, Microsoft, Advantech, Microchip, Eurotech.

If one connected transit demo isn’t enough, we have good news. We’ll also be showing off Digi’s Wireless Vehicle Adapter, aka WVA. This handy device opens up a local Wi-Fi network and streams real-time vehicle diagnostic information to a tablet. Stop by our kiosk in the Cloud Pavilion to give it a try. We’ll have a tablet loaded with an Android application for you to play with.

Connected Health Care
We’ll also be sharing how Internet of Things is changing healthcare. There’s an enormous opportunity to use internet connected devices to improve outpatient care. We’ve built a connected blood pressure cuff, which enables caregivers to provide excellent service to patients even if they are outside the hospital.

The blood pressure device was modified with XBee, which enables communication to the cloud. Since the device is connected to the internet, caregivers can easily set up alarms so they’re notified whenever an abnormal condition is met. You can try this demo out for yourself in the Medical Pavilion.

More Information for Arrow IoT Immersions
In addition to our demos, Digi CTO, Joel Young, will be a part of the Solutions Sessions alongside other technology experts. Specifically, they’ll be discussing how the Internet of Things is impacting business, specifically cloud computing and connecting from the network’s edge into the enterprise. Want to attend, but not yet registered? Head over to the IoT Immersions page to sign up.

A Simpler and More Intelligent Internet of Things with Digi and Temboo

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The ongoing drought in the western United States underscores the importance of maintaining and conserving a reliable supply of fresh water—whether for drinking, irrigation, fire control or manufacturing, reliable water storage is essential. Of course, half the battle in maintaining a water supply is managing it: once a tank system has been installed and filled, water must be properly distributed when it is needed and retained when it is not. If tanks are remote and many are spread over a wide area, monitoring them can become a costly and time-consuming obligation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.03.09 PMThese are the sorts of challenges that Digi and Temboo are overcoming by building a more intelligent Internet of Things. A network of Digi hardware running Temboo Choreos is flexible and smart—devices can be programmed to execute a wide variety of processes, and be reprogrammed without being interrupted. This is a solution that combines ease of automation with the trustworthiness of manual control. To illustrate the solution’s benefits, and demonstrate how the whole system works, we’ve built a model of the water tank problem. This system puts Temboo and Digi to work, keeping water levels right where they ought to be.

Our tank monitoring solution uses an XBee ZigBee radio to wirelessly exchange sensor information and remote control commands using Digi’s new XBee Gateway, a programmable device that joins ZigBee mesh networks to the Internet. A small Temboo client written in Python is installed on the XBee Gateway, allowing it to connect to over one hundred different web services using Temboo Choreos. With Temboo, the memory constraints of the small devices in the network cease to be an obstacle to intelligent behavior, as much of the code required to execute complex processes is offloaded to the cloud.

In our model, a sensor attached to the XBee radio monitors the water level of our tank, and sends those readings to the XBee Gateway. If the tank leaks and the water level falls, a response is triggered on the gateway. First, the gateway uses Temboo’s Yahoo Weather Choreos to check the forecast for rain. Temboo’s Nexmo Choreos are then used to telephone the relevant individual with an automated voice message that gives a real time rain forecast and offers a choice of actions to take by entering a number on the phone’s keypad.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.56.33 AMIf a storm is on its way, there is an option to ignore the alert. If the leakage does not need to be urgently addressed, there is an option to schedule a maintenance event for the future, which the Temboo program on the gateway handles via a Google Calendar Choreo . If the situation is urgent, however, there is another option to activate a backup pump at a different point in the XBee network and refill the tank.  Of course, all of this will only work properly if the sensor and gateway are powered on and functioning, so our system needs to be prepared for any loss of connectivity—if, for any reason, transmission of the level of water in the tank stops, another Temboo Choreo will file a Zendesk ticket to alert support that the system needs attention.

The most exciting thing about this model, however, is that it is only a small example of a massively scalable system. XBee technology can connect hundreds of different devices in a much larger network, and Temboo’s Library contains over two thousand other Choreos that can be used to execute an immense variety of tasks. Modifying the behavior of the Temboo program on the gateway to, for example, switch notification services is just a matter of changing Choreos, a simple task.  Digi’s hardware and Temboo’s software are coming together to build a lighter, smarter and much easier to use Internet of Things.

Demo created using:

Are you using Temboo or XBee in your Internet of Things application? You can share how you’re using wireless technology by tweeting us at @XBeeWireless and @Temboo.