Many critical applications require low latency, lower dependence on the cloud or availability of communication channel, and due to sometimes limited bandwidth require better managing of the massive amount of data being generated by the IoT nodes. Today’s technology of high processing power and low power consumption of microcontrollers enable image processing at nodes. This way nodes are able for example sending just a number of occupancy level in a room, number of counted pests and its sizes, or just a signal of detected unknown person entering our house instead of sending a complete picture or even a video stream. Smaller amount of data can be send as an alarm using alternative communication channel in case of dropped or jammed primary one.
Any line down, any human safety being jeopardized due to a failure, or any accident with negative impact on environment have much bigger negative impact than any preventive measure. Having the right information in the right time is the key of helping continuous and smooth operation. Predictive maintenance with collected and processed data helps operations with less and planned stops with scheduled within much optimized intervals. The next step is upgrading the system with artificial intelligence (AI) which enables early detection of any condition out of what it should be. With increasing processing power of microcontrollers and microprocessors the AI is moving from big computers to IoT nodes with algorithms running in real-time enabling interventions in no time before adverse event happens.
Low Power sensor nodes
With IoT we are entering an era of collecting information about almost everything. There are many use cases such as environmental sensors, leakage detectors, or fire detectors, which require continuous remote monitoring of various parameters. Since being remote in many times hard to access places, replacing the battery is not an option and the devices shall operate continuously for 10 years or even more. There are new sensing, processing, and communication technologies enabling very low power consumption but still keeping low cost for wide deployments. This way many new products are popping on the market where only our imagination is a limit of what they can be used for. And not just for the device sake, but with some real benefits for people.
Are fruits grown enough, is water from washing machine clean enough meaning the rinse cycle should be just as long as needed, or is my purse really coming from the vendor I believe it is from? Spectral technology now really become affordable enabling many unforeseen cases of its use such as above. Transmissive or reflective spectrum of any object has its own ID like kind of DNA. In many cases it opens new doors for very efficient chemical or any other analyses with no reagents, without getting in contact with a material, or with no (possible toxic) wastes. The technology is thus enabling continuously monitoring, even battery supplied and located remotely.
Distance sensing - Time of Flight
There are many methods to accurately measure distance (length) such as RADAR, LADAR, LIDAR, etc. Compared with other systems, the time-of-flight (ToF) solution is very simple and compact, comprising no moving parts and with built-in illumination placed adjacent to the lens. Due to the ease with which distance information is acquired when using time-of-flight sensing method, only a small amount of processing power is used. In contrast with LIDAR that incorporates moving head, which measures point-by-point, time-of-flight cameras measure a complete scene with one shot with up to few 100s frames-per-second making ToF cameras much faster then their laser alternatives. Applications like box counting, simple detectors or level monitoring are benefiting from the method in the ToF’s low power, size, robustness, and accuracy.
What is an information without being communicated further? The IoT is continuously bringing new applications to the market which requires communication to get the information to where needed. The main requests are low power of devices to be able to run on a battery for ages and maintaining their cost down, and low investment cost in the infrastructure deployment, while still be able to reach far, faraway places. Not much bandwidth is needed dough. Many new Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies like Sigfox, LoRa, and most recent NB-IoT are now targeting just this kind of applications. The main concept is the devices are most of the time in a sleep or power down mode. The devices wake up periodically just to send very small amount of data and then going back to sleep. The question which technology will prevail, remains.
eSIM or eUICC
All the cellular connectivity standards require subscriber’s identity module (SIM) which most importantly securely stores subscriber’s identity. It comes in many form factors like all the sizes we are familiar with from mobile phones as well as in a solder-on MFF - M2M Form Factor. Many times embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC) is mistakenly referenced as a form factor – MFF, but the concept is about how SIM profiles are managed. Moreover, for many M2M applications is very important the ability to access and provision the eUICC remotely, and finally yet importantly the eUICC moves ownership from mobile network operators – MNO to OEMs. This way remote change of MNO is enabled either because of poor coverage, either because of better contract condition available.