Comfort and Safety Combined IoT Wireless Platform for Commercial Buildings

The future of wireless IoT platforms (IoT 4.0)

The IP500 Alliance started to work on the IP500 IoT platform a little more than 10 years ago. The goal was to establish a wireless IoT platform with the most important security and performance aspects for all IoT sensors and actors applications in commercial buildings. The entry hurdle was set very high, to provide a wireless standard that also met the requirements of the »security« (intrusion) and »safety« (fire) (as reference – EN norms by VdS pre-conformity for Europe or UL for USA) applications at the same time.

These applications have the toughest commercial building installation. So, related to our example with the car or truck, it has to be able to pass under the lowest bridge.

All the hard work of the IP500 members and partners took a lot of time (over 10 years) and effort. But all the effort paid off, because the combination of leading wireless network and newest chip technologies has enabled the IP500 Alliance to provide the »best-in-class« wireless IoT platform today.

The IoT Revolution – IoT 4.0 has begun

The chip industry, using <20 nm silicon structure technology and also cost-effective microcontroller designs with parallel processing capability, with an high integration level resulting in a small chip area of less than 1–2 mm2, make such competitive and highly integrated RF chip possible. Understanding how powerful chip technology is today, as an example, just look at  how knowing the user requirements and integrating them in the chips right at the beginning of the products design has revolutionized laptops and smartphones.

The following illustration (Figure 2) shows the division of the IoT applications into 4 main areas, which are combined under the term »IoT – Internet of Thing 4.0«. Each of these 4 application areas has special requirements of the applications for wireless networking, which must also be synchronized at all levels of the IoT wireless module – RF, network and infrastructure.

As already indicated, the IP500 Alliance had these requirements in focus from the start and was the only wireless standard in the world to take safety and security into account.

If you go into each IoT application area in detail, it becomes clear that many IoT wireless standards only cover specific, imitated limited range of applications and therefore they cannot be used as the »IoT wireless platform 4.0«.

If we look into the near future of a commercial building, i.e. hotel or hospitals, and the desire to lower cost or improve comfort and serviceability, mobility will become an important feature. The requirements for supporting mobile devices – like a badge for people or robots, or asset tracking of inventory and valuable goods – in buildings is going to be part of the IP500 wireless platform.

The following list shows the most important wireless properties that must be fulfilled in the following application areas:

  • a) Smart City, Smart Grid:
    • This refers to applications such as metering (electricity, gas, water), street lighting, parking station and waste container tracking, disaster and agricultural monitoring, asset tracking and traffic control.
    • Important requirements for the wireless part:
      long range (500–1000 m) and high security of the communication.
  • b) Smart Facility, Smart Home:
    • This refers to applications such as access control, door, air conditioning, and HAVC, lighting, asset tracking, and elevator control.
    • Important requirements for the wireless part:
      High robustness, security and high data rate (bandwidth), low latency, scalability, mesh network.
  • c) Smart handhelds, wearables:
    • This refers to the applications such as a badge or wearable items for people and robots, asset tracking and access control.
    • Important requirements for the wireless part:
      Low latency, long battery life, high security.
  • d) Security and safety:
    • Applications such as intrusion, access control, fire and smoke extraction and evacuation.
    • Important requirements for the wireless part:
      Safety and security regulations and requirements means high security, performance and robustness at low latency.

For whatever reason, some of these IoT sensor applications today have a »hidden champion« for wireless technology. For example:

  • a.) Smart City, Industry Area:  LoRa or Sigfox.
  • b.) Commercial building and home:  Z-Wave, and ZigBee, sometimes  BLE.
  • c.) Handhelds and wearables: BLE.
  • d.) Safety and security: proprietary wireless solutions.

If you try to get all these wireless technologies under one roof at RF and protocol module level, a system architect quickly realizes that it is not easy or even not possible. Each solution is so different – at RF and protocol, IPv6, security mechanisms etc. – that networking of the respective interoperability of OEM products is then only possible at the IT (gateway) level. Imagine that with Wi-Fi.

To take another example than just the cars – we will not be able to marry a giraffe to a mouse. As we know, incompatible networks and gateways drive up the complexity, installation and maintenance costs of an IoT infrastructure. If SW updates come into play over lifetime of a building, the handling and maintenance of such IoT system is going to be very costly and requires a huge effort and technical know-how.

The IP500 CNX200 module is the only IoT wireless platform which is pre-conforming with security norms (EN 50131-5-3) and is therefore able to addresses comfort and security applications for commercial buildings with the same RF module. This unique position of the IP500 CNX200 module has been confirmed by official test houses: TÜV Rheinland and VdS.

Because of this pre-conformity, the IP500 CNX200 module can also be used in simple applications, like temperature, lighting. Of course the module price is driven by volumes. So new combinations and full interoperability between comfort and security applications are now possible.

However, a wireless module without pre-conformity for safety and security applications cannot just be integrated in an OEM solution for safety and security applications for commercial buildings. If an OEM still wants to develop such an »of-the-shelf« wireless module, additional development efforts and lengthy certification and conformity tests are required. Then such OEM product would be automatically pretty much a proprietary solution and would not interoperable with complementary IoT solutions.

Influence of the IoT wireless technology and platform on a BIM system

Let’s discuss why these key elements of a wireless IoT module, referring to pre-conformity (VdS), performance, security and interoperability, have a big influence at the IoT system level and therefore have a major impact on operations cost, security and comfort of a large commercial building for the planners, systems integrators and end-user.

If you take all the mentioned requirements into account, especially looked from the system level or end user – incl. planner and installer – point of view, then there is major requirement for using planning and installation tools for large commercial buildings. Because in a large installation, all the applications comfort – HVAC, lighting – and security – access control, intrusion, fire etc. – should be combined in such a modular planner tool, like a BIM (Building-Information Modeling) tool. A BIM tool is then basically based on the assumption that interoperability between all applications at wireless (RF), network, protocol and infrastructure level is guaranteed. So customized wireless solutions and different network protocols and gateways are basically killing such model, or at least make the planning process much more complicated.

If the interoperability and the requested performance of the IP500 OEM products and infrastructure are integrated in the BIM data base, the BIM tool is then able to place the IP500 gateways in an optimal location for full coverage in the entire building. Then the planner can is able to create a 3D BIM Model of the entire building with all the requested IoT applications connected to the same IP500 infrastructure.

The 3D BIM Model has the huge advantage for a planner, system integrator, the installer and end-user because they can simulate all the IoT applications and the interoperability at an early stage of the planning and construction process. Making changes or adding new applications is very easy at that planning stage.