Many of us drive cars and have a good grasp of what functions make sense in a car and when we wouldn't drive a car at all. For example, we wouldn’t get into a car if there would be no seat belt or ABS system with disc brakes – instead of drum brakes. In other words, would you use a car without air-conditioning if you work in Dubai?
On the other hand, after a few years in Alaska you would have forgotten where to turn the air conditioning on! The message is that most cars are built for the whole world and not just for Dubai or Alaska! If we pull this metaphor into the IoT wireless world, a car in a road network can also be seen as a data packet in a wireless network that has to meet certain requirements. As in the road network, the data packet experiences the same problems, it gets stuck in the data congestion (not enough bandwidth) and therefore arrives too late or never at all. The security aspects and robustness in a data network are discussed in detail later when it comes to security requirements or collisions in a robust commercial building IoT infrastructure.
In issue no. 2 of the magazine Elektronik 2020, issued on 23rd Jan. 2020, as well as in Elektronik International – edition embedded world in English, the title »The IoT Revolution"«made it clear that it isn’t important for an IoT wireless network for commercial buildings to »only« offer one or two performance aspects, i.e. long range and long battery life, but rather has to simultaneously fulfill far more critical performance and security aspects.
Today, no other wireless standard has really succeeded in offering that.
IoT wireless platform designed from top down
The secret is very simple and makes sense to everyone when you think about it. The solution is that when designing an embedded system, i.e. a wireless chip, all critical aspects that are important from the regulatory, user's and system level point of view, must be included right from the beginning of the chip-design. Then it depends upon who decides what the critical aspects are – the car manufacturer or the user? The car maker, in other words in the wireless IoT world the chip manufacturers, usually incorporates the technology that he already has in his portfolio, using his currently available implementation know-how.
The car industry is pretty good in that sense. Right from the beginning of the development they work closely with the authorities for the infrastructure and the technical safety requirements for a car, like TÜV in Germany. They also look at the system and user level to ensure comfort and performance requirements are going to be met. If you do not pay attention to this in the design of any kind of product, then the products – in our case the wireless solutions chip and the complete module – gets stuck in few applications and the potential of the global market is going to be limited. In such case, having a limited performance portfolio of a wireless chip/module, you cannot consider it to be an IoT wireless platform at all.
If you talk about a wireless IoT platform for all applications in a commercial building, you need to meet all the critical aspects in such IoT network. This article gives you the answer and explains why specific requirements, like high data rate and robustness, at the same time very low latency time of data transmission have an enormous impact on the individual applications, its sensors and actors.
Common wireless IoT platform support planner tools
So, let’s start from the system perspective of a planner or system integrator into a planning process of the entire IoT infrastructure and the related applications for a commercial building. The goal is to offer the end user a wireless IoT network which is concurrently secure, scalable and very robust, reliable, and all at a sustainable cost-of-ownership ratio.
In the planning process of commercial buildings, planners are nowadays using planning tools like a BIM (Building-Information-Modeling) tool in combination with installation guideline tools such as the VDI installation guideline, which is used in Germany. The reference to the BIM system in this planning phase is described in more detail in a following paragraph. Actually, the planner is going through the same process, when he is planning an IT (Wi-Fi based) infrastructure for high data rates applications.
In this case he also does not have to care about the end products which are connected to the WiFi infrastructure. So if an IoT sensor network infrastructure fulfills all the requirements for all applications, it will then be easy to connect security and comfort applications in the same IoT network without great effort and interoperability issues.
That means once the wireless IoT infrastructure for all sensors – with full coverage in the entire commercial building – has been completed in the first planning phase, the planner will then usually start to plan the security-relevant applications – sensors and actors. Without any changes or new gateways, he then considers all the other applications into his following plans. We call this »Freedom in Design« at the application level, because the planner is free in his design of all the sensor and actor applications using the same IP500 wireless IoT platform, IoT infrastructure, in the entire building.
As a result, it lowers system complexity with a shorter design and planning time. Also the installation time is much shorter, because the installation guidelines, i.e. the VDI 3813 for HAVC and Lighting and access control, have pre-defined all the necessary information detailing how to connect and install the IP500 infrastructure with the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) Products (i.e. sensor and actor, as well as the communication format to the control unit interface BMS.
The planner can also address end-user requests, i.e. from facility management or security companies, even after completion of the construction. On top of this the adaptation of new innovative application ideas during the lifetime of the building can be easily adapted or extended (retrofit) without great effort and cost.
IoT platforms today and in the future
Over the past decades many wireless-based IoT solutions, i.e. ZigBee, Z-Wave, EnOcean, ULE and many more, have tried to establish themselves as a global wireless IoT standard. LoRa, Sigfox, BLE, 5G, NBIoT or others have also made great effort to accomplish the same. The desire of these individual wireless technologies to address a wide range of applications outside of their core technology competence is great, but also understandable.
Today you can buy IoT products in the SmartHome market based on point-to-point (peer-to-peer) or limited mesh wireless network technologies. This is good enough for consumer or smart home applications. But this is not the case for commercial building installations, where many more IoT devices (1000s) in a much large area must interoperate while being challenged by high interference from other wireless and electrical sources.
In addition, many different applications must be interoperable at the RF (Radio Frequency), network (mesh) and functional (protocol) level, according to regulations and requirements of institutions or insurance companies (VdS) who demand the highest robustness and security with lowest latency time of the wireless IoT network for mission critical applications. Or, to explain it in another way, if a wireless technology simply cannot operate an application, like a door or light control, because of a very high latency time over 6 s per transmission, as it is the case with long range wireless technologies, the goal of a »IoT wireless platform« can no longer be achieved.
OEMs need a common wireless IoT platform to address WPAN market
On the other hand many OEM’s of single products or complete building automation systems had, at the time, from around the year 2000+, more or less no other choice than using off-the-shelf wireless modules – so a car without air-condition – or even to develop their own proprietary RF solutions – RF module and network. Some OEM’s are focused on security applications, and therefore they must comply with the security-relevant requirements – e.g. like VdS in Europe or UL in USA.
In this case, adding wireless communication to their security products portfolio, they had to use an off-the-shelf RF chip with a lot of additional development work – HW and SW – and additional certification effort. However, some of these OEM’s then continued with a wired solution. It is obvious that this way – proprietary wireless network – is not a long-term solution either. We don't need to discuss an example with the car – it would be like every city having its own street width where only certain cars from a single manufacturer could drive on these streets.
So, these global OEM’s and manufacturers are also very interested in addressing the enormous IoT WPAN market and expending their business opportunities. As it is the case with Wi-Fi or 4G/5G, that is only possible with common wireless IoT platform providing a robust, secure and powerful technology, included in a common wireless (RF) module or chip.
The certified and turn-key IP500 CNX200 module provides such a wireless IoT platform for all WPAN applications. The easy integration of the IP500 CNX200 module saves the OEM’s a lot of development costs, time and above all a long and expensive certification process for their OEM products according to e.g. RED, or FCC for the related bands – Sub-GHz and 2.4 GHz. Details of the IP500 CNX200 module are described in the 2nd edition of the magazine Elektronik or can be obtained by visiting the IP500 Alliance website.
Due to the pre-conformity – highest robustness and performance – certification by official test authorities, the IP500 CNX200 wireless module therefore enables the OEM’s to develop any IoT product for a commercial building. This enables the OEM’s to expend into a much wider business scope in the global IoT WPAM market. It also allows the OEM’s to cooperate much easier with complementary OEM solutions in large smart building projects, due to the interoperability at IP500 RF chip, network and infrastructure level.
This means that the OEM’s can expand their product portfolio and system faster (time to market) at lower cost to address the enormous potential of business opportunity in the rapidly growing global IoT WPAN market. The following graph shows the enormous growth rate and total potential that can be addressed with a secure and high-performance IoT wireless platform.
As already mentioned, from the beginning – that was around the year 2000 – some of the IoT Alliances tried to establish themselves as an IoT standard for specific applications. The main target market was the smart home using the 2.4 GHz or 1.8 GHz (DECT) band, or Sub-GHz without IPv6. Then the chip manufacturers developed the corresponding RF chips according to IEEE802.15.4 b…g standards, based on mainly FSK modulation.
If we go back briefly to our example with the car, it would look like this. The car manufacturers would build an engine (RF chip) that is only designed for the city (smart home), can drive 50 km/h and has a range of, let’s say, 50 km. Without spinning this further, it becomes clear that this would not lead to the goal if the car – i.e. the IoT RF solution – were built with such a performance limitation. It would be as if a car had not been designed for driving on a highway – so had no capability of high speed (data rate), no long range, nor a short braking distances (latency time).