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Access to the IoT for Low Payload Endpoints Just Got a Lot Easier

by  Dan Clement  - 2019-04-04 

The IoT is a simple way of labeling something that is actually very complex. Put aside for a moment the sensors and actuators that hang off an endpoint and think about what the ‘I’ in ‘IoT’ actually promises. It is inescapable that the . Connectivity can either be wired or wireless. Whatever the medium, connectivity in all its forms is challenging, but then nothing worth having ever comes easy. Or does it?

There are an increasing number of turnkey solutions for adding wireless connectivity to an IoT endpoint. Many of these solutions claim to offer low design complexity because the difficult part of integration has already been done for you. The magic of manufacturing means these solutions are also normally very small and unobtrusive, which is often a prerequisite for many IoT endpoints. Consider designing a solution based on discrete components versus the same functionality integrated into a single device; advances in manufacturing means it’s now easier to integrate mixed signal, power and analogue functions alongside digital circuits. And where full monolithic integration is still too much of a challenge, there’s multichip packaging, or the System-in-Package (SiP) approach. It would be hard to manufacture a discrete solution that is both as space and cost-efficient as a SiP, at least not without a significant investment. Ideally, these connectivity solutions also need to be low power, which is something that the specifications often promise but can’t always deliver. This isn’t necessarily a design fault, because often the wireless technology being used isn’t predisposed to very low power operation.

Wireless connectivity comes in many forms, some offer longer range communications, while others provide system designers the ability to customize protocols to suit their application’s specific needs. When power is a concern, it isn’t just the connectivity that needs to be energy-efficient, design requirements will also extend to the device itself. Endpoints powered by energy harvesting transducers are increasingly appealing, particularly when the endpoint is located remotely. For example, think of smart sensors monitoring the irrigation levels across a large tract of land or the status of a water holding tank.

In these kinds of applications the requirements turn to a smart sensor that is both low power and able to connect either directly or indirectly to the internet over large distances, hundreds of miles in some instances. Not many wireless technologies can deliver this but one class of connectivity is positioned precisely in this ballpark and that’s the low power wide area network (LPWAN). In addition to being low power and long distance, LPWANs are characterized by their low payloads (often just a few bytes per message), which is an enabling feature as it means less energy is required to send and receive. Of all the LPWANs currently being deployed, Sigfox is a compelling choice because it already connects people in over 50 countries around the world and is extending its reach all the time.

Implementing LPWAN technology has recently been made even easier following the successful CE certification of ON Semiconductor’s Sigfox Verified™ AX-SIP-SFEU RF transceiver, a SiP for adding Sigfox connectivity to an IoT endpoint. By offering pre-regulatory approval, the SiP can be used across the European Union and any region that recognizes the CE mark as a sign of conformity, which makes it ideal for mobile assets such as in the logistics sector and a range of industrial IoT applications.

One of the defining features of any LPWAN is range, and thanks to its design Sigfox transceivers like the AX-SIP-SFEU can achieve great distances ­­reaching potentially hundreds of miles line-of-sight, even from tiny modules. Measuring just 9 mm by 7mm, the AX-SIP-SFEU still integrates the entire transceiver, 15 GPIO ports, a temperature sensor and an RS232 UART for communicating with a host processor, using standard AT commands. No external components are required, which really does make it a drop-in, turnkey solution. With the addition of CE certification, manufacturers can connect their equipment, assets and other devices to the IoT with ease.

The IoT is an ever-expanding network of devices, which is enabled by simple solutions that work. While we should never underestimate the complexity of that level of connectivity, we can be grateful that the effort required to access it is on a downward curve.

Learn more about how the AX-SIP-SFEU is benefitting the IoT in this video here.

 

Tags:Portable and Wireless, IoT
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