IoT Tech Expo Highlights + Wirepas’ Distributed Intelligence Mesh Network

IoT Tech Expo Takeaways:

This was one of the most chaotic, disorganized, frustrating trade shows I’ve attended in many decades.  [Please contact me if you’re interested in why that was the case].  However, there were several interesting booths I visited on the show floor, a few enlightening panel sessions and one novel presentation proposing a completely different approach to IoT wireless connectivity (see Wirepas discussion below).

Caroline Wong’s talk on cyber security for IoT was very illuminating and pointed out the huge dangers of exposed IoT devices/things which might be hacked.

Here are a few quick takes from a couple of IoT panels:

  • Despite several standards available, strong cyber-security has not been embedded in IoT devices or gateways because it’s seen as too expensive by the hardware vendors.
  • Industrial IoT demands massive connectivity, but the ability to scale to manage thousands of devices is questionable.
  • A mutual understanding between IoT hardware vendors and cloud software providers is urgently needed.  Business models for each seem to be at odds.
  • Key questions:

-What will be the ROI for a company that deploys IoT for its business?

-What’s the IoT customer willing to pay for WAN connectivity, activation, services, management, etc.  Suggested that recurring fees should be avoided.  Sprint offers a pre-paid billing model without recurring fees for IoT connectivity.

  • Metering for home automation offers the possibility of disaggregation of electrical signals for improved data collection and integration.
  • In most IoT applications, sampled data should be analyzed and/or processed at the network edge rather than in a cloud resident data center.
  • In some IoT applications, the IoT controller only needs to be informed of a status change.
  • Sprint is offering a private LTE network where data and commands/status are routed off to an on site data center or to a remote host via Sprint’s wireless network.  It offers secure, wireless WAN connections.

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Massive IoT – Building shared success in IoT, by Youssef Kamel, GM Wirepas:

Youssef began by providing his company’s vision and requirements for IoT connectivity:

  • Everything that can be connected will be connected.
  • Need a fully decentralized operations to manage large scale infrastructure.
  • Long life: IoT devices are expected to last up to 15 or 20 years vs 2 to 3 years for an iPhone.
  • IoT devices generally require latency of a few msecs and micro amps of power.
  • Currently, there’s a huge fragmentation of the IoT market with tremendous diversity of use cases (see illustration below).  What’s common among them is requirement to manage on a large scale and density of devices.
  • The IoT connectivity network needs to have very low cost (ideally free), use a small amount of energy per device, self configure network nodes according to the use cases (NOTE that is generally not the case in any existing large scale network we know of).
  • Wirepas commissioned Northstream to do a whitepaper on IoT requirements for massive connectivity.  It’s titled: “Massive IoT- different technologies for different needs” and available for free download (see Reference and chart below).

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Evolution of IoT connectivity – from millions to billions:

  • Local area and small installations – Zigbee, Thread, BLE Mesh, Z-wave,etc.
  • Wide area and sparse installations with limited bandwidth – SigFox, LoRA, Ingenu, NB-IoT, LTE-M, etc.
  • Massive IoT: Any scale, any density, any location installations, Over the Air (OTA), open platform with a Wide Area Mesh Network.

Following that backgrounder, Mr. Kamel’s presentation focused on massive IoT based on a decentralized, wireless mesh network, where all the interconnected network nodes locally decide actions to take by themselves via Wirepas’ Connectivity software.   The local decision-making ensures that the devices always operate the similar way, independent of the network size or the devices’ locations within the network.  No central network management is needed in this approach.

The multi-hop topology is optimized continuously and adapts to changes in the environment and the network. For each node, there are multiple routing options (next hops), and multiple Gateways (back haul connections) that may be used in the same network.

Different operational parameters can be changed to provide trade-offs between bandwidth, latency, range and power consumption. The network can be chosen according to the requirements.   

The wireless connectivity protocol stack is described on Wirepas’ website as follows:

“Wirepas Connectivity is a de-centralized radio communications protocol for large-scale IoT applications. What we offer is the protocol software that can be used in any device, with any radio chip and on any radio band.”

Wirepas Connectivity (WPC) white paper may be downloaded here.  From that paper:

“Device-to-device range can be adjusted with the used Physical layer. The selection of different Physical layers is enabled by the Physical layer independent architecture and operation of WPC.  Different frequency bands and radio data rate vs. range options can be used depending on application needs. E.g. 2.4 GHz can be used for dense indoor installations and sub-GHz if longer device-to-device range is needed for inter-building communication.”

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In answer to this author’s question, Youssef said that BlueTooth Low Energy (BLE) was one of several wireless LAN technologies being used with the Wirepas Connectivity software which contains the network intelligence.

Author’s Note:

Wirepas provides the software protocol stack (starting at Data Link layer)  that runs on their partner company’s radio and baseband (Physical layer and MAC sub-layer) hardware.  Then OEMs deploy the smart devices (with embedded connectivity hardware from partner companies and Wirepas’ software) to complete the network infrastructure.  That approach is shown in this illustration, courtesy of Wirepas:

Real World Example – Smart Metering with a Wide Area Mesh:

This real world deployment was done by Hafslund Nett – an electric utility company in greater Oslo, Norway that serving approximately 1.5 million people in a 100 x 200 km area.  Highlights:

•> 700k electricity meters in a single Wide Area Mesh network.
• No infrastructure for connectivity – just the smart meters.
• Benefits of Wireless Area Mesh for utility: 100% network coverage,  SLA >99.9%, Future proof,  Free wireless connectivity.

A whitepaper on this deployment may be downloaded here.

Market Segments Wirepas is Pursuing:

  • Smart metering for electricity, gas and water
  • Asset tracking, e.g. within a post office
  • Lighting systems within a building
  • Street lights and smart cities

Wirepas claims 3 world records:

  • Largest scale – 700 000+ devices in a single mesh network
  • Highest density – 1000+ devices inside m3 without a single packet  collision
  • Smallest power IPv6 router – 25 μA stand by, continuously connected

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Next Up:  Wirepas is partnering with K.Hartwall to deploy connected roller cages (AKA load carriers). The initiative is called Visimore.

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About Wirepas:

Wirepas is focused on providing the most reliable, optimized, scalable and easy to use device connectivity for its customers. Wirepas Connectivity is a de-centralized radio communications protocol that can be used in any device, with any radio chip and on any radio band. With Wirepas Connectivity there is no need for traditional repeaters because every wireless device is a smart router of the network. The connected devices form the network – easy as that. Wirepas has its headquarters in Tampere, Finland and offices in Australia, France, Germany, South Korea, the UK, and the United States.
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Reference:

Downloadable white papers:  https://wirepas.com/download/

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