IIoT Project … Activate!

Friday 4/26/19 09:00am
Posted By Rajan Mistry
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The Shift from Reactive to Active

IoT, which takes advantage of advanced connectivity, sensors, and computing has allowed for a shift in industrial settings from the traditional reactive approach to a more active approach of machine management. Traditionally digitization was done using disparate systems that were typically designed to run continuously, causing challenging or costly maintenance, obsolete control systems, missing assets, delayed distribution, and poor customer support. The reactive approach was to manually monitor, maintain, or repair based on set maintenance schedules or when something breaks.

Today's active approach is allowing developers to find new opportunities for industrial IoT (IIoT) in creating systems that can be monitored and responded to in near real-time. Additionally, as edge devices become more intelligent and powerful, developers can tap into additional features and capabilities. These include sophisticated cloud services, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning designed to increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve safety, facilitate predictive maintenance, make better and more informed decisions more quickly, and create new business models and revenue streams.

Qualcomm Technologies has a diverse ecosystem of hardware and software suitable for IIoT developers that can help you make your projects more active instead of reactive. Our recent music festival demo provides a fun but informative example of how some of our hardware can be used for active management. Let's briefly review this demo and then discuss some of the tools you can use in making your IIoT projects more active.

IIoT Applications

The music festival demo shows just how active you can get by monitoring multiple aspects of a live event. Some of the notable features of the demo include:

  • Sensors measure how much product has sold, while AI uses this information to identify the optimal placement of products to potentially increase sales.
  • Sensors measure obscure attributes such as the sanitary situations around garbage cans to identify areas that need cleaning.
  • Motion sensors detect crowd movements to measure activity levels in different areas, and then use smart lights to attract attendees to different zones.
  • Smart electronic shelf labels for souvenir store merchandise can be dynamically adjusted to quickly optimize price points.

Consider how adding connectivity and edge computing capabilities are transforming the traditional reactive approach. With a reactive approach you would have to manually monitor products purchased, follow crowd movement to place product carts, decide if crowds appear to be having fun, and of course, assign somebody to go around and monitor the levels of garbage (because that's certainly not a job you want to do yourself!). Now with active monitoring, you can let edge devices do this work, and focus on the bigger picture of monitoring the event and figuring out how to optimize the experience for attendees.

Of course, a live event is just one example. Advanced connectivity and computing are transforming digital technology in many other areas ranging from commercial operations to the enterprise.

Getting Active

Qualcomm Technologies has a vast ecosystem, but when it comes to solving such IIoT use cases, the three pieces of hardware that developers might want to consider include the Qualcomm® QCA402x multi-mode SoC, Qualcomm® MDM9206 LTE IoT modem, and the Snapdragon® 4xx platform series.

For situations requiring local communications, Qualcomm® QCA402x multi-mode SoC provides edge computing along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 802.15.4 connectivity. In the music festival demo, Qualcomm® QCA4020 was situated near a Wi-Fi router and the Bluetooth lights it was to control. Developers can also take advantage of the numerous hard-wired connections available on Qualcomm® QCA4020 such as GPIO, UART, and I2S. Some additional examples where this could be useful include turning on a mesh network of Bluetooth devices distributed across a commercial space or updating smart price tags distributed across a retail store.

In cases where you can't rely on access to Wi-Fi, you might consider a device that offers cellular connectivity yet minimizes power consumption with LPWA technology. In the music festival demo, Qualcomm® MDM9206 LTE IoT modem was used on rolling product carts disbursed across a wide outdoor area. Qualcomm® MDM9206 is a good choice for low-power edge devices out in the field that need cloud-connectivity because it offers LTE Cat M1 (eMTC) and LTE Cat NB-1 (NB-IOT). In addition, LTE IoT Modems have integrated Application processors to host cloud connectivity and Application Software.

Developers can also take advantage of the Qualcomm® LTE for IoT SDK, which provides programmatic interfaces (IoT protocols, LWM@M, Device Management, location, Network selection and status, etc.), for communications over cellular networks and pre-certified adaptors for common cloud providers. Some additional examples where a cellular-based connectivity is useful is for utility meters to support automatic reporting, asset trackers, and remote oil wells or wind turbines that are difficult to reach and only need to report on occasion. Qualcomm® LTE for IoT SDK is compatible across Qualcomm® MDM9206, Qualcomm® MDM9607 and Qualcomm 9205 LTE IoT modems.

Finally, we get to the Snapdragon-based mobile platforms. These are powerful mobile platforms that can be used to power everything from cellular phones and VR headsets, to IoT devices and robots. In the music festival demo, the mission control system was built using the DragonBoard™ 410c Development Board (from Arrow Electronics), which features a Snapdragon 400-series processor. This processor is designed to support your mobile tasks such as running the Node.js server which monitors other IoT devices. With the DragonBoard 410c's support for a variety of operating systems, kits, and accessories, developers can build smart gateways that can coordinate and communicate with a variety of other edge devices.

Activate YOUR Next Project

Our recent music festival use case demonstrates that with various connectivity and computing technologies, just about anything–from products to garbage–are fair game for monitoring, control, and optimization. And with the active monitoring and control that today's connected devices and technologies provide us, we can now focus our efforts on more productive tasks ranging from quantitative aspects like increasing sales and improving operational efficiencies for better customer experiences.

Out of our wide range of hardware, the Qualcomm® QCA402x, Qualcomm® MDM9206 LTE IoT modem, and Snapdragon mobile platforms offer IIoT developers plenty of options. If you're interested in learning more, check out some of the other projects we've posted, and then start thinking about how you can bring the elements of active monitoring and control to your next IIoT project.