02 March 2023
Reading Time: 4 mins
02 March 2023
Reading Time: 4 mins
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing field that is revolutionising how we live, work, and interact with technology. IoT devices are becoming increasingly prevalent in our homes, businesses, and public spaces, offering new opportunities to connect, automate, and optimise a wide range of processes and systems.
However, before businesses rush to market with their IoT devices, they must carefully consider key design factors that will determine their IoT success. In this article, I explore the importance of connectivity design and firmware development for IoT devices and offer strategies for businesses to overcome common challenges in these areas.
IoT devices use a variety of connectivity technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular networks, Satellite, LoRaWAN and more, to communicate with other devices and networks. Connectivity enables IoT devices to collect and transmit data, receive commands, and perform actions based on that data. Without connectivity, there would be no Internet of Things.
However, connectivity is a complex and challenging aspect of IoT device design. Many devices are expected to be operational for many years in the field, so it’s important they are powered by flexible, reliable and resilient communications to keep up with the changing connectivity landscape.
“Success, or failure, is invariably traced back to the initial design. Not just in the physical design of electronics but in the methodologies and processes used to connect and deliver data consistently. Even in changeable network conditions.”
In my article “Why Organisations Must Not Overlook Connectivity Design Before Rushing IoT Devices to Market,” I stress the importance of getting connectivity design right from the start.
Connectivity issues are one of the most common causes of IoT device failure. A recent survey by Eseye and Kaleido Intelligence found that 84% of respondents considered hardware design to be their top challenge in deploying IoT for the first time.
Organisations should take a strategic approach to designing connectivity into their IoT devices from the outset. This way, they can factor in cellular connectivity standards and energy use from the get-go.
Cellular networks provide wide coverage and high-quality service making them attractive to enterprises looking to roll out global IoT deployments. However, cellular power requirements are often too high for low-power IoT devices.
The newest LTE standards, NB-IoT and LTE-M (also called LTE CAT M1), are primarily designed for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) use cases. If high latency and low bandwidth are acceptable, cellular connectivity using these networks is a viable option for IoT deployments.
If cellular connectivity is selected, the next task is to choose a modem that supports the required Radio Access Technology (RAT). Modems often support multiple RATs to provide fallback options, such as LTE-M and 2G. Designing how the network and modem work with the device and the connectivity management provider is critical. It’s important to understand how your chosen modem behaves so that you can design your application software and communications firmware to manage it efficiently.
Poor configuration management and design can have a serious impact on the way a device works and the amount of energy it requires. Understanding the device connectivity requirements and how these affect power consumption is crucial. Device design should optimise both efficient use of the battery and successful operation with the connectivity management provider.
The hardware, software, and firmware can all have an impact on power efficiency. We recommend working with experts and using tools to analyse power consumption in different subsystems in different conditions. This can help identify ways to optimise IoT battery management, prevent battery drain and extend lifetime.
IoT Firmware is the software that runs on IoT devices, and it is critical to their performance, functionality, and security.
Firmware enables IoT devices to perform specific functions, such as collecting data, analysing it, and transmitting it to other Things or to the cloud. Firmware also controls the behaviour of IoT devices, dictating how they respond to various inputs and conditions.
However, firmware development is a complex and specialised field that requires expertise in low-level programming, hardware design, and security.
As I mention in another recent article: “How Businesses Can Overcome IoT Device Firmware Skills Shortages“, many businesses struggle to find skilled professionals who can develop high-quality firmware and code connectivity for their IoT devices.
“Because of the complex nature of an IoT estate, the connectivity management code must be carefully designed and optimised to work seamlessly with the rest of the device’s components. This requires in-depth knowledge of the device’s architecture and the ability to optimise the code for performance, power consumption, and other factors.”
This inevitably boils down to pay.
It was recently reported that software engineers’ starting salaries in the UK are approximately 64% higher than the national average, with salaries starting at entry level from £25,000 and growing to over 100K as their careers progress.
This serious skills shortage is causing delays in product development and potentially the development of subpar IoT products.
To address this issue, businesses can take several steps to cultivate firmware development expertise. One option is to invest in training programmes for existing staff to help develop the necessary skills and knowledge. This is a worthwhile pursuit but requires investing significant time and resource.
Another option is to work with an experienced technical partner who specialises in IoT connectivity design and firmware development. Eseye can help businesses overcome the firmware engineering skills shortages by providing immediate access to connectivity expertise and code. This can save businesses hundreds of thousands in headcount and reduce IoT development time by 50% so that developers can focus on the applications and data that deliver business value.
Instead of hiring costly connectivity engineers, you can install adaptable connectivity intelligence and optimisation straight on to any device. It’s faster, smoother, and smarter – it’s AnyNet SMARTconnect™.Download Solution Paper
The success of an IoT device depends heavily on its connectivity design and firmware development. Businesses that overlook these critical design factors risk delays, recalls, and reputational damage. However, with the right approach and partner, businesses can create IoT devices that are secure, reliable, and built for the long term.
Jon is an IoT hardware expert with over thirty years of engineering experience. He is the driving force behind Eseye’s rapid prototyping approach, helping customers to reduce their time to market by 75% with a robust testing process.
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