Indoor Environmental Quality: An Interview with ioAirflow

Indoor Environmental Quality

BehrTech Blog

Indoor Environmental Quality: Motivation, Challenges & Requirements

An interview with Matt Schaubroeck, Cofounder & CEO, ioAirflow

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Over the last decade, architects and engineers have been working to educate owners and developers on the wellness impacts of sustainable building design approaches in creating healthier and more productive lives for their occupants. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that these wellness considerations are no longer a mere value-add to a building, but rather a necessary element in allowing larger groups to safely reoccupy a space. In this blog, we interview Matt Schaubroeck, Cofounder and CEO of ioAirFlow, to discuss the role of indoor environmental quality monitoring in the era of “healthy buildings” and the key considerations for implementing a successful solution.

Tell us about ioAirflow. What are your products and vision, who are your customers?

ioAirFlow wants to make commercial buildings healthier, for both people and the environment. To achieve this, we are creating a digital audit platform that provides faster, cheaper, and more accurate energy reports for commercial buildings.

Our solution will be used by companies that are already offering energy audits, or by building managers interested in running quick diagnostics on their building’s health and efficiency performance.

We are not a permanent automation installation – we are a digital audit platform. Other companies using this type of technology focus on permanent installations and/or active building control regimes, which are often cost-prohibitive and difficult to maintain for the majority of building owners.

Traditional energy audits are manual, time-consuming and expensive. By using the MYTHINGS platform, we can reliably and securely collect data by placing sensors anywhere in a building. In combination with our machine learning model, we will be able to provide more accurate diagnostics than any manual audit.

How do you see the role of IoT today in the smart building industry? What are the key drivers behind it?

IoT is revolutionizing the way we interact with built environments. This will be a key tool in improving building performance and helping us meet global climate change targets.

This technology application is a game-changer for understanding how buildings really operate. There is a general frustration with the archaic manual building audit process, which is too labour-intensive and cost-prohibitive to serve a large portion of the building market. By creating a digital audit solution, ioAirFlow is able to reduce the cost of testing enough that a building audit becomes financially viable for what we call ‘Class C’ buildings – older stock with no onsite energy management technology.

Finally, IoT changes the way we collect data. Conventional building monitoring software needs to be plugged or wired into mechanical systems, which limits their placement and how much building data can be collected. Think of it as the difference between an X-ray and a MRI – an MRI might find a problem an X-ray can’t find, because it’s looking at the problem with different tools and a different lens.

What is the relationship between indoor environmental quality and sustainability? How will property owners and managers benefit from implementing an IEQ monitoring solution?

Buildings (including materials and construction) account for 39% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United Nations, the built environment’s energy intensity will have to improve by 30% by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Improving the IEQ of buildings is a critical component to fighting climate change.

Most commercial buildings can increase their energy efficiency by up to 50% and save thousands of dollars monthly by investing in green building retrofits. But, most buildings owners are unaware of the problems that exist in their building. They can’t fix what they don’t know exists.

IEQ monitoring can identify many of these issues using big data analysis. Using MyThings sensors, ioAirFlow is able to test the effectiveness of a building’s HVAC system, envelope, controls systems, or a building’s overall comfort levels and efficiency. With this information, we’re more equipped to make actionable recommendations on how to solve those problems. That informed decision-making process helps building managers understand how they can increase their building’s health.

What constitutes “building health” and how does it impact the health and wellness of building occupants? How do you see this changing in the wake of Covid-19?

Building health can mean two separate things – how environmentally sustainable the building’s infrastructure is, and how healthy the environment is for the people living and working inside it. A healthier building is better for your bottom line, for the people in that building, and for the environment.

The IEQ of a building is directly related to the health, productivity and satisfaction of its occupants. Buildings with poor indoor environmental quality cost the global economy billions of dollars every year, due to illness and productivity loss. In addition, those buildings are consuming more energy, releasing more GHG emissions into the atmosphere.

COVID-19 has put an unprecedented spotlight on building health. As people adjust to the reality of the pandemic, IEQ and building health are becoming priorities for building owners and managers. That includes finding ways to make our indoor environments healthier including ensuring adequate ventilation, airflow, and mechanical systems.

What are the challenges or hesitations CRE companies have when implementing an IEQ solution?

The main barriers to implementing IEQ solutions are knowledge and cost.

Unless you have on-site expertise or management software, you likely don’t know all the ways your building is losing efficiency. Buildings are complex and deteriorate over time, experiencing a large number of efficiency problems – no building is immune from this efficiency degradation. If you don’t know what to look for, you won’t know how to start implementing solutions. Even permanent building management software won’t be able to pinpoint every problem that exists in a building.

The financial barrier mostly has to do with sticker shock on the up-front costs of some IEQ solutions. Many buildings operate in a way to maximize revenue above all else – so if it’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed or improved. In those circumstances, paying for an efficiency retrofit can be a tough sell. That’s a mindset we have to change.

Healthy building is good for your bottom line. If you consume less energy, you’re paying reduced utility bills. There is a strong business case that your return on investment will improve with every IEQ solution you implement – what we need to create are solutions that are less capital-intensive.

That financial barrier is why ioAirFlow hasn’t developed a solution to be permanently installed onsite. You don’t necessarily need data being collected 24/7 to identify your IEQ gaps – our platform can figure it out in a matter of weeks. Because you don’t need to buy our sensors to have a test done, the cost of that test suddenly becomes much more affordable.

What does an IEQ monitoring architecture look like? What are the wireless connectivity requirements in this context?

The most common indoor environmental quality monitoring architecture in today’s market is building management or automation software. Those include smart thermostats, automated zone monitoring and control, and some other fascinating technologies. The problem with this architecture is its installation cost – nearly all building management architecture requires a constant power source. That might mean rewiring your entire building. That can be a non-starter from a financial perspective.

Wireless solutions do exist, but face serious problems in a commercial setting. Systems that use Wi-Fi or BLE solutions will either require a mesh network, or integration with the building’s existing IT infrastructure. These can both pose a security risk – as evidenced by the hacked HVAC system at Target in 2014.

These solutions are sometimes just not realistic for many buildings – particularly for Class C buildings who are often more limited on available cashflow. That’s where a scalable and affordable IoT platform like MYTHINGS can provide a solution. With reliable long-range signal strength, we’re able to easily place sensors in any built environment to collect the data we need to run our analysis.

What predictions do you have for the smart building market in the next 3-5 years?

Demand for smart and green building solutions is growing quickly. Cleantech is one of the fastest-growing tech industries today, with an expected market cap of $2.5 trillion USD by 2022. Alongside this, the global market for energy retrofit expenditures in commercial buildings is expected to reach $384.5 billion in 2020.

Smart buildings play a key role in helping buildings go greener. A smart building collects more data, allowing for more informed decision-making on how to reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint in that space. COVID-19 will likely spur development in this space as we try to make our buildings safer and healthier.

The 2020 trend of working from home has had a crippling impact on global commercial real estate, and the industry has to look for novel solutions to attract back tenants. The best thing a building operator could do is to prove that their building is safe and healthy. A smart building is the best tool for identifying what steps need to be taken to achieve a building’s IEQ potential.

Indoor Environmental Quality - Matt Schaubroeck

Matt Schaubroeck

Co-founder and CEO, ioAirFlow

Matt Schaubroeck is co-founder and CEO of ioAirFlow, a Winnipeg-based environmental proptech startup. He has been working in the smart building sector since 2016, as part of a MBA research project that grew into the company he now leads. Matt has also served as the Director of Programming for the North Forge technology incubator in Winnipeg, with a focus on commercialization strategies for early-stage tech companies.

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What is LPWAN | A Deep Dive into Low-Power Wide Area Networks

LPWAN

BehrTech Blog

What is LPWAN?

A Deep Dive into Low-Power Wide Area Networks

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As global IoT connections exponentially grow to 22 billion in 2025, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are expected to be a prominent facilitator. The central value of IoT is the unprecedented visibility into physical assets, processes and people to enable informed decision making. Often times, this visibility comes from granular, battery-powered IoT sensors distributed over large, structurally dense campuses like factories, mine sites, oil fields and commercial buildings.

Legacy wireless technologies can’t keep up with the range, power and cost requirements in IoT sensor networks. Traditional cellular connectivity (e.g. 3G, LTE…) and wireless local area networks (i.e. Wi-Fi) are too expensive and power hungry for transmitting small amounts of data from a large number of sensor devices. Other solutions like Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave have highly constrained physical range; and even though many of them employ a mesh topology to extend their coverage, the multi-hop relaying nature is power-consuming while entailing complex network planning and management. As such, mesh networks are suitable for medium-range applications at best.

A LPWAN is unique in that it overcomes these pitfalls to deliver an efficient, affordable and easy-to-deploy solution for massive-scale IoT networks. They are ideal for low-bandwidth applications with small payloads, such as air quality monitoring, occupancy detection, asset tracking and environmental monitoring.

LPWAN Network Architecture and Key Characteristics

An LPWAN employs a star topology in which a base station collects data from numerous remote, distributed end nodes. With the exception of cellular LPWAN (i.e. NB-IoT), the connection between end nodes and the base station is non-TCP/IP to avoid hefty packet headers. After receiving and demodulating messages, the base station then relays them to the backend server through a standard TCP/IP backhaul link (e.g. Ethernet, cellular, etc.). For public LPWAN services, data must be routed through the network operators’ server before reaching the end user’s applications, while in privately managed LPWANs, data can be directly transferred to the user’s preferred backend for complete data privacy and control.

The appeal of LPWAN is derived from its two signature features that used to come as a trade-off in traditional technologies: long range and low power consumption. While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can only communicate over tens or a hundred meters at best, an LPWAN is able to transmit signals up to 15 km in rural areas and up to 5 km in urban, structurally dense areas. This wireless family also provides deep penetration capability to connect devices at hard-to-reach indoor and underground locations. On top of that, it comes with a simple, small-footprint transceiver design to minimize cost and power consumption on the end node side. The idea is to leave all the heavy-lifting to the base station and keep the data frame as short as possible.

LPWAN Power Efficiency and Range

Long Range

Range is often measured in terms of receiver sensitivity – the lowest signal power for a message to be detected and demodulated. In LPWANs, receiver sensitivity can reach -130 dBm, as compared to a moderate -70 dBm sensitivity in Bluetooth. This high receiver sensitivity is typically achieved by reducing the signal bandwidth and thus experienced noise levels (i.e. (Ultra-)Narrow Band) or adding processing gain (i.e. Spread Spectrum); both come at the cost of lower data rates.

Besides these special modulation techniques, the use of sub-GHz frequency bands in most LPWAN solutions, instead of the popular 2.4 GHz band, further improves range and penetration capability. As the wavelength is inversely proportional to free space path loss, the long radio waves in sub-GHz systems can travel over kilometers in open areas. Compared to 2.4 GHz signals, they can also better penetrate through walls, trees and other structures along the propagation path, while bending farther around solid obstacles.

Low Power

LPWAN systems adopt multiple approaches to optimize power efficiency, securing many years of battery life on end nodes. First, outside the transmission time, the transceivers are put into deep “sleep” mode whereby very minimal power is consumed. In bi-directional communications, a listening schedule is defined so that the device is “awake” only at predefined times or shortly after an uplink is sent to receive the downlink message.

Second, though not all, many LPWAN technologies employ a lightweight asynchronous protocol at the Medium Access Control layer to minimize data overhead. Pure ALOHA – a very simple random access protocol – is a common choice. In pure ALOHA, a node accesses the channel and transmits a message whenever data is available. There is no time-slotted coordination or carrier sensing, and even acknowledgment of received messages is often bypassed to further reduce the power footprint.

Finally, the one-hop star topology introduces great power benefits. While certain mesh solutions (e.g. Zigbee, WirelessHART) have been previously implemented for battery-operated, industrial sensor networks, they consume more power than an LPWAN solution by orders of magnitude. This is because, in a multi-hop mesh topology, a device must spend extra energy on listening for and relaying messages from other devices. On the other hand, a star network allows devices to “turn off” and stay most of the time in sleep mode.

LPWAN - Mesh vs Star Topology

All that said, power efficiency can drastically vary among LPWAN technologies. This is because transmission time or on-air radio time of each message is very different across systems, and transmission is technically the most energy-consuming activity. Short on-air time means that the transceiver can turn off faster to further reduce power consumption.

The Current LPWAN Landscape

The LPWAN landscape can be confusing at first sight, given the plethora of available solutions on the market. Nevertheless, if we take a look at the underlying technology, LPWAN solutions can be broadly grouped into four major types: cellular LPWAN, Ultra-Narrowband (UNB), Spread Spectrum, and Telegram Splitting. Among these four, cellular LPWAN is the only category that operates in the licensed spectrum, while the latter three mostly leverage the license-free Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency bands.

While introducing low cost and quick deployment benefits, the use of the license-free spectrum raises considerable Quality-of-Service (QoS) and scalability challenges. In most solutions, there exists a persistent trade-off between QoS and power efficiency. As mentioned earlier, the lightweight asynchronous protocol at the MAC layer is widely used in LPWAN for its power advantage. Nevertheless, when multiple radio systems co-exist and share the same spectrum resource, uncoordinated transmissions in asynchronous networks significantly increase the risks of packet collisions and data loss.

Mitigation mechanisms like Listen-before-Talk, handshaking and acknowledgment to ensure QoS inevitably come with heavy overheads or frequent signaling, which means more power consumption. As wireless IoT deployments and radio traffic exponentially grow, warranting network reliability and scalability while optimizing battery life will be a major undertaking in many LPWAN technologies.

Standardization is another important consideration, given its critical role in enabling a robust and vibrant IoT ecosystem. A standardized technology provides a rigorous and transparent technical framework to fuel both vertical and horizontal interoperability. So far, there have been only two camps of LPWAN technologies that succeeded in standardization efforts and are endorsed by formal standard organizations. One is cellular LPWAN that implements 3GPP standards, and the other is the Telegram Splitting technology based on the newly released ETSI standard on Low Throughput Networks – TS 103 357.

Some industrial alliances have also been established around certain proprietary LPWAN technologies to promote standard development. However, these efforts do not ratify the viability of the technology and might not cover the whole network stack. It’s common that only the MAC layer is made open, while the physical layer remains entirely proprietary, like in the case of the LoRa Alliance. Having part of technical specifications publicly available on a royalty-basis doesn’t necessarily make the technology a truly open standard. Also, these industrial activities do not incorporate a stringent technology evaluation and quality testing process, as in an SDOs’ formal procedure.

A Technical Review of Four Major LPWAN Technology Groups

After a quick glimpse into the existing LPWAN landscape, we’ll now dive into each type of LPWAN technologies and review their major technical features.

1. Cellular LPWAN (Licensed Spectrum)

LTE-M and NB-IoT are the two major variants of cellular LPWAN. Both employ a narrowband approach, wherein the received signal bandwidth and data rates are reduced to improve range and building penetration ability. Compared to LTE, their transmission power and technical design complexity are also drastically reduced to achieve low-cost, low-power qualities. NB-IoT, however, uses a much smaller system bandwidth (200 kHz) than LTE-M (1.4 MHz) and is thus a better choice for underground and indoor applications.

Thanks to their operations in the licensed spectrum, cellular LPWAN solutions introduce great Quality-of-Service advantages, as there is no co-channel interference from external systems. They additionally employ time and frequency synchronization alongside handshaking for very high transmission reliability and network scalability. That being said, these mechanisms come at the cost of power efficiency due to the required data overhead [1]. Besides consuming extra energy, handshaking makes the battery life of a node unpredictable, since it’s difficult to decide how many times the process needs to be repeated for each transmission.

Compared to the unlicensed counterparts, cellular LPWAN provides relatively higher peak data rates (i.e. > 1 Mbit/s for LTE-M and 250 kbit/s for NB-IoT), which further increases power budget requirements. Available as managed connectivity services from telecom providers, their coverage at remote locations might not be guaranteed, and network longevity is at stake due to the unforeseeable technology sunsetting. If your IoT end nodes are mobile, NB-IoT won’t be in your best interest as it’s mostly designed for stationary devices.

Given their pros and cons, cellular LPWAN options are best suited for higher data rate IoT use cases and in smart city scenarios where telecom infrastructure is mature. On the other hand, they aren’t optimal for applications where ultra-low power is at a high priority. The same goes for industrial deployments which often take place at remote locations and require the supported communications network to sustain over several decades.

2. Ultra-Narrowband – UNB (License-free Spectrum)

To minimize the subjected noise level and optimize receiver sensitivity, Ultra-Narrowband solutions contract the signal bandwidth to as small as 100 Hz. Besides extensive range and excellent penetration, UNB approach allows for high spectral efficiency as each signal occupies very minimal channel bandwidth. High spectral efficiency means that more messages can fit into an assigned frequency band without overlapping with each other, thereby improving overall system capacity and scalability. Sigfox and Telensa are representatives of UNB-based LPWAN technologies.

Ultra-narrow band signals, however, introduce very low data rates which translate into long on-air radio time. For example, systems like Sigfox feature a 100 Hz signal bandwidth and a data rate of 100 bps (EU mode), which means a 12-byte transmission could last for as long as 2 seconds. This presents several challenges. First, long on-air time inevitably comes with more power usage as the transceiver needs to be active for a longer period of time. Second, under EU duty cycle regulations (i.e. 1%) imposed by ETSI, a device operating in the 868 MHz band can “speak” for only 36 seconds per hour. As such, the longer each transmission takes place, the fewer total messages are allowed to be sent. In the USA, FCC regulations limit the frequency occupation time of each message to 0.4 seconds, requiring a different network design with a higher data rate and shorter overall network range.

Another issue with long on-air time is impaired Quality-of-Service. Coupled with asynchronous communications, longer time in the air interface exposes a message to a higher chance of data collision, especially in a crowded license-free spectrum with heavy radio traffic from multiple co-existing systems. Certain solutions apply redundancy in which the same data is sent several times in an attempt to improve message reception. However, this measure proves to be counter-productive, as it increases total on-air time and energy usage per unique payload, while further limiting effective data amounts that can be sent per hour.

Another drawback of UNB networks is its sensitivity to multipath fading caused by Doppler effects in mobile end devices or those situated close to fast-moving objects (e.g. near a highway). To avoid packet errors due to Doppler shifts, UNB nodes should be stationary or moving only at minimal speeds.

3. Spread Spectrum (License-free Spectrum)

As a common LPWAN modulation technique, Spread Spectrum overcomes the very slow data rate and Doppler fading issues experienced by UNB solutions to a certain extent. In Spread Spectrum, a narrowband signal continuously changes frequency, resulting in a frequency ramp that occupies a much wider channel bandwidth. More bandwidth use essentially comes with a higher experienced noise level. As such, processing gain is added to improve the Signal-to-Noise ratio and overall system range. Spreading Factors (SF) signify the level of processing gain with higher SF enabling longer range at a lower data rate.

Compared to UNB signals, Spread Spectrum signals are more robust against interception and eavesdropping attempts. Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) implemented in LoRa technology is a representative variant of this modulation scheme. A recent study shows that CSS systems can effectively support mobile nodes at a speed of up to 40 km/h.

On the other hand, the major limitation of Spread Spectrum solutions is their inefficient use of the spectrum resource, since more bandwidth is required to transmit only a small data amount. This induces bad co-existing behavior and serious scalability problems. In the limited sub-GHz radio spectrum, high wideband data traffic combined with uncoordinated transmissions in pure ALOHA can cause message overlays and eventually packet errors. This challenge further intensifies in long-range applications using a high spreading factor, due to the low data rate and thus, longer on air-time of messages.

The uses of different spreading factor and bandwidth combinations (i.e. orthogonality) and a higher number of base stations are common approaches to partly remedy this issue. However, tuning each base station to different frequency entails complex network management and requires radio system expertise.

4. Telegram Splitting (License-free)

Telegram Splitting is the latest and so far, the only standardized LPWAN technology in the licensed-free spectrum. Introducing a new radio transmission approach for UNB signals, the technology aims to surpass the trade-off between Quality-of-Service and power efficiency commonly faced in previous LPWAN solutions. MYTHINGS by BehrTech is the only solution that implements Telegram Splitting and fully complies with the ETSI TS 103 357 standard.

Telegram Splitting systems feature a data rate of 512 bit/s. At the physical layer, the technology divides a UNB telegram into multiple equal-sized sub-packets, each of which is randomly sent at a different time and carrier frequency. As each sub-packet has a much smaller size than the original telegram, its on-air time is drastically reduced to only 16 milliseconds. The accumulated on-air time of a 10-byte as an example is only 390 milliseconds. Short on-air time combined with the virtually random distribution of sub-packets over time and frequency significantly mitigate their risk of being hit by interferers. On top of that, even if up to 50% of sub-packets are affected, Forward Error Correction ensures that the full message can be retrieved at the base station.

As such, although asynchronous communication is used for ultra-low power benefits, Telegram Splitting delivers very high interference immunity and system capacity. Specifically, a single base station is able to handle more than one million messages a day as specified in the ETSI TS 103 357 standard. Also, in an Industrial IoT-equivalent scenario, Telegram Splitting has been proved to drastically outperform Chirp Spread Spectrum in LoRa in terms of message deliverability and network reliability.

In addition to Quality-of-Service, the characteristics of Telegram Splitting, at the same time, offer great power benefits. After the transmission of each sub-packet, there is a significantly longer transmission-free period in which the node goes into “sleep mode”. Short on-air time and longer off-air time minimize power consumption while giving the battery time to recover, which in turn significantly extends battery life.

Short time in the air interface of sub-packets combined with coherent demodulation additionally diminish Doppler fading effects. And, even if some sub-packets suffer from deep fades, FEC ensures that message detection and retrieval is minimally affected. With this, Telegram Splitting systems can connect end nodes moving at up 120 km/h [5] – a feature not available in previous LPWAN technologies.

Conclusion

Providing a unique combination of long-range, low-power and low-cost advantages, LPWANs are poised to become the backbone of battery-operated IoT sensor networks across verticals. Nevertheless, not all LPWAN technologies are created equal, and there exists a persistent trade-off between Quality-of-Service and battery life among most solutions. At the same time, the lack of standardization and limited mobility support are other challenges not to be overlooked. Recognized for its versatile technical design, Telegram Splitting represents a new LPWAN generation to surpass these limitations and provide a robust, scalable and power-efficient architecture for massive-scale IoT deployments in the industrial and commercial marketplaces.

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IoT Data Lakes: Driving Operational Efficiency in Smart Buildings – An Interview with PremiseHQ

IoT Data Lakes

BehrTech Blog

IoT Data Lakes: Driving Operational Efficiency in Smart Buildings

An interview with Rafi Dowla, Cofounder & CTO of PremiseHQ

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1. Tell us about PremiseHQ. What is your focus and vision in the smart building space?

PremiseHQ was founded to help with bite sized digital transformation by breaking down the silos introduced by fragmented technology and vendor ecosystems that exist today. A single IoT data lake strategy provides real-estate stakeholders with critical information from a variety of sources, anytime, anywhere. Operations, Leasing and Asset Management functions all need to make informed decisions. Currently, much of this information is coming from siloed and proprietary vendors, sensors and internal systems. PremiseHQ provides a single pane of glass showing integrated and consolidated information. Our focus and vision in the smart building space is to provide the platform that forms the connective tissue between the various data sources and the users who consume this information.

2. How do you define a IoT data lake and its role in a smart building architecture?

The connected and consolidated IoT data lake plays a pivotal key role in smart building architecture.  For a smart building to truly function efficiently and effectively, data cannot be all  centrally aggregated. It needs to be normalized, standardized and connected in a distributed nature so that it can be used in multiple applications.  A variety of delivery methods can be used to pull, push and connect data into the IoT data lake.

3. Do you have any use cases on how data lakes improve workflow efficiency and decision-making in commercial buildings?

Water leak detection is a great use case to demonstrate the workflow efficiency created from IoT data lakes.  Since the Roman times of indoor plumbing, water leaks have created headaches and large insurance claims for building managers. With a connected IoT data lake, the damage and impact from a water leak can be mitigated early on. When a leak detection sensor is triggered from a water flow, this information can be immediately relayed to on-duty building operations staff. Workflow logic can be built in so that if another adjacent sensor is triggered, water flow is automatically turned off with the sensor’s actuator.  A delay could also be built into the workflow to allow the operator to see if there’s a reason why a sensor has been triggered. If the flow is large enough, the data lake would have information about the restoration, cleaning and plumbing companies assigned to that building and automatically create a work order and dispatch crews to respond.  If the location had a hazardous materials inspection done, the information would be retrieved from the data lake and included on the work order so that the appropriate technicians would be made aware of hazardous material in the area.  Additional workflows would simultaneously create notifications to the impacted tenants on the floor of the leak as well as ones below. Other alerts can also be created for building staff and management and even the insurance carrier in case a claim is initiated for water damage.  In this case, a data lake and its associated workflows have multiple automated steps that occur in real-time so operations staff can respond quickly and prevent or minimize any damage or corresponding issues.

4. How can the PremiseHQ platform be integrated with cross-vendor data sources, including IoT sensor data?

This is where the PremiseHQ platform excels. Many IoT sensor companies will provide a portal for viewing data and consumption.  If you only have one set of sensor data this could work, but when you have data coming from occupancy, IEQ, lighting, washroom consumables etc., then the building owners and operators are forced to view multiple locations and have to manipulate the data to make operational decisions. The PremiseHQ platform can collect data from various IoT sensors through API, MQTT, Socket or other transfer methods. The platform can then deliver this data in a user-friendly format that is relevant to their job function. They can overlay multiple sensor data in one view and take required action to improve building performance or occupant comfort and safety. Cross connection and pollination of data makes a plethora of use cases possible that is unimaginable with data from a single sensor.

5. What do you think are the major pitfalls to avoid in a smart building implementation?

Many smart building implementations go off the rails because of scope creep or trying to accomplish too much at once. The best smart building projects look at a handful of key objectives that will have rapid measurable results.  By selecting key use cases that solve high value building challenges, you can obtain early ROI success and the overall project will build momentum from all the various participants and fuel future successes. 

6. What are key considerations for owners to ensure the long-term success of their smart building project?

Owners should ensure that they select partners that have a proven track record of working well with others.  As each smart building is unique, so will be the solution and mix of vendors, sensors companies and software partners.  We cannot anticipate what future solutions may look like, so having a flexible and agile platform will allow for future growth and new integrations.

IoT Data Lakes - Interview with Rafi Dowla

Rafi Dowla

Cofounder & CTO, PremiseHQ

Rafi is a serial entrepreneur with 15 years of international experience in innovation, technology and cloud strategy. Consulted and provided strategic solutions to fortune 500 companies both in the United States and Canada. With that knowledge and experience created an Agile and Cloud first bigdata and cloud platform that enables businesses to get off the ground faster and be nimble enough to adopt changes incredibly fast. Actively contributed to Open Source community, member of Angel Investor groups in Toronto. Specialty: Real estate solution, Cross-platform Solution Architecture, System Analysis, Business Analysis, Project management, IoT, Smart and Digital Building Platforms, Data Lake and Deep Learning / Machine Learning / AI. 

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IoT Scalability Issues: 5 Essential Considerations

IoT Scalability Issues: 5 Essential Considerations

BehrTech Blog

IoT Scalability Issues: 5 Essential Considerations

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There’s a lot that goes into getting an IoT project off the ground, but it doesn’t always result in success. Indeed, the new IoT Signals report by Microsoft found out that nearly one-third of projects fail in the proof-of-concept (PoC) stage. Various technical and organizational factors weigh in, but the leading cause pertains to the inability to justify the cost of scaling IoT.  

It goes without saying that there’s a huge difference in deploying and managing a few devices versus thousands or even tens of thousands of devices. A PoC certainly helps bring all the moving pieces together to get the first big picture of the overall solution. Still, many technical requirements for overcoming IoT scalability issues in the future might not be considered even when the PoC turns out to be a successThe transition from PoC to full-scale roll-out can only come off, if scalability is planned from day one. 

Technical complexity is one of the greatest IoT scalability issuesAs such, choosing the right technology with the right architecture is paramount to safeguard the long-term viability of your connected system. In this blog, we discuss five essential considerations you should look into when planning for large-scale IoT implementation.  

[bctt tweet=”Choosing the right technology with the right architecture is paramount to safeguard the long-term viability of your connected system.”]

1. Large Wireless System Capacity  

With the breakneck speed of innovation that’s happening in the IoT space, you want to make sure your wireless system can nimbly accommodate a fast-growing number of endpoints that arrive down the line. Such network expansion must not come at the cost of message delivery and Quality-of-Service, especially when it comes to mission-critical commercial and industrial use casesThe underlying wireless technology largely dictates this.  

The massive deluge of data traffic imposes great bandwidth challenges, as devices within and across systems vie for their place in the radio spectrum. Dependable indicators like thnumber of daily messages that can be handled per gateway can help you evaluate the scalability of a wireless solution. Concurrently, with sub-GHz radio technology, you can segregate IoT networks from other 2.4 GHz legacy systems to mitigate jitter and congestion issues. Above all, a solution purpose-built for interference immunity is key to overcoming IoT scalability issues pertaining to reliable network operation in a crowded spectrum.

2. Simplified Network Planning and Setup 

Piggybacking back on the previous point, many wireless technologiemight promise to support thousands of devices per gateway. Still, reality could look very differentAs soon as a large number of endpoints need to be integrated, the complexity in network planning and configuration can quickly inflate to the point of being unmanageable. This challenge often comes with multi-hop mesh solutions 

Given the short radio range of many mesh protocols, you need to ensure devices are well distributed and repeaters are employed as required for the transmission link to work. Adding moving nodes can further make network performance unpredictable. And troubleshooting is especially challenging due to the complex traffic flows. If you want your IoT at scale with minimum complications, a star topology network is most likely in your best interest. 

3. Interoperable Architecture  

Each IoT system is a mashup of heterogeneous components and technologies. This diversity makes interoperability a prerequisite for IoT scalability, to avoid being saddled with an obsolete system that fails to keep pace with new innovation later onBy designing interoperable architecture from the get-go, you can counter fragmentation and reduce the integration costs of your IoT project in the long run. 

Today, technology standards exist to foster horizontal interoperability by fueling global cross-vendor support through robust, transparent and consistent technology specifications. For example, a standard-based wireless protocol allows you to benefit from a growing portfolio of off-the-shelf hardware across industry domains. When it comes to vertical interoperability, versatile APIs and open messaging protocols act as the glue to connect the edge network with a multitude of value-deriving backend applications. Leveraging these open interfaces, you can also scale your IoT deployment across locations and seamlessly aggregate data across premises.  

4. Remote Network and Device Management  

As the network quickly growsa manual approach to deploying, managing and maintaining devices simply won’t cut it. Not to mention, many devices are deployed at remote, far-flung or attended locations where technicians or employees often don’t set foot in. For successful IoT scalability, network and device management can’t be seen as an afterthought; it’s must be planned from the outset. 

There are various aspects that play into the optimal health, security and connectivity of individual devices and the overall network. How can large batches of devices be provisioned efficiently and securely? Is authentication natively built into the provisioning process? Can I easily configure and update field devices from afar? How can I troubleshoot network and device issues? What does the end of life management process look like? These are just a few out of numerous questions to be answered 

In addition to a comprehensive strategy and careful planning, you’ll need a powerful network and device management tool to better streamline and automate the management process 

5. Flexible and Scalable Software Infrastructure 

The cloud is probably on the radar of almost every company that looks to collect and process massive IoT data streams. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should transfer all processing work to the cloud. In many scenarios, a combination of cloud and edge/on-prem deployment is called into action to strike the right balance between scale, cost, latency and data privacy. With that in mind, you want to make sure your connected system can support such hybrid workflows and enable seamless migration from the edge to the cloud.  

Whether you want to build you own IoT software and applications, outsource these from third-party vendors, or opt for a combination of bothmicroservices and container-based design is the way to go. In the DevOps world, containerized applications have been a great success story due to their modular, resource-efficient and platform-agnostic nature. This makes them as well a perfect fit for a hybrid IoT architecture where individual service containers can be deployed independently in any compute environment – be it an edge gateway, an on-prem server or a cloud platform. Plus, leveraging modern container orchestration tools like Kubernetes, you can easily deploy, manage and scale the software to adapt to changing needs. 

Scaling an IoT deployment can be a challenging and intimidating endeavour, but don’t let this put you off harnessing the enormous opportunities IoT has to offer. While the five criteria discussed above by no means represent an exhaustive list, they can serve as a useful baseline to help you avoid the common IoT scalability issues and start architecting an infrastructure that can grow with your IoT requirements. 

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Drive Precision Agriculture with IoT Soil Monitoring (Interview with Agvolution)

Precision agriculture - IoT Soil Monitoring

BehrTech Blog

How IoT Soil Monitoring Is Driving Precision Agriculture

An Interview with Dr. Munir Hoffmann & Andreas Heckmann from AGVOLUTION GmbH

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Faced with tough challenges of exploding world population, dwindling arable lands and natural resources, alongside growing extreme climate events, the agriculture sector is under undue pressure. In a quest to improve yields while minimizing resource usage, global farmers are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) and precision agriculture practices. This week, Dr. Munir Hoffman and Andreas Heckmann from AGVOLUTION give the inside scoop on how intelligent solutions like real-time IoT soil monitoring are driving farming efficiency to help combat industry-wide challenges.

[bctt tweet=”In a quest to improve yields and minimize resource usage, global farmers are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) and precision farming practices.”]

1. Tell us about AGVOLUTION. What are your products and vision, who are your customers?

The objective of AGVOLUTION is the global development, manufacturing and sale of our two core products: first, an energy self-sufficient IoT wireless sensor network named CLIMAVI, which measures soil water and temperature at various depths together with temperature, precipitation and relative humidity aboveground (wind speed is optional); and second, FARMALYZER, a digitized and process-based farm management intelligence solution based on our CLIMAVI data as well as satellite, ground and machine data. FARMALYZER offers customer-specific decision support for long-term agricultural sustainability and higher profitability under increasing climate risk.

Through these products, AGVOLUTION turns Climate-Smart-Agriculture (CSA) vision into real-world farming practices. Our customers are growers of various types (arable, tree nurseries, plantations, horticulture), as well as agricultural advisories and other players in the farming supply chain like seed producers and fertilizer companies. We provide a transparent presentation of the economic cost of each crop management activity, accounting for resource consumption like CO2, to enable input savings of up to 40% on resources like nitrogen, biocides, growth regulator, fuel and water, based on site-specific economic and ecological optimization (per 10 m2).

2. What challenges are facing the agricultural sector today?

Providing sufficient food, plant-based products and fuel for the growing world population is a key challenge in the farming sector, particularly under climate change. For instance, although Germany is known for its stable climate, in 2018 up to 100% yield losses were observed for specific fields. This demonstrates that agriculture has already been severely affected by increasing climate extremes.

Simultaneously, with its “Farm to Fork” strategy, the European Union set the ambitious target to cut CO2 equivalents emissions to half by 2030 – compared to the 1990 level. Likewise, we will face a shrinking resource base in terms of phosphorous and fossil fuels. The Climate-Smart-Agriculture (CSA) approach that adapts farming practices to rising climate extremes while mitigating negative agricultural impacts on the climate, is proposed as the pivotal strategy.


Also Recommended for You: Smart Farming – 5 Ways IoT Helps Us Tackle Global Food Challenges


3. How do you see the role of IoT and precision agriculture in combatting these challenges?

The worldwide AgTech market growing dynamically at 12.8% CAGR and expected to reach around $ 5.5 billion by 2021 (Roland Berger, 2019), might play a key role. Farm activities could produce around 100,000 data points per hectare by merging data sources and using new technologies such as IoT. However, this data needs to be translated into actionable knowledge for farmers to enable stable and respectively higher yields with fewer resources like fertilizer, water and energy per ha. Ultimately, this results in higher profitability and long-term sustainability amidst the growing pressure from climate change.

4. Why is continuous soil monitoring important? In what ways can farmers improve farming efficiency and crop yield with soil data?

The plant growth is largely constrained by water and nutrients, both of which are largely determined by soil processes. Understanding the supply of these resources is critical to managing soil-plant systems, thus optimizing plant growth and minimizing resource waste. Our sensors monitor soil moisture at different depths, which allows for the assessment of total soil water supply. Combing this information with data on soil temperature and other soil properties, we can then model nutrient supply.

In addition, our sensors measure aboveground micro-climate which together with satellite data, is then fed into our in-house AI hybrid model to quantify resource demand. The difference between supply and demand evaluated in economic terms provides the basis for in-season management recommendations.
It’s worth noting that under climate extremes, plants make use of subsoil resources which can only be assessed by soil sensors.

5. Why is there a need for wireless IoT sensors to gather microclimate and soil data?

The weather and especially the microclimate of each field site have a huge impact on the yield and crop production efficiency. Just think about abiotic risks like drought and nutrient availability or biotic risks like plant diseases. All these risks are linked to the microclimatic conditions in the soil and the plant canopy. These conditions are changing rapidly throughout the season and on each field site. Specifically, in horticultural and orchards you want to achieve the optimal quality for consumers and need to know the critical parameters as soon as possible.

If you want to establish those prediction systems and resource-saving decision support, you need an autonomous monitoring system that helps you to identify potential risks and their impact on the yield and quality at each field site. These risks can only be identified by soil sensors, as they are able to provide essential information on determining resource availability for plant growth such as water. Hence, IoT solutions like our CLIMAVI microclimate sensors are paramount for a climate-smart farming system.

6. What are the wireless connectivity requirements in this context?

Wireless sensor networks in rural agriculture need to be energy self-sufficient and require little maintenance. In addition, cellular connectivity is often absent on arable land. As such, Low Power Wide Areas Networks (LPWAN) and specifically MIOTY-based solutions are a perfect option for this use case. They can send data from the sensor node to a gateway placed on the farm over more than 5 km distance and operate for several years without battery exchange.

To reach the best performance, you need to plan your networks prior to hardware installation. We offer our customers full service for network planning including the best position for gateways and field-sensors taking into account agricultural parameters like the geospatial yield potential. LPWAN-based solutions and hardware need to be adapted to your specific use case, so you should always look at the service offerings of the IoT provider.

7. From your viewpoint, what makes MIOTY technology/ MYTHINGS the right solution?

MIOTY is the most advanced LPWAN technology on the market so far, and it is made for demanding industrial applications. MIOTY’s patented Telegram Splitting (TS-UNB) technology enables the lowest packet error rates, even in a crowded spectrum, and operates without being interfered by other networks. Through this approach, more than 1 million devices per network and up to 1.5 million messages per day could be processed. TS-UNB provides robust, scalable and mobile IoT connectivity needed in industrial and agricultural use cases. MIOTY also empowers customers to run their own networks and use the advantages of the Internet of Things in the real world – not only in a laboratory.

BehrTech offers with MYTHINGS a sophisticated management platform for MIOTY LPWA networks to enable device management, cloud/backend integration and network troubleshooting at scale. We see huge benefits of MIOTY and the MYTHINGS platform compared to other LPWAN-technologies.

8. How do you see the precision agriculture trend moving forward?

Much progress has been made in monitoring specific data with remote sensing (water stress, leaf area index) or machines (yields and energy usage per area). However, we could see farmers who were early adopters of these technologies have waived them in recent years, simply because they got drown in the flood of data that does not provide actionable knowledge. A lot of collected data, even yield maps, becomes only useful when integrated with other data sources, analyzed and transformed into comprehensible outputs for the farmer and all machines used within the farm. This way, precision agriculture improves not only resource efficiencies, but also farmers’ productivity.

We believe with the package of CLIMAVI and FARMALYZER, we provide the right tools to collect all necessary data for meaningful decision support while making it easy and time-efficient for farmers to implement precision agriculture practices. Given growing challenges due to climate change and weather extremes, there is little doubt that precision agriculture, specifically site-specific exploitation of soil, climate and management interactions, is the path forward for agriculture.

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IoT Ecosystem: 3 Reasons to Join a Technology Alliance

IoT Ecosystem: 3 Reasons to Join a Technology Alliance

BehrTech Blog

IoT Ecosystem: 3 Reasons to Join a Technology Alliance

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing relentlessly. According to IoT Analytics, there were around 9.5 billion connected devices in 2019, which far exceeds the original forecast of 8.3 billion devices. As companies look to adopt IoT to fundamentally transform business operations and value delivery, it’s immediately evident that IoT is an ecosystem game. No single vendor is able to deliver an end-to-end connected solution alone, and strategic partnerships will be paramount for companies to successfully harness IoT potential.

A technology alliance is formed precisely to achieve this goal. Revolving around an innovative core technology, it aims to deliver easily consumable and accessible connected solutions for end customers in industrial, commercial and consumer marketplaces. To do so, it brings together a variety of vendors with complementary solutions and expertise to fortify partnerships and overcome resource gaps. Ultimately, technology alliances are deemed to establish the technical and operational foundation needed for a vibrant and sustainable IoT ecosystem.

IoT vendors, in particular, are in a unique position to reap the multifold benefits of technology alliance initiatives.

[bctt tweet=”Technology alliances offer a strategic means for IoT vendors to tap into emerging, disruptive innovations and unleash entirely new market opportunities.”]

1. Reduce Risks and Accelerate Time-to-Market

Cutting-edge technologies are continuously reshaping the competitive landscape and presenting unprecedented business values, but they don’t come without challenges. The more innovative the technology, the higher the stakes as companies enter uncharted territory where the market is largely nascent. Being part of a technology alliance allows you to seize disruptive IoT possibilities while mitigating the inherent risk and complexity that come along. By leveraging partners’ capabilities and focusing on your core competencies, you can reduce development time and costs to deliver viable IoT products to the market, faster.

2. Transcend Technical Adoption Barriers

To tackle the challenge of growing IoT fragmentation, interoperability must be infused into IoT design from the get-go. In this context, a technology alliance serves as an overarching standard umbrella of the focal enabling technology to pave the way to an open, scalable and interworking ecosystem of diverse products and solutions that are built on top of it. Besides immediate technology access, active standardization effort and robust testing and certification programs allow participants to benefit from easier technical integration, alongside enhanced technology transparency and compliance. This, in turn, helps to ensure long-term quality and compatibility of their connected devices and applications.

3. Generate and Capture New Business Opportunities

Technology alliances further provide a platform for cross-domain businesses – from developers and manufacturers to system integrators and service providers – to exchange knowledge and identify new technology use cases and business opportunities across verticals. At the same time, member vendors can capitalize on a bigger sales channel and larger coverage, while augmenting value proposition by combining complementary offerings to deliver a market-ready, end-to-end solution to their customers.

The MIOTY Alliance: A Real World Example

Founded in early 2020, the MIOTY Alliance is a representative example of such a technology alliance where companies can come together to deliver on the promise of IoT.  With Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) quickly establishing itself as one of the major IoT enablers, the alliance aims to empower global tech players with easy access to MIOTY – the only LPWAN protocol ratified by ETSI for unmatched Quality-of-Service, scalability and mobile communications. Learn more about MIOTY technology here.

Existing members like BehrTech bring in unique expertise and capabilities to help turn the enormous potential of the MIOTY protocol into reality. Specifically, MYTHINGS Central provides hardware vendors and solution providers with a versatile, out-of-the-box network and device management tool for their MIOTY-enabled devices and services, to deliver greater product value to the end users. Likewise, system integrators can faster engineer MIOTY-powered solutions that are tailored to their clients’ needs, by capitalizing on MYTHINGS rapid prototyping modules.

To sum it up, in the fast-changing IoT ecosystem with constantly evolving requirements and outcomes, technology alliances offer a strategic means for businesses to tap into emerging, disruptive innovations and unleash entirely new market opportunities.

 

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[vcv_posts_grid source=”%7B%22tag%22%3A%22postsGridDataSourcePost%22%2C%22value%22%3A%22post_type%3Dpost%26amp%3Bpost_status%3Dpublish%26amp%3Bposts_per_page%3D5%22%7D” unique_id=”a3dbdddc” pagination=”0″ pagination_color=”#ffce00″ pagination_per_page=”10″]PGRpdiBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3RzLWdyaWQtaXRlbSI%2BPGFydGljbGUgY2xhc3M9InZjZS1wb3N0cy1ncmlkLWl0ZW0taW5uZXJ7e2N1c3RvbV9mZWF0dXJlZF9pbWFnZV9oYXNpbWFnZV9jbGFzc19uZXdzX3Bvc3RfZ3JpZF9pdGVtfX0iPjxkaXYgY2xhc3M9InZjZS1wb3N0LWRlc2NyaXB0aW9uIHZjZS1wb3N0LWRlc2NyaXB0aW9uLS10aXRsZS1jb2xvci1iLTMzLTMzLTMzIHZjZS1wb3N0LWRlc2NyaXB0aW9uLS1leGNlcnB0LWNvbG9yLWItMzMtMzMtMzMgdmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLWF1dGhvci1jb2xvci1mZmNlMDAgdmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLW1ldGEtY29sb3ItYi0zMy0zMy0zMyI%2BPGRpdiBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLWltYWdlIiBzdHlsZT0iYmFja2dyb3VuZC1pbWFnZTp1cmwoe3tmZWF0dXJlZF9pbWFnZV91cmx9fSkiPjxhIGhyZWY9Int7cG9zdF9wZXJtYWxpbmt9fSI%2BPC9hPjwvZGl2PjxkaXYgY2xhc3M9InZjZS1wb3N0LWRlc2NyaXB0aW9uLS1jb250ZW50Ij48cCBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLW1ldGEiPjxzcGFuPlBvc3RlZCA8L3NwYW4%2BPHNwYW4gY2xhc3M9InZjZS1wb3N0LWRlc2NyaXB0aW9uLS1tZXRhLWRhdGUiPm9uIDx0aW1lIGRhdGV0aW1lPSJ7e3Bvc3RfZGF0ZV9nbXR9fSI%2Be3twb3N0X2RhdGV9fSA8L3RpbWU%2BPC9zcGFuPjwvcD48aDMgY2xhc3M9InZjZS1wb3N0LWRlc2NyaXB0aW9uLS10aXRsZSI%2BPGEgaHJlZj0ie3twb3N0X3Blcm1hbGlua319Ij57e3Bvc3RfdGl0bGV9fTwvYT48L2gzPnt7c2ltcGxlX3Bvc3RfZGVzY3JpcHRpb25fZXhjZXJwdH19PC9kaXY%2BPC9kaXY%2BPC9hcnRpY2xlPjwvZGl2Pg%3D%3D[/vcv_posts_grid]

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Wireless IoT Architecture: 6 Building Blocks Explained

Wireless IoT Architecture

BehrTech Blog

Wireless IoT Architecture: 6 Building Blocks Explained

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Beyond a simple catchword, the Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay. According to the latest IoT Survey by PwC, 93% of executives believe IoT’s benefits outweigh its risks, and 70% have ongoing and under development IoT projects. Yet despite its growing prevalence and widely known opportunities, navigating the IoT ecosystem is often simpler said than done. With so many pieces working in concert with each other, enterprises might find themselves struggling to assemble the IoT puzzle.

The truth is, while each IoT system is unique in its combination of chosen solutions, the underpinning components that lay its groundwork are more or less uniform. With a solid understanding of the fundamentals, you can streamline IoT complexity and design your own system in a more efficient way. In this blog, we decode six building blocks of a wireless IoT architecture you should know. These include edge devices, connectivity, network gateways, network and device management, data center/the cloud, and IoT applications.

[bctt tweet=”While every IoT system is unique, the underpinning components that lay its groundwork are more or less uniform.”]

1. Edge Devices

Edge devices, or the “things”, are where the IoT data chain starts. Quite often, they refer to smart sensors that can automatically pick up information about their surroundings, human vital signs, or conditions of the larger equipment and machine they are embedded in. These sensors vastly vary not only in their sensing functions but also in the sensing technology and the precision level guaranteed.

Newer sensors come with a self-contained and compact design to enable multi-sensing ability and easy installation. Besides the sensing module itself, smart sensors are also integrated with a microcontroller for processing, a wireless transceiver for communications, and most likely a battery unit. In large-scale industrial and commercial deployments that incorporate thousands of devices, long battery life is deemed critical to minimize the cost and complexity of network maintenance.

2. Connectivity

Acting as the voice of edge devices, the connectivity link is responsible for transporting sensor data to the corresponding IoT gateways/ base stations or, in some cases, directly to the cloud/backend system. The increasing pervasiveness and readiness of wireless communications have been seen as one of the leading factors expediting the IoT revolution. Your connectivity choice largely depends on range, power, throughput, mobility, alongside other important network requirements dictated by the use cases in question and the operating environment of end devices. Beside prevalent cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mesh solutions, the newcomer Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) have quickly gained a foothold in the IoT space, due to their unique characteristics for industrial and commercial markets.

 wireless IoT architecture

You Might Also Like: 6 Leading Types of IoT Wireless Technologies and Their Best Use Cases


3. Network Gateways/ Base Stations

As a larger number of IoT devices are low-computing, resource-constraint sensors, they lack the ability to communicate directly to a central server and the end application. As such, a network gateway is often deployed as the bridge between edge devices and the upstream IT infrastructure. It aggregates data from numerous, heterogenous endpoints, converts the data into transportable formats and offloads it to the processing server via high throughput backhaul connections like wired Ethernet or WLAN.

Amidst the unabated rise of edge computing, many IoT gateways are now embedded with enhanced functions and analytics capabilities. Beyond wireless signal decoding, newer gateways can filter, pre-process and even analyze data right at the edge to lessen the burden on the core IT infrastructure while minimizing latency and response time in mission-critical scenarios. Note that despite its unique benefits, edge computing is not always a must in an IoT architecture.

4. Network and Device Management

Sitting between the edge network and the data processing layer, the network and device management piece is responsible for device lifecycle management, alongside network maintenance and troubleshooting. While often overlooked, this element is critical to ensure only authorized devices can access your IoT network and impending bottlenecks can be swiftly spotted and resolved via a centralized, intuitive UI portal. It additionally provides a streamlined way to provision, de-commission, monitor and control a vast number of endpoints, allowing you to seamlessly scale your deployment. A versatile network and device management tool comes with an open, lightweight and platform-independent design, together with cross-vendor device support and robust integration tools.


You Might Also Like: 5 Things to Look for in A Network and Device Management Solution


5. Data Center/ Cloud Infrastructure

Providing the fundamental IT infrastructure for your IoT applications, the data center is your central repository where all data ingestion, storage and processing take place. Traditionally, data centers have often been installed on-premises and managed by the enterprises themselves. Yet, as the enormous wave of IoT data floods in, hyperscale cloud infrastructure is taking over the stage. The elastic and agile nature of the cloud allows the computing resource to be flexibly scaled or downsized on-demand. Simultaneously, you can avoid the cost and hassle of deploying, running and maintaining on-site servers, while being able to access your data from everywhere.

Top-tier cloud vendors offer solid tools and services like real-time streaming, rule engines/workflows, data orchestration and machine learning frameworks to facilitate the development of powerful IoT applications on top of the cloud infrastructure.

6. IoT Application

An IoT application is the end-user touchpoint where data is synthesized, analyzed and presented in a straightforward, visually engaging manner to address real-world problems and empower intelligent, data-driven decisions. Often cloud-hosted, this could come as a mobile app, a web service and/or a desktop application and is easily integrable into your enterprise systems for process and workflow automation. The IoT application is a vital component of your connected architecture, as it is where value creation actually happens.

Some IoT applications come fully out-of-the-box and are bundled with the compatible connected devices in a single offering, whereas others are tailored-built with the help of an application enablement platform, allowing them to be device- and connectivity-agnostic.

IoT systems drastically vary, and some may include additional layers not mentioned here. Yet, these six fundamental components should provide a reference architecture to help you better navigate the IoT ecosystem and piece together the essential moving parts that best cater to your or your customer’s use cases. Additionally, it’s important to bear in mind that security must be the seamless thread that weaves through every component of your entire IoT architecture.

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5 Things to Look for in An IoT Network Management Solution

IoT Network Management

BehrTech Blog

5 Things to Look for in an IoT Network Management Solution

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In a previous blog post, we have explored why network and device management is the linchpin of an IoT system. By streamlining device provisioning and authentication, network monitoring and diagnostics, alongside software maintenance and updates, it enables businesses to successfully manage the complexity of large-scale IoT networks.

Having said that, not all network and device management offerings are created equal. While sharing similar key functions as mentioned above, different solutions can significantly vary in terms of user experience and the flexibility to adapt to specific network requirements. Amidst the growing fragmentation of the IoT ecosystem, integrability and interoperability will be at the forefront of a future-proof solution. This week, we walk through five important considerations when looking into a network and device management option.

[bctt tweet=”Not all IoT network management solutions are created equal. Here are 5 key considerations you should know.”]
IoT network management

1. Modular, Platform-Independent Design

Even with the proliferation of SaaS and cloud-based services over recent years, businesses have come to realize that the cloud isn’t ideal for every IoT scenario. When latency, data privacy and compliance prevail, many would incline towards an on-prem deployment where data processing takes place locally within the company’s firewall. In many cases, a hybrid approach where workloads are divided between on-prem servers and public clouds is deemed optimal.

A versatile network and device management solution should cater to whichever deployment option you might end up with. Being platform-independent means that it can leverage the most modern infrastructure while allowing for easy migration from one computing environment to another. In parallel, a modular design where functionalities are loosely coupled provides the flexibility to deploy different software services on- or off-premises, independently from one another. With this, you can take advantage of a hybrid architecture to maximize your data potential.


You might also like: IoT Architecture – 3 Reasons Why Microservices Matter


2. Cross-Vendor Device Compatibility

Today’s exploding number of hardware vendors has turned the smart device ecosystem into a highly complex landscape. For an IoT system to generate the most value, cross-vendor devices are required to effectively address multiple business challenges and use cases. For example, a smart building system may include occupancy sensors, environmental sensors and leak detectors, each of which is procured from a separate vendor. As the IoT landscape quickly evolves, seamless and straightforward integration of new cutting-edge devices is another prerequisite to sustain the viability and innovativeness of your connected system.

A solid network management solution is device-agnostic and offers a simple way to incorporate cross-vendor hardware models and data structures into the IoT workflow. Within a few simple steps, you can define the sensor model, payload type(s) and the unit(s) of measurements. This way, incoming data from diverse devices can be easily consumed and displayed in a user-friendly manner.

3. Open Architecture with Powerful Integration Tools

In unlocking business intelligence for enhanced decision-making, IoT data must be ingested into the enterprise systems and applications that are best-suited to derive its implications and suggest and automate the corresponding course of action. Each business has its own tailored applications and over time these applications will also evolve to meet changing needs.

An open architecture with modern interfaces allows data to be easily transported from end devices to any existing and future applications. While most device and network management software offer some sort of integration capabilities, the difference lies in their readiness, ease of use, and functionality. For example, REST APIs are a powerful and scalable tool for on-demand data requests, but you’ll need other API frameworks and protocols like gRPC or MQTT to enable real-time data streaming. A powerful solution delivers a rich set of APIs that can cater to every need, as well as robust native cloud connectors for minimal complications when integrating into leading hyperscale clouds.

4. Built-in Security

Security must be thought out and embedded in every component in your IoT workflow. When it comes to device and network management, a top requirement is having all data traffic encrypted with industry-standard security protocols – be it from the base stations to the management server or from the management server to end applications. Typically, Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a proven choice for secure data communications between applications, servers and across the Internet. Equally important is making sure that robust API authentication mechanisms are supported, so connection attempts and data requests are only permitted for authorized client servers.

5. Intuitive, Customizable Management Portal/ UI

Even if REST API is available for integration and management from the user’s preferred interface, the network management solution should come with a clean, consistent and intuitive UI on its own. All functionalities like device management, data monitoring, network status information, and backend integration should be readily accessible and easy to navigate across the UI. Likewise, incoming messages should be updated in real-time and there needs to be an option for message filtering and data export. The most user-friendly solutions also make it easy to customize and white label the UI to the user’s branding as needed.

When bundled with a connectivity offering, a network and device management solution provides everything you need to get the network up and running, so you can focus on deriving your IoT data value and shorten time-to-market. The criteria discussed above are fundamental to validate the readiness and long-term viability of your chosen solution.

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IoT Architecture: 3 Reasons Why Microservices Matter

BehrTech Blog

IoT Architecture: 3 Reasons Why Microservices Matter

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In the software development world, microservices, also known as microservice architecture, are a rising star. And, there’s a good reason for this: They provide a lightweight, flexible and scalable approach to building and running applications. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to gain a foothold, the manifold benefits of a microservice architecture are key for large-scale, complex IoT systems. In this blog, we explore microservices and why they are so important in an IoT architecture.

[bctt tweet=”As IoT continues to gain a foothold, the manifold benefits of a microservice architecture are key for large-scale, complex IoT systems.”]

Microservices – A Best Practice for Agile Software Development

Microservices refers to a distributed architectural approach where a software application is made of a set of modular, loosely coupled and independently deployable components, or services. Each service has its own set of code; provides a unique function; and communicates with other services over open protocols and interfaces. By minimizing the interdependence among different components, each piece of code can be changed and updated separately without touching the others. This greatly accelerates software development time while making it easy to maintain, upgrade, and scale an application.

Well-designed microservices use industry-standard containers like Docker to encapsulate discrete services within individual containers. Containers deliver an extra degree of protection and agility by isolating individual software services from one another and from the host environment. Containerized microservices are infrastructure-agnostic, meaning they can be deployed and run uniformly in any computing environment – be it a computer, an on-premises server, or a cloud. Plus, different from virtual machines that require a dedicated operating system each, containers can share the host’s OS kernel instead of running one on their own. As such, they are exceptionally lightweight, which reduces the overall IT resource requirement and management overhead.

How IoT Adopters Can Benefit from Microservice-Based Solutions

Containerized microservices have been widely popular among software developers for some time, but their benefits are just as attractive to IoT project leaders and decision makers. The intricate and fast-evolving IoT architecture requires seamless interaction among heterogeneous devices, protocols and applications, as well as the ability to easily migrate from one computing environment to another. At the same time, continuous upgrade, integration, and maintenance are vital to ensure relevant, secure and up-to-par operations of IoT applications. Software and platform services that make use of a microservice architecture can help to do just that. Below are three benefits of microservice-based solutions for IoT adopters when building connected systems and applications.

MYTHINGS Central Microservices
An Example of the MYTHINGS Central Microservices

1. Flexible and Agile Deployment

Microservice-based software – whether for IoT network and device management or application enablement – provides maximum flexibility and control over deployments. As software services come loosely coupled, users can decide to employ only the functionality they need while deactivating the rest to save computing resources, reactivating any single services when the need emerges, is just as simple.

2. Resource-Efficiency and Portability

Containerized services are lightweight and can be scaled on a standalone basis depending on data workload, allowing for more efficient use of the computing resources. On top of that, services can be deployed on or off-premises, independently from each other, to better cater to organizational needs and optimize system operations. For example, services requiring significant computing resources can be moved to the cloud, while mission-critical services that demand faster response time can be deployed locally for enhanced security and reduced latency.

3. Resilient Operations and Easy Updates

Loose coupling and containerization practices further help to mitigate risk in running IoT applications. As services function separately from each other, the failure of a single service won’t disrupt the entire system, making its operation highly resilient and secure. Each service can also have its own release cycle for easy maintenance and fast updates without requiring a system shutdown. Likewise, new services can be swiftly introduced without the need to re-architect the whole system.

Microservices have helped to reinvent software development. Now, they are doing the same thing in the IoT space. The modular and loosely coupled nature of microservices brings lighter, and more distributable IoT software that is easier to migrate across different computing environments – from data centers and the cloud to more resource-constrained infrastructure like an edge gateway. Concurrently, they provide with highly resilient and scalable applications, allowing businesses to stay nimble as requirements continue to change.

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Discover MYTHINGS Central Microservice Architecture

Manage Massive-Scale IoT Networks with MYTHINGS Central

LPWA Network Management - MYTHINGS Central

BehrTech Blog

Manage Massive-Scale IoT Networks with MYTHINGS Central

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MYTHINGS Central provides an all-in-one network management solution for MIOTY low power wide area networks.

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are changing the wireless game with signature features such as broad range, ultra-low power consumption, and low device and operating costs that cater to large-scale IoT deployments. One single LPWA network can support hundreds, if not thousands of sensor nodes – depending on the specific radio technology.

With such a huge network size, a key element to consider when looking to adopt any LPWAN solution is effective network and device management. A highly scalable, future-proof architecture requires a tool that makes it easy to provision large numbers of nodes, view all messages from a single interface, and seamlessly transfer your data to other IoT platforms and enterprise systems.

In this blog, we take a deep dive into MYTHINGS Central, a dedicated software service from BehrTech for streamlined deployment and management of LPWAN architecture using the MIOTY™ (TS-UNB™) technology. Included in all MYTHINGS offerings, MYTHINGS Central provides an all-in-one solution for device on and off-boarding, cloud/backend integration, data monitoring, and network troubleshooting.

You can access MYTHINGS Central using our out-of-the-box web-based user interface (UI) or via a RESTful API. In this blog, we focus on network management using the web interface. For more information on how to use the API, please contact us at support@behrtech.com.

[bctt tweet=”MYTHINGS Central provides an all-in-one network management tool for massive-scale MIOTY LPWA networks.”]

MYTHINGS Overview Page

When you log into MYTHINGS Central, the Overview page presents an overall view of your MYTHINGS network including managed Base Stations, the number of connected sensor nodes, and existing MQTT connections. Managed Base Stations send updates to MYTHINGS Central regularly, so you’ll always stay up to date with your MYTHINGS network.

MYTHINGS Central
MYTHINGS Central Overview Page

Powerful Device Management

Onboarding nodes is easy in MYTHINGS Central. Every MYTHINGS-enabled sensor node includes a unique 32-bit node ID for identification and authentication purposes, and a 128-bit network session key which ensures that messages from MYTHINGS sensor nodes are encrypted during transmission.

You can add nodes in MYTHINGS Central UI in a number of ways. Many MYTHINGS-enabled nodes include a Quick Response Code (QR) tag. You can use a QR reader to read the node information. Alternatively, you can scan a QR image directly into MYTHINGS Central by pointing the QR code into your device’s camera.

Being able to quickly identify a sensor node is important and in MYTHINGS Central, you can assign a descriptive name, location, and information fields to your sensor node.

MYTHINGS Central - Add New Node
Adding a new node in MYTHINGS Central

User-Friendly Messages

You can view messages containing telemetry and radio information such as signal strength from connected MYTHINGS nodes as they are received by the Base Station. This is very useful for troubleshooting. You can also filter messages by node and export message data from a single node or all nodes to a csv file for further analysis.

MYTHINGS Central - Messages Page
Monitoring incoming data

Flexible Node Type Configuration for Vendor-Agnostic Sensor Support

The number and types of sensors in the IoT world are almost endless, reporting everything from temperature and humidity to sound and movement. Even within each group of similar sensors, data requirements can vary widely. Take temperature sensors as an example. One use case might require regular updates of the room temperature with 1 to 2-degree deviation tolerance, whereas another might require greater preciseness, requiring values to the fifth decimal. Also, you need to consider whether the temperature needs to be reported in Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin.

To keep up with the vast assortment of IoT sensors, MYTHINGS Central includes a unique Data Description Structure that enables you to flexibly define your own sensors. Simply specify some meta data including model, ID, and telemetry data of the node in a JSON file and upload it to the MYTHINGS Central. Once defined, the Base Station will be able to recognize the node’s type, interpret its payload and in turn, display the data in a user-friendly manner in the UI.

MYTHINGS Central
MYTHINGS Central Data Description Structure

Easy Integration with External Systems

MYTHINGS Central was designed with the expectation that you want to forward data to external analytics platforms whether in the cloud or on-premises. Integration with cloud-based applications is fast and straightforward using our built-in cloud connectors and support for IoT messaging protocols like MQTT. Our fully developed REST API also allows users to access and execute MYTHINGS Central functions on their own system and interface.

Microsoft Azure cloud integration is embedded in our software architecture. When a new node is added in MYTHINGS Central, a native Azure function automates the creation of the IoT device in the Azure IoT hub, thus avoiding the need to create the device a second time in Azure. An Azure mapping, representing a virtual connection between a MYTHINGS sensor and a corresponding IoT device in Azure – is easy to set up in MYTHINGS Central.

Robust Plugin System for Enhanced Integration

MYTHINGS Central further includes a plugin system that extends system functionality and enables data streaming not available with our RESTful API.

The plugins have their own release cycles to simplify maintenance and updates and can be deployed in any computing environment. Unneeded plugins can also be easily deactivated to save computing resources. In addition to being able to use the built-in plugins, developers can create new plugins. To create a new plugin for MYTHINGS Central, contact support@behrtech.com.

MYTHINGS Central
MYTHINGS Central Plugin Architecture

AWS Bridge Plugin

MYTHINGS Central supports connectivity with AWS IoT Core through our aws bridge plugin. After mapping nodes in MYTHINGS Central, node messages received by the Base Station are forwarded to the IoT Core in the AWS cloud, where the data can be analyzed and visualized using a back-end application. Communication between the plugin and AWS IoT is secured using the X.509 Public key infrastructure and X.509 digital certificates to associate a public key with an identity in the certificate.

Cumulocity Plugin

Using the Cumulocity Plugin, MYTHINGS Central provides integration with Cumulocity IoT for visibility and control over your IoT assets in Cumulocity. After mapping nodes in MYTHINGS Central, when the Base Station receives messages from a node, the data is forwarded to the Cumulocity IoT cloud, where it can be analyzed and visualized.

Ericsson IoT Accelerator Plugin

MYTHINGS Central provides the Ericsson IoT Accelerator plugin upon request to help users easily deploy a highly functional and scalable LPWAN – 5G hybrid architecture. Ericsson IoT Accelerator is a global IoT platform built to connect and manage cellular devices from various telecom network services worldwide. With the plugin, you can relay MYTHINGS data to the Ericsson backend to seamlessly manage all devices and data across both LPWAN and cellular networks via a unified platform/UI.

Multi Base Station Support for Improved Network Range

Although a single Base Station can receive messages from thousands of sensor nodes, an extended LPWAN network might include managing several Base Stations. In MYTHINGS Central you can assign Name, Information, and Location fields to each Base Station to easily identify Base Stations that you are managing.

By default, each Base Station communicates with its local instance of MYTHINGS Central. You can, however, manage multiple Base Stations from a single MYTHINGS Central instance to extend the coverage of your MYTHINGS network. For example, you could manage two Base Stations located 5 kilometers apart from each other from a single instance of MYTHINGS Central. After you have configured MYTHINGS Central to manage multiple Base Stations, each time you add or delete a node from MYTHINGS Central, the changes are sent to all connected Base Stations.

MYTHINGS Central - Multi-base station management
Multi Base Station Management

To sum up, network and device management is a crucial part of any IoT deployment. MYTHINGS Central includes flexible and powerful features to help you quickly set up and administer your end-to-end IoT architecture – accelerating time-to-market of your IoT project. As it comes included in all MYTHINGS offerings, you can avoid the hassle and costs of procuring a third-party network management service. If you’re interested in learning more about the MYTHINGS architecture, check out some of our other blogs including MQTT and why you should use it in your IoT Architecture.

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Simplify IoT Network and Device Management with MYTHINGS Central