Solving Common IoT Design Challenges



Volatile markets demand rapid development cycles. Do IoT device makers have the tools they need?

From a design perspective, the Internet of Things as it stands today is an inch deep and a mile wide market phenomenon. The IoT is comprised of a diverse range of products, with each product range occupying small portions of the market, the collection of which makes the IoT. Although the prediction of ‘20.8 billion connected devices by 2020 ’ is an exciting prospect, it is essential to note that these numbers assume the contribution of multiple vendors and different types of devices, catering to disparate market segments.

The emerging IoT space poses a novel set of problems for device makers to build cost effective and sustainable products. This article outlines some of these challenges and the role played by an IoT platform in mitigating these challenges.

Figure 1: An IoT development platform that includes hardware, software and development tools can let developers, including those working in small volumes; avoid the need to work with several separate vendors.

Figure 1: An IoT development platform that includes hardware, software and development tools can let developers, including those working in small volumes; avoid the need to work with several separate vendors.

Diverse Applications, Unified Platform

Working with multiple vendors to integrate the hardware and software components of an IoT solution is a big effort, and is especially challenging when the model is not a sustainable option for small-volume product players. A typical cycle to create a prototype involves at the very least, the steps of purchasing appropriate connectivity modules and controllers and porting drivers and application program interfaces. Next comes application development and testing with support efforts from all associated vendors. One example of a platform that gathers hardware, software and development tools in one place is the WyzBee platform from Redpine Signals. The platform obviates the need to work with multiple vendors and empowers makers with a viable business model.

The varied application domains in IoT have different connectivity requirements. For example, a washing machine communicating to the network would need a low-rate wireless PAN (WPAN), a fitness gadget would require a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection and a smart thermostat would connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi. Each application calls for distinctive data throughput, range and power values. The WyzBee platform includes Redpine Signals’ Wireless MCU (WiSeMCU) Module, which natively incorporates Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth Low Energy and ZigBee, giving application developers the advantage of using a single platform for a variety of applications or even multiple connectivity options within an application.

Figure 2: Application developers should be able to use a single platform for a variety of applications.

Figure 2: Application developers should be able to use a single platform for a variety of applications.

Based on an analysis of the IoT market space, the WyzBee includes a consolidated list of common peripherals, sensors and other functions to enable device creation for diverse markets. WyzBee THINGS are add-on cards designed to help device makers create end devices faster without having to concern themselves about sourcing challenges and software integration with the platform. Currently available offering consists of the Multi-Sensor THING (includes temperature and humidity, pressure, proximity, IR and gas sensors), Speech THING (built to recognize voice commands and respond to the command via speech) and Battery THING, among others. The THINGS together with WyzBee’s processor and multi-protocol wireless, can transform WyzBee into an application specific IoT product.

Figure 3: The author describes an approach to device development targeted at noticeably shrinking the time it takes to develop and bring to market new IoT devices.

Figure 3: The author describes an approach to device development targeted at noticeably shrinking the time it takes to develop and bring to market new IoT devices.

Decrease Costs, Enhance Productivity

Today, device creation involves the long and tedious process of porting drivers to the MCU platform, optimization, PCB design and performance testing. In Redpine’s experience of working with a large and varied customer base, prototype and production time typically takes anywhere between 12 to 15 months, which is a non-starter in time-sensitive, volatile market environments. The product synthesis tool helps reduce time to market by automatically creating prototypes of WyzBee based applications. The synthesized components encompass ready to go PCB files, integrated application, 3D printer files and an optimal cloud instance. This design methodology creates the means for IoT device makers to create products faster and more cost effectively.

Security and Privacy Protection

IoT device adoption is in its infancy stage now with the notions of a connected world and ease of use taking precedence over the ramifications for security and privacy. Existing IoT solutions fall short of the necessary authentication and access policies to protect devices from malicious attacks. The WyzBee platform incorporates physically unclonable functions (PUFs), functionality implemented on-chip to provide for robust hardware-software binding and device authentication.

Think it…Make it: Reduce Development Lifecycles

One commonly faced challenge faced by solution providers today is that of achieving rapid application development cycles for cost effectiveness particularly to cater to volatile markets. Current methodologies include advanced debugging tools for embedded programs on MCUs, but IoT platforms lack the ability to debug the application beyond this. The WyzBee platform through its WyzBee workbench provides an IoT debugger to debug and analyze all transactions with the cloud, including protected HTTP and HTTPS exchanges. This allows a developer to observe, decrypt, and analyze secured exchanges between WyzBee and the cloud and enjoy uncomplicated troubleshooting and the ability to ensure correct, error-free transmission.

Another key consideration for IoT platform design lies in solving power consumption challenges. There is a constant need to estimate power with real hardware and the end application before the device is prototyped to ensure optimal cost and development time. The WyzBee workbench comprises a Power profiler, which enables measurement and optimization of system-level power during development, making it suitable for low-power wearable designs. It can be used to analyze and optimize factors like duty cycles and periods of operation in different parts of the design at different stages in the software code execution. This allows the user to reduce the power consumption of the system through optimal use of components such as the wireless radio, microcontroller and sensors.

To enable the use of Web services economically and overcome the challenge of availing an optimally sized cloud instantiation, WyzBee provides for flexible embedded software and seamless integration to the cloud. WyzBee provides integrated embedded software including SSL, and embedded OAuth, allowing integration with popular cloud service platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Twilio. Redpine’s WyzBee platform offers a complete Cloud Infrastructure covering Data Visualization, Analytics and machine learning to provide optimal data and computing needs.

Figure 4: Embedded software should be flexible enough to allow seamless integration with existing platforms.

Figure 4: Embedded software should be flexible enough to allow seamless integration with existing platforms.

The WyzBee IoT Platform packs in research and development efforts of over a decade to address the IoT needs of the future. It aims to significantly reduce the time it takes to develop and bring to market new IoT devices by providing integrated sensing, computing, communication, power management, cloud and application support.


Apurva_headshotApurva Peri plays an active role in developing applications for, product management marketing and promoting WyzBee at Redpine Signals. She has a Master’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The National University of Singapore and a Bachelor’s in Telecommunication Engineering from R.V. College of Engineering, Bangalore.

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