Capitalizing on IoT Gateway Market Growth

What benefits ensue when you gain the ability to mesh a Cloud API for IoT gateways into any local sensor network?

According to MarketsandMarkets, the IoT gateway market is expected to grow significantly between 2016 and 2022 at a CAGR of 14.2 percent. Next to gateways designed for normal temperature operation in offices or homes, industrial gateways for harsher environments are in great demand, as a 2016 report from Forrester (Figure 1) noted. Looking at the market of applications that fall outside the temperature range of office and home environments, the characteristics that make applications for harsh environments stand out from the consumer segment are instantly apparent. They not only differ in robustness and longevity, which is why developers like to use embedded hardware, but also in their extremely heterogeneous requirements.

  • Systems on the roof or in the basement of large public and private buildings must integrate heating, cogeneration, solar, elevator and intercom systems to supply operators with truly comprehensive information.
  • Substations often need to manage heterogeneous microgrids with multiple energy sources and storage systems.
  • Systems for trains, airplanes, or commercial vehicle fleets integrate both localization and navigation as well as infotainment and supply chain management functions plus health checks of the technology.
  • Logistics applications are one of the most important markets for gateways in warehouses and transport vehicles.
  • Oil and gas pipelines can be monitored better with cloud technologies.
  • Security monitoring is another key market, mainly including video surveillance but also door and window sensors.
  • Gateways in the industry provide a wide range of sensor data and form the smart nodes for industrial applications.
  • Smart city applications include car park guidance systems, e-mobility charging stations, street light control systems, and many more.
Figure 1: (Source: Courtesy Forrester Research)

Figure 1: (Source: Courtesy Forrester Research)

Blueprint Benefit

The application layer alone reveals extremely heterogeneous gateway logic requirements. And heterogeneity is the rule as well for (wireless) sensor networks and the various communication protocols and for communicating with different databases in the cloud. The gateways act as bidirectional nodes and must be genuine masters in communicating and decision making.

Collecting, analyzing, and transcoding sensor data and deciding what to do with this information is a must. And the data also has to be processed properly to guarantee a consistent data structure and transmission to the cloud. Finally, the solution should incorporate bidirectional communication with the cloud solution, and secure end-to-end encryption is a necessity. Bearing in mind that application developers focus primarily on the application layer, the 7-layer ISO/OSI model requires a lot of additional work to develop a fully functioning IoT solution from the individual components. The congatec Cloud API aims to make this task easier for OEMs by providing application-ready software modules and enabling customers to use blueprints to develop their applications, similar to carrier board schematics on the hardware level.

Developers can integrate the new congatec Cloud API for IoT gateways into any local sensor network. It can communicate with local sensors of all types, process and convert the acquired data, and analyze it using a rule engine to make decisions locally. This approach reduces traffic to the IoT cloud and speeds up response times. Bidirectional data exchange with clouds is achieved by using the TLS secured MQTT protocol, whereby the protocol as well as the IoT cloud itself are interchangeable. At Embedded World, congatec presented a best practice design example using a Microsoft Azure cloud (Figure 2). From there, clients can access the cloud application via HTTPS in admin or user mode.

The advantages of the congatec Cloud API function modules, which are programmed in C++, have been demonstrated by connecting to a Bluetooth LE sensor network. It’s also possible to implement reference designs for other wireless sensor networks, such as ZigBee or LoRa, as well as wired solutions for building and industrial automation. Further possibilities include heterogeneous configurations as well as communication with additional gateways in larger installations, where fast local exchange of data in real time is key. A prime example of this are Industry 4.0 connected machines and systems. In the demo system, the Cloud API was integrated on the congatec IoT gateway, which is scalable with Qseven modules and offers numerous expansion options for customer-specific configurations. Such an open, best-practice solution helps OEMs to evaluate their specific IoT application.

The essential software components of the application-ready best practice solution include the congatec Cloud API function modules as well as a demo and test module for provider independent IoT clouds. The Cloud API software modules use a sensor engine to integrate the protocol and device independent communication with the sensors and actuators. It also normalizes the recorded data into definable physical units and checks for consistency. The congatec operating system (CGOS) library integrates all relevant gateway system parameters, such as CPU workload, CPU and board temperatures, intrusion detection and hard disk status as well as watchdog timer. The rule engine enables the local gateway to define instant messages and actions independent of connection status, while the communication engine standardizes the encrypted and provider independent cloud communication via wired or wireless internet connections.

Figure 2: In a reference implementation of the congatec Cloud API shown at the congatec stand during Embedded World, a large amount of physical data was collected from Bluetooth LE sensors. The data was then processed in the IoT gateway, encrypted, and transmitted along with gateway status data (such as CPU temperature) to a cloud where the data was consolidated and displayed on an online dashboard.

Figure 2: In a reference implementation of the congatec Cloud API shown at the congatec stand during Embedded World, a large amount of physical data was collected from Bluetooth LE sensors. The data was then processed in the IoT gateway, encrypted, and transmitted along with gateway status data (such as CPU temperature) to a cloud where the data was consolidated and displayed on an online dashboard.

The demo and test module for IoT clouds allows developers to define the data storage in the cloud. They can further create central messages and rules for controlling the IoT application, define additional escalation scenarios, and provide dashboards for remote clients. However, the core function rests in the Cloud API, which includes access to the IoT gateway and its locally connected sensor networks. This is because congatec assumes that each solution provider needs custom-specific cloud and database connection, so in effect only requires application-ready function modules to handle the field communication.

The Cloud API software modules as well as the demo and test module for provider independent IoT clouds are available to customers on request in the source code so they can integrate their own Linux or Windows applications based on this reference design quickly and efficiently on congatec hardware. If OEMs require further software services around the Cloud API and its connection to the cloud and sensor networks, congatec will provide all necessary support.

demmersWEBjpgDan Demers is the Director, Sales & Marketing congatec America. He holds a B.B.S degree in International Business from Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan and an M.B.A. from Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa. Mr. Demers has over 19 years of experience in embedded computing having worked with Fortune 500 companies in the Industrial, Medical, and Communications markets.

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