Demand Grows for Compact, Rugged Industrial IoT Embedded Hardware



IoT Cloud applications have reached to the network edge, where it can be too hot, too cold, too harsh and too squeezed. So rugged, wide-temperature-range, compact IoT-ready products are coming to the rescue.

With more than 900 exhibitors and 30,000 plus visitors spread over the three days, Embedded World 2016 continued the success of this popular international embedded tradeshow. Internet of Things (IoT) continued to be the dominant theme at Embedded World this year as evidenced by anchor companies such as Intel Corp., but also well represented were hardware, software and sensor manufacturers throughout the various exhibit halls.

The keynote speaker Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab, spoke at length on a number of topics related to IT security in the era of IoT. With the increasing convergence of IoT hardware and data with IT infrastructure, the topic of IT security is particularly relevant and timely. As well, the Embedded Award for innovation in hardware, went to KEOLABS IoTize product. The French government is now funding KEO- LABS, a company whose focus is on secure smartphone connectivity, to ease the upgrade of existing IoT hard- ware and software for optimal data security.

TOLLBOOTH TO OFFSHORE RIG TO FACTORY FLOOR TO …

At the opposite end of the IoT spectrum from software, one focus for embedded hardware vendors is the extension of intelligent IoT solutions to the very edge of the network, where rugged and harsh industrial environments often exist. This means, for example, putting increasingly smaller embedded computing hardware directly onto or nearby machinery and equipment in non-benign areas such as those associated with transportation, the factory floor, oil and gas platforms (both offshore and land-based) and exposed environments including traffic control, toll booths and border crossings, etc.

There is a need for increased levels of control intelligence at the machinery and equipment level. Enabling the efficient gathering and analysis of local sensor data and piping of that data to the cloud in a secure fashion is also necessary. Increased control intelligence makes possible efficient reconfiguration of factory floor machinery and equipment in a “plug and play” fashion as well as increased autonomy and local decision-making for key pieces of equipment. From an IoT perspective, local data needing to be ported to the cloud requires sufficiently advanced hardware to incorporate the necessary hardware and software security features.

Many of the new rugged Industrial IoT-ready embedded PC and gateway products take advantage of Intel Corp. E3800-series proces- sors with their vastly expanded operating junction temperature of -40 oC to +110 oC, making them ideal for use in extended temperature applications.

Figure 1: ADL Embedded Solutions ADLEPC-1600 IoT-Ready, Embedded PC

Figure 1: ADL Embedded Solutions ADLEPC-1600 IoT-Ready, Embedded PC

Also coming to market are IoT-ready embedded solutions based on the Intel E3800-series Atom and packaged in compact and palm- sized rugged enclosures. For example, the compact ADLEPC-1600 embedded PC from ADL Embedded Solutions (Figure 1), features dual E3827 and quad E3845 Intel Atom processors in a rugged, milled aluminum casing with enough I/O connectivity for most equipment and sensor needs, Wifi and LAN cloud connectivity, and enough processing power for use as an intelligent controller, gateway appliance, or general-purpose computer in rugged, harsh machinery and equipment environments.

The smaller and more compact embedded IoT hardware becomes, the higher the level of customer interest becomes. Ultra-small, ARM- based industrial vendor products have proven popular in the recent past at Embedded World, including this year with its line of Nvidia Tegra COM modules and customizable SBCs. At the system level, ADL Embedded Solutions’ palm-sized E3800-based embedded PC (Figure 2), was perhaps the most popular booth product with most customers finding its ultra-small size particularly compelling.

Figure 2: ADL Embedded Solutions Rugged, Palm-Sized Embedded PC

Figure 2: ADL Embedded Solutions Rugged, Palm-Sized Embedded PC

EASIER IIOT DEPLOYMENT

Software support for IoT hardware also featured prominently at Embedded World 2016 with Intel Corp. promoting software building blocks for Intel IoT gateways and open environment software stack and board support packages (BSP) for Intel Quark SoC and the above mentioned Intel Atom E3800-series processors as well as IoT gateway development kits. Intel BSPs primarily feature Wind River Linux 5 OS with Microsoft pushing Microsoft Azure for end-to-end IoT cloud applications and services with hardware support for iOS, Android, Linux and Windows. Embedded World 2016 also featured a plethora of smaller software companies providing IoT-specific software development and consulting services both exhibiting and booth-to-booth visitation. And with OPC-UA continuing to grow as a vendor-independent, international interoperability standard for secure data and information exchange, deployment of Industrial IoT end-to-end solutions is easier and more affordable than ever.

PC/104 CONTINUES TO KEEP PACE

A number of new product introductions make clear that the rugged, PC/104 form factor continues to keep pace with new technology. Peripheral companies Connect Tech and Rigel Engineering have announced PCIe/104 10G LAN boards which help address the issue of data-offloading and communication in small form factor (SFF) embedded systems. For rugged, SFF vision systems Euresys has introduced the first PCIe/104 Coaxpress framegrabber (6Gb/s per channel) for next-generation framegrabbing. As well, cameralink vendor EPIX has continued to innovate with the introduction of a new family of low-profile mPCIe cameralink modules that make it easier to add cameralink functionality in a variety of SFF design scenarios.

SUMMARY

Demand for compact and rugged IoT-ready hardware products is strong and growing. This is a direct result of growth in IoT Cloud applications now extending their reach to the network edge, which often resides in harsh factory environments or remote locations exposed to the elements. As a result, these products need to be IoT ready, rugged, compact (or even ultra-compact) and capable of working in a wide temperature range. The viability of these products is greatly enhanced with IoT software building blocks and IoT enterprise software from companies like Intel and Microsoft and an army of other companies and consultants.


JC Ramirez is Director of Engineering at ADL Embedded Solutions, Inc. and is the current vice-president of the PC/104 Consortium. Ramirez, BSEE, MBA, has a technical background that includes Navy nuclear plant supervision, nuclear instrumentation, semiconductor product development and embedded systems engineering.

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