The Internet of Things – better things to come still
We recently ran an article called “IoT – A cynics viewpoint of the Internet of Things“. The thing is it wasn’t that cynical. Nowadays we have Cloud Services, simply put, running our applications on a rental server. As luck would have it, both are a going to be a requirement, if not now, in the very near future.
IoT or The Internet of Things is a required training program I need to pass on to colleagues at work. Yes, my real job, the one that pays the bills. Question is, where does one start?
If I can miraculously switch a kettle on through a remote in the garage does this make the device IoT compatible? Yes and no. But it’s not using the Internet which is after all the medium used to control. So realistically speaking wi-fi is just a component, like the RF used in a remote control transmitter and receiver. By gaining control over the kettle using the Internet is real IoT. But who wants to switch on the kettle using IoT? What happens if there is no water in the kettle.
I do believe that Samsung is the leader in the IoT space with no doubt many others to follow. In many ways the South Koreans also lead the way in both consumer and industrial electronics and this is rather fitting for Samsung. Highly innovative it’s no wonder that they have a huge drive in this IoT space.
Using the basic analogy of the above if a kettle has no water in it a sensor could be used (possibly a float sensor) and keep the power off. But we could still want to by remote top the kettle up. This can then be done via a solenoid valve (as in a washing machine). When the water in the kettle reaches a certain height another float sensor would detect this and switch the solenoid valve off. And only then is power supplied to the kettle. In the interim all the sensor outputs are fed to a microcontroller (Arduino) and relayed via the Internet to your cell phone to tell you their “values”, i.e. “No water”, “Top Up”, “Water OK”, “Switch On”, “Boiled”, “Off”. Simply clever or simply ridiculous?
Truth be told the IoT can be used to do things which will have a positive impact on our daily lives and not just cause us to get fat because we are too lazy to fill the kettle. Where to then? We’ll use home security as an example.
The Cell Switch
Not really IoT but they are becoming very popular. An alarm is activated and a relay triggers the cell switch which relays an SMS through to your phone. This can lead to expensive messaging when the alarm is erroneously continuously triggered. And this does happen.
“WhatsApp” is a great tool but it’s hardly an industry standard. IoT to the rescue. Here one uses a real industry standard, the internet. Alarm zones can be seen on your work computer, your cell phone or tablet. Your comm medium would be a combination of Wi-Fi and TCP/IP. Whereas the standard cell switch may only send an SMS, the IoT design may show the entire layout of your house or apartment and show the activated alarm.
As an intruder would activate more than one alarm, i.e. a pressure mat, a broken/open window, a PIR and an output from a camera all of these activations would be displayed on your screen. Activation of more than one sensor in a logical sequence would switch the receiver to high alert, warning the owner of the house that there was a 100% chance of intrusion. Now things can become more interesting because a map of your premises could be transmitted to a private security company showing the alarm activation and location. This could be done by the owner or automatically.
There is no limit to the permutations. In my mind there will be a common ground, one where a specific series of events would trigger an activation, showing an architectural plan of the house. This of course has serious implications in the wrong hands but if it’s safety and quick response then there should be a rule book. This also limits false triggering. Having visuals from a camera transmitted off site also protects the data.
Arduino and Light Displays
Arduini is great for triggering a variety of light shows but in the real world they can and will be used for a lot more powerful applications.
Most of us learnt all about Semiconductor Logic Gates in our studies. Mostly OR, AND, NOR, NAND, Exclusive OR (XOR) etc. As the operation of each gate is not within the scope of this article it would be pertinent to read up on about the various gates and their construction. Electronics-Tutorials to the rescue.
What is relevant here is that by hard wiring a configuration of gates or one of the 74xx family to switch an output from LO to HI or to allow for a sequence of events to trigger one or more Logic ‘1’s.
The limitations of IoT
As long as there is an internet connection none really. Sure, most of us build our circuits around gadgets and fun things but there is really no limitation to what the IoT can and cannot do. Mission critical devices, medical, military, aviation and marine may use industrial strength components but the related results will in all likelihood be the same. Mission critical will more than likely not depend on the internet as the internet can break. However, redundancies must be an option for even the less mission-critical. Hard-wiring (CAT5/6/fiber) and wireless may often be called for but switching between the two is more often than not automatic.
Now here we refer to radio as in “old term” radio and not Wi-Fi. Radio frequencies can be deisgned to hop, selecting a channel which is optimised or even a frequency which has either less interference or more range. Radio communication is often seen as “old-age” but the shocker is that this could not be further from reality. In times of emergency radio often trumps any other form of communication. In IoT this is also fact. Radio and repeaters can be used to transmit for thousands of miles on frequencies in the low to high MHz. UHF sets are very common for this purpose as seen by the use of Motorola and Kenwood hand-held sets at the agricultural shows. It may be slower but it’s just very reliable.
A common configuration for the use of a VHF hand held set is to send pulsed data from a tracking device, irrigation network, security system, wild-life or even livestock on farmland. Working line of sight or through repeaters the applications often don’t require lots of power and are extremely reliable.
By using a trigger from a control room the receiving handset can be made to go into transmit mode in a simplex configuration (using one antenna and frequency). The receiving set then switches to transmit, radiates a packet of data, back to receive and then back to transmit. Using a duplex arrangement will allow simultaneous transmission and reception of signals on separate channels.
In South Africa where farmers and family are harassed and put into life threatening situations every day a security system using two way radio is often critical, communication taking place between neighbours and security patrols. Using VHF the bandwidth is often more than sufficient to allow for a comprehensive and intelligent data throughput.
To conclude, IoT is here to stay. Samsung are driving their home appliance which are IoT enabled and no doubt so are the others. Gimmicky? Sure. But be rest assured that with the exciting progress in modern technology IoT is going to make our world a safer place. But Big Daddy will be watching.
Filling the Landfills
Often when a washing machine or dish-washer goes faulty we are urged to dump. There are many sensors inside these two devices, washing machines in particular. Plus the motors.
Sakshi Education – Gates and Transistors
Samsung Business Solutions – IoT Technology