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What is Internet of Things (IoT)?

It seems that the concept of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) gradually is being replaced by what’s called Internet of Things (IoT). It’s open to discussion whether the change is about wording only or if it’s a change of concept also. Be that as it may, IoT is currently an area of great interest and the prognosis is that there will be 50 billion “things” connected to the Internet in year 2020.

Acquisitions of companies and bundling of hardware and software are part of the strategy as Intel® positions the offer to take its fair share of that market. Hectronic supports the offer by development of gateways and systems. 

Internet of things is when machines, vehicles, goods, home appliances, clothes and other “things” are equipped sensors and embedded computers. They are connected to the Internet to be able to interact with persons, each other and the environment. That’s the visionary way of explaining the concept. 
The down to earth explanation based on actual applications released as products today are found for example in the energy sector with energy meters read remotely, when parking meters are connected to the Internet and all the fleet management applications with sensors on the truck distributing data about to support vehicle planning and fuel saving.

Clusters of unintelligent devices

Some believe that every “thing” and single sensor will be intelligent and connected directly to the Internet. Intel® argues that devices will be to expensive should they have their own microcontrollers or processors and SIM cards. They believe that most IoT devices will be unintelligent but with the ability to be connected in clusters with ZigBee, Bluetooth or WiFi to a gateway. The Intel® vision is a gateway containing the main computing possibilities and connectivity to the Internet. This text is focused on how to develop that gateway based on hardware and software from Intel®.

Intel® acquisitions have had a clear impact on the company’s IoT gateway offer which is a combination of hardware and software. The software stack contains functionality for manageability, security and connectivity and is there to support the development engineers to realize IoT functionality based on a selection of X86 processors. The Linux operating system and the development environment is from embedded software company Windriver. McAfee Embedded Control is protection from hacking of individual devices or systems. The software stack from Intel® is named Moon Island.

Pre-integrated software stack

The meaning of manageability is for example remote upgrade and configuration of the device. Drivers and firmware for connectivity are integrated in the development kit for easy access to wired and wireless communication, based on mobile networks and short range radio. Actual supported interfaces are 2G/3G/4G mobile data communication, Bluetooth, Ethernet, ZigBee, Serial ports, USB, VPN, WiFi and MQTT. The communication protocol MQTT is designed for distribution of minimized data packages and to do so with low power usage, limited network bandwidth and small code footprint.

Moon Island currently supports Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 series and Intel® Quark SoC X1xxx. The latter is a family of one-chip processors clearly targeting IoT and wearable applications. It’s headless (no graphics/display), the clock frequency is 400MHz and the power consumption is roughly 2 Watts. Intel® Quark SoC X1xxx is only sold bundled with the software stack Moon Island. Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 processors will be supported by Moon Island in the future. 

Reducing NRE cost

Hectronic offers development, production and maintenance of embedded computer systems based on the processors supported by Moon Island. We believe that one advantage for our customer from choosing this strategy when connecting their products are the possibilities to reduce NRE investments. Since Moon Island contains pre-integrated hardware and software it’s likely to reduce the efforts by customers to have the application up and running on the hardware.

With the growing numbers of machinery, equipment and vehicles connected to the Internet the reports on hacker attacks have been more common. That’s the background to another of Intel’s company acquisitions and that their security product McAfee Embedded Control is a part of Moon Island. 

Protection against hackers

Security is assured in the Moon Island software stack by assigning the allowed software applications signatures, identify those signatures and to execute only those applications on the allowed CPU only. Potentially hazardous applications are thereby blocked and unable to execute on the hardware.

For more than two decades now Hectronic has developed embedded computers for industrial applications. We’ll be doing so the coming two decades as well and it’s a fair guess that a great percentage of them will include Internet connectivity. We’re sure that you are the expert on deciding on how to use Internet connectivity for the benefit of your customers and thereby your business. Unleash your creativity by relying on Hectronic to focus on development, production and maintenance of the embedded system to host your offer.

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