Every month, we talk to customers who are highly experienced in their area of design, but for the first time are faced with connecting their project safely and securely to the Internet. Devices that you’d never have thought of as potential Things on the Internet now need to be IoT or IIoT enabled to share data, monitor status and/or provide the ability to control or configure devices remotely.
Alvin Ferlance, Divisional Marketing Manager at Anglia outlines some of the challenges these engineers encounter when connecting ‘Things’ to the IoT and introduces an exceptionally welcome new product innovation which simplifies the whole process by delivering all the required technology in a single, easy to integrate solution.
How to put the ‘T’ in IoT
Connecting a ‘thing’ (device) to the IoT requires two essential elements: a means of communication and a cloud-based platform to communicate with. Let’s look at these two elements separately
First you need to choose the communication hardware and integrate it into your device, this allows it to connect to the chosen network which it will use to share data across, typically the preference here will be a cellular network because this gives the potential for global coverage and ability to roam. This in turn will require a SIM card so you can connect to the cellular network and purchase airtime in order to send all your data back and forth, obviously these SIMs will need to be managed across different regions and very often involve multiple billing platforms. So far so good, the hardware elements are actually well understood and relatively simple to specify and implement, the SIM management is less so but still not beyond the capabilities of most engineering teams.
The challenges really start when you move to the next stage which involves getting your ‘thing’ registered and connected to your chosen IoT platform provider, this IoT platform or ‘Cloud’ is where all the data generated by your device will be sent and provides functions which include data processing, storage, analytics and advanced machine learning routines which ultimately allow you to visualise and manage your data. There are several Cloud services available on the market, however most companies will typcially choose to partner with one of the more well known platforms such as Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure. Connecting devices to a Cloud service may involve writing firmware and software as well as configuring the Cloud platform services and associated security, this is where most of the design time and debugging will be spent on a typical IoT device design prior to its deployment. A summary of the typical building blocks in a IoT solution can be seen in Fig 1.
Fig 1. Outline of building blocks and associated complexities of a typical IoT solution ecosystem
- Choose communications hardware suitable for location of the device. Design a communication protocol.
- Negotiate airtime plan with mobile network operator(s) and acquire SIMs for the device(s).
- Manage the lifecycle of the SIM card(s) and manage individual airtime consumption.
- Find a suitable cloud database for storing and managing data from the device(s).
- Design an application to visualise the data. Monitor and manage the connected device(s)
- Manage security certificates, the identity of the device(s) and enrolment into the cloud platform.
The Terminal with a plug-and-play Cloud connection.
Fortunately, Thales (formerly Gemalto) have identified the unique challenges involved in getting ‘things’ connected to the IoT and simplified the process by combining both of these elements into one, integrated and ready to use, solution. The Thales Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE Terminal is a plug-and-play IoT solution that ensures a consistent global ‘out of the box’ experience and behaviour for IoT deployments. The terminal simplifies and automates all the Cloud elements of the design process including device security, provisioning, and connectivity into Amazon Web Services (AWS). The terminal is an AWS qualified device and is the world’s first plug and play IoT solution that automatically connects with AWS.
Thales are a leader in cellular module technology and reliable global connectivity, they have worked in conjunction with Eseye to deliver this, the world’s first integrated terminal that vastly simplifies IoT device design and deployment, typically halving device design and deployment timescales.
Fig. 2: Simplified Solution Overview
The LTE Terminal with Intelligent Cloud Connect
The Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal is based on Thales award winning PLS62-W module with its powerful Java embedded system that delivers highly efficient Multi-Band Cat 1 LTE connectivity and fallback to 3G and 2G for global IoT solutions. The PLS62-W module provides 12 Band LTE, Seven Band 3G HSPA/UMTS and Quad-Band GSM for seamless coverage through roaming across various wireless networks. This allows the terminal to deliver optimized speeds of 10Mbit/s download and 5Mbit/s uplink making it the ideal choice for IoT applications that require the longevity of LTE networks along with continuous coverage in regions where 4G is still emerging.
The terminals come with Full Type Approval (FTA) and certifications from global network operators, ensuring a speedy go-to-market timeline. They also offer a highly flexible mounting concept enabling quick and easy implementation via DIN rail mounting, C-rail mounting, screw fixing, or use of cable ties.
Providing near 100% global network connectivity, the Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal allows users to plug in and connect anywhere in the world. The terminal comes preinstalled with the Eseye AnyNet SIM which provides all the data provisioning to the AWS IoT Core. The Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal has been designed to connect with any host device via RS232 or USB, further connectivity is provided using the expansion connector offering SPI, I2C, GPIO, an additional RS232 interface and 5V power supply. The terminal provides automated Zero Touch security certification with enhanced security using AWS IoT device defender, the pre-integrated device security is automatically deployed to the terminal with centralised policy management.
Quick and easy Cloud set-up
The Thales Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal allows devices to be connected to the AWS IoT Core very easily, using simplified MQTT AT commands and an easy set-up process via the Amazon AWS Marketplace, this not only gives an efficient design but allows users with limited resources or no experience of connecting IoT devices to a Cloud to get up and running in as little as 1 hour with just a few simple steps as shown in Fig 3.
Fig 3. Connecting a device to the IoT using the Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal
The Thales Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal makes it possible to reduce time to market by more than 50%, in some cases designs which would normally have taken 2 years have been completed in just 6 months.
The terminal provides customers further convenience by giving access to a ‘Single pane of glass’ management system for their entire global ‘things’ deployment via the AWS IoT Services. This means the data management and billing is simplified and provided via AWS Marketplace, all billing is based on MQTT messages, not Kbyte based data SIM packages, this makes it much more cost effective particularly for applications where many thousands of devices may be deployed globally. Customers have just one single point of billing for their data usage via the AWS market place, no separate billing or management is required for the pre-configured Eseye SIM supplied with the Intelligent Cloud Connect LTE terminal.
Anglia offer comprehensive support for customer designs with free evaluation kits and samples of Thales products via the EZYsample service which is available to all registered Anglia Live account customers.
In addition, Anglia’s engineering team have extensive experience of working with IoT related designs and can provide valuable product demonstrations, insight, advice, and component recommendations for your application. This expertise is available to support customers with all aspects of their designs, offering hands on hardware and software design support along with access to Thales extensive resource of technical application notes.
*Amazon, AWS, Microsoft, Azure, Eseye and Java are trademarks of their respective owners