Simplifying IoT: Connecting, Commissioning, and Controlling with Near Field Communication (NFC)

[fa icon='calendar'] Sep 12, 2016 2:30:16 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Bluetooth, connected devices, consumers, General, Internet of Things, IoT, Near Field Communication, NFC, smart home, tech, technology, Wi-Fi

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By Nathan Rockershousen, Technical Writer

The Internet of Things (IoT) is in the process of transforming the way we live our lives by improving the quality of life with technological advancements in efficiency and safety. Consumers will be among the biggest beneficiaries as the home environment is one of the main platforms for the advancement of smart ecosystems. The habits of individual consumers will be detected by devices within smart home ecosystems and then that information will be used to optimize the environment. The connectivity of the IoT will enable the seamless communication among devices. Near Field Communication (NFC) can be used to help developers utilize internet-enabled devices in an effort to maximize the benefits of the IoT in daily life.

It is evident that NFC will be beneficial for smart home devices as nearly 40 billion connected devices are expected to be in use by 2020. NFC provides a simply solution for connecting IoT devices to a network. Any device that is lacking a quality user interface (UI) can be given user-friendly controls with a single tap via NFC. In addition to its ease of use, other benefits include explicit interaction through close proximity interactions, read and write capabilities, and communication with devices that are powered down. NFC is a low cost and low energy solution that will enhance the IoT experience.

Setting up networks of IoT devices clearly has several benefits, but enabling a connected smart home does pose some challenges. A pressing challenge is the difficulty of adding and removing devices within a network. The ability to manage devices can often be difficult when dealing with headless devices that don’t have a built-in UIs. There isn’t really a single way to setup various devices within a smart home environment as users are typically required to follow manufacturer-specific commissioning methods. NFC can be used to resolve these issues and improve the overall user experience.

There are many other challenges that are facing the IoT. However, NFC can offer solutions to some of the following concerns:

Commissioning Devices: As mentioned before, there isn’t a standard protocol in terms of the commissioning process for IoT devices. Users are confronted with too many different methods for adding devices to a network, especially when there are no UIs available. NFC uses a single tap, or proximity to commission a device, thus creating a standardized mechanism for adding devices to a network.

NFC-Based Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Pairing: Most IoT devices connect to a network via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth within a smart home environment, making it more important than ever that they operate with comparable efficiency. In terms of Bluetooth, the NFC Forum and Bluetooth SIG have collaborated to speed up the Bluetooth pairing process. This means that the very slow and time consuming process of device discovery and paring will be eliminated by using the NFC tap to enable an instant and secure connection. The NFC Forum also has been working with the Wi-Fi Alliance to make it easier to connect to wireless networks. Once the user taps the NFC device to the NFC tag for their Wi-Fi network, the device will configure itself and instantly connect without the user having to find the network name (SSID) or manually enter a password.

Headless Device Commissioning: Devices that don’t have a UI don’t have an easy way to add them to a network. Tapping these headless devices against an NFC tag with the networking key built-in will remove the headache of commissioning these devices. NFC is used to establish a secure and quick connection and then can erase the network key from the tag to protect it from being accessed by an unauthorized person.

Controlling a Device with No User Interface: There are a variety of smart devices such as light bulbs, environmental sensors, in-wall outlets, and more, that don’t include an integrated visual display. Even though Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can provide some IoT interactivity, there are still several issues when setting up and configuring devices. NFC offers a very simple and secure method for controlling IoT devices that don’t include a UI. Input interactions (network provisioning and configuration) and output interactions (reporting information and diagnostics) are enabled via NFC.

Access Control for the Smart Home: Environments such as condominiums and high-end apartments have multiple families living in them, which usually requires a massive amount of mechanical keys in order for everyone to enter their homes. Mechanical keys are expensive, time consuming to distribute, and can easily be copied. NFC offers a solution by giving property managers the ability to give tenants a smart card or mobile application to access their homes. Keys can be sent to friends and family members with no cost, and a record will be kept of who enters and exits the home. NFC technology will provide a secure, cost effective, and flexible rekeying solution for property managers.

Many of the current problems facing the IoT in terms of user-friendliness and accessibility will be resolved with NFC. The implementation of NFC can unlock the true power of a large assortment of IoT devices within a smart home ecosystem. NFC technology can enhance the user experience in a secure and flexible manner at a very affordable price. The potential impact that NFC will have on the IoT is widely recognized within the NFC Forum and the IoT SIG.

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February 2015 Newsletter – Link Round Up

[fa icon='calendar'] Feb 27, 2015 8:14:59 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in business, business models, connected devices, connectsense, consumers, FIRST Robotics Competition, General, Grid Connect, Huskie Robotics Team, Internet of Things, IoT, IoT design, IoT platform, IWCE, IWCE Expo, Las Vegas, M2M, machine to machine, Napervile North, network range, Newsletters, NNHS, Perry Marshall, robotics, transmission of data, transmission range, Wireless

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Putting User Interface at the Start of Your IoT Design Process - How are your buyers going to interface with your product? This is one of the toughest aspects of Internet of Things (IoT) product design right now. Today’s consumers and business owners expect multiple ways to access and control the world around them and options for connected devices are numerous. > Read More at GridConnect.com

Going the Distance: How Range Affects IoT Design - The network range required for IoT devices plays a surprisingly important role even in the smallest design decisions. After all, the transmission of data is at the core of IoT devices. Transmission range depends on the type of network used, the environment it will be used in, and the types of data being communicated. > Read More at Remote Magazine

Upcoming Event: What You Need to Know About the Internet of Things - When: March 20, 8:30am-12:00pm | Where: Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV - Room N259 - IoT applications have the potential to transform every sector of business by allowing enterprises to take informed decision, optimizing the process, and supporting innovative business models. The combination of ‘low-cost’ connected devices with the need for data drives Internet of Things. Examine business opportunities in everything from M2M to green buildings to smart devices, explore how to create a wireless business ecosystem with IoT platform, and what limitations IoT might have technologically. > Learn More at IWCE Expo

Companies Help Animate Naperville North Robotics Projects - What is 6-foot 5-inches tall and can haul recycling totes and bins to the curb? For members of the Huskie Robotics Team at Naperville North High School, the answer is obvious. It’s their new robot. More than 70 students from Naperville North, as well as a handful of Naperville Central students, are building a tall, 120-pound robot as part of this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. The Huskie Robotics Team would not be able to function without the assistance of corporate sponsors such as Grid Connect. > Read More at Naperville Sun

What Do You Do When You're 100,000 Miles Away and Your Basement is Flooding? - Earlier this year, Perry Marshall, a revolutionary in sales and marketing, took a trip from Chicago to India. He had just gotten to his destination when he received a text from his ConnectSense Water Sensor that his basement was flooding. So what do you do when you're 10,000 miles away and your basement floods? Here's what Perry did. > Read More at PerryMarshall.com

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10 Internet of Things design considerations

[fa icon='calendar'] Feb 6, 2015 11:25:24 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in antenna, Apple HomeKit, Bluetooth, cloud applications, communication, consumers, cost, Embedded Computing Design, Ethernet, FCC certification, Featured In, gateway, General, internet, Internet of Things, IoT, IoT device, manufacturers, network, networking, networking technologies, power source, router, security, smart products, SSL, technology, Wi-Fi, wifi, Wireless

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Connecting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) is essential to manufacturers looking to stay competitive within their industry. Adding IoT capabilities gives consumers more features. It also allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customer while discovering new product use cases and applications that open them up to new revenue streams. When designing your first IoT device, there are 10 things to keep in mind...

Read more at Embedded Computing Design or download the PDF now.

10IOTDESIGNCONSIDERATIONS_BANNER

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10 Internet of Things (IoT) Design Considerations: Features and User Interface

[fa icon='calendar'] Jan 12, 2015 2:46:31 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in app, business owners, Cloud, connected devices, connectivity, consumers, engineers, features, General, Internet of Things, IoT, laptop, manufacturers, networking technologies, product, product design, smart home, smart phone, soft access point, soft AP, tablet, UI, user interface, Wi-Fi, White Papers, Wi-Fi modules

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3. Features

The IoT allows companies to add features to their product that were never possible before. These features have a wide range of benefits and functions including automatic software updates (over-the-air), smart home and office connectivity, reminders for maintenance, special offers, recall notices and upgrades and remote or local access and control. It is also important for designers to work with their marketing team to be sure the features desired by marketing are not limited by the hardware and networking technologies selected by the engineers.

These features extend new benefits to manufacturers as well. The features that consumers use can provide manufacturers with valuable insight to their products and applications of those products. For example, washing machine may have 20 different functions on it, but because it is connected, the manufacturer can learn which functions the consumer uses and why and then improve the washer’s product design over time. This same connected washing machine can also email or call its owner to let them know when a part is starting to fail and needs to be fixed before a problem arises. These new features also open the manufacturer to new revenue streams presented by the data collected from the smart device. A company that sells a connected washing machine can sell data on detergent use to the companies that carry those products so that they can have better information on their customer as well.

4. User Interface

Today’s consumers and business owners expect multiple ways to access and control the world around them. How are your buyers going to interface with your product? Options are numerous and range from using a smart home panel or gateway to an on-product LCD/LED display that can be paired with LEDs or push buttons. In addition, apps to monitor and control connected devices can be web-based or available for on-the-go consumers with smart phones. The type of product and its possible use-cases are important considerations when designing a product that can communicate information to its user.

Wi-Fi-enabled IoT devices may have the ability to act as a soft access point (soft AP) to allow a user to “join” its network locally with a smart phone, laptop or tablet. Soft APs make product LED/LCD displays unnecessary since the screen of the connected device will serve the same purpose.

Using a soft AP does not preclude the module from also connecting to the Internet and cloud-based services with some Wi-Fi modules. This dual-mode is very attractive because the user can access the product remotely and locally, depending on the features and use-cases for the product.

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>  For more information, please call Grid Connect Inc. at +1 (630) 245-1445, or email us at iot@gridconnect.com.

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