Connectivity of the Internet of Things

[fa icon='calendar'] Nov 28, 2016 1:19:25 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Bluetooth, General, Internet of Things, IoT, network topology, NFC, RFID, smart technology, tech, technology, Thread, Wi-Fi, ZigBee

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When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), connectivity is crucial to keep in mind due to the fact that smart technology is completely reliant upon communication. There are various communication protocols and network infrastructures that can alter the way IoT technology is used as well as its level of operation.

Network topology is important to understand because it changes the way communication protocols are used. The main IoT network topologies consist of Point to Point (P2P), Star, Mesh, and Hybrid. P2P is a link between two endpoints that allow devices to communicate on a dedicated channel. Star network configurations include multiple nodes that connect to a central device; each node can’t directly communicate with each other, only through the central device. These networks are easy to setup but if the central device fails than the network will fail. Mesh networks consist of multiple nodes, each connecting to each other. This can be used for establishing consistent connection but there is a high amount of redundancy. Hybrid networks are simply combinations of different topologies, but they are often very complex and expensive to setup.

The different communication protocols can be utilized in an effort to maximize efficiency and optimize IoT technology for any environment. The common types of communication protocols include Wi-Fi, Thread, ZigBee, Bluetooth, RFID, and NFC.

Wi-Fi: This is an extremely common communication protocol that is essentially everywhere in our lives. Wi-Fi makes it extremely easy to add/remove devices, has a lot of range, and is able to penetrate walls and other obstacles. That being said, there is lower bandwidth due to the lack of wired connection, and Wi-Fi networks are not the most secure. It is perfect for saving power and having quick and efficient communication. Wi-Fi is a star-based network; the communication goes from various wireless nodes to the wireless access point (WAP).

Thread: Thread is a communication protocol that is very reliable, consumes minimum power, and enables machine to machine (M2M) communication. In fact, it was designed for the purpose of connected home applications. The Thread protocol can use three main device types including border routers, sleepy end devices, and routers/router-eligible end devices. It is primarily based on IP, making it extremely simple to connect with other IP-based networks. Unlike Wi-Fi, if a single point goes out, the whole network won’t go down; it supports a full mesh-based topology. It is also a very secure communication protocol. However, it is not very good for DIY consumer installation in homes due to its complexity.

ZigBee: ZigBee is very similar to Thread as it is created by an alliance of several companies in an effort to maximize home and industrial automation. It fulfils the requirements of a mesh network, but can support star and tree topologies as well. The three main devices defined in ZigBee protocol are different than Threads, they include ZigBee coordinator, router, and end device. It is essentially the same thing as Thread, but it does come with some additional features. ZigBee RF4CE was developed to be a universal remote for the smart home, and ZigBee Green Power is a mode that ensure extremely low power consumption. A downside of this protocol is the fact that it has short range and low data speeds.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth utilizes the 2.4GHz spectrum in the ISM band. It is an ad-hoc type of network, thus enabling M2M communications. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is the current type being used within the IoT world, but there are three different branches of Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth Classic is the traditional type of Bluetooth, which has a higher throughput and is primarily used for transmitting files. Bluetooth Smart is essentially the same thing as BLE. It transmits information and was developed for applications with low-duty cycles. It is also important to note that Bluetooth Smart cannot communicate with Bluetooth Classic. Bluetooth SmartReady is the last classification type; these devices are essentially the devices that act as hubs, such as computers and phones. This type of Bluetooth supports both Classic and Smart.

RFID: Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is used as a communication method for being able to identify and track various devices wirelessly. This is an extremely simple communication method that can be used for a wide range of applications. RFID tags are able to read and write information and can be either passive or active. If they are active, they have an on-board power source, giving them more range and the ability to search for a reader. Passive tags don’t have an internal power source but can be activated when touched against a reader. Readers are purely used for receiving information from tags.

NFC: Near-Field Communication (NFC) is a communication protocol similar to RFID, but there are several things that differentiate the two. NFC-enabled devices are able to communicate information from one device to another simply by tapping the two device together. This is particularly useful in smartphone technology because it reduces the amount of time and effort in connecting devices. NFC is an extremely short-range communication method, but it is probably the most power efficient protocol. NFC devices can either be the initiator (the device that starts the communication) or a target (the device that receives information from the initiator).

The IoT is continuing to grow at a rapid pace, making it more important than ever to understand the best applications of various communication protocols. Some of them are designed with the IoT in mind, while others are not. As the technology continues to grow, it is reasonable to expect more efficient uses of existing protocols in addition to more powerful, new protocols.

For more information: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/connectivity-of-the-internet-of-things

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Employee Spotlight: Jonathan Witthoeft, Software Engineer

[fa icon='calendar'] Nov 20, 2015 7:42:03 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in bags, BLE, Bluetooth, electrical engineering, Employee Spotlight, General, Grid Connect, Jon, Jonathan, marriage, ping pong, software engineering, Tech Support, ZigBee

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Grid Connect-5509

Jonathan Witthoeft has been working with the Grid Connect team for the past five years. After hearing about Grid Connect from a friend, he applied for a technical support position while finishing up his degree in electrical engineering. After spending three years leading tech support at Grid Connect, Jon has fully transitioned to a software engineering position where he spends much of his time working on various ZigBee and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) projects.

Beyond spending his time working with ZigBee and BLE and taking the occasional tech support call, you can find Jon playing ping-pong with the Grid Connect "A" League or playing (and usually winning at) a game of Bags. Jon says that his favorite part of working for Grid Connect is the people. "Everyone in the Grid Connect family is friendly and easy to work with. It makes a great atmosphere to get work done and keeps us all happy and productive."

Jon was married less than a month ago to his beautiful wife. In his spare time, he enjoys watching Game of Thrones with his wife and their fur babies as well as attending movies and sporting events, and spending time with friends.

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IoT Design Considerations: Network

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 19, 2015 2:31:12 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 10 IoT Design Considerations, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Internet of Things, IoT, Network capabilities, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee

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Manufacturers have many hardware and software options when it comes to network technology for their IoT-enabled products. Some devices can be directly connected to the Internet using networking such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi, which are based on the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP), a set of communications protocols providing end-to-end connectivity. Other products may use wireless technologies; some of which include TCP/IP, but will require a “gateway,” or a “hub” to convert the chosen network to either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, such as ZigBee or Z-Wave. Some of the many technologies available include:

  • Ethernet
  • Wi-Fi
  • IPv6 over Low Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN)
  • ZigBee
  • Z-Wave
  • Bluetooth
  • Bluetooth Smart e.g. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Bluetooth (BT) 4.0, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Cellular

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here: http://gridconnect.com/10-internet-of-things-design-considerations

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Grid Connect is a World Class Manufacturer

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 17, 2015 8:59:54 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 900MHz, BLE, Bluetooth, CANbus, chips, connection, Custom, development, DeviceNet, Ethernet, firmware, General, Grid Connect, hardware, I2C, Illinois, manufacturer, manufacturing, modbus, modbus tcp, modules, Naperville, network, NRE, packaging, private-labeled, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, software, SPI, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi

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Grid Connect Inc. is an ISO 9001-certified, world-class quality manufacturer. Our chips, modules and products are used by thousands of companies around the world to provide a network connection to their devices. All of our products are designed, assembled, programmed and tested in Illinois, USA. All final tests, firmware loading and packaging is done at Grid Connect in Naperville, Illinois.

All Grid Connect products can be customized and private-labeled to a specific customer’s requirements. It can be as simple as a software change to increase buffer sizes or as complex as a new hardware and software design. In all cases, Grid Connect will provide your company with a fixed price quotation for the NRE/development work and the production cost for the final product. We are happy to private label your product and ship it to you with the correct labeling and documentation.

Some networking and protocol technologies that Grid Connect specializes in, include:

  • Ethernet
  • Ethernet/IP
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • ZigBee
  • 900MHz
  • PROFIBUS
  • PROFINET
  • CANbus
  • DeviceNet
  • Modbus
  • Modbus TCP

Grid Connect also specialized in all serial standards, including:

  • RS-232
  • RS-485
  • RS-422
  • SPI
  • I2C


For more specific detailing of the various hardware and software options we provide, call the Grid Connect office at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

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IoT Design Considerations: Cost

[fa icon='calendar'] Aug 12, 2015 2:28:08 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 10 IoT Design Considerations, Bluetooth, Cloud services, Ethernet, General, Internet of Things, IoT, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee

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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 allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customer, while discovering new product uses and applications that open them up to new revenue streams. However, these added benefits come with a cost. Connected devices come with a higher manufacturing overhead, but may also be sold with a bigger price tag.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections can be added to products for less than $10 in bill of materials costs. Other technologies, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth, can be added for a lower price, but may require a separate bridge to connect to the Internet and access Cloud services.

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here.

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Grid Connect is an All-Inclusive Development Partner

[fa icon='calendar'] Jul 20, 2015 8:52:42 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in 900 MHz, Android, app, applications, apps, BLE, Bluetooth, build, CE, certifications, Cloud, connectsense, design, embedded, encryption, engineer, engineering, Ethernet, FCC, General, Grid Connect, hardware, iOS, layout, networking, OS, prototype, RoHS, security, Serial, smart phone, software, SSL, UL, web page, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi, Wireless

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A Complete Development Partner for Hardware, Software, Apps and Cloud Services

Grid Connect Inc. has one of the best engineering teams in the world. Our strong development team can quickly and effectively implement your partial or complete networking/cloud-based or embedded product. For more than 20 years we have been helping customers put networking technology into their products. In the past the focus has been Ethernet, serial and propriety networks. Now days, the focus is on wireless networks like Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth/BLE and 900 MHz.

A few of Grid Connect’s many development capabilities include:

  • Designing, layout and quick turn prototype hardware
  • Designing, programming and debugging embedded software
  • Designing and building iOS and Android smart phone and tablet applications
  • Designing, building and rolling out complete cloud/web applications
  • Embedded Linux or Real-time OS driver development
  • SSL security and hardware and software encryption option
  • Production of custom hardware
  • Embedded Web page development
  • Pre-loading of custom/customer firmware on to standard modules
  • Complete diagnostic testing of hardware and software prior to shipment
  • Work with test labs to complete FCC, CE, UL, and RoHS certifications
  • Custom labeling

 

The ConnectSense Case Study

With the ConnectSense brand of products, we took Grid Connect’s embedded networking expertise and put it to use in the consumer home automation/Internet of Things marketplace. In creating ConnectSense, we built a full end-to-end solution, which incorporated custom hardware, embedded Linux development, a custom cloud solution, and custom enclosures and sensors.

Since releasing ConnectSense to the market in 2013, we have continued to move our technology forward. With the ConnectSense Smart Outlet we have made great strides in easy setup and provisioning of devices, smaller and more affordable designs and development of apps for iOS. The ConnectSense Smart Outlet also represents the first generation of devices that are Apple HomeKit-enabled allowing for great features such as Siri voice control, end-to-end encryption and ease of use.

The ConnectSense product line allows Grid Connect to prove out its technology at scale and improve it over time. This allows us to then take that same great technology and help customers implement IoT solutions in their own products. Rather than starting from scratch, our customers benefit from our wealth of knowledge developing IoT products. This allows for quick time to market, lower cost implementations and less custom work required on projects.


To discuss development partner solutions for your company, please call the Grid Connect office at +1 (800) 975-GRID or fill out the form here.

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Sensors Expo 2015: Grid Connect contemplates the wireless factory

[fa icon='calendar'] Jun 18, 2015 9:56:33 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Adam Justice, BLE, Bluetooth, Featured In, General, industrial networking, internet, Internet of Things, Mike Justice, Sensors Expo, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi

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Grid Connect recently moved into what could be considered the ‘consumer’ space through its ConnectSense subsidiary, which provides plug n’ play sensor solutions for a variety of applications through devices such as their recently released Smart Outlet. The parent company still focuses on more traditional embedded connectivity, but according to Mike Justice the industrial networking landscape has started to shift as factory operators become increasingly interested in wireless communications.

Justice admits that Wi-Fi is still a no-no in most plant settings because of the unknowns it introduces, but says that Bluetooth and ZigBee are making considerable strides as they provide no direct connection to the Internet and subsequent security issues.

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

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Where is the standard for the IoT standards?

[fa icon='calendar'] Jun 8, 2015 10:45:57 AM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in API, Apple, BLE, Bluetooth, Cisco, General, Google, HomeKit, Intel, Internet of Things, interoperability, IoT, Nest, Network Standards, OIC, Open Interconnect Consortium, RFID, Rival Protocols, Samsung, security, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, wifi, Works with Nest

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The rapid progression of device communication has resulted in a formidable roadblock to the Internet of Things (IoT). Too many rival standards have emerged from big company alliances and individual expansions. While companies like Samsung, Intel, and Cisco have united around the Open Interconnect Consortium, individual corporations like Apple and Google are beginning to make headway on their own API projects.

In order for the IoT to work, every device pair must have identical network standards. Without matching protocols, individual objects won’t be able to communicate. For example, in order to play music from a smartphone through a Bluetooth speaker, the phone must connect to the device over Bluetooth, and not through Wi-Fi. This can get far more complicated than just the internet connection. In addition to network standards like Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Wi-Fi, there are also application and security standards that must also be identical. Two devices that run on Wi-Fi still can’t work together if one runs on the Apple HomeKit protocol and the other is designed for Works with Nest.

Inevitably, the jumble of standards has drawn all sorts of lines in the sand as far as companies developing for the IoT are concerned. This process has begun to follow a similar mess that occurred with the development of radio-frequency identification (RFID). It took 15 years to develop a common protocol for the RFID market, because of competing corporate interests.

Without standards, there is no possibility for interoperability, but it is important that companies work together to come up with fewer, more universal standards. Reducing the amount of these protocols opens up more avenues for product developers, and allows the consumer more product choice, rather than having to be selective based on the protocols they are already using in their home.

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January 2015 Newsletter - Link Round Up

[fa icon='calendar'] Jan 20, 2015 2:52:56 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Apple HomeKit, cellular carriers, CES, CES 2015, connectsense, General, home automation, Internet of Things, IoT, Las Vegas, M2M, machine to machine, newsletter, Newsletters, smart home, smart outlet, white paper, ZigBee

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10 Internet of Things Design Considerations [White Paper] - 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. > Download the White Paper

How the First Apple HomeKit Products Will Work - The first collection of Apple HomeKit-compatible products were quietly announced last week at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, and we saw everything from smart plugs and sensors to garage door openers and locks. There’s nothing too sexy about those types of appliances, but we were able to learn more about how Apple HomeKit and its vision for the smart home will work. > Read more at Mashable

The ConnectSense Smart Outlet Will Give You Command of Your Walls - After months of speculation, we're finally getting some dirt on which products will work with Apple's HomeKit once it launches. The Grid Connect ConnectSense Smart Outlet replaces a standard wall outlet and includes a USB port. It's available for preorder now and should start shipping this quarter. > Read more at CNET

My 2015 Internet of Things Wishlist - The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most hyped technology of 2014 and 2015 promises even more innovative IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology will surface. Building on the growth of IoT in 2014, the IoT will see even more explosive growth and innovation in 2015. Although I have several predictions of what will happen in the IoT world this year, I have one big item on my wish list that involves cellular carriers. > Read more at Embedded Computing Design

Grid Connect's Biggest Takeaways About the Smart Home Space at CES 2015 - A few members of the Grid Connect and ConnectSense teams were excited to attend CES this year. While a lot of time was spent in the booth demoing the ConnectSense Smart Outlet, we were able to stretch our legs and explore many other CES exhibits as well. Home automation was a big aspect of the show this year and we were definitely proud to be contributing to it. > Read more at ConnectSense.com

 

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Grid Connect Introduces Wi-Fi Enabled ConnectSense Smart Outlet With Apple HomeKit Integration

[fa icon='calendar'] Jan 5, 2015 6:20:27 PM / by Brittney Borowicz posted in Apple, Apple HomeKit, ConnectSense, connectsense, General, Grid Connect, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Press Releases, Siri, smart outlet, ZigBee

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ConnectSense Smart Outlet Will Be Showcased at CES 2015

NAPERVILLE, IL--(Marketwired - Jan 5, 2015) - A new connected outlet that integrates with Apple HomeKit is now available for pre-order from Grid Connect. The ConnectSense Smart Outlet features two Internet-connected electrical sockets that enable users to control devices plugged into them using Siri on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

The Smart Outlet plugs into any standard North American electrical outlet, and enables users to automate their home easily by setting up rules, notifications and schedules. The Smart Outlet gives users greater command over their environment by allowing them to control and monitor just about any device that plugs in, including lights, heat, fans, air conditioners, televisions, coffee machines, dishwashers, ovens, washing machines/dryers and many other household devices. For example, parents can make TV viewing or video games off limits until a specified time; homeowners can program the house lights to turn on when the garage door opens; and the washer and dryer can notify homeowners when laundry is complete.

Integration with Apple HomeKit technology provides quick and powerful access to control smart outlets anywhere in the home via Siri. This allows for control over both individual and groups of devices, as well as allowing interaction with other HomeKit-enabled products from many different manufacturers.

The ConnectSense Smart Outlet is the first device to include Wi-Fi, which allows the Smart Outlet to communicate with other smart devices and battery-powered sensors. Other features that make the Smart Outlet unique include:

  • Easy Wi-Fi set up and simple programming of rules and notifications.
  • Dual electrical sockets so users can make the most of their available outlets.
  • HomeKit integration so users can group together with other HomeKit-enabled devices, providing an easy, secure way to control your home's lights, doors, thermostats, and more from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • USB charging port that supports rapid charging.

The ConnectSense Smart Outlet is available now for pre-order at www.connectsense.com/preorder, and will ship in the first quarter of 2015. Priced at $79.95, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet offers tremendous value compared to other smart plugs, as it includes a dual plug, a USB charger outlet, HomeKit support to communicate with other sensors. By comparison, the cost of two smart plugs from competitors, as well as additional USB chargers, would easily cost $130 or more.

The ConnectSense Smart Outlet will be showcased at CES 2015, Booth 75626 in the Eureka Park area, January 6-9 in Las Vegas.

About Grid Connect 
Grid Connect (www.GridConnect.com), an ISO 9001:2008 company, is a leading manufacturer and distributor of products that enable the Internet of Things, including the ConnectSense line of wireless sensors. Grid Connect can be found on Twitter @GridConnect and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/grid-connect. ConnectSense can be found at www.ConnectSense.com and on Twitter @connectsense

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