Of the red-hot high-tech developments in recent years, IoT is undoubtedly an area attracting the most attention. Major industry players are scrambling for a share of the massive IoT market by launching a variety of sensors, devices and even cloud-based analytic software and services. In the connecting between sensors and cloud servers, IoT gateways play an increasingly important role collecting and interpreting data.
According to research firms, the world will see over 50 billion devices connected to cloud computing centers by 2020, among which 10 billion will be connected devices people are familiar with today including PCs, smartphones and tablets while the other 40 billion will be "things" that are widespread throughout a variety of applications. For example, they can be sensors that are installed on machinery in factories.
Now the challenge is the booming IoT developments still lack a unified standard. That is, the multitude of sensors using different transmission protocols are in a state of disorganization. Cloud communication protocols being developed in a diverse range of implementations are also in need of standardization. As such, if we look at the variety of sensor transmission protocols and cloud communication standards, the cross combination between the two will be extremely complex. If the industry wishes to find a common ground to accelerate development of IoT applications, it needs an intermediary device that collects and transcribes data by converting the data gathered from different sensors to a format recognizable by cloud servers to enable quick data upload to cloud computing centers.
Accordingly, IoT gateways taking the role as the intermediary will definitely become growingly important with the rise of the booming IoT trend.
IoT Gateways Bridge Sensors and Cloud
As both sensor and cloud communication protocols have yet to reach standardization, IoT gateways still have to be able to process a considerable number of protocols. An attempt to integrate all available standards would be a formidable task and this is the reason why a basic plug and play IoT gateway has not been introduced on the market. However, it is also impractical in terms of time-to-market if each project takes 100% customization effort. Therefore, the market starts to see more realistic gateway solutions that pre-integrate common sensor and cloud communication protocols and then combine a suitable level of customization based on project requirements to help customers overcome development barriers and transmit data to the cloud securely without interruption.
Quanmax, with a well-established history in providing embedded industrial computing systems, has launched the UbiQ-100 series, an IoT gateway that strikes a balance between customized development and standardized product. The UbiQ-100 series not only offers key functionality of data collection and protocol interpretation but also combines pre-integration of common protocols and refined tailoring design.
Bruce Hung, VP sales, IoT BU, Sales Division, Quanmax, indicates at this time when standardization is still at an early stage, it remains infeasible for one gateway product to quickly satisfy the needs of all projects without customization. Therefore, a compromise is made by pre-integrating common sensor protocols such as Modbus and CANbus and cloud protocols including MQTT and TR-069 in the UbiQ-100 series and then combining project-specific adjustment and construction with technical know-how accumulated through customization experiences.
Hung emphasizes that compared to conventional consumer applications, IoT gateways for industrial uses deal with more challenging environmental factors, such as high temperature, pressure, humidity, dust and vibration and therefore have to be highly resistant to these elements. In addition, the mechanical design, I/O components and COM port type all need customized adjustments to suit individual projects. How to ensure effective wireless connection to back-end cloud servers is also an intricate task.
For example, the Modbus protocol commonly seen at manufacturing sites often needs multiple serial ports for RS485 communication, which however are not typical to industrial computer motherboards. Quanmax therefore designs the UbiQ-100 series to address this issue. Furthermore, Quanmax also uses modular design to integrate suitable wireless communication technologies tailored to different vertical applications. The flexibility meets the needs of various vertical applications and ensures users will not encounter problems of connectivity due to incompatible wireless communication standards. CANbus for in-vehicle networks requires components unlike those for typical industrial use in terms of dimensions so the mechanical design of the gateway has to be adjusted to accommodate for CANbus components.
Dedicated Chip Performs Encryption to Enhance Gateway Security
The above-mentioned refined customization developments are critical to whether sensors can connect to the cloud without glitch, which is a test on gateway suppliers' manufacturing and R&D capabilities as well as agility in their response to changes.
Hung further points out Quanmax plays an important role as an IoT hardware supplier, highly capable of making customized products from embedded boards, computers, human-machine interface, automation systems to gateways. Current development efforts mainly focus on integrated project implementation in collaboration with cloud platform provider to enable smooth transmission of sensor data to public and private cloud.
Looking forward to the next phase, Quanmax will raise the security level of the UbiQ-100 gateway series because the product, as other mainstream IoT gateways, uses the same authorization scheme and OpenSSL to implement communication security, which should be further enhanced. Quanmax plans to use a dedicated chip to achieve hardware level security which enables powerful protection superior to OpenSSL and can also be utilized to resolve IoT gateway's problem of insufficient computing resources. The solution can boost security level without imposing too much burden affecting system efficiency.
Big data analytics will inevitably play a role in the development of Industry 4.0 so in the third phase of UbiQ-100 product planning, Quanmax will focus on engaging ecosystem partners to accumulate R&D power relating to big data, thereby meeting customers' needs on smart manufacturing application development.
Quanmax UbiQ-100 IoT gateway