Business Process Solutions

Advantech’s IoT Sensing Device to Cloud Solutions

06 July 2018

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In this era of big data, the architecture of IoT (internet of things) technology increasingly includes cloud computing and intelligence where the action is taking place at the edge of a network near the source of the data, but often dispersed geographically over a wide area. Bringing intelligence to the edge of the network and only then reporting the processed information to the cloud provides a faster response, but also helps relieve the workload of the cloud, making the cost of building IoT infrastructure much lower.

For all of these reasons, according to the market intelligence firm IDC, by 2019 45 percent of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed and acted upon either close to, or right on the edge of, the network. By 2020, again according to IDC, IT spending on edge infrastructure will reach up to 18 percent of the total spent on IoT infrastructure.

Advantech's device-to-cloud solution realizes the possibility for edge devices to pass equipment and environmental data to cloud platforms directly. The company’s WISE-4000 wireless sensor node (WSN) series leverages Wi-Fi, cellular and low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology (Figure 1) to provide sensor-integrated nodes (WISE-4200 series), IP65-rated (ingress protection) enclosure nodes (WISE-4400 series) and solar-rechargeable nodes (WISE-4600 series).

Figure 1. The WISE-4000 wireless sensor node (WSN) series leverages low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology. Source: AdvantechFigure 1. The WISE-4000 wireless sensor node (WSN) series leverages low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology. Source: Advantech

The process starts with the acquisition of data from IoT devices. WISE-4000 WSNs are equipped with data collection, wireless transmission and various power input features aimed at industrial and outdoor applications such as factories, datacenters, food processing facilities, smart city infrastructure, agricultural irrigation equipment and renewable energy applications.

LPWAN technology is suitable for applications requiring low-volume, long-range data transmission while maintaining a long battery life, minimal cost and low levels of interference. The WISE-4000 series provides both standard LPWAN, enhanced machine-type communication (eMTC), narrowband-internet of things (NB-IoT) and long range (LoRa) devices to meet different sensing requirements. By supporting eMTC (which is also referred to as LTE-M1 and CAT-M1), it is possible to provide cellular connectivity with low cost and low power consumption for a broad range of IoT use cases, including asset trackers and wearables.

For distributed data acquisition WISE-4470 and WISE-4670 directly support a cellular interface and the WISE-4210, WISE-4410 and WISE-4610 LPWAN end nodes provide LPWAN access points and LoRa gateways, enabling users to easily build up their network.

The Advantech WISE series also focuses on short-distance wireless communication via RFID to fulfill applications in a production line or warehouse.

Connectivity to Diverse Cloud Platforms

To facilitate development of simple and cost-effective vertical IoT applications, Advantech’s WISE-4000 series products offer high connectivity to diverse cloud platforms by means of RESTful web services. REST (Representational State Transfer API) is a software architecture commonly used to create APIs for web-based IoT applications. It is based on Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). RESTful web services are among the most popular interfaces in IoT, particularly when applications involve the cloud. In the REST architecture style, clients and servers exchange representations of resources by using a standardized interface and protocol.

Figure 2: IoT wireless sensor nodes. Source: AdvantechFigure 2: IoT wireless sensor nodes. Source: Advantech

The WISE-4000 series also supports message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) protocol wireless communication — a messaging protocol for IoT devices in low-bandwidth, high-latency or unreliable networks — to communicate directly with the cloud. One of the key features of WISE-4000 is its “direct cloud access” with no gateway and communication device needed. The advantage of this is straightforward: devices connecting via a gateway potentially require two protocols, one for sensor devices to connect to the gateway and another from the gateway to the cloud.

To send data from devices to the cloud or to widely deployed aggregate devices, one might also be fearful that an IoT system would become overly complex. Not so. The WISE-4000 provides a wireless communication interface, IoT protocols and pre-integrated major cloud service connectivity to facilitate connecting data to the cloud. Better still, with WISE-4000's cloud accessibility, data can be transmitted directly to the cloud without the need for a gateway.

That’s worth repeating: one of the principal and defining features of WISE-4000 is direct cloud access with no gateway and communication device on an upper layer needed.

Reliable and Secure

Increasingly, as more devices are being interconnected and wireless applications have become the preferred network solution, potential users may be wondering: “Is wireless transmission reliable?” The WISE-4000 addresses concerns over low-quality wireless networks by utilizing local data storage to store data in the node, ensuring zero data loss when connections are weak or even broken.

For users concerned that the wireless signal may be reduced or nonexistent in a difficult operating environment, WISE-4000 modules provide local data storage; the I/O data and system events are logged in the internal flash memory of the WISE module and the logged data can be fetched when communication is restored. The internal flash of the WISE-4000 module can log up to 10,000 samples for each channel of data with a time stamp. Once the memory is full, users can choose to overwrite the old data or just stop the log function. When the module is powered-off, data can be kept in the module. When restarting, users can decide whether to clear all data or continue logging.

The WISE-4000 series provides three security steps to ensure the safety for IoT data.

1. Encryption: all the data via Wi-Fi will be encrypted during transmitting.

2. HTTPS secure socket: the protocol that is used for transmitting data uses this protocol, which prevents eavesdropping and tampering.

3. User authorized and white list: User needs to log in to the webpage before configuration or only allow the IP address within white list to visit WISE devices.

Figure 3. Advantech WISE-PaaS 2.0 Architecture. Source: AdvantechFigure 3. Advantech WISE-PaaS 2.0 Architecture. Source: Advantech

Most industrial IoT projects these days need to integrate wireless intelligent devices, seamlessly connect them to the cloud, receive data and take action. WISE-PaaS IoT Edge Intelligence is a platform as a service (PaaS) software platform designed to empower cloud services (Figure 3). WISE-PaaS interacts with and manages the devices. The WISE-PaaS integrated software service includes wireless sensor integration, cloud connection and remote device management.

Remote Monitoring and Control of Field Devices

The IoT is enabled by the implementation of intelligent electronic devices and sensors on sensing networks with real-time data exchange and control functionality between the field and a control center. These intelligent electronic devices include various remote terminal units (RTUs), which are microprocessor-based devices used for remote monitoring and control of field devices often spread over a large area. RTUs are sophisticated and intelligent enough to control multiple processes without requiring user intervention or input from other devices. Because of this capability, the main purpose of the RTU is to interface with distributed control systems and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems by sending telemetry data from the field to these systems.

Advantech´s ADAM-3600 RTUs are the key to connecting devices to the IoT architecture. The ADAM-3600 employs the Cortex A8 600 MHz processor, multiple I/O selection and wired and wireless communications using Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, GPS and GPRS. Its built-in Advantech WISE-PaaS/EdgeLink supports break-point resume function when the connection breaks.

Advantech has built an edge computing IoT system from the ADAM-3600 intelligent remote terminal unit, with WISE-PaaS/EdgeLink built in and is compatible with Azure cloud services. WISE-PaaS/EdgeLink is an embedded technology that accomplishes data collection, preprocessing and transmission in one unit and integrates a cloud management platform that enables the installation of many continuous monitor systems with widespread measuring points and high-volume data management. WISE-PaaS/EdgeLink plays a key role in device-to-cloud applications; its various practical features provide easier wireless communication for data forwarding. These features include:

• Administering all gateways that support Advantech WebAccess/TagLink

• Gateway status monitoring

• Event alert configuration

• Cloud access rights administration

• Custom integration

• Supporting both 32- and 64-bit Windows

• No license required

WISE-PaaS/EdgeLink frees users from the hard work of processing raw data and provides a unified interface for different protocol servers, which enables engineers to use C programming, Softlogic, WebAccess/SCADA software and HTML to communicate directly with third-party devices.

Easy Cloud Connection

The Advantech ADAM-3600 and WISE-4000 can be connected to Microsoft Azure and also Baidu Cloud. In the case of the Microsoft Azure cloud, before sensing devices can upload data, the user first needs to create an IoT hub on Azure. IoT hub is a managed service, hosted in the cloud, which acts as a central message hub for bi-directional communication between an IoT application and the devices it manages. Users can connect virtually any device to IoT Hub.

Creating an IoT Hub in Azure involves just a few simple steps: in the Azure portal, simply click New > Internet of Things > IoT Hub. After the IoT Hub is created, then click IoT Devices > Add > Fill in Device ID with the name > Auto Generate Keys > Save. Finally, click the Device ID created and copy the connection string.

To enable users to construct IoT cloud solutions even more rapidly, Advantech offers pre-configured cloud solution packages that serve as ladders for connecting devices, analyzing data, integrating business systems and transforming business models and revenue streams.

Advantech provides Azure cloud services for both its custom service packages and pre-configured solution packages to assist customers with connecting their solutions to the cloud. Custom cloud infrastructure services are offered in three packages. This allows customers to choose the package that best fits their needs and ensures they only pay for what they use. Alternatively, Advantech also offers pre-configured solution packages that can be deployed immediately without configuration.

Figure 4. Advantech’s comprehensive sensing devices support multiple IoT communication protocols, such as MQTT and RESTful, allowing terminal sensor data to be passed directly to the cloud. This streamlines the system architecture for connecting device-to-cloud solutions in IoT applications while reducing the system construction cost of individual sites. Source: AdvantechFigure 4. Advantech’s comprehensive sensing devices support multiple IoT communication protocols, such as MQTT and RESTful, allowing terminal sensor data to be passed directly to the cloud. This streamlines the system architecture for connecting device-to-cloud solutions in IoT applications while reducing the system construction cost of individual sites. Source: Advantech

Everything Needed for Edge Devices to Directly Pass Data to Cloud Platforms

For successful industrial IoT implementations, industry relies on big data analytics gathered via edge intelligence that collects data from all devices in the network and aggregates it in a cloud platform. Advantech’s total solution includes direct cloud access devices with no gateway, and employs WISE-PaaS/EdgeLink software and the WISE-PaaS platform for IoT cloud services. Advantech also provides Azure cloud services for both its custom service packages and pre-configured solution packages to assist customers with connecting their industrial solutions to the cloud.

Advantech further features a comprehensive portfolio of sensing products and technologies that includes industrial Ethernet switches, media converters, fiber networks, serial device servers, Wi-Fi AP/Client, industrial fieldbus gateways, cellular routers and more. For more information, go to Advantech.

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