Exploring IoT’s top five challenges through the 5 Cs – Part 1

Sook Hua Wong of Keysight Technologies, Inc

IoT deployment is happening rapidly. According to IoT Analytics, the number of connected devices in 2019 is expected to surpass initial forecasts by 14% to reach 9.5 billion. The three main drivers are explosive growth of consumer devices, much stronger than expected cellular IoT/M2M connections, and strong device connectivity growth in China due to government initiatives, says Sook Hua Wong of Keysight Technologies, Inc.

This exponential growth rate is expected to continue for the next few years to reach 28 billon connected devices by 2025. Technology is already integrated into our wearables and clothes. There will be 26 smart objects for every human being on earth. 75% of cars will ship with necessary hardware to connect to the internet. Healthcare-related IoT revenues are predicted to increase to over $135 billion (€119 billion) by 2025.

IoT deployment is diversifying from consumer-based applications such as smart home devices and wearables to mission-critical applications in the areas of public safety, emergency response, industrial automation, autonomous vehicles and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).

Mission-critical applications make use of the convenience, low costs, and long battery life of IoT devices as well as widely available public infrastructure to improve interoperability and interconnectivity between devices to allow real time monitoring and control of various critical devices and systems.

As these mission-critical applications proliferate, the IoT devices and systems need to be robust to withstand the rigors of the real world.

Great potential comes with great challenges

IoT brings benefits to consumers and creates new business opportunities for commercial applications. However, these require stable and reliable hardware and infrastructure.

Emergency response system: Imagine what will happen if the wireless sensor that monitors the pressure of a remote gas pipe crashes due to previous power outages? During an emergency, the piping system can explode due to lack of timely action to contain it.

Digital health: Remote patient monitoring devices enables monitoring of the patient outside of conventional clinical settings, which enhances patient access to care and decreases healthcare delivery cost. However, the device itself needs to work in any environment such as in a crowded stadium or in a hard to reach underground warehouse. Signal reception through concrete structures and interference from surrounding devices should not impact the normal operations of the monitoring device. 

Smart meter: With hundreds of thousands of tiny smart meters deployed in every remote location, these meters need to work seamlessly to collect and transmit utility data. Any failure to the smart meter will result in errors in consumption tracking, causing revenue loses and potentially ruining the reputation of the utility companies.

Connected car: A connected car, such as in Figure 1, brings tremendous conveniences to us. But it also exposes us to various risks. Security flaws in wireless system implementation could allow a hacker to locate and hijack our car with just a push of a button without us noticing.

Figure 1: Connected car is a car with an interactive dashboard that can access the internet and communicate with other connected devices.

Engineers and designers working on these mission-critical systems or devices face intense technical challenges and must make important design and test considerations and tradeoffs from the early design phase to the end of manufacturing.

Addressing technical challenges through the 5Cs of IoT

A comprehensive approach is required to address the multi-faceted technical challenges in IoT devices and systems throughout the entire product lifecycle. As shown in Figure 2, the design considerations can be summarized based on the 5Cs of IoT.

ConnectivityEnsures your IoT devices connect to other IoT devices, the cloud, and the world around us.
ContinuityRequires that your IoT devices have extended battery life to do its job.
Compliance Requires that your IoT devices adhere to global regulations.
CoexistenceEnsures your IoT devices work harmoniously together in crowded IoT environments.
CybersecuritySafeguards your data from cyber threats.

Figure 2: Key design considerations to address the technical challenges in the 5Cs of IoT.

  1. Connectivity

Connectivity is about the ability to enable seamless flow of information to and from the device, infrastructure, cloud and applications. Achieving good connectivity is one of the top challenges faced by engineers because the wireless connectivity system is highly complex, and dense device deployments further complicate operations.

Mission-critical IoT devices are expected to work reliably without failure even in the toughest environment. The fast-evolving wireless standards add to the complexity and engineers face constant challenges to keep pace with the latest technologies and ensure devices can work seamlessly throughout the ecosystem.

Responding to connectivity challenges require the careful selection of design and test solutions that are highly flexible, configurable and upgradable to meet future needs. The solution needs to be highly flexible to test devices with many radio formats, able to access device performance under actual operation modes, and support over-the-air testing in signaling mode without the need of chipset specific driver.

Preferably, the system should also be simple, inexpensive, and can be used in both R&D and manufacturing for code leverages and to minimise measurement correlation issues across the different phases of development. The demand for IoT devices will increase exponentially due to their rapid proliferation. Manufacturers need to have a highly scalable, cost-effective and reliable manufacturing test system that can easily meet the increasing volume while ensuring device quality.

The author is Sook Hua Wong, Industry Segment manager general electronics measurement solutions at Keysight Technologies, Inc.

About the author

Sook Hua is an Industry Segment Manager with Keysight Technologies residing in Penang, Malaysia. She is the strategic solution planner responsible for Keysight Internet-of-things (IoT) solution portfolio expansion and marketing program planning to drive growth in the general electronic segment of Keysight Technologies.

Prior to this role, she was the product planner responsible for strategic planning and product portfolio development for the RF/Microwave power meter and sensor.

She received her Bachelor Degree of Electrical Engineering from University of Technologies Malaysia (1999) and Masters of Science Degree in Electronic System Design Engineering from University of Science Malaysia (2003). She has spent 20 years at Keysight Technologies with the last 15 years in the General Electronics Measurement Solution (GEMS) team under various roles, including manufacturing, product development, sales support, product marketing, and a product planner.

Part 2 continues tomorrow….

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