Plug-and-play mesh sensor system eases path to IIoT

Article By : Richard Quinnell

The Njord sensor modules use the SmartMesh wireless systems and add the sensor interfaces.

Vicotee AS, part of the Virinco Group of Norway, has rolled out a plug-and-play IoT sensor system based on the Smartmesh IP from Linear Technology. The Vicotee system includes Njord sensor modules, the Bifrost gateway and cloud services for collecting data and managing devices, and operates out of the box collecting temperature, ambient light, humidity and accelerometer data. The system may well help ease industry's path to the IIoT.

The SmartMesh IP technology from Linear is based on the 6LowPAN and IEEE 802.15.4e standards and forms a self-healing, multi-hop mesh network. Each unit, or mote, is able to collect and relay data under the control of a network manager, which also serves as the network's interface to cloud services. Motes can both send and receive data, allowing over the air software updates, while the network manager monitors and manages network performance and security.

The Njord sensor modules use the SmartMesh wireless systems and add the sensor interfaces. In addition to the four built-in sensors, modules are able to accept a variety of additional sensors. The available sensor interfaces include I2C, SPI, one-wire, 4-20mA and PMBus protocols as well as general digital and analog IO along with UART. The Bifrost gateway wirelessly communicates with the Njord modules, relaying traffic between them and the cloud over a wired Ethernet interface. The company claims over 99.999% network reliability due to network's self-healing mesh structure. Battery life for the sensor modules is expected to be as long as 10 years.

The cloud services part of the system has an easy setup. Users simply register the gateway on the Vicotee Portal, turn on the gateway and connect it to the Internet. The gateway will automatically connect to the cloud service, where it is available to the user through a web browser. Similarly, users register each sensor module, turn it on, and wait for it to automatically connect to the gateway. At that point, sensor data begins streaming to the portal.

This kind of pre-packaged, simple setup sensor system may be just what the IIoT has been waiting for. More than 80% of large companies have indicated that they believe the IIoT will be essential to their future success, but only 24% have a clear IoT strategy, according to a Genpact research study. The rest are blocked by concerns about data security, legacy equipment, an inability to do fast experiments and lack of appropriate skills in their IT staff. An out-of-the-box platform like this helps address all of these concerns.

With the ability to upgrade current sensors to wireless connectivity and to quickly add new sensors to their systems, industrial users now have few barriers to at least trying out the IIoT. When their experiments yield measurable value to their bottom line, they will likely come calling on the design community to create IIoT systems optimised for their unique needs. Further, they will arrive with a decent understanding of what they need and how they want it to work, a vast Improvement over their current understanding that will simplify the design process and reduce risk.

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