In this series of articles on the rise of the Internet of Things, LX Group will examine some of the major IoT systems already on the market, suitable for integration into various projects.
LX Group evaluates three systems, each offering a wide variety of functionality implemented in different ways.
The Electric Imp is a simple yet powerful client hardware and cloud service system with a focus on simple implementation. The hardware consists of a device in the same physical format as an SD memory card, and a unique identification IC fitted to the product under development. The Electric Imp card contains an industry-standard 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi transceiver and antenna, and a Cortex-M3 microcontroller with GPIO, I2C and SPI bus support and more.
The physical size of the hardware makes the Imp system relatively simple to integrate into existing and new products. Software for the Electric Imp is created using an online IDE, which is then transmitted to the required Imp via the Internet. The software allows the product to interact with web services, servers and smart phone applications, and can be updated and broadcast without any user operations, enabling bug-fixed and new features to be seamlessly rolled out.
Currently in a late beta mode, the Imp offers an inexpensive and theoretically trouble-free option for IoT integration.
Developed locally in Australia and successful worldwide, the Ninja Block is based on a combination of a BeagleBone Linux computer and a customised Arduino-compatible system, and connected to the Internet. The system allows interaction with a cloud service and a variety of customised devices such as temperature and motion sensors, and also enables connection to commercially-available devices such as RF-wireless power outlets and alarm sensors.
Devices communicate with the Ninja Block via RF or USB cable, and the cloud interaction is provided by the cloud-based Ninja Platform. Once new devices are added to the Ninja Block, they are recognised by the cloud-based platform and the end user can create rules that interact with sensors and actuators. Smartphone applications can also be developed for local interactions.
The success of the system is expected to develop a market for devices to interact with the Ninja Blocks; there is opportunity in creating new products to interact with the system. The open source system hardware allows much faster and cheaper device design.
The ioBridge system is the most mature of the three systems, and spans the gap between the Electric Imp and Ninja Blocks. Almost any kind of device can be designed to integrate into the ioBridge system; the system also works with cloud-based servers/services and local mobile applications.
One benefit of the ioBridge service is the established development environment with the ioBridge company creating bespoke web applications for the product that integrates their hardware. However, the ioBridge system is closed-source and licensing is required to create devices to work with it.
The ioBridge system may not be the most cost-effective hardware solution, unless the product is designed specifically for customers already entrenched in the ioBridge ecosystem.
As a partner, LX group will discuss and understand the client’s requirements and goals, and help them navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve their problems.
LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia specialising in embedded systems design and wireless technologies.