Industry Insights

Create a Bulletproof IoT Device That Thrives in A Competitive Environment

2020-08-11  |  6 min read 

If you think the conventional way of designing and testing an Internet of Things (IoT) device is still relevant today, you might be wrong. Tens of billions of IoT devices surround us today. Billions more will connect to the internet in the next few years. On top of that, IoT deployment is diversifying from consumer-based to mission-critical applications in the areas of public safety, emergency response, industrial automation, autonomous vehicles, and healthcare IoT. While IoT devices offer great convenience, having large numbers of them in a small space increases complexity in device design, test, performance, and security.

Design engineers and manufacturers are being forced to adopt a more comprehensive approach to ensure that their IoT devices work reliably, securely and for a long time in a crowded RF environment. IoT success demands that design engineers and manufacturers address the 5 C’s challenges across the entire IoT device lifecycle.

What are the 5 C’s of IoT? They include:

  • Connectivity

Connectivity ensures that IoT devices connect to other IoT devices, the cloud, and the world around them. Mission-critical IoT devices are expected to work reliably without fail, even in the toughest environments. Fast-evolving wireless standards add to the complexity, and engineers face constant challenges in keeping pace with the latest technologies while ensuring devices work seamlessly throughout the ecosystem.

IoT device designers and engineers are left to establish the right test methodologies to obtain accurate and reliable measurement results. What are the RF parameters to cover in the R&D and manufacturing phase? Which RF tests help filter manufacturing defects? There are many uncertainties — what’s the right test methodology?

  • Continuity

Continuity requires that IoT devices have extended battery life to do their jobs. Long battery life is of paramount importance for medical devices like pacemakers, which can affect a patient’s life. Needless to say, battery failure is not an option. Ensuring and extending battery life is one of the most important considerations for IoT devices. Long battery life is a huge competitive advantage in consumer and industrial IoT devices.

Integrated circuit (IC) designers will need to look into areas that can lower current consumption. Designers who integrate sensing, processing, control, and communication components into a final product, must know how the peripherals behave and consume power.

  • Compliance

Compliance requires that IoT devices adhere to global regulations. Compliance testing includes radio standards conformance, carrier acceptance tests, and regulatory compliance tests such as RF, EMC, and SAR tests.

Compliance testing is complex and time-consuming. If performed manually, it takes anywhere from days to weeks to complete. Design engineers often scramble to meet tight product introduction timelines and ensure smooth global market entry while complying with the latest regulations – which are frequently updated. An extensive regulatory test system often requires high capital investment and is something manufacturers want to avoid.

  • Coexistence

Coexistence ensures that IoT devices work harmoniously in crowded IoT environments. Unexplained communications failures become commonplace as IoT devices utilizing different protocols fill radio bands. This issue is especially problematic in healthcare environments where dense deployments of wireless IoT devices operating on different bands and using different radio protocols are the norm. These communication dropouts can often be attributed to several causes, in particular, issues with coexistence.

Standards bodies have developed methodologies and collision-avoidance techniques to improve the performance of device operation in the presence of other signals. How good are they in a mixed-signal environment? When radio formats do not detect other signals, collision and data loss will happen. If an infusion pump stops working because of a cell-phone interference, it is life-threatening.

  • Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity safeguards data from cyberthreats. Cyberattacks can happen in many layers, from devices and communication networks to the cloud and applications. While network engineers focus on network and cloud securities, little has been done to address endpoint and over-the-air (OTA) vulnerabilities.

The complexity of wireless protocols, such as Bluetooth® or Wireless LAN translates into potential unknown pitfalls in a device’s radio implementation. These pitfalls could allow hackers to access and take control of a device.

What’s next? These are the challenges laid out for each of the 5 C’s. Device designers and manufacturers must have a deep understanding of each of these technical challenges. The next step is to discover the key design and test considerations since they are paramount to building robust and resilient IoT devices.

To discover how you can ensure reliable wireless performance, explore steps to optimize battery life, learn about regulatory standards, understand interference challenges, and how to strengthen the security of your IoT device, read this eBook, "The 5 C's of IoT".