May 10, 2022
The Internet of Things (IoT) is enhancing our homes, workplaces, how our goods are manufactured and shipped as well as the cars we drive and the venues we visit. As IoT technologies are part of so many use cases, devices must be designed with a variety of capabilities and support multiple technologies that add complexity. Engineers must implement verification processes that conduct reliable, accurate, and repeatable measurements to ensure compatibility and operation.
While testing is essential, controlling costs is equally important. Test systems used in R&D and manufacturing can be a significant investment. They are not as costly as releasing a device and later having to recall it because it’s not operating according to expectations.
An intuitive software-based test environment can help maintain budgets and give engineers confidence in their designs. The result is IoT devices with a strong return on investment (ROI) and lower lifetime expenses.
IoT is Everywhere
Diverse applications lead to design and operational variances. Here are some examples of IoT use cases, followed by their unique design considerations.
Drones – Drones are a low-cost and safer method to address issues in the field. For instance, they can efficiently add and maintain mobile IoT endpoints to extend a network. This has become essential as many enterprise processes take place at the network edge. Drones can also be used as remote inspection devices to eliminate potentially dangerous in-person inspections.
Sensors – One might say that sensors are the lifeblood of IoT. Cameras, radar, light detection and ranging (LIDAR), and a host of other onboard sensors are used by autonomous vehicles to collect data on road conditions, determine necessary driving actions, and prevent potential accidents. Sensors are used in augmented reality (AR) to layer information onto the real world, and in Virtual Reality (VR) to capture motions – all to make users feel immersed in their respective experience.
They are also used in Machine-to-Machine (M2M)-connected devices to map machine workloads, inputs, and outputs more accurately. Sensors monitor equipment to predict maintenance to extend product life, as well.
Healthcare – Through low latency, high-bandwidth 5G IoT connectivity, telesurgery is becoming more common in patient treatment. Surgeons remotely direct a robot in real-time to perform delicate surgeries in a hospital. 5G also helps people have easier access to IoT-connected wearable devices to facilitate data sharing with physicians, no matter where anyone is located.
Transportation – IoT traffic management systems are aided by 5G to be more proactive. For instance, shortly before the morning and evening rush hours, traffic lights can be scheduled to alleviate congestion. 5G-powered IoT ecosystem can reduce driving accidents and fatalities, helping to create a safer environment due to its low latency. 5G transmits data with a lag time of only 1 millisecond, which is 50 times faster than 4G LTE. The result is safer roads and more reliable deliveries.
Logistics – Almost 90% of logistics and shipping providers believe low supply chain visibility is one of the biggest challenges they face, according to research by Moor Insights & Strategy. Portable Internet-connected trackers conduct real-time monitoring to bring into focus the location and condition of goods throughout the entire supply chain.
Designing for IoT Use Cases
The IoT use cases discussed illuminate how IoT devices must satisfy specific requirements. To satisfy use cases engineers must consider specific design attributes – such as a battery, interference, and compatibility.
Battery – Power is a key element for IoT devices and varies by use case. Drones and other applications requiring operation over extended periods without recharging need devices with long battery life. Devices that periodically “sleep” and “wake,” such as home utility meters, must have batteries that reliably switch on for short wireless message bursts. Detailed measurements over time must be performed to accurate confirm batteries performance meets expectation of the IOT device.
Interference – A key design concern in any application, interference is critically important when it comes to IoT devices. M2M and logistics are examples of use cases in which outside variables and conditions can create harmful interference. IoT devices utilize multiple technologies and antennas in very compact form factors. This added layer of complexity means even slightly out-of-band signals can degrade operation.
Compatibility – The integration of multiple technologies and frequent handoffs between private and public networks places an emphasis on compatibility. Many IoT devices support cellular, Wi-Fi, and short-range wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth® and Zigbee. Ensuring they can seamlessly transfer from one technology to another is unlike any other wireless application.
Optimum IoT Test Environment
Creating an environment built on a modular platform addresses many IoT device verification parameters. An interactive, intuitive software-driven approach that simplifies the testing process and is scalable adds flexibility and reduces test times by providing three key benefits:
Simulation – Creating “real-world scenarios” in the lab and on the manufacturing floor helps establish proof of operation for IoT devices. All scenarios, including quality of service (QoS), data throughput, and mobility, can be simulated with a solution such as Anritsu SmartStudio.
Simplicity – An intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) can expedite creation and execution of test cases that make verification easy. Further simplifying testing is a GUI with drop-down menus, so comprehensive analysis is done in a few clicks. Universal indicators, such as green/red lights, allow engineers to have confidence in their designs without having in-depth knowledge of ever evolving 3GPP protocols and regulatory standards.
Automation – Speed and cost efficiencies are achieved through automated testing, so products are released on schedule and within budget. An automated environment that allows for simple test case creation gives engineers the ability to establish and recall thousands of connections and scenarios. The result is faster and more thorough evaluation of application behavior under any network condition.
As we have shown here, IoT devices present verification challenges for engineers. To learn more, watch this on-demand 5G IoT Device Testing webinar. It provides helpful tips to verify devices in the lab and on the manufacturing floor.