Internet of Things (IoT) sensing is one of today’s hottest topics; but there’s a problem when it comes to putting great ideas into practice, explains Taras Chornenkiy
The IoT continues to defy the “hype curve”, with not a trough in sight and development opportunities apparently everywhere. Where there’s data, there’s interest in capturing it, and creative people with inspiration for almost any kind of IoT sensor can choose from a vast array of developer kits to try out their ideas.
It can be relatively easy to make a start, but scaling up a successful concept will typically run into manufacturing challenges. That stack of prototype boards – needed to bring all the required features together – cannot be deployed in the field and creating a production-ready version demands hardware-development skills and a manufacturing base that small design houses often do not have at their disposal. If only there was a properly miniaturised, low-power, IoT-ready wireless sensor that’s flexible enough for prototyping, yet ready to be deployed in large numbers.
SensiSUB integrates a complete set of motion and environmental sensors, together with a sub-GHz radio and an ultra-low-power microcontroller, as a tiny, self-contained System on Board (SoB) module It provides functionality that would require a stack of individual boards if using a platform such as ST’s STM32 Nucleo with X-NUCLEO sensor and RF-expansion cards.
Our highly integrated SensiSUB builds on the X-NUCLEO capabilities by featuring a light and colour sensor, UV sensor, MEMS microphone, and a buzzer, in addition to the 3D accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and temperature, humidity, and pressure sensing capabilities of the X-NUCLEO-IKS01A2 board. By carefully managing the available MCU pins, we were able to integrate the extra sensors and the radio module, as well as giving the MCU on/off control over the microphone to save power.
The SensiSUB demonstration firmware helps users explore SensiSUB’s capabilities. It is based on ST’s FP-SNS-6LPNODE1 package, which provides all the essentials to connect an IoT node containing sensors and actuators to a 6LoWPAN network that can be easily connected to the Internet or other IP-based networks. Of course, the SensiSUB firmware is extended to manage the board’s extra features. We also ported everything from the original target ST microcontroller, the STM32F401, to the ultra-low-power STM32L476, to benefit from its rich energy-saving features in addition to the efficient performance of the Arm®Cortex®-M4 core.
Getting started with SensiSUB is easy, using the guides available online. You can very quickly get your sensor node up and running, connect to a suitable network using sub-1GHz radio over distances up to several hundred metres, and quickly start sending sensor data to the IBM Cloud and inspecting the plots on your dashboard. And when the time comes to put your ideas into production, we are ready to help you with that, too.