Tolga Talks Tech is a weekly video series in which Onica’s CTO Tolga Tarhan tackles technical topics related to AWS and cloud computing. This week, Tolga discusses IoT Hardware with Matt Puccio, Solutions Architect at Onica. For more videos in this series, click here.
When building IoT devices, there are always hardware considerations to be made. What are the major factors to consider?
Major factors to consider revolve around power consumption, connectivity (such as cellular), and compute.
With regards to connectivity, what are some of those options and considerations?
In addition to proprietary options, there’s WiFi, LoRa and SigFox (for lower power consumption), and cellular connectivity.
Cellular is very ubiquitous. What’s the downside of cellular connectivity?
With cellular connectivity, data rates apply adding to price, and on top of that, it results in high power consumption.
What about WiFi?
WiFi really only applies when you’re around a location that supplies WiFi, so you may have to maintain that network yourself.
What about compute? Why wouldn’t you pick the max compute option? What’s the trade-off you are making with compute?
The trade-off is mainly around power consumption and how much data you want to send up to the cloud. You can do more compute on the edge device, but it’s also going to eat up more power, so if you’re running on a battery, you have to take that in consideration when maintaining your devices. If you send data up to the cloud, you also have to price in the compute power taking into effect.
Customers often want buy an off the shelf device. Why should you build your devices?
It all comes down to the three main considerations again: power, connectivity, and compute. All those things have to factor in the decisions you make, so there’s no one-size fits all when it comes to IoT. It really is a specific use case by use case situation. Not every piece you buy is going to fit all the requirements you need.
So customers often end up designing custom boards and custom electronics to meet their use cases?
That is the best way to go about it. You can manufacture them to fit your specific needs, save your costs, and that way you don’t have to buy something over-engineered that’s not a perfect fit for your design. Or they can customize their design using the IoTanium rapid prototyping board.
Considering some examples of these connectivity options, if I was going to build an agricultural application where I want to cover my farm with sensors, what connectivity would I look at?
In that scenario you’re looking more for long range, low bandwidth type of connectivity like LoRa/WAN network would be ideal there in that scenario. Then you could send that data to multiple edge devices which could be pushed up to the cloud. For example, we worked with Local Roots Farms to help create an IoT solution to remotely manage their farms and operate more efficiently by eliminating the need for manual inputs and control.
What if I took the project on the road and I have a device that didn’t just stay on my farm, but it was mobile on wheels?
That’s where you’re going to use cellular connectivity. You’re not going to rollout your own nationwide network.
How about in environments like schools or offices or industrial of buildings, what would the best connectivity option be there?
Wi-Fi is going to be your best option there. The infrastructure is already in place, you’re just going to leverage something that already exists.