Mesh Sensor Networks Bridge IoT`s Last Mile

Mesh Sensor Networks Bridge IoT`s Last Mile
Internet of Things
Mesh Sensor
IoT’s Last Mile
Delivering Greater Resiliency with a Hybrid Topology and IoT Gateways
By Paul Richards, CEO, and Bill Goretkin, VP Engineering, Wireless Sensors
he adage, “You can’t control
what you don’t measure,” has
great relevance for energy and
industrial-process optimization. The need for data in these
industries is driving rapid adoption of wireless sensors and the gateways
needed to connect them to the Internet of
Things (IoT). By allowing low-cost sensor
deployment, these gateways enable visibility into previously opaque operational details.
The benefits become even more profound
with the application of advanced analytics.
There is a major challenge though in achieving these benefits. Companies
need to determine the best way to connect legacy systems isolated by
non-IP-friendly communication protocols such as Modbus RTU.
This article explores a solution from Wireless Sensors that connects
sensors in self-configuring and self-healing wireless mesh networks
that communicate to the cloud through Intel® NUC-based IoT gateways
(Figure 1, on page 56). We describe how this solution combines the
flexibility and resilience of mesh networking with the low latency of a
star topology. We discuss how the IoT gateways support RESTful web
services and integration with the Microsoft Azure* platform to provide a
seamless data path to the cloud and advanced analytics. And we consider the advantages of using an Intel® NUC as an IoT gateway platform. | Embedded Innovator | 13 th Edition | 2016 | 55
Internet of Things
The Hardest Mile
The most difficult part of connecting
to the IoT is often the “last mile”
from the local Internet connection to
the points where equipment or systems reside in a facility. Connecting
these “things” means both bringing
existing sensors online and procuring, configuring, and connecting
new sensors.
Network or Internet
Wireless Sensors
Radio frequency (RF)-based mesh
networks combined with powerful
IoT gateways offer an inexpensive alternative. For both new and
existing operations, wireless mesh
sensor networks provide the proper
scalability, redundancy, and ease
of deployment. Without wires to
install, these networks can be operational in just hours. Connected to
the cloud with an IoT gateway, the
network supplies all the technology
necessary for data collection and
cloud communications.
Mesh Router
Mesh Router
Surprisingly, the best path may
not be enabling Internet connectivity throughout. Less expensive
methods can often accomplish the
same thing without the complexity
of adding hundreds or thousands of
new IP addresses.
Mesh Router Smart Sensor
Figure 1.
SensiNet Architecture
Mesh Router
Ethernet Backbone
For applications that can tolerate some
latency, mesh topologies provide a convenient
solution. In this topology, data is forwarded
from node to node until the intended final
destination is reached. If individual transmission segments are temporarily unavailable,
data is automatically re-routed on an alternate path. This ability to self-recover from
single points of failure considerably increases
overall reliability.
Smart Sensor
When to Use Mesh
To better understand wireless mesh network
advantages, consider the alternative. Most
wireless IP networks use a star topology in
which all nodes communicate directly with
the network through devices like IoT gateways. If end-to-end transmission times are
critical, these direct communication paths
provide it. However, star topologies often lack
fault tolerance, so this advantage comes at a
cost. Network expansion across large buildings or outdoor areas is also more difficult.
The Wireless Sensors solution is a self-configuring and self-healing wireless mesh
network employing Intel® processor-based IoT gateways.
y Path
Figure 2.
Smart Sensor I/O Types
Contact Closures
4-20 mA
0-10 Vdc
Differential Pressure
RS-485 Serial (Modbus)
Control Outputs (contacts)
Wireless Sensors' implementation of SensiNet* delivers the low latency of
the star topology while maintaining the flexibility and resilience of traditional
mesh networking.
56 | 2016 | 13 th Edition | Embedded Innovator |
A Hybrid Solution
For situations requiring the best of both worlds – star and mesh – Wireless Sensors offers a hybrid solution based on SensiNet*
technology. Proven effective for environmental monitoring in data centers, Wireless Sensors’ implementation of SensiNet capitalizes on the
low latency of a star topology while maintaining the flexibility and resilience of the mesh approach (Figure 2).
The technology is a hybrid because:
• As in a star topology, bridges (and their corresponding routers)
provide a direct link to the IP network.
• As in a mesh network, sensors connect to routers and bridges as if
they were ordinary nodes and automatically re-route to a different
router or bridge if a transmission segment becomes unavailable.
The constant availability to network traffic provided by the solution’s
RF mesh routers and bridges is an important advantage. In traditional
mesh networking, the network only handles messages when scheduled to wake up. With its mesh routers and interrupt-based messaging,
SensiNet remains continuously available to deliver traffic immediately.
SensiNet’s hybrid approach also enables individual selection of
reporting intervals. Because the entire network isn’t governed by
the most time-sensitive measurement, each node can be set for the
optimum combination of reporting interval and battery life.
Greater Resiliency
Traditional mesh networks often collapse if a critical node
loses power when heavy traffic drains its battery. The
SensiNet architecture avoids this issue through redundant
communication paths that ensure reliable communication. Self-organization and self-healing capabilities allow
SensiNet to adapt to changes in the physical environment
and contribute to its resiliency. The network can also
dynamically reorganize when encountering interference to
enable coexistence with other networks.
New and Legacy Sensors
To help organizations rapidly span that last mile and connect legacy equipment, Wireless Sensors offers its own line
of Smart Sensors and accessories for fast setup (Figure 3).
The sensors address applications ranging from smart buildings and data centers to specialized industrial applications, such as cryogenic storage. Sensors are available for:
ambient and contained environments, humidity, pressure,
differential pressure, airflow, contact status, and AC current.
The sensors can be easily reconfigured and relocated as
monitoring needs change.
Figure 3.
Wireless Sensors offers a range of Smart Sensors in attractive
designs for a variety of purposes and environments.
For sensors that measure ambient conditions, Wireless
Sensors constructs its units to allow increased airflow. The
high-performance embedded MEMS sensors react quickly to
change. A wall-mounting bracket makes installation easy, and
a C battery provides dramatically extended operational life.
To integrate legacy analog third-party sensors, Wireless
Sensors feeds their signals into the system through
4-20 mA and 0-10VDC inputs on the Smart Sensors. The
Smart Sensors then communicate through bridges with a
wireless IoT gateway.
USB 3.0
Figure 4.
The Intel® NUC-based GWAY-2100 wireless gateway
(shown with the BRDG-1222) is an application-ready
design for smaller applications.
From Radio Frequency to IP
In the SensiNet mesh network, sensors exchange RF data
packets. To enable IoT communications, the bridges in the
network convert these RF packets into TCP/IP packets. A
single bridge can support the integration of hundreds of
sensor nodes, minimizing costs. Remote bridges can support hardwired sensors if an application requires only a
few measurement points. By distributing bridges across an
Ethernet network, the network can easily handle thousands
of sensors, leveraging Ethernet’s scalability and modalities
(wired, Wi-Fi, cellular). | Embedded Innovator | 13 th Edition | 2016 | 57
Internet of Things
Two Wireless Gateway Choices
To collect the data from the bridges and connect it to the
cloud, Wireless Sensors offers two wireless gateways: the
GWAY-2100 and GWAY-2105. Both are application-ready
and based on Intel NUCs powered by the Intel® Atom™
processor E3815.
The gateways include network management, user interface, data logging, trending, alarming, and communications
capabilities. To access and configure the system, only a
standard browser and network connection are required. No
additional software is necessary.
Both gateways offer the same wide range of protocol
and network support. Wireless Sensors recommends the
GWAY-2100 for smaller applications, and as a standalone
data logger with real-time views, trending, and e-mail
alerts (Figure 4, see page 57). Up to 8 million records can
be stored onboard, and the system will automatically send
sensor data across commonly used protocols.
The GWAY-2105 can connect larger existing network architectures by supporting up to five remotely mounted SensiNet
bridges (Figure 5). It enables a single integration point for sensors around a building, across a campus, or throughout the
world. The GWAY-2105 offers the same protocol and network
support as the GWAY-2100.
The GWAY-2105 supports larger existing network architectures
by connecting up to five remotely mounted SensiNet bridges.
Figure 5.
Event Hubs
Machine Learning
The gateways’ onboard web servers enable edge-to-cloud
communication. Broad protocol support that includes Modbus,
SNMP, ODBC, OPC, HTTP POST, SOAP, and FTP makes integration simple (Figure 6). When everything is connected, users
can remotely view alerts and monitor trends. Alternatively, the
system can direct collected sensor data through the gateway
into control and enterprise networks.
Local Storage
Scalable Compute
Protocol Abstraction
Hardware ID
Secure Boot
White Listing
Edge Management
Over-the-Air Updates
Based on the Intel® NUC
The Intel® NUC Kit used to create these gateways is a compact
powerhouse for value-conscious businesses and organizations. This low-cost solution provides:
• Fanless design for silence and reliability
• Intel® Atom™ processor E3815 with 5 W thermal design
power (TDP)
• 4 GB onboard embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) storage
• Internal flat panel display connectivity for built-in screens
• Video graphics array (VGA) port for monitor compatibility
in legacy installations
• Inter-integrated circuit (I²C) and pulse-width modulation
(PWM) signals for interfacing with sensors and other IoTenabled embedded devices
Elastic Storage
Data Mash Up
API Library
BI Dashboards
Middleware on the gateway abstracts the individual sensor from
the complexity of IP, allowing easy integration of sensors with
the IoT through modern communications protocols. The gateway
also provides a platform for data buffering, edge analytics, and
localized alarming to reduce cloud processing and storage costs.
Microsoft Azure
Wireless and Legacy
Protocol Support
Figure 6.
58 | 2016 | 13 th Edition | Embedded Innovator |
The gateways’ onboard web server provides broad protocol
support to make integration simple.
Walk into a Smart World
Engineering Services for IoT Innovation
L&T Technology is a General member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance
Internet of Things
With its industrial design and support for Linux* and Windows*
embedded operating systems, Intel NUCs equipped with Intel® Atom™
processors deliver performance, low-power consumption, affordability,
and software compatibility for gateway applications. High-availability
resilience is possible via the built-in watchdog timer, providing protection against costly downtimes. In addition, the Intel NUC includes
a discrete trusted platform module (TPM) for hardware-based data
encryption to protect confidential information.
Make the Last Mile Easy
For applications in smart buildings, data centers, and specialized
industrial usages where IP solutions are in minimal use, hybrid wireless mesh networks offer a highly reliable, resilient IoT solution for
monitoring critical data locally and in the cloud. Easy to set up, configure, and scale, their use of Intel NUCs as IoT gateways offers a
scalable, low-cost solution for local analytics and connection to the
advanced analytics tools in Microsoft Azure.
Intel NUCs with more powerful Intel® processors enable solutions for
more complex data analytics or data conditioning. These processors
include higher performance Intel Atom processors, as well as the
latest Intel® Celeron®, Intel® Pentium®, and Intel® Core™ processors.
The latter includes SKUs that offer the security and manageability
features of Intel® vPro™ technology.
A Gateway to Analytics
The Intel NUC IoT gateways configured by Wireless Sensors come
pre-integrated with connectivity to the Microsoft Azure platform for a
seamless data path to advanced analytics tools in the cloud. Azure IoT
Services, a set of cloud services from Microsoft, enables widespread
asset monitoring and data analytics for efficiency and operational performance improvements. These services also enable new business models
and improved revenue streams. Azure IoT Services include Azure Event
Hubs, Azure Machine Learning, Azure HDInsight, and Microsoft Power BI.
For information on the GWAY-2100 and GWAY-2105, see
For more on enabling the Internet of Things with secure,
manageable gateways and connected systems,
Wireless Sensors (
MR-wirelesssensors) is a
General member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance. The
company is a leading supplier of sensor networking products for
commercial and industrial markets leveraging standards-compliant
networking technology. The company integrates physical measurement
sensors with advanced low-power mesh radios for energy conservation,
regulatory compliance, process optimization, and other high-value
applications requiring high performance at a low total cost of ownership.
Contact Wireless Sensors
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60 | 2016 | 13 th Edition | Embedded Innovator |
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