Intelligent displays and connectivity come together in the IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to march forward with, in most deployments, an army of sensors providing data to cloud-based control and analysis platforms. Promising to deliver new ways of conducting business, and making possible a raft of new “pay as you go” services, the appetite for IoT can be felt in many industries. But as the IoT matures it has uncovered a number of interesting challenges previously not considered. For example, while cloud computing can provide economies of scale for raw compute resource, some applications either simply cannot tolerate any latency, or the application does not warrant all its control decisions being made in the cloud. The concept of “fog computing” was born as a result of this, with the principle being provisioning a degree of local autonomy; for example, a heating controller that has delegated responsibility within a predefined temperature range to control the heating boiler.
Another change of viewpoint has come from what the remote edge-node sensors require in terms of capabilities. Initially it was thought that a remote sensor, for example a temperature and humidity sensor, would just require internet connectivity to talk to its cloud application. However, on reflection, this meant that no local staff, or visiting engineer, could see what the local temperature and humidity was, whether communications to the cloud had been lost, or the temperature that had been issued to the boiler control as a demand or target temperature. Another example would be to provide diagnostic data from a motor controller that might aid a service engineer in isolating a fault when attending a remote location. In both situations, the availability of both a display and a degree of local compute resource would also assist in providing local control of the process should internet connectivity be interrupted, avoiding the consequences of loss of productivity.
For the embedded designer tasked with adding a display to such an embedded MCU sensor, this requirement can introduce a whole set of variables, from power consumption to compute capabilities and physical enclosure dimensions. The savvy developer might well opt to incorporate an off-the-shelf intelligent display module as a resource-efficient and cost-effective method of integrating the required display functionality. Adding a display module to a wireless-connected sensor is one way of achieving the sensor’s HMI requirement.
But there is another way. This year’s Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany saw the launch of an internet-connected intelligent display module. This concept provides an innovative method of satisfying the design requirements of an IoT edge node with an intelligent, easy-to-program display, and of wireless connectivity. In some ways, this turns the IoT requirement on its head, by adding wireless connectivity and compute capabilities to an intelligent display. Most importantly, whether your application needs to sense and communicate data to the cloud or gather data from other IoT sensors and report it in a dashboard fashion, it can do both. Likewise, if your design needs to perform a simple gateway function by aggregating data and batching it up to a cloud platform, it can do that too.
As the IoT continues to evolve and more ways of operating a business or service are created, the presentation, communication and processing of data will remain a bedrock function. An intelligent display module that offers wireless connectivity in addition to ease of programming provides a practical alternative to a custom design.