The Internet of Things (IoT) is set for a revolution, all thanks to a couple of Finnish wireless researchers.
A Finland-based connectivity startup Wirepas has successfully developed a communication protocol that has the potential of revolutionizing the whole of IoT by turning smart devices into routers and giving each device the ability to start their own network and route traffic.
This will result in making IoT easier and cheaper for all type of businesses, including any product manufacturers or service providers as they will be able to maintain and grow their network once it has been successfully deployed.
IoT is a term which is basically used to describe smart devices that are capable of sending data back wirelessly to a particular smartphone app or a computer server so as to provide a helping hand in making people take smarter decisions and keep a close eye on all the machines and monitoring sensors, even when they are placed in immensely remote locations or places with extremely harsh weather conditions.
The smart devices in question here can either be a completely brand new device whose only work is to monitor the environment around, or it could also be an already existing device that has been given a wireless capability makeover.
The basic thought behind IoT was that all the information and data that is sent back from these IoT enabled devices can help people prevent many major problems and also help them in making optimum and better usage of their present resources, for example: it can help them in figuring out their way in various situations such as let them know when to stop heating their house in order to save their hard earned money; or when the roads are highly congested and public carparks are the most popular options available.
Currently, one of the most glaring problems with IoT is that it is extremely difficult to expand and grow an existing networks of smart things that have already been put out in the field, such as the deeply embedded sensors in a concrete car parking’s ground. Further, the maintenance of such networks become a task in itself.
Finland’s Tampere University of Technology invested ten long years in an effort to find a solution for this problem. They were finally able to develop a solution that could make wirelessly connecting an unlimited number of battery-powered devices a possible scenario, and this solution was then spun off into the Wirepas startup six years ago in the year 2010.
They were able to arrive at this solution by decoupling the hardware and the software protocol, which is something which had never been attempted before. Their solution doesn’t require any extra infrastructure or repeaters because each devices ends up taking the role of routing traffic from the other devices. This is disruptive. Each device in such a network ends up being a router and on the fly, it is the system which ends up taking a call on which particular device in the network will dispense the duties of a router.
Talking about their innovation at Slush 2016 tech conference in Helsinki, Wirepas’ chief executive Teppo Hemiä said, while traditionally one requires a network management function in a cloud or local server, somewhere centrally located and this has the intelligence to solve all the problems that might arise. But, with Wirepas’ innovation, all one needs is the devices as they are all successfully able to deliver messages to their neighbours and in essence, end up forming a network.
According to Wirepas, their solution is ground-breaking in nature for the whole of Internet of Things because the memory stored on the device is even smaller than what is needed in a Bluetooth protocol stack, which is what small devices like wireless headphones make use of in order to communicate with computers/smartphones.
Further, in Wirepas’ solution each of the smart device has the potential to act as a router, and one only requires each device to connect to the device that is located nearest to it, so then one don’t have to keep on installing routers or renting out various rooftops all around the city for setting up base stations to easily route traffic back to the internet so that the information can be easily sent to their smartphone application.
Wirepas also claims that their technology is almost 99.9% reliable, a figure much higher than what normal mobile networks are currently able to achieve. Since Wirepas’ technology makes use of the multi-hopping wireless technology, a type of technology that keeps relaying data from one device to another until it eventually ends up reaching an internet gateway, therefore it can easily ensure that smart devices connect and keep sending data even from deep underground basements, engine rooms etc.
Though Wirepas does face a stiff competition from technologies like Zigbee and Bluetooth, but these technologies cannot easily be scaled up as Wirepas’ solution can. This means, the other technologies would end up failing if one needs a really huge network of connected devices.
Also, while other IoT systems make use of the star topology, wherein the device has to connect to the base station in order to get connected to the internet, but in Wirepas’ case, any device can be easily connected to the nearest device. This results in higher reliability and scalability as there are more options for the devices to deliver the information/data.
Based on its recently conducted trial in Norway with two million e-meters, the Finland startup has meticulously calculated that if each device ends up having a life of 15 years, then the one-time royalty fee that it charges would come out to be at a monthly connectivity cost of less than €0.05 per device.
Currently, the startup is closely working with radio module manufacturers like Telit and U-blox, and systems integrators, telcos and OEMS like Capgemini and SK Telecom so as to licence its innovative software for IoT systems. According to Wirepas, the interest can majorly affect the affordability factor of the technology.