Archives for November 2018

November 27, 2018 - 1 comment.

Possibilities of indoor location

The need for the location of objects is increasing all the time. Military and other industries such as transport and logistics strive for electronic systems that easily allow locating drivers or loads. Of course a GPS is the most well-known system of this type. This system was created precisely for the army's needs in the 1970s. It allows absolute location on the whole earth with an accuracy of several meters.

Making GPS available for civil applications has become a real revolution in the development of technology. Car navigations, fleet systems (both in logistics and popular taxi services) have significantly changed the character of business.

However - this technology has its limitations. The most important one is the mentioned accuracy - measurement with a precision of up to several meters is sufficient for tracking deliveries at the container's level, but not at the level of individual goods. Another problem is the availability of the system - which is only outdoor - this excludes its use in buildings (eg factory halls or warehouses).

With the development of online shopping, logistics is growing importance for the economy. It is the key to the development of virtually any business based on trade items. The growing needs in this area have forced the creation of a positioning technology that could work with greater precision and would be suitable for an indoor use. This is how the class of solutions known as RTLS or Real Time Location Systems was created.

These solutions usually use different types of tags attached to the monitored object and special devices mounted on the tracked area - to read the position of the marker.

These systems can be divided in various ways:

  • systems fixing a relative or absolute position
  • symbolic location systems

The first one determines the position by absolutely specifying it in the form of latitude and longitude (such as GPS), or in relation to an object.

The second one is able to indicate the area in which the marker is located, or indicate that it has passed a certain point where the reading device is located.

Various technologies are used to implement these functions. Symbolic systems are usually based on RFID tags. They are small, often flexible (in the form of a sticker) tags without their own power supply. During the reading process, the reader provides them an electromagnetic pulse that powers them, and they emit back the information stored in them. Most systems that use access cards work on this principle.

When the location is based on coordinates or position relative to the reader, there must be active markers that are battery-powered.

This is where you should mention the way of determining the location: to find out where an object in space should be located, determine its distance from other objects whose position is known. The more such distances, the more accurate the position, but the minimum number of reference points is 3. (vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U7ROVno2ys&t=301s - click for more information about this method). As you can see, distance is the key for location systems. This is usually done by measuring the time it takes for the signal emitted by the tag (location marker) to reach the receiver. Different types of waves are used in various systems, solutions using: ultrasound, light and radio waves are available on the market.

Every solutions has its pros and cons though. The selection of the correct one depends on the place of application, working conditions, required accuracy and price.

Ultrasound systems are used for the internal location where the located device is a smartphone.

The advantages: 

  • relatively low installation cost
  • no need to mount additional systems in the phone
  • the system becomes trouble-free for the recipient. 

    From the point of view of the end user - all you need to do is to install the right application. This receives signals from installed emitters and determines the location on this basis. The downsides are the low resistance to acoustic interference, which excludes use in noisy spaces - such as factory halls. The preferred area of ​​use is for example: a shopping mall - as a system for navigating around commercial spaces.

A similar situation occurs in systems that use light and / or vision systems. Such solutions are useful, for example: to track players on the pitch (after processing data from cameras located around) or hockey players. However, any obstacle blocking the beam of light between the tracked marker and receiver excludes such system. This type of object tracking will not be used in warehouses or factory halls, where a rapidly changing work environment can cause problems with the "visibility" of tags.

The most universal systems are those based on radio waves. There are two most commonly used approaches:

  • distance measurement based on the signal strength of transmitters of commonly used communication systems - such as Bluetooth or WiFi
  • using proprietary protocols and non-standard radio wavelengths

The first approach has the following advantages:

  • a relatively low implementation price
  • the possibility of cooperation with commonly used devices (tablets / smartphones) without additional equipment
  • no legal restrictions as to the availability of the radio band used

The disadvantages are:

  • relatively low accuracy of measurement (especially objects in motion)
  • susceptibility to interference by other WiFi networks or Bluetooth transmitters in the environment
  • greater vulnerability in the context of system security.

The second approach is characterized by:

  • greater accuracy of measurement (up to several centimeters)
  • less susceptibility to interference
  • greater security
  • the ability to track many objects simultaneously
  • the ability to accurately track objects in motion

The disadvantages are:

  • the slightly higher price of such systems
  • the necessity to use specialized transmitters and markers
  • limitations resulting from the radio bands used in a given solution - in some countries those parts of the band are reserved

WTHe decision on which approach will be used depends on the requirements for such a system. In case of shopping malls, public spaces and when the system is aimed to be used by individual users, an approach based on e.g. Bluetooth is best used. The possibility of cooperating with popular smartphone models without additional equipment will be crucial aspect in this situation.

However, if the location solution is used in industrial spaces - such as logistics centers, factories, warehouses - the accuracy and reliability of the system is crucial. Here, a system using a more advanced proprietary protocol will be recommended.

At Summer Agency we have extensive experience in designing and implementing systems of both types: our experience in designing applications, interfaces and electronics will create a full navigation system in the shopping gallery. For professional applications, we possess our own RTLS solution with high location accuracy, reliability and security level.

If you are interested in implementing the RTLS system in your company, to improve the quality and comfort of work, and to increase productivity .

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November 20, 2018 - No Comments!

How to Keep Your IoT Devices Safe

The IoT market is growing at a rapid pace. Gartner estimates the number of devices from this segment at… 20 billion in 2020. Almost everything becomes intelligent: light bulbs, refrigerators or vacuum cleaners. Connecting household appliances to the network brings undoubted advantages:

  • easy control
  • convenience
  • or the ability to monitor the energy consumed

However in the whole pursuit of connecting to the network everything that surrounds us, we should remember about security. From time to time we come across news about disturbing attacks made on devices from the IoT segment.  

For example, other companies’ smart bulbs were susceptible to malicious updates and servers were the victims of a botnet attack that consisted mostly of IoT devices.

Devices that make up the Internet of things are small, often battery-powered and do not have the computing power of smartphones or desktop computers. That is why, it is difficult to implement security procedures. And let’s face it - often users don’t treat them as a security risk.

We are used to updating computers or smartphones, but not our fridges with WiFi, right? However, it should be remembered and strongly pointed out that every element connected to the network can be a potential threat and you should take care of its security.

What should you do to ensure the safety of your devices?

Apply these rules and sleep peacefully in your smart home:

  1. Update your device - manufacturers often analyze their software after it has been released to the market in order to look for possible security gaps. There are also security companies that report vulnerabilities found to manufacturers. Then a patch is released that updates the software on the device and closes backdoors for cybercriminals. It is important that we do not forget about it and update our devices on a regular basis.
  2. Change default passwords - sometimes out of the box devices are factory-set with default access passwords. This makes the configuration and connection to the device easy. However customers often forget about changing these passwords and then the device with the factory password is an open road for hackers. Change the password to your own (preferably complicated) - and improve the quality of security.
  3. If you don’t need it, do not connect devices to the Internet - many devices can work both via Bluetooth or WiFi. As much as possible and convenient - use them rather via low-range Bluetooth. This limits the ability to connect to your device and ensures that only people who are physically close to device have access.

We also introduce our product under the Altlight brand and we always care for the user's safety. We highly care to meet all the best security practices while designing such devices, by enabling the ability to update them and by providing the encryption of information.

 

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November 9, 2018 - No Comments!

All You Need to Know About LoRaWAN

The evolving IoT market sets new requirements for communication standards. The number of devices is growing at a fast pace, and each of them generates a lot of data. These devices should also have low energy consumption, as their operating conditions often require the use of battery power. The range of communication and the easy handling of a large number of devices would also be welcome.

These conditions make the existing communication standards - such as 2G, 3G, WiFi or Bluetooth simply inadequate.

For these reasons, new technologies emerge and respond to the needs of the IoT world. One of them is being used in our company - it's LoRaWAN.

What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is a long-range radio communication protocol that allows energy savings. Various estimates shows that devices which use this kind of communication can work on batteries for up to 5 years. It is an open technology which uses sub-gigahertz frequency bands (for example 868MHz in Europe). Using the LoRaWan band is free of charge - unlicensed bandwidth means that many entities can create their own networks without major difficulties. This increases the availability of technology and positively affects the possibility of use in places where traditional cellular communication is unavailable. All you need to do is start your own access point.

The popularity of technology is also influenced by the fact that the organization that is standardizing it - LoRa Alliance - has as many as 500 members. Including giants of the world of technology - Cisco or ARM.

LoRaWAN is a protocol developed for high performance and low energy consumption. It optimizes communication between nodes and access gates which ensures data transfer to servers. The protocol is also fully bi-directional (gives the certainty of receiving information) and allows you to remotely add new devices to the network. There is a possibility to transmit to multiple devices at the same time (eg a message with a request for status change). Not without significance is the fact that the transmission in the network is fully encrypted - this allows it to be used in specific industries - eg medical.

The endpoints are usually IoT devices that act as sensors, controllers, etc. Due to their energy consumption, they are divided into 3 classes - from A (least energy intensive) to C (offers higher transmission speed, but uses more energy).

Class A is ideally suited for sensors transmitting data at a specific frequency, class C, however, works best for example in an advanced controllers.

The system gates are connected to the network server that manages the flow of information, and this is connected to the application server, where the interpretation and processing of data happens. Gateways can be connected to multiple devices - providing scalability. Transmission range depends mainly of the speed we want to achieve. With a slower transmission speed of devices in class A, the range of communication can reach up to 10 km in non-urbanized areas.

To sum up

LoRaWAN is a great data transmission protocol for IoT devices. It provides long range, scalability, low power consumption and transmission security. It is ideal for use in sensors, wearable devices (including medical) and controllers (eg in Industry 4.0).

 

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