January 16, 2019 - No Comments!

Radio Equipment Directive (RED): Simple Guide for Hardware Startups

Radio Equipment Directive (RED): Simple Guide for Hardware Startups

Hardware startups appear more and more often on the market. However, companies that introduced a physical product to the market know how difficult it is. Problems related to the project start at the very beginning: gathering the right team or creating a functional prototype can be challenging. In the end though - there comes a time to bring a new product to the market. At this point most companies face a problem they had not thought about before - a  product compliance with the law and applicable standards. 

About RED

Each product must meet the appropriate standards that guarantee that it's safe to use and has the ability to cooperate with other devices without interference. In Europe, these norms (or rather - directives) are set by the European Union. Depending on the device's type, it must meet the goals of the directive adapted to it. Due to the fact that most products created by startups have radio communication (e.g. WiFi) we will describe a directive that is suitable for this type of devices - 2014/53/EU - that is RED (Radio Equipment Directive).

It is a relatively new document, that replaces previous regulations (1999/5/EC - R&TTE and others) and applies to all radio devices. It was enacted on February 26, 2014, but it did not take effect immediately - it is a result (among other things) of the fact that it does not replace one specific document, but several ones. It also changes the approach to device certification. To better understand this - let us first take a look at how such normalization documents are created and how it looks from the legal side.

Basics of directive's law

There are two main types of legal documents in the European Union - the Regulations and the Directives. The Regulations are acts of the highest rank. They must be respected throughout the Union and do not have to be included in the legal order of specific countries for this purpose. An example of a Regulation is the GDPR - that is why companies had to comply with it, even though in some countries local legislation did not keep up with the EU changes.

Directives - on the other hand, are acts that focus on the objective (eg ensuring security or environmental protection), which must be achieved by all Member States. In contrast to the Regulations, they must be incorporated into the local law of each country to be applied. Their main goal is to ensure the consistency of regulations regarding a trade in goods throughout the Union. This is to ensure the free market in EU, which is one of the assumptions of the community.

Currently directives consist general orders, they distinguish the Essential Requirements that a product must meet, that is - results (e.g. energy usage) that must be achieved or hazards that must be avoided. The Essential Requirements do not contain detailed technical specifications, nor specify the manner in which the manufacturer has to meet them. For this reason, the manufacturer can propose different solutions to achieve the directive's objectives.

However, such freedom may be more problematic than helpful. Questions arise - for example, what specific level of electromagnetic emission is safe for people? That is why the so-called Harmonized Standards were prepared for Directives. These are, simply speaking, technical specifications - the fulfillment of which guarantees a product compliance with the corresponding Essential Requirements. It should be remembered though that the use of standards is voluntary - however it is the safest solution, as it protects against undermining product's compliance with the requirements of the Directive.

Back to RED

Once we know the legal basis, it's time to return to the document we are interested in - the RED. As mentioned, it concerns radio devices - but not all. What's excluded?

  • military equipment and used in the area of public security
  • equipment for radio amateurs
  • equipment for aircraft and ships
  • prototype devices (according to an individual project) used in research and development centers

The requirements resulting from the RED directive do not have to be met by prototypes shown at various startup meetings and conferences. You do not have to worry about the directive if you're at the stage of constructing a working prototype, to show at a workshop. The only caveat is that the device can not be marked with the CE sign and must have information that it is a presentation model - not for sale.

So what is its scope? Virtually all radio devices (operating on frequencies up to 3000 GHz), which are not excluded from it.

What's the difference between the RED and the documents that were previously applicable (eg the previously mentioned R&TTE)? There are several of them, let's discuss it briefly!

  • in accordance with RED, a whole device must be certified, not its essential (radio) component - this causes that the GSM module with the CE mark (meaning compliance with the directive) placed in the device does not make the new device automatically meet the RED assumptions in terms of emitting radio signals. Combining two previously certified devices into a new one does not make it RED compliant.  
  • earlier if the device (e.g. oven) had radio communication, it had to meet the assumptions of different directives - separate ones for the safety of electrical devices (eg LVD and EMCD Directives) and a separate one related to the radio emission. Currently if the device has radio communication, only the RED directive applies (this does not exclude the usage of additional documents - e.g. for toys)
  • RED tightens many safety requirements in comparison with previously applicable directives, introduces more precise definitions

However there is one problem - what to do with machines that have radio communication only as an option? For example, a vending machine that has an option of attaching an adapter that provides a GSM communication - which standard should be used in this case?

The Radio Directive also regulates this issue. Simply put - if it's possible to separate the radio part as a separate module, two approaches are possible:

  • certification of the entire device in accordance with the RED’s standards
  • certification of non-radio parts in accordance with other standards, and radio ones in accordance with RED. However, we must be sure that connecting a radio transmitter will not cause effects that disrupt the device's operation and make it incompatible with the relevant directives - the first approach is therefore recommended.

Who is responsible for meeting the standards?

Since we already know which devices are covered by Directive 2014/53/EU, the question remains who is responsible for ensuring that devices on the market meet directive’s assumptions. The simplest answer would be: everyone but the end customer. But as you can certainly guess - it's not a simple issue.

Introducing a product to the market bears the greatest responsibility. It should have all test reports that confirm the product's compliance with the Harmonized Standards or with the Essential Requirements. The entity should also ensure that the device is properly marked and contains the required documents (mainly instructions and a declaration of compliance). It's also necessary to store documentation, mark devices with serial number and it’s still not the full list.

Each Member State can take steps to prevent the trade of non-compliant devices, so its fulfillment is so important - if we do not want unpleasant consequences.

Distributors also have their responsibilities. The most important ones are:

  • checking if the producer (or importer) reliably declares that he meets the RED assumptions
  • control whether the product has all the necessary markings (the product must also include the importer's data if there is one)
  • checking the presence of instructions (and in the case of imported device also if the translation of relevant documents is prepared and included)

An important remark for companies that outsource the production of equipment abroad, to sell them under their own brand - in this case the owner of the brand is considered producer - not real production facility.

Summary

The above article obviously does not cover all aspects of the certification process and the issue of the standards and directives themselves. I hope that it got a glimpse into the subject and suggested where to look for further information.

As you can see the certification process for the device, finding the right standards and ensuring a compliance with them is a difficult matter. 

If you want to prepare your product for entering the market but need advice and consultancy services - contact the Summer Agency team.

Published by: admin in blog

January 8, 2019 - No Comments!

What Is Edge Computing?

Edge Computing became a fashionable concept in the world of technology, but what's the core of it and how it differs from other buzzwords - like cloud computing?

Some history

At the beginning of the computer age, computing machines were large devices that occupied entire rooms. Because of the convenience and ergonomics of use, centralization of calculations in large data centers was the main goal of engineers and only simple data entry terminals were available to users. In addition, due to the high price, usage of computers was limited only to scientific centers and large companies.

This trend reversed with the advent of the PC era initiated by the first models of Apple and IBM PC computers. Finally, users got machines that could perform quite complex operations. This state continued until the beginning of the mobile era and cloud computing. Premiere of Apple's iPhone can be considered as symbolic date of change in the data processing paradigm. Mobile devices with lower data processing efficiency in some way, gave an impulse to transfer this processing to the cloud. In addition, a large-scale data analytics - so-called Big Data - changed progress direction of technology. Such processing required a lot of data and high computing power in one place - a powerful server room - marketing calls it the cloud.

Today

However, today we are witnessing another revolution - the IoT (Internet of Things) is expanding. Processors and sensors are cheaper, which causes their use in a growing number of devices. The amount of data produced by these machines is huge. Usage of video services on demand or even streaming games is becoming more and more popular. In the future, large amount of data will be also generated by autonomous cars. It changes the approach to data systems design. As it turns out -c sending all data to one (or several) central servers ceases to be optimal. Modern and efficient processors as well as smaller and decentralized data warehouses, which are closer to the customer, unload the network and provides lower transmission delays. And that's what edge computing is, a kind of return to data processing, not in data centers, but on the edge of the network.

Practical application

A great example where edge computing can show its strength is video monitoring using artificial intelligence. The development of AI allows to detect objects on video recordings and it can help security services which started using these possibilities. System detects people on recordings and notifies the operator only when an anomaly is detected.

Until now, the standard practice was to send an HD stream from the camera to the central servers, where the appropriate computers made the classification of objects on the image and processed information. As a result, using such function required broadband Internet access and generated high data processing fees.

Currently, technological capabilities allow you to start the neural network directly on the camera. It constantly analyzes the image and detects anomalies locally. The server gets a part of the recording only if a disturbing situation is detected. This significantly reduces transmission consumption and a long-term price of the solution.

Such solutions are already used, for example, by Nest in their cameras for monitoring.

Market development

The development of Edge Computing is inextricably linked to the development of the IoT market that is growing at a rapid pace, as we have already written in previous articles. Microsoft itself declares investments in the segment at the level of 3 billion dollars. As you can see, Edge Computing is the future of IoT development.

Published by: admin in blog

December 18, 2018 - No Comments!

IoT Market in 2019

The position of IoT strengthens year by year. It won’t stop growing in 2019. ITPro predicts that the number of devices will grow up to 3.6 billion (link). Basing on our experience and signals from the market, we would like to present 5 forecasts for the development of the IoT market in 2019. Let's start!

5g networks will change the approach to connectivity

So far, most IoT devices have used Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology to connect with the world. This especially applies to the devices designed for individual customers - new washing machines, refrigerators, ovens and lighting used these protocols.

However, what was enough for home solutions did not always suit the needs of professionals. Industry 4.0 devices was either based on a cellular network (interestingly very often 2G), or it used new communication standards (such as LoRaWAN described earlier). Each of these solutions has its drawbacks though - the 2G network consumes too much energy, which is important especially in the battery-powered devices (eg intelligent road signs, sensors in the oil fields). LoRaWAN requires the preparation of your own access point with internet connection.

The 5G network solves both problems. It introduces new, energy-saving standards that will be available everywhere where is the 5G network coverage. More information on the impact of new standards on the development of IoT can be found in this Forbes article.

IoT Healthcare market will increase significantly

As we wrote in our recent article, the health services market will be more and more willing to reach for IoT solutions. We already use glucose meters and insulin pumps equipped with Bluetooth. More and more often, distance cardiac care is also being discussed. For example, the Polish company Telemedical Innovations is preparing a special device designed to perform an ECG in home. (http://telemedicalinnovations.com/?page_id=45).

Market predicts that the need for such solutions will double between 2017 and 2018. The development of RTLS (Real-time locating systems) systems, which can be installed in hospitals and other medical facilities, is also extremely important. This approach will improve the logistics and management of the trade of medicines and other medical equipment, which can bring significant savings.

Smartcars will go to the road

Recently, Waymo (a company belonging to Alphabet - a group of companies originating from Google) has started tests of autonomous taxis. Other companies - such as Uber or Lyft are testing their autonomous vehicles all the time. It is expected that the industry of autonomous vehicles will develop very fast, and 2019 may be the year when many projects mature and start commercial activity. It is also extremely important in this aspect to introduce intelligent infrastructure to cities that could communicate with autonomous vehicles. An example? Street lights that communicate their current state to vehicles. You can read more about Smart Cities here.

Edge Computing is becoming more and more important

Cloud Computing has been a popular buzzword, which means processing data in the cloud (remote servers). This trend is still strengthening, and many companies in this sector have achieved success. However, cloud computing requires high bandwidths of computer networks, but data transfer is expensive. In addition, there are growing concerns about the security of data stored in the cloud. For this reason, the opposite trend is emerging - Edge Computing. According to this idea, some basic calculations can be performed inside the data collector, and only telemetry data should be sent to the cloud. For example, a camera that does not send a full 1080p image to the cloud, but only information what objects were detected.

Microsoft invests heavily in this technology with its partners. In our company, we also prepare and test technologies in this field. As we wrote in an earlier article - the less information we send to the network, the better for the safety of our devices, and this allows us to move smoothly to the next topic ...

IoT security will become necessity

As we have already mentioned - IoT devices are difficult to maintain security. That is why it is so important to think about this aspect at the design stage. New devices are becoming safer, companies and supervisors are introducing security procedures adapted to this type of devices more often.

Therefore, we believe that in 2019, encryption of connections with all IoT devices and the Edge Computing trend already described will become the standard. At Summer Agency we are prepared for the upcoming changes, which is why all our projects are built with security in mind and encryption of sensitive information.

 

Published by: admin in Uncategorized

December 4, 2018 - No Comments!

The future of IoT in the Healthcare Market

By dreaming about the vision of the connected medical sensors world you can get the impression that it will flood the market and make our lives easier in a blink of an eye. The road to success in the field of medicine is never simple though. Let me discuss few problems the Healthcare IoT market is facing and give some examples of real applications where technology is changing the lives of patients and doctors.

Internet of Things devices in healthcare:

  • devices that collect patient data in the hospital and automatically send them to the database without the need for a doctor to check each time;
  • connected to the network thermometers, glucometers, etc., examining the patient's condition at home;
  • devices for athletes to track progress during training;
  • technologies that monitor our diet and provide advice;

Cybersecurity takes on special significance

Privacy is the key and medical devices process data that are very sensitive. We do not always want to share information about our diseases with the whole world. Meanwhile, as we wrote in the previous article (link) taking care of security in the IoT segment is not easy. There are proven news about the possibility of attacking such important devices as a heart pacemaker. Most medical implants also do not have the ability to be updated remotely - the installation of a new software version can even be associated with the next operation.

That is why, apart from the precautions that we have already signaled, we should think about additional penetration tests ("good" hackers try to break into the device and thus reveal security gaps), the obligation to encrypt the transmission or introduce security certificates. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has already taken steps to introduce IoT device security audits. Other regulators are likely to follow this policy.

High costs

Designing a medical device is expensive and requires compliance with many restrictive standards during the certification process. For this reason, not many design companies undertake to create devices of this type. The price of components, in particular sensors and power systems is also a problem.

However, the situation is improving from year to year. In addition to large medical companies, there are more and more startups on the market that may exacerbate competition (including price one). In addition, more and more design studios are beginning to deal with this topic. At Summer Agency we already have an experience in designing and implementing medical devices. If you have a startup in this segment - drop us a line to discuss ideas 🙂

No communication standards

As the IoT Healthcare market is relatively young, it has not yet developed communication standards that are as widespread as those related to websites. Imagine that you can only browse a company's website using a specific browser. Now it is unthinkable, but even a dozen or so years ago the standards regarding HTML and CSS were inconsistent and the same page could work differently depending on the application used to view it. This situation fortunately changed.

Meanwhile, the communication of medical devices still does not apply universal standard - glucose meters of one company only work with its test strips and transmit data only to its mobile app. The standards for the exchange of medical data are secret and each manufacturer develops their own. It can be said that this is due to the aforementioned concern for security - but the example of the website proves that open, universal and at the same time safe standards can be built.

A collaborative approach has tangible benefits - it can for example provide data to machine learning systems which, by collecting data from various sources, will allow better prediction of treatment results or more accurately diagnose diseases. The key is also the exchange of data between physicians of various specialties, so that they can choose better treatment with a comprehensive picture of the patient (eg having a list of medicines currently being taken).

Real applications

Despite the problems, IoT technologies are being used today in medicine. One of the interesting applications is taken from logistics: tracking and locating resources in the hospital. In the end, a medical facility, despite its special purpose, may also have problems similar to those found in other companies.

For example, one of the hospitals in New York has introduced a monitoring system that shows which beds are currently occupied. System provides location and data of patients. Remote allocation of patients to beds reduced queues in the hospital and reduced waiting time for help.

Another example where resource management is extremely important is a hospital pharmacy, in which drugs must be under strict control. In addition to the concern for ownership, there may be a mistake in the dose of the medication to be dispensed, which may end tragically. These problems are solved by systems based on RFID tags and sensors. There are already intelligent medicine bottles that allow you to locate the package and even remind the patient to take the right dose.

At Summer Agency we have experience in creating record keeping and tracking systems. The RTLS (link) system we have described earlier can be used to monitor the position and operation of (for example) medical devices.

Of course, there is more solutions to improve the care of patients with cardiac problems. Systems appear that allow you to register an ECG signal (ECG) in the patient's home and then send it to the cloud for analysis. Intelligent algorithms will automatically detect abnormalities and notify the doctor. The Polish company Telemedical Innovations (link) is working on such a system. It allows you to make an ECG at home and does not require knowledge about the placement of electrodes, thanks to a specially adapted device.

Future

Over 100M IoT medical devices are working today, and this number will grow to 120M by 2020 according to Statist (link). No wonder that companies are constantly investing in this prospective market.

The development is mainly in the field of new sensors and miniaturization of already present devices. One example is the Google’s project, which involves the creation of an intelligent contact lens that measures blood sugar levels.

 

Published by: admin in blog

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.

 

Published by: admin in blog
Tags:

November 27, 2018 - No Comments!

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 .

Published by: admin in blog

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).

 

Published by: admin in blog

October 19, 2018 - No Comments!

What People Think Embedded Programming Is


When I was recently speaking with my girlfriend she asked me about my job responsibilities as an Emb
edded Developer.

She wasn’t sure if she understood it well. Embedded programming sometimes is called a low-level one (in Polish it’s niskopoziomowy). Unfortunately.. there’s one similar word to niskopoziomowy, it’s niskopodłogowy (like low-floor, for example a low-floor bus). Just imagine.. she was telling her friends that I’m a low-floor developer! It’s the reason why I’m writing this article - to clarify what an embedded programming is 🙂

Generally speaking - applications may be divided into few groups.

  1. Desktop ones -that work on personal computers
  2. Mobile ones - that work on phones and tablets
  3. Server ones - that people usually use by internet
  4. Embedded ones - the topic of today’s article 🙂

So, the first question is - why embedded is also called a low-level programming?

Because it interfaces with electronics on the lowest level. Engineers in their application communicate with integrated circuits using interfaces like SPI UART and I2C. If you don’t know what the interfaces are, let’s say they’re like a wired phone where a processor calls peripherals and they execute the processor’s orders.

For example, in the operating system like Windows or Mac you can just ask a computer about current time and it will respond. In the embedded one, you have to configure a clock, give it the frequency and start value. You cannot forget to start timing and at the end to change the number of clock ticks to date and hour. It’s quite a big deal, isn’t it?
Behind all the operating systems stands embedded, but most people simply don’t realize it.

PCBs are usually connected with embedded. They are printed circuit board where all the elements needed by an app are connected. They are also in your computers, however in embedded they are done once. It means that an electronic engineer designed it and this element will be used in all produced devices. In your computers you can choose components processors, power supplies and memory units. In embedded components they are being chosen as the development starts. It must be done right because the PCBs have to be as cheap as possible while a device must perform all the expected and unexpected features.

Modern programming languages like Java, Python or C# are very user-friendly. They have nice features for memory management. You can perform very complicated commands in just one line and use smart features like exceptions. In embedded programming - an exception means hard fault and program crash. Still old languages are used for coding (C and C++). They are the fastest to list here but you have to write more complicated statements on your own. All lists buffers and queues are usually implemented by you. Your program has to be scheduled correctly because the operating system won’t do it for you.

And of course remember about limited resources. You have to fit in!

Have you ever updated a firmware version in your washing machine? Or maybe in a DVD player? I can assume that most of you haven’t. These are examples of an embedded stuff. As you can see, a program prepared for devices must be reliable. Usually bugs cannot be fixed easily. In modern devices with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi it’s easier, however it is said that embedded devices won’t perform a firmware update. It’s not an operating system like Windows, the program must be done right. It’s rather problematic for engineers because your application works with electronic parts. Between hardware and software there’s a place where something may fail and will be extremely hard to find. In the unit tests of code you can encounter problems with how to simulate hardware.

Embedded devices create the smart world that surrounds us.

An app must perform well without any fail. What’s more, it must be smart and user-friendly! The interesting and funny fact is - most people use devices before reading the instruction 🙂 A program has to be prepared in a way that a client, who’s unfamiliar with electronics can use a device with easiness. I hope that this article helped to understand the matter of embedded systems and showed why it’s applications are a little bit different than the others.

Author: Krzysztof Cieniawski

Published by: admin in blog
Tags:

October 1, 2018 - No Comments!

7 Ways to Improve your Website’s UX

“UX when done right, often stays unnoticed”

Your website is your best salesman. It should not be neglected, otherwise - there’s a huge chance you'll lose your potential clients at the very beginning of a process. It needs to be attractive and well-thought out.

We’ve put together a list of useful tips that will help you boost your visitors’ engagement and keep it stable.

1. Improve Page Speed

Slow page speed evokes frustration in visitors and can cost you a client. A 2-second delay in load time results in the abandonment rates of up to 87%. People access your website from many different platforms. Did you know that 64% of smartphone users expect pages to load in less than 4 seconds? If you want your conversion to be higher, you should meet their expectations. You can do it by:

  • minimizing HTTP requests
  • deferring JavaScript loading
  • reducing server response type
  • choosing the most adequate hosting option
  • performing a compression audit
  • enabling compression
  • reducing sizes of images
  • reducing numbers of plugins you use (and testing them)
  • reducing redirects

If you wonder how to check the speed of your page - you can use a tool offered by Google - PageSpeed Tools.  More detailed info about improving your page speed can be found HERE.

2. Apply adequate CTA buttons

Placing CTA’s on websites became a must-have, but the important thing here is to choose the adequate type of these buttons and apply them wisely. There’s plenty of options to choose among - width, color, size.

If you have some background in psychology, you have the power to create an effective and highly-converting CTA’s, simultaneously becoming the master of conversion optimization.

Among the most popular CTA’s you can find:

  • Lead Generation
  • Form Submission
  • Read More Button
  • Product/Service Discovery
  • Social Media Sharing
  • Closing the Sale
  • Event Promotion

Carefully consider the words used for your buttons. Place a word that will be a clear trigger, something bold with an emotional connection. The perfect example here is FreshMail.

3. Create main categories

Take some time and think about dividing your content into categories. Choose only the most important things to list.

Check the most popular subpages on your website. As for the content in each category - keep it simple. It’s not a place for fancy buzzwords and complicated descriptions -  you have only few minutes to introduce your business. Your main menu should tell a story and be a path to follow by your potential clients. Don't forget the "about" and "contact" category, as they are the most important ones.

4. Simplify navigation

How many times have you left a website because its structure was complicated? When your site is messy, you can’t expect someone to navigate through it with patience. All the necessary information should be accessible right away. If not, your visitors will fastly lose their interests and look for an alternative pages of your competitors. 

Too many details will overwhelm your visitor. The perfect option is to keep it in a range of 3-7. Remove misleading information from your site - people should know exactly what they'll find after clicking a specific category.

 

5. Make the most of social media

As we live in the world of sharing - benefit from it. Place social media buttons (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) on your page. It will encourage visitors to learn more about your company and follow it online. It’s your real audience so master the communication on each channel. 


6. Create coherent branding

Make your brand identity coherent and suitable for your business. Add some personal character, something that your visitors will associate with your company. Make it more individual, don't follow the same patterns. The visual identity should match your type of business. Again - it’s all about the psychology of colour. Focus on what’s most suitable for your firm and what values you’re trying to convey with your image. Let your brand tell a story and narrate it well.

7. Place a search box and make sure it works

When placing a search box on your page, remember that is has to be visible. It mostly comes at handy when you have more subpages with detailed information. It’s far more convenient for users to just look something up instead of spending their time searching for the information they need. 

A good idea would be to place a search box at the top of the sidebar or in the header area. When implementing one - check if it works well. If some misspelling occurs, show related items, a 'no product found' is not a ideal option.

 

Published by: admin in blog

September 6, 2018 - No Comments!

How to Be a Good Tech Leader


As they say, the stronger the team, the stronger the business. But somehow many managers and tech leaders struggle with core management skills and the effective work of their employees. If you're an engineer that accepted a new role - it's time to discover what a Tech Lead job really offers and how to do it right. That's what I did.

A Tech Lead is a mixture of roles and abilities - you should blend your technical expertise with management skills. Easier said than done? I know it may seem hard at first, but with time you'll develop your own style of combining it all.
Your responsibility now is to lead the team of talented individuals - manage their way of work, taks, schedule and possible hazards. You'll be under a lot of pressure now  - but leadership is rewarding (being stressed is completely normal if it's your first Tech Lead role and you have to face new responsibilities).

Tech Lead Main Responsibilities:

  • Maintaining the project technical vision
  • Helping with planning and executing
  • Setting expectations about deadlines
  • Answering technical questions of your team and helping in resolving complicated problems
  • Reviewing the work of other team members and checking its consistency with the project
  • Monitoring team members
  • Giving feedback
  • Ensuring your team understands their roles and tasks
  • Working with other departments

There's many tips worth describing and useful things I've learned so far, but today I want to share some soft basic skills and tested ideas.

Communicate effectively

Solid communication became a common buzzword nowadays. So what it really means for you in practice?  You should learn how to communicate your ideas well and not leave the room if someone doesn’t understand the vision. Being a good listener will help you hear your employees needs and opinions. They need to know you’re a person they can rely on.

What I usually do:
I prepare 1:1 meetings with every team member (one meeting per month) just to talk about projects and expectations. It’s a perfect time to discuss things more freely. After such meeting, you know what should be changed or improved. Most importantly - when done on regular basis it provides you with fresh update.

You’re the bridge between your team and other departments. Choose the right manner of communication and adjust it to various groups of people. The key is to explain technical issues to non-technical people in the way they could understand it without problems.

Find the right members of your team and delegate

Delegating is one of the biggest challenges you'll face when being a Tech Lead, because for a new leader it can be intimidating at first. You won't run away from it though, there's simply too much work do to and you won't be able to do it all by yourself. Delegating means sharing responsibilities and it's a perfect way to empower your team members.

As a leader, you have to recognize the skills of your employees. When recruiting, you should know what you’re exactly looking for. Keep in mind that some developers like to work in long term projects but others don’t. Check their preferences and adjust it to the workflow in your company. When it comes to experience - I think sometimes it’s better to hire an eager to learn person with slightly less professional experience than the other way round. I always focus on the mindset - the ability to think logically and solve problems. 

Choose people that match your needs and your company’s projects.

Play on the same side

If you are not on the same side with your employees, it will never be a sincere relationship. When we celebrate success, we know we did a good job as a team. If something goes not as planned, we work at this together and support one another. You can discuss committed mistakes and work on them in the future. The important thing here is to talk - whether it went right or wrong, it's crucial to discuss the outcome.

Celebrate even small achievements. It’s a trigger that motivates people to think outside-the-box. If you reward an outstanding idea or proposal, you can expect many more good solutions to come. Be constructive but if you don't like a particular idea - explain it with good arguments. You should never criticize a proposed solution without mentioning why. 

Build authority

Making difficult decisions is pretty much a daily bread. Learn how to be a good friend but also a leader. It’s important to separate these two spheres. It does not mean that as a leader you have to supervise every movement of your employees. Trust them. I often come across opinions that if you have a friendly relationship with your employees, they won't respect you enough and won't treat you seriously. I would say it's quite the opposite!

Be a friend, but don't be afraid when making a decision that dissatisfies someone. It will rarely happen that you all think the same way. You always want the best for your team and in most cases - you have the broader knowledge about the project, surroundings and relations.

Code

Leading a software team is also about finding the time to code. When you code, other team members see your commitment and skills in real life. Not to mention that you keep your knowledge up-to-date. Remember that you have to prioritize your tasks in order to not have many things on your mind simultaneously. If so, many of them can be neglected. Finding the right balance between coding and managing is a challenging task. Pat Kua in Taking with Tech Leads advice to follow the 30% rule - which means continue to code for at least 30% of your time. 

As you've worked hard to when acquiring your technical skills, you can also work hard to be a great Tech Leader.

Author: Tomasz Strzebak

Published by: admin in blog