Getting started with IoT_CENSIS 2019

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Getting started with IoT Exploring IoT (Internet of Things) for business growth

There’s a transformation taking place in how businesses, societies and individuals work and a new era of possibility is now producing ideas and insights we never would have thought realistic only a few years ago.


Integrating IoT IoT is here and it’s time for organisations across the country to take advantage of the transformational benefits of the technologies and expertise available. IoT is a game-changer, allowing companies to create new products and services or implement cost and time-saving efficiencies using data and insights gathered in real-time. Environmental, health and social care IoT applications will also have positive impacts on society. The availability and low price of sensors, coupled with major leaps in data storage and computing capabilities, means that the time is right for businesses to embrace the major improvements, new opportunities and cost savings that IoT offers.

Contents An introduction to IoT

• The road to IoT • Benefits for business, industry and society • Security

IoT in action

• • •

Example application areas for IoT How a typical IoT system works Industrial IoT (IIoT)

3 4 5 5 6 7 9 10

Business models


11 11 12

• • •

Software as a Service (SaaS) Hardware as a Service (HaaS) Emerging business models

The CENSIS IoT stack

• Sensors • Microcontrollers, edge and embedded computing • Communications, networking and wireless technologies • Data repository • Analysis and post processing • Visualisation and presentation

13 14 15 16 19 19 19

Implementing IoT


21 21 21

• • •

Finding IoT expertise Your first prototype Joining the IoT community in Scotland



Text with an explanation in the Glossary on P22 is underlined the first time it is used. If you are reading the printed version of this brochure, you can download a hyperlinked pdf at


An introduction to Internet of Things (IoT) Q What exactly does ‘Internet of Things’ mean?

Q What kind of ‘data’ is collected?



To simplify the vast amount of chat and hype around IoT, think of it in its broadest sense as: ‘A system of things using the internet or a private network to connect and communicate with each other.’

Q What ‘things’? A

We say ‘things’ but really mean ‘devices’ that are connected via the internet to each other. Your phone is probably such a device. Some watches are internet enabled. Often, you’ll hear ‘smart’ added to the front of something to indicate that it can connect to the internet and chat to other devices, e.g., smartphone, smartwatch, smart lighting. In an IoT network, each device has a unique identifier and can transmit and/or receive data over a network connection.

Q But this is nothing new, haven’t devices been connecting to each other for years? A Yes, they have. But technology has advanced so much in recent times that we now have the capability to connect many more low cost, small, battery-operated devices to the internet. If we install a sensor on such a device, the sensor can first gather data, then send the information over the internet. This, combined with the rise of low-cost cloud computing is enabling a vast amount of new opportunities. Q Do IoT devices need to connect to the internet? A

No, it’s quite common for IoT to operate in a closed private network, especially in industrial applications where control over a full system is required, or where there is no internet connectivity. Everything is contained within a private network so that no data leaves the system.


Sensors detect and measure changes, e.g., changes in vibration, impact, heat, light, energy, colour, gases and temperature. So, you can create a system of sensors, all working together to measure information that is specifically relevant to your organisation. They measure, collect data and send it on.

Q Send it on where? A

Usually, the sensor will send the data to a data repository in ‘the cloud’ or local storage. It is stored, managed and organised in the cloud then forwarded wherever you want it to go. If you want to measure air quality in a city centre street for example, the sensor system could gather the information, send the data to the cloud for you to then view the results on your desktop, smartphone or tablet. IoT devices can also receive data which opens up the possibility of controlling devices such as switching on a light or changing a display.

Q But aren’t we all drowning in data already? Will the information be meaningful? A When the system is designed, software is built in to ensure that the data is converted to meaningful information. The sensor system will also be designed to measure the quality of data required to give value. What you see is a ‘dashboard’ showing exactly the information you want to measure. You can set parameters to show only information that will affect decision making, rather than showing you every measurement. Data analytics can also be performed on this data to extract trends, anomalies, and behaviours. Q Is it private or can other people see the information? A

Only you and those you authorise will be able to see it. When setting up your system, you can specify the level of privacy and security you require. We strongly advocate designing with privacy and security in mind from the start to ensure the system meets the needs of the application without compromising the integrity of the system.

The road to IoT

Technology evolutions driving IoT

From M2M to IoT

Computing power

In 1965, computing scientist Gordon Moore, predicted that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (microchip) would double every two years. This proved accurate for decades as more and more powerful computing capability became available in smaller and smaller packages. Today a smartphone has more computing power than all of the NASA computers used during the Apollo missions.

Computing cost

The exponential increase in microprocessors and microcontrollers has seen a similar reduction in the cost of computing power.

Wireless technology

The development of wireless networks such as cellular (2G, 2.5G, 3G, 4G and now 5G), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LPWAN and Satellite, has made the ‘connected’ part of ‘connected devices’ easier to implement, as they eliminate wired connections.

Low power electronics and battery technology

Although computing power density has increased enormously, improvements in power efficiency of electronics has meant that the IoT devices can be powered by small batteries for long periods (even years in some cases). This, together with more efficient battery technology, has led to widespread use of wireless devices.

MEMS Technology

While IoT is a relatively new term, machine to machine communication (M2M) has been around for decades. Starting with the development of the telegraph in the 1830s, through the first general communications networks such as ARPANET (the predecessor to the internet) and the explosion of personal computing beginning in the 1970s, M2M has been used for monitoring industrial machinery and reporting status information to a supervisory system. M2M communications were originally wired systems but the development of wireless cellular technology in the 1990s saw M2M become more prevalent. The term ‘Internet of Things’ was coined by a British technologist, Kevin Ashton, in 1999. One of the first true IoT-type applications, however, was introduced at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. Thirsty computer science graduate students hooked up the campus vending machine to ARPANET to check if a drink was available (and cold), before leaving their desks. The true difference between M2M and IoT comes with the proliferation of connected devices, driven by technology evolutions.

The development of MEMS technology has allowed IoT devices to contain smart, low cost, low power sensors.

MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) is a technology using microfabrication methods to produce tiny (less than 1mm) devices, usually with moving parts, which can be incorporated into sensors and actuators with an extremely small size and cost. Examples of typical sensors in a smartphone are: gyroscopes, accelerometers and microphones.


Benefits for business, industry and society Advances in low power electronics, communications standards, and increased efficiencies in battery technologies have heralded a new era for IoT. Power efficient, inexpensive devices with a long range of communication are available off the shelf, allowing all sizes of businesses and organisations, in all types of sectors, to design and implement an IoT solution.

IoT enables organisations to have greater visibility into aspects of their businesses that may have previously been hidden. This valuable information, often available in real-time, has a multitude of business benefits.



Better use of time speeds up processes

People exposed to less hazardous environments

Productivity Identify and eliminate process errors

Society Monitoring for health and social care

Profitability Cost savings and increased productivity leads to increased profitability

IoT Benefits

Environment Pollution levels, air quality, flooding alerts

Innovation New products and service opportunities or new markets

Compliance New and more effective ways to monitor and report compliance requirements

Business intelligence Allowing gathering of data to make better decisions to benefit the organisation

Security Any device connected to the internet may be vulnerable to attack, and IoT devices are no different. It is essential that each device is properly protected with security designed in from the initial concept of an IoT project. Secure protocols should be put in place and rigorous testing carried out before use. The UK is investigating a plan to increase cyber security across consumer IoT devices with requirements from manufacturers to build in security features and label devices so consumers have information about how secure their devices are. 1

UK Government cyber security information: For more cyber security information go to:

Studies show that with improved security,

businesses would not only buy more IoT

devices, they would pay 22% more for them.

The IoT cyber security market is forecast to

grow to around $11 billion by 20251.

Bain & Company ‘Cybersecurity is the Key to Unlocking Demand in the Internet of Things. Syed Ali, Ann Bosche and Frank Ford 2018


IoT in action Since 2016, multiple IoT networks have been rolling out across Scotland, laying the groundwork for businesses, societies and individuals to create IoT efficiencies, services and products. These networks cover Low-Power Long-Range Networks that enable lower cost connectivity and open up a host of new and exciting use cases. Cellular networks also have an important part to play in the IoT revolution with new IoT standards emerging that will form an important part of the upcoming 5G offering. These new communication infrastructures will be the backbone of new application development. Impacts from IoT activities will be widespread and will affect every aspect of our lives. As well as consumer, retail, personal health and societal benefits, industry will apply IoT to critical infrastructures such as manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, healthcare and utilities. Within Scotland, there is a rich heritage of companies developing sensor products, and the move into connecting these products is a natural evolution of the technology. The Scottish technology development and manufacturing landscape is well capable of exploring, designing, building, certifying and manfacturing technology to achieve worldwide scale.

We want Scotland to be recognised internationally as a natural test bed for innovation in connectivity which is why we are investing in our digital infrastructure. Kate Forbes MSP Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy

Expected growth of IoT units installed worldwide

20.4bn 8.4bn



Source: Gartner


Example application areas for IoT Parking in cities

Food production and farming



To optimise the use of parking spaces in cities to minimise congestion and maximise income

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could manage parking spaces to the benefit of the land owners, drivers and the environment


Sensors are embedded into the ground or mounted on nearby buildings to determine whether parking spaces are empty.


Via a mobile device, drivers are directed to a space without having to spend time looking for one. Parking space owners (private or public sector) manage land and space more effectively and ensure maximum revenue. Vehicle emissions are reduced when drivers no longer need to spend time driving around looking for a parking space.

To optimise irrigation in agriculture and horticulture. Over or under watering a crop can reduce yield quality and potentially waste water, thereby impacting a farmer’s profit margins.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could ensure crops are grown in optimum conditions.


Soil moisture sensors are placed around a field to measure the level of water in the soil. At regular intervals, the soil sensors wirelessly transmit readings to the cloud, where the data is stored and information transmitted to a dashboard.


From the dashboard, the farmer sees the current soil moisture and determines if the crops need to be watered.

If the cloud application detects that crops are underwatered, it could turn on the irrigation system and water the crops automatically, saving the farmer time.

If the system retrieves the local weather forecast it can also disable watering if rain is forecast to prevent over watering.

Efficient buildings and hospitals

Home telecare and health monitoring



To monitor the ‘health’ of buildings and improve their utilisation. Estate managers and building owners often have little control over the heating, lighting and occupancy of large buildings. This wastes energy and increases costs.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could help them better manage their buildings.


Sensors placed in rooms assess when rooms are empty or in use. At the same time, they monitor temperature conditions, humidity and carbon dioxide, noise and light levels.

To support older people to live independently for as long as possible. The existing analogue telephone lines for telecare - currently used by 170k people in Scotland - will be turned off in 2025. This presents a major opportunity for the introduction and application of IoT and other digital solutions.

Could an IoT system solve this?

IoT systems will replace the current non-digital infrastructure and will help monitor people’s health and wellbeing in the home.


IoT sensors and communication hubs to be provided to all people requiring services.



Building managers adjust room comfort levels, save on energy used for lights and heating and make better use of their facilities. In social housing, this could identify potential health issues for residents from damp.


The IoT telecare hubs will provide alarm and health monitoring services. This infrastructure will enable advanced monitoring and help to keep people healthy in their homes for longer.

People flow

Crowd behaviour



Counting and understanding the flow of people, e.g., in buildings, city centres, at sports events and on public transport. Understanding how groups of people interact with public transport systems could improve infrastructure planning. Crowd management at large events could be optimised.

Could an IoT system solve this?

Low cost distributed sensors could be deployed across a transport network to anonymously count and understand the flow of people.

Enhancing the visitor experience at historic sites and tourist attractions .

Could an IoT system solve this?

Indoor and outdoor location tracking could guide people round tourist attractions and cities and give relevant information at places of interest.


Small beacon sensors can be placed around attractions to give people relevant information at set locations through smartphones or other devices.



There are multiple sensor methods that can be used to track people using or moving through a space, e.g.,by measuring footfall or by using vision systems to anonymously count people.

Better visitor experience and understanding of people flow throughout attractions.

Result: An understanding of demand/ capacity around the network can support long-term transport or infrastructure planning.

Water monitoring

City waste collection



Monitoring water supplies in large buildings and distributed estates, particularly in remote and rural areas. Bacteria in a building’s water system could cause harm to the occupants.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could check whether water temperature in pipes could encourage harmful bacteria growth. Currently, many water quality tests are conducted manually. Automating this could save time and money, provide clearer results, and identify trends


Sensors are deployed throughout the water system to measure water temperature in real time.


Optimising resources for waste collection; understanding when bins are full, or if certain bins do not need to be emptied.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could detect which containers are full and plan the route to maximise efficiency.


Battery-powered ultrasound sensors are fitted to the top of each container to measure the level of waste and relay this information back to the dashboard.


A dashboard shows which containers need emptied and plans the vehicle route accordingly. In turn, fewer vehicle emissions helps to reduce environmental impact..

Water temperatures are recorded around the building enabling the building owner to reduce risk and report health and safety compliance.


How a typical IoT system works Communication network infrastructure


Devices such as:


Cloud providers such as:

tems such as: Sys LoRaWan








at ew ay

en t

Secure IP connection

ge na a M Device

Sensors are placed in relevant areas.

Data is received by a gateway then sent to the cloud application.

A microcontroller reads the sensors. The microcontroller runs from a small battery and is asleep for most of the time to conserve energy, only waking when required to read the sensors and relay the data back to the gateway.

Low power wireless technology will allow the edge nodes to run from battery or other power sources for years.


The cloud application performs data analytics and sends to the user interface (dashboard).

The value is here! From the dashboard, the user can see the real time results and also trends over the past days and weeks.

Industrial IoT (IIoT) You will also hear IIoT referred to as Industry 4.0 or Digital Manufacturing. IoT systems can monitor and automate many complex processes. Manufacturers have begun to recognise that networks of smart sensors, coupled with real-time analytics, can act as drivers of significant improvements in their processes, transforming profit margins and operational efficiencies.

Expected market growth for asset tracking IoT devices

70m 22m

Predictive maintenance and condition monitoring Challenge To avoid lengthy, unnecessary shutdowns of critical machinery. Downtime isn’t only expensive, it can also be a health and safety risk in some industries such as Oil & Gas where staff may work in hazardous areas or in lone worker scenarios.




Could an IoT system solve this? An IoT system can measure operating conditions such as temperature and vibration around equipment and detect when the equipment deviates from its prescribed parameters – detecting deterioration before failure. Result With real-time views of conditions across a factory floor, hospital, oil rig or wind farm, problems can be identified and managed before failure occurs. Scheduling maintenance before something breaks saves time and money.

Other uses for IoT in manufacturing Integrating sensors across machines and equipment. Examples could include sensors measuring vibration, temperature or robot positioning. Remote management of factory units. Introducing wearables such as smart safety glasses or smart hard hats for employees.

Asset tracking Challenge To maintain an accurate log of key assets. Managing the location and maintenance schedule of physical assets, e.g., important, moveable equipment in hospitals, can be expensive and time consuming. Could an IoT system solve this? An IoT system can track assets in real-time, using RFID tags or other technology. Result Asset locations can be identified and maintenance scheduled efficiently. This reduces administrative costs and ensures accountability and accuracy. Some industries require asset tracking for regulatory compliance.

Monitoring production flow in real-time from start to packaging and distribution. This can highlight quality control issues and production lags. Using smart packaging to manage stock control, automating the ordering process. This can also provide insights into how the product behaves during transit, in various weather conditions and how customers store and use the product. Connecting to suppliers to track products through the manufacturing cycle in the supply chain. Using data collected to analyse how customers use products, feeding innovation for new product development.


Business models The evolution of IoT has led to the emergence of new business models. The rise of the data driven economy is enabling new revenue streams to evolve and IoT businesses are well placed to capitalise on these new trends. As with the internet around 25 years ago, the most significant business opportunities have not yet been seized or even identified.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Hardware as a Service (HaaS)

SaaS is a common business model where a software provider hosts applications and customers access these using a web browser or software ‘app’.

This is one of the most common business models for companies selling IoT services. It enables companies to generate recurring revenue for their product or service through a subscription/leasing based model. The package they pay for is often by monthly fee and can include the item (hardware), all software, updates, maintenance and often a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Upfront costs are recovered over the product lifetime. The hardware is often sold at a reduced cost (or at a loss). The value is in the ongoing capability provided.

Payment is made through a monthly or annual subscription fee and can be based on the number of users, or number of transactions.

Benefits for the customer • No upfront cost for software • No installation, maintenance or support required • Automatic updates • Easy to scale up

Drawbacks • Potential higher cost over long time • Vendor lock-in • Integration with other products

An advantage of this model is that it allows the business to have a closer relationship with customers and understand their usage of the product and potential future needs.

Benefits for the customer • • • •

Pay only for using the service, not to own the item The item isn’t owned so doesn’t depreciate. No maintenance issues Upfront capital expenditure cost is transferred to an ongoing operating expense

Drawbacks • Should you decide to end a contract, the hardware is still owned by the company that fitted it

Benefits for the provider

Benefits for the provider

One application is replicated for many users, so only one application to update and maintain.

• Easier sale – no capital layout for customer • Regular monthly income • Established customer base for future sales



Company use of email, office productivity tools and customer management systems often follow SaaS business models.

Smart home and home security products where hardware, installation, support and monitoring are built into a monthly fee, similar to a mobile phone contract or a monitored home alarm system.


Emerging business models Data optimisation

Charge per usage

In this model, businesses deploy devices to their customers, generally at low/no cost to the user, to gather additional data around another service they provide. The data gathered is valuable to both the user and the company and can help companies retain users by understanding how their product is used. It can also help the company drive more efficiency in their business.

With IoT, a business receives detailed device usage patterns data. This model allows a business to supply a service in a customer’s facility but the customer is charged on a pay per use model; only paying for the time they use the device. The customer does not buy the product, but the output from the use of the product, and will pay a variable amount depending on usage pattern. This model can be used to reduce the capital costs of equipment by purchasing the service on an operational basis.

Examples: Smart meters with home readout units for the customers. Customers understand their energy usage and utility providers benefit from better data about usage patterns to create efficiencies in supply and customer relations. (customer value service).

Examples: In aviation it is common for the jet engine to be paid for based on the amount of time the engine spends in flight. The engine manufacturer owns the engine and is responsible for maintenance to ensure the engine spends as much time as possible in use.

Efficiency of operation This is based around a company deploying IoT applications that will result in efficiency savings within a customer’s current business. The company deploying the service will generally provide it at no cost to the customer but take their revenue from any reduction in the price of the service. This benefits the customer as they would generally pay less than they currently pay and it also generates additional information from the IoT data. Examples: There are examples of this type of model in the smart city and facility management space where a company will use IoT to make a service more efficient and agree to a form of reduction in current costs, with the company keeping the savings generated.

Asset sharing One of the enduring problems with sharing of assets is understanding the time each asset is used by each user so they can be charged based on time used. It differs from the product usage model as lots of different people utilise the asset. Examples: In the transportation sector, bike and car-sharing programmes run on this basis.


The CENSIS IoT stack An IoT system is made up of different technology layers. The IoT stack shows:

• Each layer of an IoT system

• How they interconnect

• Where companies can operate

Devices / Hardware

Applications / Software

Some companies developing IoT will focus on one layer whereas others will deliver services across the full IoT stack. When trialling a new IoT application, there are many companies and platforms that can ease the development or implementation of an IoT system.

This section will explore the different levels and guide you through the development process of producing a new IoT application. If you read through the diagram below, you’ll see the IoT Stack take shape. Most of the companies CENSIS works with are in Levels 2,3, and 4 in the middle of the stack. We also have close working relationships with companies in levels 1, 5 and 6 so can share new developments in software and hardware.


Visualisation and presentation

Final step – the dashboard. At this stage, the end data will be transformed into a visual format for you to easily interpret the results.


Analysis and post processing

Converting the data. Software companies will create programmes and applications to convert the measured data into meaningful information. Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning can be used at this stage to provide deeper insights into the data generated.


Data repository

Where does the data go? Companies in this area have expertise in how to store, manage and organise data. This is known as cloud storage.


Communications, networking and wireless technologies

From device to destination. Companies who specialise in transporting the data to a designated storage location.


Microcontrollers, edge and embedded computing

This is the brain of the sensor. It does all the onboard processing of the data, carries out the initial configuration then packages and sends it. This also controls power consumption. Edge computing is an emerging trend where more information is processed on the device, which enables technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to be used at this stage in the stack.

1 CENSIS 2019


In some IoT applications, the end user of the technology will only see the outcomes of the processed data. This is because many of the technology layers of the stack are integrated into the end application, and therefore are invisible to the user.


The starting point. At the very bottom of the stack is where you will find the companies designing and manufacturing the actual sensors that can detect and measure change. This can be in vibration, impacts, heat, light, energy, colour, temperature etc. There’s a huge range of light, motion, and temperature sensors etc. already available off the shelf at low cost.



A company can be a user of IoT technology, or a supplier. A good way to see where an organisation sits is to assess its place in the IoT Stack.

Raw Data


Sensors As the ‘data gatherers’, sensors are the starting point of any IoT solution. The sensors must measure an accurate representation of the conditions, otherwise the data is unreliable and unusable. The better the quality of the data gathered through an IoT system, the better value and insight that will result from the analysis. A sensor collects information from a defined source and converts this into a signal that can be measured. The sensor resides at the edge of the IoT system and is often referred to as an ‘edge node’ or ‘end node’.

There’s a vast range of sensors already on the market that can be integrated into IoT systems.

Sensors readily available to measure or detect

• Distance

• Gases, vapours, chemicals, pH

• Humidity

• Image recognition

• Luminosity, radiance

• Magnetic & electric fields

• Material stress, strain

• Moisture

• Motion

• Pressure

• Proximity

• Shape, colour, pattern, movement

• Sound

• Speed, direction, position

• Temperature

• Vibration

• Wavelengths of light

• Multi-axis orientation

Ease of use and integration


Accuracy levels

Factors to consider when choosing sensors



Range, calibration and resolution required


Power consumption

Will the sensor get too hot or cold to function?

Common sensor interfaces There are many different communication protocols used to interface a microcontroller with sensors. Unlike the rest of the communication protocols found in IoT applications, these are mostly always wired. All of the protocols below are commonly supported by most microcontroller devices.

• UART / Serial

• I²C



• I²S

• 1-Wire

• GPIO Always check with the sensor manufacturer that the communication protocols used by the sensor are supported on the microcontroller.

Data Flow



Sensor Interface

Communications Module

Sensor Interface


Microcontrollers, edge and embedded computing A microcontroller is an integrated chip that contains a processor (CPU), memory and interfaces to communicate with sensors. These are typically used in IoT devices. A processor acts as the brain of the IoT device. Depending on the application, this can simply read the sensor data and pass it to the communications module, or it can perform more powerful edge processing tasks.

A microcontroller provides the ability to:

• Interface with one or more sensors and extract the data

• Control something, e.g., switch or unlock an item such as a valve or a fan

• Perform processing on this data

• Transmit this data over a wired or wireless network

• Receive instructions over the network from the application and execute these instructions.

• Control power consumption of the IoT device

The responsibilities required of the microcontroller will depend on the nature of the project. It is the role of a firmware engineer to develop the necessary firmware of the microcontroller so it can carry out the tasks required.



Edge node 4 process flow

ny m ra fo ing fro and en m s n if st o n io e Li inc ctio cat es ru li th st p e d in e ap cut oun th exe f






If required, carry out some form of processing on this data

Pa fo c se rm dat kag co nd at a i e m in su nto th e m g it ne un ov ab a tw ic er le f a or ti th or k on e s

Return to a sleeping state

Wake from a sleeping state for an event or an alarm


Criteria for microcontroller choice • Power consumption: Effective performance and long battery life at the lowest possible cost. • Ability to support any interfaces required by the application. •

Performance need: IoT devices typically use low performance microprocessors (sleeping most of the time). If more pre-processing of the data is required, a mid-range performance microcontroller will be needed.

Onboard memory component requirement: If it is more useful to log data in batches and only send at an appropriate time or when there is a signal, onboard memory components will allow the developer to store records of data that will remain when the device is powered down.

• The preference of the development environment.

• Package size, reliability and ease of replacement

• Required functionality of software and technical support from vendor.

Choosing a development platform Microcontroller manufacturers offer hardware development platforms for their devices. These electronic boards allow engineers to quickly develop firmware for their products without first having to develop any hardware. They also provide a good example of the hardware required to support the device. This can help the hardware engineer when it comes to designing a custom board. Vendors will often provide source schematics and PCB layout files (Altium, OrCad, Eagle) to aid the development of custom/bespoke hardware and shorten time to market. For devices designed with IoT in mind, their development platforms will often include various sensors integrated directly on to the board, as manufacturers expect most engineers will use their device to integrate with sensors.

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R m sle em o ep ai to st o ing n in ba co f th st a tte ns e ate ry erv tim lif e e e


Interface with the communications module to send the data packet over the network

Development boards are constantly evolving to include the latest technology, especially in a rapidly evolving IoT market. Some examples of popular development platforms are:

• Thunderboard Sense 2

• MangOH

• Arduino & Shields


• Raspberry Pi

• ESP32 & ESP8266

• MSP430

• STM32 family

When developing commercial hardware, products must have the relevant approvals and certification (EMC, safety, radio) in place before being offered for sale.

Edge computing Edge computing moves data analysis from the cloud down to the device itself and allows some or all of the data to be processed real-time and locally – i.e., at the actual source, on the device. Edge computing is driven by improvements in power-efficient processing which enables complex data

processing on small, battery-operated devices. This increased intelligence at the edge is starting to enable machine learning and artificial intelligence applications on IoT devices. Intelligent edge IoT devices will enable many new opportunities for companies developing IoT applications.

Low latency


The round-trip time from the sender to the receiver to process is significantly reduced

Avoids network bottlenecks

Benefits of Edge processing

Closed loop systems Onboard processing can adjust the system in real time to achieve optimum performance

Cost Less data is transmitted so costs are lower



Data is processed at the device so the application can control what data to send, potentially improving privacy

Communications, networking and wireless technologies

Some wireless technologies existed pre-IoT, whereas some have been designed specifically for it, but all have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Connectivity and networking describe the (often) wireless technology used to transfer information from the sensors/ end nodes to the cloud. To connect and talk to each other, all IoT devices need connectivity. There is a wide range of wireless technologies that enable this connectivity, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right technology will ensure the IoT application runs smoothly, at the lowest cost, and with the best power efficiency.


LPWAN LoRaWan NB-IoT Cat-M1 Sigfox

Zigbee RFID


Criteria for wireless technology choice • Range • Power consumption • Data rate • Module cost • Connectivity cost • One/two-way data transfer • Compatibility • Global coverage • Ecosystem requirements




Offline so more robust without cloud dependence

Cellular 3/4/5G


Blue tooth



Data rate



Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a global 2.4GHz personal area network designed for short-range wireless communication. Device-to-device file transfers, wireless speakers, and wireless accessories are some common examples of where this technology is most often used.

Power Are the sensors expected to be mains powered or battery powered?

Location Will the sensors be in a fixed location or on the move?

Consider these for a best fit wireless solution:

Range How far do the sensors need to communicate?

Bandwidth Do the sensors require data rates in the Kbit/s or Mbit/s?

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): BLE is a version of Bluetooth designed for lower-powered devices that uses less data. An ideal application for BLE is wearable fitness trackers and health monitors. The Bluetooth standard is continuously developing further functionality, and is gaining traction in smart building applications. It is one of the cheapest modules out of the wireless standards and is a popular choice in devices requiring short range, power and efficient communications. ZigBee: ZigBee is a 2.4GHz mesh Local Area Network (LAN) protocol with a primary use case of building automation and control applications with low data rates. For example, wireless thermostats, lighting systems, appliance control. Z-Wave: Z-wave is a sub-GHz mesh network protocol which is used in similar applications to ZigBee. It is the dominant standard for smart home applications.

Generally, the communications module will have the highest power consumption out of all the system components in an IoT device when sending/receiving data, so developers should consider keeping the amount of data transmitted and received by the sensor to a minimum.

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi offers a high data rate (>100Mbit/s) but to achieve this, it has a higher power consumption than other shortrange standards. It is therefore suitable for high data rate applications, e.g., video streaming and unsuitable for remote locations or battery-operated devices.

‘Peak power’ can be used to understand power consumption; however, this doesn’t include factors such as time for network connection, data transfer rate and power consumption in sleep. In general, the higher the data rate and range, the higher the power consumption.

Longer range wireless:

Available technologies This list is by no means comprehensive but details some of the most popular wireless standards for IoT.

Short range wireless: Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC is an ultra-low range, low-power, and low-bandwidth technology. Its function is to exchange very small amounts of data between two devices in extremely close proximity to one another. It is most commonly used in mobile phone contactless payment systems. It can be a very useful means of introducing the ability to quickly configure the parameters of a device while it is deployed in the field, without having to physically connect to it, or reprogram it. No power source is needed for the secondary device (tag). The magnetic field of the primary device powers the secondary device. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): RFID is used for uniquely identifying items using radio waves. It is most commonly used in card contactless payment systems but is also used in asset tracking. RFID tags can operate with or without a power source with range and cost increasing with powered versions.


Low-Power-Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs): The rise of IoT has driven the development of new wireless technologies that are designed specifically to meet the needs of IoT applications. These wireless technologies are known as LPWANs. Commonly used LPWAN standards using unlicensed bands are LoRaWAN and Sigfox, with the emerging cellular standards NB-IoT and CAT-M1 operating in the licensed bands.. They all have three main technological attributes: •

Long range: The operating range of LPWAN technology varies from a few kilometres in urban areas, to over 10km in rural settings. It can also enable effective data communication in previously infeasible indoor and underground locations.

• Low power: The communication protocol is optimised for power consumption, meaning LPWAN transceivers have the potential to run on batteries for 5+ years. • Low bandwidth: Typical data rates are very low, within the range of 100 bits/s to 350 Kbit/s. The only real constraint for developers with LPWANs is the low bandwidth, although this trade-off allows battery operated devices a long-life, while maintaining long range communication. These two features are essential to realise most IoT applications. For the majority of IoT applications, large amounts of bandwidth are unnecessary as only small amounts of data are generated by the sensors.

Protocols LoRaWAN: LoRaWAN is designed with the aim of achieving long battery life whilst being capable of communicating over long distances. The LoRaWAN gateway is responsible for passing messages from connected devices to the internet. It is a open licence-free technology which means anyone can buy a gateway and setup a network to talk to devices. There are also network operators deploying LoRaWAN networks where the deployment is managed by the operator and users are charged on a monthly basis for connection. Sigfox: This was the first LPWAN network to achieve significant network coverage across large amounts of the UK and Europe. All of the infrastructure is owned and managed by Sigfox. Cellular LPWAN: NB-IoT and CAT-M1 are the standards that cellular operators are using to target the IoT markets and will form the key part of the 5G IoT offering from cellular providers. They differ from cellular in that they have better power efficiency and a lighter protocol suitable for IoT applications. These are still relatively new networks currently rolling out worldwide. They will play a big part in IoT but full coverage is not available in the UK, so ensure you check availability.

NB-IoT: NB-IoT is the lower bandwidth cellular LPWAN IoT standard. It is designed for fixed device location use for low power battery device operation. It has higher bandwidth that LoRaWAN and Sigfox however this comes with higher power consumption for transmitting and receiving. Cat-M1: Cat-M1 has higher data bandwidth than the other LPWAN standards. The increased bandwidth also comes with the trade-off of the highest power consumption of the LPWAN technologies. The higher bandwidth means that Cat-M1 can carry a voice connection (VoLTE) which opens up multiple different use cases that are not currently achievable with other LPWAN standards. It is expected that this technology will be integrated into wearables and health and telecare applications. The Cat-M1 standard also supports roaming between cells by using the same protocol as the current cellular networks. Cat-M1 is gathering momentum in the North American market with the network going live. Cellular: Cellular is the wireless protocol most familiarly used in mobile devices to access the internet and send SMS messages. It is a technology which is ubiquitous around the world, with existing infrastructure already in place. This can make it suitable for those applications which require connectivity in multiple countries or in more remore areas (provided of course there is a signal). It favours bandwidth and range at the expense of power consumption. Summary: Best option if high data rates, mobility and global coverage are priorities. Can send large amounts of data over a long distance but will quickly drain the battery.

Comparison table of wireless standards Range Peak power Bandwidth consumption

Recurring connectivity cost (excluding infrastructure/ module costs)




Low (<400 kbit/s)





Low (<400 kbit/s)



<100 meters


Medium (<3Mbit/s)


Bluetooth low <30 metres Very low energy (BLE)

Medium (<2Mbit/s)



<30 metres

Very low

Low (<250 kbit/s)



<100 metres

Very low

Low (<100 kbits/s)



<50 metres


High (>100Mbit/s)



Up to 5km urban +10km Rural


Very low (<11 kbits/s)

Free/low cost


Up to 5km urban +10km Rural


Very low (<1 kbits/s)

Low cost


Up to 5km urban +10km Rural


Low (250kbits/s)


LTE Cat-M1

Up to 5km urban +10km Rural


Low (375 kbits/s)



High (<1Gbit/s)


Cellular <10km (3/4/5G)



Data repository


The edge IoT nodes of a network are limited in storage size and processing constraints. In an IoT application, you may have thousands of nodes collecting data. The solution is to move this data on to a database storage either locally (privately) hosted or on a cloud storage platform where it can be processed from a centralised location.

Analysis and post processing When data arrives in the cloud, a typical task would be for a software application to

• Unpack the data

• Extract the values from each sensor (for example, temperature, humidity)

Traditionally, most IoT devices will push all data up to the data repository, but with the emergence of edge computing, only the processed data or data of interest may be sent.

• Check that these values are within acceptable ranges.

Processing in the cloud

The cloud ‘The cloud’ is a term used to describe a global network of powerful servers which are designed to store and manage data, run applications and deliver content or a service. The largest providers of these cloud services are Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google. The cloud has replaced the need for companies to run expensive physical servers on-site and offers server-like services, with users paying when the services are used. Large amounts of data can be stored inexpensively in the cloud.

IoT devices normally send data to the cloud for processing. Its huge processing power enables the execution of complex algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence to extract maximum value from the data. Benefits of cloud processing

• Huge processing power can perform complex tasks

• Data analytics can be performed on incoming data to detect trends or abnormalities

Analysis of the data Ongoing costs

Privacy of data

Cost of storage

Analysis of the data is where the real value is unlocked and many IoT companies build their value proposition around this. For example, a business manufactures and sells hardware for sensing the movement of people or traffic through an area. Analytics are performed on the captured data. These analytics can be used to detect trends or anomalies in the movement of people or traffic, which becomes a “service” they can sell to improve the efficiency of other systems.

Security of data

Considerations when choosing between local data storage options and the cloud


The last stage of the process is to present the information in a meaningful way.

Tools for development

Scalability Data storage location

Ease of access

Visualisation and presentation Depending on the requirements of the user, this could be as simple an action as ringing a buzzer or sending an alert by SMS that there is an abnormality. More frequently, it is a web page, or dashboard, with a series of graphs showing real-time information from the network. Many cloud platforms now include tools to visualise data instead of creating separate traditional web pages to display it. This may also include an automated feedback loop or manual two-way communication - the user may wish to input into the system to control the sensors or an actuator based on the information they have received.


Implementing IoT The most successful solutions begin by focusing on the problem to be solved or opportunity to be realised, rather than on technology. Look for areas in an organisation where an IoT solution will provide a benefit over the existing process. Perhaps manual monitoring could be automated? If maintenance needs could be predicted, costly down time could be prevented. More information in a specific area of a business could improve a process or service. With the right information, processes can often be improved, efficiencies implemented, and business decisions made easier.

Questions to ask when exploring your IoT project

What There are three parts to developing an IoT system. The more bespoke information a system is, the more complex and expensive the development.

Hardware 1

Off the shelf hardware - dedicated solutions. Buy it, install it


Development boards, giving you flexibility to adapt interfaces and functionality to your needs


Custom design - tailored solutions requiring engineering development

would be useful to measure?

Who/what does it solve a problem for?

Is there a business case for the application?

Is data already being measured in this application?

Networks 1

Use existing networks - Wi-Fi, Cellular, LPWAN, Hardwired (ethernet)


Setup own network - manage network server and network hardware

Are there existing systems to integrate with?

What would make an effective proof of concept trial?

Software 1

Database storage - Can be as simple as viewing data collected in a spreadsheet


Dashboard information - web app to display data


Custom dashboard development - customised web application or software interface

Is senior and cross functional organisational support available?


Finding IoT expertise If you have an idea for a product or service that could bring value to your business and your customers, there are a number of organisations who could support your plans. If you contact CENSIS in the first instance, we can signpost you to a suitable organisation for your needs, or we may be able to provide advice, technical support and the resources you need to create a full solution. At CENSIS we see most IoT projects starting off as small-scale pilots to test the functionality with off-the-shelf components or modular electronics. This allows users to explore what information is useful to gather and if the system will be suitable for their requirements. A smaller pilot also allows all the stakeholders to test, play, and understand the potential impact of a larger scale rollout.

Your first prototype There are many ‘out of the box’, turnkey solutions that you can buy off the shelf to let you create a first prototype and test your IoT solution. CENSIS has created a flexible IoT development kit that can help you get up and running with IoT quickly and without the need for deep technical knowledge. This has a range of popular sensors, communication and power options and is flexible to allow the user to measure and send data easily. It allows users to explore IoT concepts without having to code or configure networks themselves.


Joining the IoT community in Scotland There are many organisations setting out on their IoT journey and finding value in sharing thoughts and challenges. With our experience across a huge range of market sectors and our knowledge of enabling technologies, CENSIS has strong relationships with Scottish companies, public sector organisations, university research groups and hardware and software suppliers. As part of our CENSIS community, you can join in with our regular IoT meetups to discuss ideas with like-minded people, take part in one of our hands-on technical workshops or come along to one of our Future Tech events to solve market sector problems in an open forum. The highlight of our year is the annual CENSIS Technology Summit and Conference, where we hear from challenge providers, meet exhibitors who are showcasing new technologies, and network and connect with the sensors, imaging and IoT community.

Join our community at





Cloud / Cloud computing / Cloud storage

Communications network

Cyber security


A component of a machine responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism or system. A piece of software running on a server or on a device such as a tablet. A network of remote servers hosted online that can store, manage and process data and that can host applications. Enables devices connected to the network to communicate with each other. For example, to transfer information from sensors to the cloud. Protecting hardware, software and data from unauthorised access or attack.


Also known as a User Interface or UI, this allows a person to interact with the computer system, e.g., a computer screen, tablet, mobile phone.

Data analytics

Analysis of captured data to detect trends or anomalies. Once patterns have been detected, this can allow better decisions to be made.

Data / Big data

Large amounts of data that are gathered through many IoT devices. By applying analytical techniques to this data, it is possible to determine trends and make decisions.

Data repository

Individual IoT sensor nodes usually have limited storage space, so the data they collect is moved to remote database storage where it can be processed from a centralised location.

Development platform/Storage

Standard commercial electronic boards that allow engineers to build prototypes of systems before they go on to design custom hardware. Development platforms often include various sensors integrated directly on to the board.

Edge computing

Similar to fog computing, edge computing refers to computing services located at the logical edge of a network.

Edge node / End node

The sensor which resides at the edge of an IoT system is often referred to as an edge node or end node.

Embedded software

End device, node, mote

The software that runs on the hardware microcontrollers performing the low-level functions, for example reading from sensors and relaying data back to the gateway or server. See also Firmware. An object with an embedded low-power communication chipset.


Think of firmware simply as ‘software for hardware’. It is embedded in a microcontroller memory at the time of manufacture and is responsible for controlling all aspects of the hardware. It is often permanent for the lifetime of the project, but can be updated if necessary (for example, through over-the-air-programming). It is also known as ‘Embedded software’.

Fog computing

Computing power that is physically closer to, or even housed in the IoT device (i.e., it moves some processing from the cloud to a lower level). Processing is generally conducted at the gateway level before the processed data is passed to the cloud. Often, this can greatly reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred.


A device which connects end devices to the internet. It provides a connection point from one network (or protocol) to another. For example, some gateways receive LoRaWAN transmissions from sensors and forward these over the Internet to be processed in the cloud.


Internet of Things. A system of devices using a network to connect and communicate with each other.

IIoT / Industry 4.0 / Digital manufacturing

Industrial Internet of Things. Manufacturers use sensor networks and real-time analytics to monitor and automate complex processes in an industrial environment.


Machine to machine: connected devices exchanging information with other connected devices, without human intervention.


An active device containing a processing core, program, user memory and other peripherals for communicating with, and gathering data from, connected devices such as sensors, actuators, external memory, displays and other microcontrollers. Microcontrollers often come in very small packages, consume very low amounts of power and are commonly used in battery operated applications. Some microcontrollers contain radio modules for communicating wirelessly with smart devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth etc.

Servers that route messages from end devices to the correct application, and back.

Network server

Peak power

The power used by devices will vary over time, e.g., IoT devices will typically use more power when they turn on their radio links. The peak power is the maximum power sustained over a short time and will often limit the minimum battery size.

Processor/Microprocessor RFID


The brain of the IoT device – can read and forward sensor data or can perform processing tasks.

Radio-frequency identification uses short-range radio frequency signals to transfer data wirelessly. RFID tags or smart labels can be fixed to items, allowing users to track and identify them. A device which detects or measures a physical property.


Presenting the data gathered in a meaningful way.

Wireless technologies

Any form of communications between devices that doesn’t require a wired connection. Some wireless technologies existed pre-IoT, some have been designed specifically for it. See page 16-18 for available technologies.


CENSIS is the centre of excellence for sensor and imaging systems (SIS) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. We help organisations of all sizes explore innovation and overcome technology barriers to achieve business transformation. As one of Scotland’s Innovation Centres, our focus is not only creating sustainable economic value in the Scottish economy, but also generating social benefit. Our industryexperienced engineering and project management teams work with companies or in collaborative teams with university research experts. We act as independent trusted advisers, allowing organisations to implement quality, efficiency and performance improvements and fast-track the development of new products and services for global markets.

Scotland is riding the wave of opportunity presented by this next ’industrial revolution’. Contact details: CENSIS The Inovo Building 121 George Street Glasgow G1 1RD

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