Lots of manufacturers are wanting to build M2M devices, but don’t always know where to start when designing products that will interface with wireless LANs (WLANs). Ferdie Brilliantes, an electrical engineer, has attempted to clarify some of the issues in building “Internet of Things” devices in an Electronic Design article.
The biggest hurdle is that traditional appliance manufacturers, such as those making stoves and refrigerators, simply lack the expertise required to build network devices.
“For example, a home appliance manufacturer may not be proficient in antenna design,” Brilliantes wrote. “They may not be familiar with the details of a particular wireless standard. Or they may not be aware of FCC (News - Alert)/IC certification requirements. This lack of wireless expertise could be a significant challenge for some developers, so in order for them to get to market quickly, they can look to affordable solutions that are easy to integrate and require the least amount of ramp-up.”
Fortunately, there are ways to integrate wireless connectivity into home appliances easily. The two main choices for a company are to either design a chip-on-board (COB)-based solution or use a module provided by another company.
Companies going the latter route will do well to choose a manufacturer that can support the module with wireless expertise and services, according to Brilliantes. Fortunately, a number of manufacturers are designing and building modules specifically for the embedded M2M market.
A manufacturer choosing a module will then have to decide whether to have the network stack (including the network drivers and operating system) on the module, or whether to have them reside on a separate MCU. The latter solution is more flexible, while it can be harder to implement and reduce the time to market.
With an integrated networking stack, the need for a complex MCU is reduced and the API is much easier for developers to use. On the other hand, this approach is more expensive.
Edited by Alisen Downey