Internet of Things: Interfacing Devices to the Cloud

  • M2M
  • Mesh-networks
  • Distributed sensory networks
  • Home automation
  • Industrial controls
  • The Internet-of-Things
  • Energy tracking and efficiency
  • Battery and UPS subsystems

Expertise

  • Micro-power electronics (sensor conditioning, analog chain, low-noise circuits)
  • Micro-power computing (microcontrollers for control, user interfaces, signal processing functions and communications)
  • Handheld instruments and devices
  • Power/battery management systems (chargers, protection, converters, metering)
  • 100’s KLC in embedded C and assembly
  • Real-time OS, state machines, DSP code
  • Media processing (voice, audio, video), RTP stacks
  • Signaling (SIP, SS7, R2)
  • Other: REST, PHP, MySQL, SQLite, JSON, JavaScript, C, C#, Python

Relevant History

At Sea Data, I had the opportunity to be mentored by two leaders in the electronics space, Winfield Hill and Paul Horowitz, the authors of the book The Art of Electronics – the best reference book for engineers in the field. The majority of the examples in the book are real circuits and designs I did for the oceanographic industry. Key projects included,

  • underwater pressure/salinity/temperature processing for in situ wave energy analysis,
  • environmental monitoring systems (deployed in the Savannah river nuclear plant by Dupont)
  • high capacity recorders for sonar applications

In fact, the reason I joined this start-up was my graduate studies expertise on non-uniform sampling, i.e. how to optimize system models with minimal amount of energy in terms of computing operations per Joule. The common thread of all work at Sea Data was

  • stand-alone and low power devices
  • state of the art electronic designs
  • 10’s of thousands of lines of code for the early microcontrollers.

In the 90’s, as I engaged with the 2nd start-up-in-transition, Natural MicroSystems, I got involved with voice processing systems and communications. It took a decade before the company reached $1Bn of evaluation, >$150M or revenues and amongst the Best Companies to Work in MA.

Meanwhile, my passion in designing circuits and writing embedded code continued as a hobby beyond Natural MicroSystems product development. Relevant activities included:

  • Teaching at the Harvard Extension School experimental electronics (analog and digital) during the summers for 10 years
  • Starting my own design consulting company
  • Exploring new areas in home automation

In the home automation space, I designed and deployed several prototype systems:

  1. X-10 based sprinkler control system (mid 90’s)
  2. Designed a 4KW UPS system for the entire house
  3. RF 433MHz based water-valve water leak system
  4. Z-Wave water pump tracking system
  5. Distributed temperature sensor system (combination of one-way RF 433, and zig-bee); reversed engineered off-the shelf sensors and developed the concentration point and web interfaces.
  6. Web interface of all sensors via HomeSeer, .NET, and early PHP web servers
  7. First WAP based application to control all home sensors and actuators (early in 2000)
  8. Interface to cellphones via SMS for control and alarms
  9. Expansion of the house UPS with wireless connections to a gateway feeding the cloud web services.
  10. PC based gateway between serial devices/sensors and on-line services
  11. Design my own 2-phase power metering device
  12. Web based mobile applications to connect with home automation systems.
  13. Interface of power metering solutions (Envio, B&D) with cloud services (Google Power, Meniscus).

(It is worth to mention that my first X-10 plug-in card for CPM Z80 machines was made in 1984. The system included the necessary software written in assembly language to control lights and appliances; it also included an interpreter to create programmable scenes.)

Starting in 2002, NMS expanded its business to the OEMs of the Mobile Carriers. For the next several years, the industry of mobile voice communications and associated value-added services emerged very strongly. At the same time, the messaging space, especially SMS enjoyed the fastest growth.

Going forward to 2006, the first concepts of M2M started emerging at the Mobile World Congress. Operators could see how voice and data plans will be saturating earth’s population in 5-10 years, and started exploring alternatives. Concurrently the WiFi standards had advanced, hardware became a commodity and deployment of Wireless Networks became ubiquitous and trivial. At the lower end, very inexpensive silicon for low energy wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID and NFC was made available.

At that point, it was apparent that everything will be wirelessly interconnected either in a stationary fashion or in a mobile fashion. So, I started participating in technical forums and industry events and experimenting with development kits in most of the wireless interconnecting software stacks.

In 2008 it became apparent that embedded device and LAN/WAN wireless connectivity problems have been solved.  The new challenges are:

  • Simplicity of user interfaces for interconnected devices
  • Cloud based services (processing, intelligence, analytics, logging, etc)

So, here we are: experience, passion, and an arsenal of technologies ready to be used; but, I am still wondering what is the next big application domain worth pursuing?