The rise of Industrial IoT: how connectivity is reshaping manufacturing

7th November 2023
Paige West

In the ever-evolving landscape of technological advancements, manufacturing worldwide are experiencing a digital transformation known as Industry 4.0.

Synonymous with smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0 entails the integration of various cutting-edge technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud computing, AI, and machine learning into manufacturing and industrial processes, thereby transforming manufacturing to become more energy efficient, cost effective, and environmentally sustainable.

The power of connected things

Among the various technologies and concepts in Industry 4.0, Industrial IoT is at the core of this transformation. Industrial IoT leverages the power of interconnected devices and data analytics to optimise energy efficiency and reduce power consumption and make real-time, data-driven decisions possible.

In a typical Industrial IoT framework, an IoT device is used to gather information. The information then gets sent to an IoT gateway, a centralised hub that connects the IoT device with the Cloud or an out-of-band (OOB) platform for data management and analytics. Each of these steps can be made possible by selecting a suitable microcontroller which will administer central commands necessary to achieve its intended purpose.

We explore each of these steps in more detail below by way of examples of an application:

IoT devices, often with a sensor

Take smart meters as an example. Smart meters are installed at various points in a factory to measure energy consumption. Different from traditional meters, smart meters are equipped with communication modules so that they can transmit data real-time. When selecting a suitable microcontroller for a smart meter, it is essential to consider the features available on the interface. Rich connective interfaces such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, UART, etc. that can meet the requirements of the sensor of choice is crucial to ensure accurate data collection and reliable performance.

IoT gateways

The data collected by the IoT device then gets sent to an IoT gateway for processing to provide insights or for onward connecting to the Cloud server for analysis. By way of using smart meters as an example, the energy consumption data collected from all the different meters in the factory are usually transmitted to a local gateway for data aggregation. In the transmission of the data, security is of paramount importance. A suitable microcontroller would be one equipped with the right hardware security modules (HSMs) and cryptographic engines such as Armv8-M TrustZone and PSA, which allows manufacturers to implement robust security measures to protect data integrity and device security.

Cloud & OOB platform

In the case of smart meters, the aggregated and encrypted data finally get sent from the local gateway to a platform. OOB communication enables the remote management and maintenance of these smart meters, as well as the collection of usage data. The Cloud platform can also be integrated for storing, analysing, and visualising the data. When selecting a microcontroller for this application, ensure that the MCU is equipped with various connectivity options like Wi-Fi, Ethernet, LoRa, etc. for integration with cloud platforms. Implementing these protocols from scratch can be complex and time-consuming, therefore manufacturers should consider the communication stacks and libraries support to simplify the cloud integration in IoT.

In a nutshell, the Industrial IoT framework allows manufacturers to monitor each piece of the manufacturing process in a more holistic and secured manner compared to traditional manufacturing, and this helps to increase efficiency.

Selecting the right microcontroller(s) for your Industrial IoT designs

A microcontroller with excellent functionalities is integral to the success of any Industrial IoT design project. TECHDesign, an official online channels for manufacturers, offers a wide range of microcontrollers and evaluation boards manufactured by Nuvoton to Industrial IoT device manufacturers and integrators to help them create reliable and efficient IoT solutions.

The following selection of microcontrollers and evaluation boards suitable for Industrial IoT applications are on special sample price promotions for a limited time only to support the development of your Industrial IoT projects.   

To name just a few, TECHDesign’s microcontroller product offerings are great for various applications of Industrial IoT devices and IoT gateways.

Selected applications of Industrial IoT devices

  • Industrial sensors: a wide range of sensors, including temperature, pressure, humidity, motion, and vibration sensors, are used for data collection and monitoring in industrial processes. Nuvoton’s M031 series MCUs provide rich interfaces such as UART, SPI, and I²C to support different kinds of sensors
  • RFID rags: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are used for asset tracking.The Nuvoton M26X series provide the maximum battery life to extend the tracking time
  • HMI (Human-Machine Interface) devices: these interfaces enable operators to interact with and monitor industrial equipment and processes. The M467 series MCUs provide the core up to 200MHz and LCM interface for HMI applications
  • Smart meters: used for monitoring energy consumption, water usage, and other utilities in industrial facilities. M2354 MCUs support Armv8-M TrustZone security, firmware OTA, and AMI meter interface for various types of meters
  • Edge computing devices: Edge devices perform data preprocessing and analysis at the network's Edge, reducing latency and bandwidth usage. Nuvoton M487 is of the Arm Cortex-M4 core with DSP instructions which can speed up the algorithms of Edge computing
  • IoT-enabled motors and drives: motors and drives equipped with sensors and connectivity capabilities can provide real-time performance data. The M031 series support up to 24 channels PWM and 16 channels ADC for motor drives
  • Industrial barcode scanners: scanners are employed for inventory management, quality control, and traceability. NUC980 is the MPU to meet the functions of scanning QR codes into one IC, which not only saves cost but saves PCB space

Selected applications of IoT gateways

  • Safety monitoring systems: devices that monitor and report safety parameters, including gas leaks, fire, and intrusions. High performance and USB 2.0 full speed connectivity such as the M487 series can be executed for security and safety monitoring
  • Remote Terminal Units (RTUs): RTUs collect data from remote sites and communicate it to a central system, often used in utilities and environmental monitoring. The M467 series support strong crypto accelerators and various power saving modes to meet RTU scenarios
  • Energy monitoring systems: monitor energy usage and efficiency, helping industrial facilities reduce operational costs. The NUC980 graphical gateway is a reference design based on OpenWrt which is a Linux distribution and suitable for monitoring by embedded systems
  • Condition monitoring devices: these devices track the health and performance of industrial equipment, supporting predictive maintenance. NUC980 is of ARM9 core and runs up to 300MHz to support the needs of calculation. It can be as an embedded gateway for industrial equipment.

The future of Industrial IoT

The Industrial IoT solutions offered on TECHDesign in partnership with Nuvoton represent a significant leap forward in the world of industrial connectivity. By providing robust hardware and software solutions directly from manufacturers such as Nuvoton, TECHDesign empowers businesses to harness the power of data, automation, and connectivity to drive innovation and competitiveness in their respective industries. As Industrial IoT continues to evolve, TECHDesign remains a trusted partner for businesses looking to shape the future of industry through smart, connected solutions. If you’d like to learn more about the parts that TECHDesign supplies, or ask questions in the course of your development process, contact TECHDesign anytime.

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