Sunday, June 12, 2016

Open IoT Network

Free and open wireless IoT network is under construction at Helsinki area and selected other cities in Finland. The purpose is to promote the technology and boost innovations and help companies entering in new digital businesses. Finnish business magazine Kauppalehti published my posting explaining the philosophy behind: Sharing economy ruling the Internet of Things (in Finnish).

Enevo engineers installing LoRa gateway at the roof of the Espoo office.

Currently there is good network coverage in city of Espoo, which is a suburb of Helsinki. Parts of Helsinki and Vantaa are also covered yet. There is single gateway now in Tampere.  The aim is to extend the network to cover most of Helsinki area. Tampere, Jyväskylä and Oulu are other cities to have network coverage. Check the latest coverage map from

The network is based on LoRa LPWAN technology, and the service is provided in  co-operation with The Things Network providing LoRa Network Server backend. The mission of The Things Network is to build a global open crowdsourced Internet of Things data Network. API to device data is documented and provided by The Things Network.

The LoRaWAN protocol is covered by LoRa Alliance an industry association with 150+ members. The aim of the alliance is to ensure interoperability of devices and gateways, while doing so, the existence of the alliance also eliminates risks related to proprietary and single source technology, associated with some other LPWA technologies.

It's not only Etteplan building the network, but there are number of partners supporting. Currently companies like Caverion, Fortum, Enevo, and Valmet have provided locations for gateways. Some other well known companies are soon to join, either to support or contribute to the network building. Further expansion of the network depends on interest of companies joining the movement. If you're interested in joining, please contact me.

What's the beef? The aim is to boost innovations by enabling easy piloting and development of IoT applications with wireless connected devices - the Things of Internet. For commercial deployment of a service, perhaps a commercial backend is taken into use instead of the crowdsourced one. The open network is also good for evaluating performance of the technology, even if private and closed network will be used for the particular the application in question.

Existence of the network makes it also possible to offer new types of services where devices, connectivity, backend and application are all offered as a single service. For most IoT applications, the device end and the application are what created the value. Connectivity and backend in between is often irrelevant for the end-user, as long as certain basic assumptions are met regarding availability, security, etc.

Read more from:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hack the turbine

Final day of Fortum IndustryHack is over (13-15 of May, 2016) and the winner is a joint team of IBM and Ixonos. IndustryHack is a Finnish company that organizes series of hackathons with various industries. Past hacks have been organized with many international enterprises like Nokia, Kone, and Konecranes. Company hosting the event opens access to data via APIs and competing teams innovate new digital value-add services a top of that. 

Turbine hall of Fortum Espoo power plant.
Fortum Oyj is a Finnish energy company with 8B€ revenue, focusing on the Nordic and Baltic countries, Poland, and Russia. Fortum operates power plants, including co-generation plants and generates and sells electricity, heat, and steam. This time the target of the hackathon was turbines of power plants, including Fortum Espoo CHP and Imatra hydrogen plants.

Espotel co-organized the event with Fortum by providing instrumentation and APIs in IBM Bluemix cloud for the Espoo power plant. IBM Bluemix was the platform of choice by Fortum. Detailed description of the setup is available at a dedicated web site Instrumentation of the turbine was made with National Instruments LabVIEW and CompactRIO technology. Local NI sponsored the event by providing necessary hardware.

Espotel engineers installing compactRIO measurement equipment
for real-time position measurement of turbine axel.

IndustryHack defines itself as bringing together software developers and tech startups to create new product concepts. Hack event is open to anybody to attend, but in practice most of the attending teams are organized by software consulting companies. This time, the list of winners is following:

  1. IBM + Ixonos (software consulting company)
  2. Cybercom (software consulting company)
  3. Symbio (software consulting company)

The IndustryHack has emerged quite far away from the original idea of hackathons bringing students, hobbyists and makers together, this time there was no student or hobbyist team involved. The new concept is rather unique; leading software companies are bringing their best forces, free of charge, to innovate new solutions for the given host company, during a weekend event. Ideas are pitched and shared publicly among participants.

"You are what you share" is the slogan of the new sharing economy. Expressing your ideas with your competitors does not necessarily make you weaker but stronger. Motivation for companies to do so is the positive PR, this is what we can and that's how we do it. Some lucky one may also end up in having commercial contract for actual implementation project.

IndustryHack type of events are not only boosting innovation but economy as well. Companies are sharing best practices, competing with each other, and most importantly networking - ecosystem building. As an example, Valmet, a 3B€ machine and energy technology company, attended the hack in joint team with Futurice, a software consulting company. This kind of openings are very interesting. I'm waiting to see two direct competitors to form a joint team.

For more information about advanced condition monitoring and analytics for predictive maintenance, please take look at the web site:

Saturday, March 26, 2016

IOT Cloud Connector for LabVIEW

National Instrument's LabVIEW is leading technology for test and measurement domain. Today, IOT Cloud Connector, a LabVIEW library for IBM Bluemix / Watson IOT Platform was published in LabVIEW Tools Network. The library is contributed by Espotel and is freely available.

Logo of the IOT Cloud Connector library by Espotel.
Connecting LabVIEW to cloud enables countless  applications ranging from real-time condition monitoring to process control and robotics. The value proposition of LabVIEW is "improving productivity of engineers and scientist", and that it definitely does by enabling fast and easy development of measurement applications and signal processing.

IOT Cloud Connector leverages the productivity to yet another level by enabling fast and easy integration of smart measurements to power of Bluemix apps. Use of cloud enables collecting data from multiple and different sources, performing advanced analytics, and integrating with any other system.

Smart measurements means not all the raw measurement data is beamed up to the cloud but edge analytics of some sort is performed already in the measurement device itself. Most commonly this means signal processing type of data aggregation providing relevant key indicators for the cloud application. Vibration monitoring is a good example where data is collected at the rate of tens of thousands of measurements per second, and it definitely does not make sense to store each measurement point in cloud but relevant indicators only in order to understand the nature of the given vibration.

Analyze of the measured vibration data gives understanding of the current condition of assets. In some extend it enables predictive maintenance, but the full power of operational optimization is achieved only when the data is combined with other data sources like ERP, Finance, order book, production costs, etc. Cloud is definitely the place to do such advanced analytics, and that's why the IOT Cloud Connector for LabVIEW is needed.

IOT Cloud Connector uses MQTT protocol - the ISO/IEC 20922 standard - to connect any LabVIEW-enabled equipment to IBM Watson IOT Platform and further to Bluemix. The range of equipment covers any PC running most common operating systems; Windows, Linux, or Mac. Also all NI measurement equipment are supported, including compactRIO, Single-board RIO, SOM RIO and myRIO.

CompactRIO with various interface modules.
CompactRIO is perhaps the most known measurement equipment from NI. It utilizes the Reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture. The fundamental idea of RIO architecture is that I/O is not wired directly to CPU but there is programmable FPGA in between. This way each I/O pin is fully reconfigurable for different purposes.

User does not need to understand FPGA programming but LabVIEW does that on behalf of user. Custom FPGA programs can be also created with the graphical LabVIEW tool only, with no need to touch the FPGA code. Custom FPGA really does take all the performance out of the hardware, and very fast and complex signal processing can be performed in real-time.

LabVIEW and Bluemix are really the "killer app" combo for industrial condition monitoring.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Watson IoT Platform and data storage

In December 2015, IBM opened new unit Watson Internet of Things, with its global headquarter in Munich, Germany. The core of the the new portfolio is Watson IoT Platform, formerly known as IBM IOT Foundation (IOTF).

Cloud data management model
Watson IoT Platform is handy way to connect IoT devices into the cloud. It provides device connectivity with MQTT - the standardized IoT protocol ISO/IEC 20922. Device management, token authentication, data storage and integration interfaces for further cloud applications.

Here comes the catch: Even if IOTF provides data storage, it should not considered as primary storage of your device data in production use. There are two main reasons:
  • Storing excess amount of data in IOTF is expensive
  • IOTF database does not provide QoS, data may be lost if delivered at high rate
So, what instead? Better way is to use IOTF only as an interface to cloud for your connected devices, and store your data in some No-SQL database like Mongo, Couch, Cloudant or Cassandra. This is much more robust solution as IOTF does provide QoS for data delivered.

Majority of device data generated in the world is deprecated just few seconds after it's created. Data aggregation may significantly reduce the amount of data that really needs to be stored for later use. However, if you wish to store all raw device data for later use like analytics not invented yet, it's better to use some long term data storage solution like Object storage, as data over there costs only a fraction of what it would cost to store it in the active No-SQL database.

This creates a three-tier data management model where Watson IOT Platform (IOTF) is the front-line to receive the data from devices. No-SQL database is the place where active application data is processed, and finally a Object storage or similar place is the attic for historical data perhaps never needed, but nobody dares to throw away.

Bluemix and Watson IoT Platform are tightly integrated and it's very easy to access the data in Bluemix application. Here is an example of simplest possible glue-logic to integrate IOTF and No-SQL database with each other ,Cloudant in this case. The example is implemented with Node-RED running in Bluemix Node.js application.

Integration of IOTF and Cloudant with Node-RED app in Bluemix.
The left-hand side IOTF node receives and data arriving in IOTF that meets the filtering criteria defined inside the IOTF configuration. The right-hand side cloudant node puts any data it receives into the defined cloudant database. If you need to do any filtering or data aggregation prior putting data into the database, just add a function node in between. If both IOTF and cloudant service instances are created inside the same Bluemix app, there is no need to configure any credentials here, those services are readily integrated.

In addition to being more robust than using IOTF database, this may be more economic as well. Free plan of IOTF provides storage space of 1GB for device data, where as Cloudant offers 20GB free quota per instance. Fetching data from Non-SQL database is also more comfortable with efficient query algorithms. Actually the REST API of IOTF only provides max 200 items at a time.

Reading data from Cloudant is as simple as writing it in, in Node-RED application. Here is an example of simplest possible implementation of REST API to fetch data from the database.

Implementation of REST API to fetch data from Cloudant in Node-RED.
With Watson IOT Platform, Bluemix, and Cloudant it's possible to build very quickly a robust, efficient, and cost effective IOT-solutions in cloud. The integration of IOTF and Cloudant overcomes all the pitfalls the current Watson IOT Platform has. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rapid dashboarding with Node-RED

Node-RED is great tool for data flow integrations. Even if Node-RED itself has graphical Web UI, it is not originally intended for UI development. Don't worry, awesome people in the open source community have contributed an extension to Node-RED for rapid dashboard development. 

Example dashboard made with Node-RED.
Project called node-red-contrib-ui introduces number of widgets (nodes) in Node-RED enabling rapid dashboard implementation. At the moment there are following input and output widgets:

  • Text
  • Gauge
  • Chart
  • Numeric
  • Text
  • Button (plain, row, radio)
  • Switch
  • Slider 
  • Debug (toast)
Creating custom dashboard is very easy, just drag-and-drop widgets (nodes) into the Node-RED flow. There are two concepts to define the layout of the dashboard: tab and group, configured in each node of the dashboard. The dashboard may consists of several tabs, and inside individual tabs there may exists several groups. In the screenshot above, each white box (Temperature, Humidity, Pressure, RSSI) forms a separate group with two widgets: chart and gauge.

Node-RED flow implementing the dashboard presented above.
The package node-red-contrib-ui is not distributed with Node-RED by default, but it is very easy to install. If you're running Node-RED in your local PC or embedded Linux like Raspberry Pi, just type at the command line:

    npm install node-red-contrib-ui

In case of IBM Bluemix with Node-RED service, one line needs to be added in the package.json configuration file of the application, and then re-deploy it. Bluemix will then fetch the package from the Node-Red flows server. package.json:


Adding custom dashboard to any embedded or cloud application is now easier than ever. This is great tool for all kinds of rapid prototyping and hobby projects. For professional-made multi-user web applications other technologies are needed, as Node-RED does not currently support user management (only simple password protection), user profiles, or multi-user access. Multiple users may access the UI simultaneously, but all will see the same data.

I wish to express my greatest thanks to the primary developer of the project Andrei Tatar and all other contributors for the great effort providing such a capability in Node-RED. Good job!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Certify or not?

First ever LoRa product passed LoRaWAN protocol compliance certification tests in Espotel laboratory earlier this week. The LoRa Alliance will ratify certifications and publish them, thus I post no names here yet.

LoRaWAN introduction video in Youtube by LoRa Alliance.

Device manufacturer may wonder whether it is mandatory to certify every LoRa product? Yes and no. The cleverness of the LoRa technology is that it enables both public and private network use. Public network is like cellular network, there is an operator in place which provides commercial connectivity service. Private network is more like setting up your own WiFi access point - You do not need to ask permission to do so and you don't pay anything for the use of the wireless connectivity.

Why to certify? Public network operators want to ensure compatibility in between end-nodes and gateways, as well as guarantee quality of service. The end-device must meet certain minimum specifications, otherwise operator can not guarantee any performance level. If connectivity is bad, customer thinks it's operator's fault, not due to the device itself. These are the reasons why most public network operators require that every connected device must be LoRaWAN certified.

In case of private network use, there is no law that requires you to certify any product. It's your gateway and your device, you can do whatever you wish as long as regulatory requirements are met. Regulatory requirements means that product is CE labeled in the EU or FCC approved in the US. Regulatory requirements typically define things like maximum transmit power, maximum bandwidth and maximum duty-cycle.

The dual nature of the LoRa technology - managed for public use and license free for private use enables also new types of operations, crowdsourced Internet of Things like The Things Network which is a new type of establishing connectivity. The Things Network is based on voluntary network sharing. You may set up a gateway to get IoT connectivity for your devices, and simultaneously provide it for your neighbors. There is no central control, it's an anarchistic model - you do not need to set up a gateway of your own to benefit from connectivity provided by others. This is fundamentally different to many of the similar WiFi network sharing services introduced in the past.

In order to use crowdsourced network like The Things Network, the end-device must be LoRaWAN compatible - otherwise it just simply doesn't work. However, as it open to everybody without centralized control, there is nobody who could require and verify LoRaWAN certification for end-devices. In private networks even LoRaWAN compliance is not mandatory. Connectivity can be established directly a top of LoRa MAC, assuming your gateway supports that.

Professional customers who prefer to have certain SLA for the network service and wish not to trust on good will of people in the neighborhood, must use public service provided by commercial operators. For that the device manufacturer must get LoRaWAN certification to the product. And that means it's good time now to be a LoRa certification laboratory... :-)

PS. Frequently asked questions on LoRaWAN certification at Espotel site:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

LoRaWAN certification

Lora Alliance All Member Meeting & Open house took place in Rotterdam this week. The board of alliance acknowledged Espotel and IMST as the first official certification test houses.

 Press release:

The LoRa Alliance Launches the LoRaWAN™ Certification Program End Device Interoperability to Enable Global Scalability for the IoT

SAN RAMON, Calif. - November 10th, 2015 - The LoRa Alliance is one of the fastest growing Internet of Things (IoT) alliances. It has drawn over 130 members since March 2015 and today announced the launch of the LoRaWAN™ Certification Program. The launch announcement was made at the 3rd European Open House Meeting in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and will ensure interoperability between end devices and LoRaWAN™ networks.

The LoRa® Alliance has a mission to ensure that the open LoRaWAN™ specification for secure, carrier grade, low power wide area networks (LPWAN) will enable all end devices to behave in a predetermined way when connected to a LoRaWAN™ network and interoperate with all gateway products. The Certification Program will provide assurance to end customers that their application-specific end devices will operate on any LoRaWAN™ network, which is a crucial requirement for the global deployment of the IoT using LPWANs.

The scope of the Certification Program will be to confirm that the end device meets the functional requirements of the LoRaWAN™ protocol specification, and will include a suite of tests that are specified in the LoRa® Alliance End Device Certification Requirements document. A device manufacturer must be a member the LoRa® Alliance to be LoRa® Certified and must use one of the accredited LoRa® Certification test houses to do the functional protocol testing. On completion of the tests the results will be listed on the LoRa® Alliance website, and upon compliance a LoRa® Certification certificate will be issued by the LoRa® Alliance. All LoRaWAN™ Certified devices will be listed on the Alliance website and there will not be a fee for the listing. The LoRa® Certified end devices are listed in a product catalogue and a portal on the website to enable visibility will be available by year end.

"This is a major milestone for the LoRa® Alliance in the adoption of LoRa® technology as a mature standard and will enable end device manufactures to have fully compliant LoRaWAN™ Certified products. The certified device will also ensure quick and easy integration into any LoRaWAN™ network," said Derek Hunt, System Solutions Director at Semtech and Certification Committee Chair for the LoRa® Alliance.

Two LoRa® Alliance members, IMST and Espotel, both respected test houses, have already implemented test suites to perform the testing and are accredited by the LoRa® Alliance. Both companies also offer RF or regulatory compliance testing and additional services for the end devices if required. "LoRa® is one of the most promising radio technologies for IoT solutions and we see plenty of great opportunities for this technology in Industry, utilities and logistics. Espotel provides engineering services, laboratory services and entire IoT systems, including cloud services, for customers willing to create LoRa® based services and solutions," said Espotel CEO Kari Liuska. "The LoRa® technology provides ultra-long range spread spectrum communication and high interference immunity whilst minimizing current consumption. Nevertheless, the individual device needs to be tested to ensure compliance to the LoRaWAN™ specification, enabling a smooth integration into bigger networks. IMST is working with LoRa® for more than three years and provides first-class LoRa® solutions for customers all over the world," said IMST Head of Test Centre Markus Ridder.

About LoRa Alliance
LoRa® Alliance is an open, non-profit association of members who believe the Internet of Things era is now. Our mission is to standardize Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) to enable the Internet of Things (IoT). The Alliance members collaborate to drive the global success of the LoRaWAN ™ secure, carrier grade protocol by sharing knowledge and experience to guarantee interoperability between operators in one open global standard. Now having gained over 130 members since March 2015, with nine announced operator networks and 56 operator networks in trials, it is the most widely deployed LPWAN technology.

About LoRaWAN™
The technology utilized in a LoRaWAN™ network is designed to connect low-cost, battery-operated sensors over long distances in harsh environments that were previously too challenging or cost prohibitive to connect. With its unique penetration capability, a LoRa® gateway deployed on a building or tower can connect to sensors more than 10 miles away or to water meters deployed underground or in basements. The LoRaWAN™ protocol offers unique and unequaled benefits in terms of bi-directionality, security, mobility and accurate localization that are not addressed by other LPWAN technologies. These benefits will enable the diverse use cases and business models that will enable deployments of LPWAN IoT networks globally.

About Espotel
Espotel is a leading provider of R&D services for embedded systems, industrial internet applications and test systems for industrial, telecom, medical and defense technology sectors. Positioned at the edge of new technology with such leading technology partners as IBM, ARM and National Instruments, and with strong roots in the development of electronic devices and systems, Espotel has created a wide international customer base. Espotel has offices in Finland, Poland and Sweden. Today Espotel employs about 300 professionals in the field of electronics, embedded systems and industrial internet development. With a turnover of 25 million euros in 2014, the company is showing continuous growth and profitability, enabling the development of technological expertise and excellence at customer service.

About IMST
IMST GmbH is a leading design house and development center for wireless modules, communication systems, chip design, antennas, EDA software, and regulatory certification using an in-house accredited/certified regulatory test center. IMST offers both standard products such as radio modules with hardware/software as well as complete system and product design. Individualized support during every phase of product development including wireless technologies, from initial consulting to series production is one of the unique selling propositions of IMST. For more information, visit