Tiny, Rugged IoT Gateways Offer 10-Year Linux Support

By Eric Brown

Moxa has announced the UC-2100 Series of industrial IoT gateways along with its new UC 3100 and UC 5100 Series, but it offered details only on the UC-2100. All three series will offer ruggedization features, compact footprints, and on some models, 4G LTE support. They all run Moxa Industrial Linux and optional ThingsPro Gateway data acquisition software on Arm-based SoCs.

 

Moxa UC-2111 or UC-2112 (left) and UC-2101 (click image to enlarge)

Based on Debian 9 and a Linux 4.4 kernel, the new Moxa Industrial Linux (MIL) is a “high-performance, industrial-grade Linux distribution” that features a container-based virtual-machine-like middleware abstraction layer between the OS and applications,” says Moxa. Multiple isolated systems can run on a single control host “so that system integrators and engineers can easily change the behavior of an application without worrying about software compatibility,” says the company.

MIL provides 10-year long-term Linux support, and is aimed principally at industries that require long-term software, such as power, water, oil & gas, transportation and building automation industries. In December, Moxa joined the Linux Foundation’s Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project, which is developing a 10-year SLTS Linux kernel for infrastructure industries. MIL appears to be in alignment with CIP standards.

Diagrams of ThingsPro Gateway (top) and the larger ThingsPro eco-system (bottom) (click images to enlarge)

Moxa’s ThingsPro Gateway software enables “fast integration of edge data into cloud services for large-scale IIoT deployments,” says Moxa. The software supports Modbus data acquisition, LTE connectivity, MQTT communication, and cloud client interfaces such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. C and Python APIs are also available.

 

Moxa’s UC-3100 (source: Hanser Konstruktion), and at right, the similarly Linux-driven, ThingsPro ready UC-8112 (click images to enlarge)

Although we saw no product pages on the UC-3100 and UC-5100, Hanser Konstruktion posted a short news item on the UC-3100 with a photo (above) and a few details. This larger, rugged system supports WiFi and LTE with two antenna pairs, and offers a USB port in addition to dual LAN and dual serial ports.

The new systems follow several other UC-branded IoT gateways that run Linux on Arm. The only other one to support ThingsPro is the UC-8112, a member of the UC-8100 family. This UC-8100 is similarly ruggedized, and runs Linux on a Cortex-A8 SoC.

UC-2100

The UC-2100 Series gateways runs MIL on an unnamed Cortex-A8 SoC clocked at 600MHz except for the UC-2112, which jumps to 1GHz. There are five different models, all with 9-48 VDC 3-pin terminal blocks and a maximum consumption of 4 Watts when not running cellular modules.

The five UC-2100 models have the following dimensions, weights, and maximum input currents:

  • UC-2101 — 50 x 80 x 28mm; 190 g; 200 mA
  • UC-2102 — 50 x 80 x 28mm; 190 g; 330 mA
  • UC-2104 — 57 x 80 x 30.8mm; 220 g; 800 mA
  • UC-2111 — 77 x 111 x 25.5mm; 290 g; 350 mA
  • UC-2112 — 77 x 111 x 25.5mm; 290 g; 450 mA

All five UC-2100 variants default to a -10 to 60°C operating range except for the UC-2104, which moves up to -10 to 70°C. In addition, they are all available in optional -40 to 75°C versions.

Other ruggedization features are the same, including anti-vibration protection per IEC 60068-2-64 and anti-shock per IEC 60068-2-2. A variety of safety, EMC, EMI, EMS, and hazardous environment standards are also listed.

The first three models ship with 256MB DDR3, while the UC-2111 and UC-2112 offer 512MB. These two are also the only ones to offer micro-SD slots. All five systems ship with 8GB eMMC loaded with the MIL distribution.

The UC-2100 systems vary in the number and type of their auto-sensing, 1.5 kV isolated Ethernet ports. The UC-2101 and UC-2104 each have a single 10/100Mbps port, while the UC-2102 and UC-2111 have two. The UC-2112 has one 10/100 and one 10/100/1000 port. The UC-2104 is the only model with a mini-PCIe socket for 4G or WiFi.

The UC-2111 and UC-2112 offer 2x RS-232/422/48 ports while the UC-2101 has one. It would appear that the UC-2102 and UC-2104 lack serial ports altogether except for the RS-232 console port available on all five systems.

The UC-2100 provides push buttons and dip switches, an RTC, a watchdog, and LEDs, the number of which depend on the model. A wall kit is standard, and DIN-rail mounting is optional. TPM 2.0 is also optional. A 5-year hardware warranty is standard.

Further information

The UC-2100 Series gateways appear to be available for order, with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found on Moxa’s UC-2100 product page. More information about the UC-2100, as well as the related, upcoming UC-3100 and UC-5100 Series, will be on tap at Hannover Messe 2018, April 23-27, at the Arm Booth at Hall 6, Booth A46.

Moxa | www.moxa.com

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on April 16.

Obsolescence-Proof Your UI (Part 1)

(Photo 1)
Web Server Strategy

After years of frustration dealing with graphical user interface technologies that go obsolete, Steve decided that web browser technology could help this problem. With that in mind, he built a web server that could perform common operations that he needed on the IEEE-488 bus—and it is basically obsolescence-proof.

By Steve Hendrix

My consulting business is designing custom embedded electronics. Many such systems are size-constrained, but still need some type of user interface. For portable devices, the battery is usually the biggest point of discussion. For wireless designs, it’s the antenna. But for virtually every design, the user interface figures prominently in the concept discussions.

I’ve been involved with one particular design for some 20 years now. When I took it over from the client’s in-house designer, the internal structure was very shaky. Unfortunately, they were not willing to change it due to the re-certification efforts that would be required for a major change. The design’s user interface used a graphic LCD with a touchscreen overlay. I have just completed the latest revision to replace an obsolete part—the latest in a long series of revisions caused by the display panel or the touchscreen going obsolete. This usually happens just about the time the whole product gets through final certification. In this case, we jumped through a lot of hoops to avoid disturbing the core of the product so we wouldn’t require a a big recertification effort. We did so by building a daughterboard that emulates the original touchscreen. A web browser interface would be so much easier!

In a similar vein, I recently purchased a spectrum analyzer to replace a failed unit. The only way to get a screen dump into my PC is via the IEEE-488 bus. That standard is sometimes known as GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus) or HPIB (Hewlett-Packard Interface Bus). Because this bus has mostly fallen out of favor, instruments that use it are inexpensive. The solutions that purport to interface the IEEE-488 bus to a PC are themselves badly dated. In addition to requiring a cable big enough to flip an instrument off the bench, several other pieces are needed. You need to buy a board that goes inside the PC for four figures, and software to run it for well up into four figures, and hope your PC and operating system are old enough to be compatible. Alternatively, numerous USB interfaces are available. All of those interfaces require a custom driver in your PC, and most of those drivers require older versions of Windows.

Photo 2
(a) A close-up view of the finished unit, which fits comfortably within a standard IEEE-488 connector backshell. This unit is ready for the final application of the label showing its permanently-assigned MAC address. (b) A peek under the hood, showing the microcontroller, the IEEE-488 bus termination resistor packs, and most of the power supply. The mini-USB connector makes no data connection, but only provides power to the unit. Such power supplies have become such ubiquitous commodity products that they are the most cost-effective way to get 5 V power to the unit.Many years ago, I worked for a company who specialized in IEEE-488 interfaces. Although I’d forgotten some of the nuances that make it such a pain to work with directly, I remembered enough to know that the Microchip PIC18F97J60 microcontroller could directly drive the bus lines for a single instrument. The PIC would need buffering to deal with the full 14 instruments that can be on the bus per the specification, but I just wanted to interface a single instrument. Best of all, I already had experience with building a web server in this chip from my solar power controller discussed in the July 2014 and August 2014 issues (Circuit Cellar 288 and Circuit Cellar 289.) The microcontroller and all required electronics could fit inside the backshell of a standard IEEE-488 connector. The lead article photo (Photo 1) shows the very tidy end result—note the MAC addresses printed on each label. Photo 2 shows a close-up view of the exterior and interior.

I’m sure that HTTP and web browsers will someday go the way of buggy whips. However, given their use today in everything from PCs to laptops to tablets to smart phones, I’m thinking web browsers are likely to be around for a while. With that in mind, I chose to build a web server that could perform common operations that I need on the IEEE-488 bus, and ultimately built it into a product available for sale to others with similar needs. By using a web browse the user interface, the device is accessible via anything from a desktop computer to an iPod—and it’s pretty much obsolescence -proof, at least within my lifetime! …

Author′s Note: I offer a special discount on KISS-488 to Circuit Cellar readers. Contact me at SteveHx@HxEngineering.com for details!

Read the full article in the April 333 issue of Circuit Cellar

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Texting and IoT Embedded Devices (Part 1)

Fun with the ESP8266 SoC

Can texting be leveraged for use in IoT Wi-Fi devices? Jeff has been using Wi-Fi widgets for a lot of IoT projects lately. This month Jeff lays the groundwork for describing a project that will involve texting. He starts off with a look at Espressif System’s ESP8266EX SoC.

By Jeff Bachiochi

Believe it or not, texting while driving as of this writing is still legal in a few states. About 10% of all motor vehicles deaths in the US can be traced back to distracted drivers. Granted that includes any distraction—however cell phone distraction has quickly become a serious issue. While hazards exist for any technology, common sense should tell you this is a dangerous act.

When the technology is used correctly, texting can deliver essential information quickly—without requiring both (or many) parties to be active at the same time. This allows you to make better use of your time. I still use email for much of my correspondence, however it’s great to be able to send your spouse a text to add milk to the grocery list—after they’ve already left for the store! And even though I chuckle when I see two people sitting next to each other texting, it is a sad commentary on emerging lifestyles.

I’ve been using Wi-Fi widgets for a lot of IoT projects lately. The cost to enter the fray is low, and with free tools it’s easy to get started. This month’s article is a about a project that will involve text, even though that may not be apparent at first. Let’s start off slowly, laying the groundwork for those who have been thinking about building this kind of project. We’ll then quickly build from this foundation into crafting a useful gadget.

A Look at the ESP8266EX

The innovative team of chip-design specialists, software/firmware developers and marketers at Espressif System developed and manufactures the ESP8266EX system-on-chip (SoC). This 32-bit processor runs at 80 MHz and embeds 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi functionality—802.11 b/g/n, supporting WPA/WPA2—as well as the normal gamut of general-purpose I/O and peripherals. It has a 64 KB boot ROM, 64 KB instruction RAM and 96 KB data RAM. Their WROOM module integrates the ESP8266 with a serial EEPROM and an RF front end with a PCB antenna for a complete IoT interface.

Anyone who has ever used a dial-up modem is most likely familiar with the term AT command set. The Hayes command set is a specific command language originally developed in 1981 by Dennis Hayes for the Hayes 300 baud Smartmodem. Each command in the set begins with the letters AT+ followed by a command word used for high-level control of internal functions. For the modem these enabled tasks like dialing the phone or sending data. As an application for the WROOM, an AT command set seemed like a perfect match. This allows an embedded designer to use the device to achieve a goal without ever having to “get their hands dirty.”

This photo shows the ESP-01 and ESP-07 modules along with the FTDI 232 USB-to-serial converter used for programming either module.

I first learned of the ESP8266 years ago and purchased the ESP-01 on eBay. It was around $5 at the time (Photo 1). I used it along with the MEGA 2560—my favorite Arduino module because of its high number of I/Os and multiple hardware UARTs. With the ESP-01 connected to a serial port on an Arduino, an application could directly talk with the ESP-01 and get the Arduino connected to your LAN. From this point, the world is under your control thanks to the AT Wi-Fi and TCP commands.

The ESP8266 literature states the Wi-Fi stack only requires about 20% of the processing power. Meanwhile, 80% is still available for user application programming and development.
So why not eliminate the Arduino’s Atmel processor altogether and put your Arduino code right in the 8266? Espressif Systems has an SDK and while it provides a development and programming environment, the Arduino IDE is comfortable for many. And it offers the installation of third-party platform packages using the Boards Manager. That means you can add support for the ESP8266EX and use much of the code you’ve already written.

Using the ESP-01

Since the ESP-01 has only 8 pins, adding the necessary hardware is pretty simple. This low power device runs on 2.5 V to 3.6 V, so you must make appropriate level corrections if you wish to use it with 5 V devices like Arduino boards. …

Read the full article in the March 332 issue of Circuit Cellar

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IoT: From Device to Gateway

Modules for the Edge

Connecting to the IoT edge requires highly integrated technology, blending wireless connectivity and intelligence. Feeding those needs, a variety of IoT modules have emerged that offer pre-certified solutions that are ready to use.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

he Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most dynamic areas of embedded systems design today. Opportunities are huge as organizations large and small work to develop IoT implementations. IoT implementations are generally comprised of three main parts: the devices in the field, the cloud and the network (gateways) linking them together. This article focuses on the “things” side—in other words, the smart, connected edge devices of the IoT. For more on IoT gateways, see “IoT Gateway Advances Take Diverse Paths“ (Circuit Cellar 328, November 2017).

Because this sub-segment of technology is growing and changing so fast, it’s impossible to get a handle on everything that’s happening. The scope that comprises IoT edge devices includes a combination of embedded processors and microcontrollers that provide intelligence. It also includes various wireless, cellular and other connectivity solutions to connect to the network. And it includes sensors to collect data and battery technologies to keep the devices running.

Connecting the various nodes of an IoT implementation can involve a number of wired and wireless network technologies. But it’s rare that an IoT system can be completely hardwired end to end. Most IoT systems of any large scale depend on a variety of wireless technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee and even cellular networking.

What’s most interesting among all that, are not those individual pieces themselves, but rather an emerging crop of modular IoT products that combine intelligence and connectivity, while also taking on the vital certifications needed to get IoT implementations up and running. With all that in mind, the last 12 months have seen an interesting mix of module-based products aimed directly at IoT.

Certified IoT Modules

Exemplifying those trends, in September 2017, STMicroelectronics (ST)introduced the SPBTLE-1S, a ready-to-use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module that integrates all the components needed to complete the radio subsystem (Photo 1). The BLE module integrates ST’s proven BlueNRG-1 application-processor SoC and balun, high-frequency oscillators and a chip antenna.

Photo 1
The SPBTLE-1S is a BLE module that integrates all the components needed to complete the radio subsystem. It’s BQE-approved, and FCC, IC and CE-RED certified to simplify end-product approval for North America and EU markets.

Developers can use this module to bypass hardware design and RF-circuit layout challenges. The SPBTLE-1S is BQE-approved, and FCC, IC and CE-RED (Radio Equipment Directive) certified to simplify end-product approval for North America and EU markets. ST’s Bluetooth 4.2 certified BLE protocol stack is included, and the supporting Software-Development Kit (SDK) contains a wide range of Bluetooth profiles and sample application code.

The device is packaged in a space-efficient 11.5 mm x 13.5 mm outline and has a wide supply-voltage range of 1.7 V to 3.6 V. The SPBTLE-1S module is well suited for small, battery-operated objects powered by various types of sources such as a primary button cell or rechargeable Li-ion battery. High RF output power of +5 dBm and good receiver sensitivity help to maximize communication range and reliability.

The BlueNRG-1 SoC at the heart of the SPBTLE-1S implements the complete BLE physical layer (PHY), link layer and network/application-processing engine comprising a low-power ARM Cortex-M0 core with 160 KB flash, 24 KB RAM with data retention and a security co-processor. The SoC also implements smart power management, with a DC/DC converter capable of powering the SPBTLE-1S module to ensure optimum energy efficiency. Users can leverage an extensive set of interfaces, including a UART, two I²C ports, SPI port, single-wire debug and 14 GPIOs, as well as peripherals including two multifunction timers, a 10-bit ADC, watchdog timer and real-time clock and a DMA controller. There is also a PDM stream processor interface, which is ideal for developing voice-controlled applications.

IoT Module for Development

Riding the IoT wave, all the major microcontroller vendors have beefed up their module-based IoT solutions in order to make it easier for developers to design in their MCUs. One example along those lines is the LPC54018 IoT module, developed by NXP in partnership with Embedded Artists. …

Read the full article in the March 332 issue of Circuit Cellar

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IoT Platform Gets Thread Certification

Express Logic has announced that its Industrial Grade X-Ware IoT Platform is an official Thread Certified Product, and the only such solution from an independent RTOS provider. Created by the Thread Group, Thread is a reliable, low-power, secure, and scalable mesh networking solution that provides a foundation on which any application layer can run.

The X-Ware IoT Platform, powered by Express Logic’s high-performance ThreadX RTOS and NetX Duo dual IPv4/IPv6 TCP/IP stack, provides industrial-grade implementations of IPv6 over Low Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN), Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), and Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS).

According to Express Logic, Thread certification provides more than just protocol compliance. Rather than measuring against single reference implementations, Thread testing validates each device’s specification conformance against a blended network comprised of four reference stacks to ensure device interoperability and reduce risk and time to market. Compliance to the Thread certification protocols and standards is administered and regulated by UL a global, independent, safety and certification company with more than a century of expertise in implementing certification solutions and standards.

The X-Ware IoT Platform contains no open source, is high performance, and boasts an extremely small footprint. The X-Ware IoT Platform automatically scales to use only what is needed by the application, making it well suited for the smallest low-power IoT devices. In addition to the performance and size advantages of the X-Ware IoT Platform, ThreadX and NetX Duo have attained the highest level of safety certifications. They include IEC 61508 SIL 4, IEC 62304 Class C, ISO 26262 ASIL D, EN 50128 SW-SIL 4, UL 60730-1 Annex H, CSA E60730-1 Annex H, IEC 60730-1 Annex H, 60335-1 Annex R and IEC 60335-1 Annex R, 1998.

Thread certification will also allow developers to confidently leverage the entire X-Ware IoT Platform solution, including the safety-certified FileX, GUIX, and USBX solutions and technologies, knowing it will seamlessly connect to other Thread-certified devices.

Express Logic | www.rtos.com

Thread Group | www.threadgroup.org

Compact Wi-Fi Transceiver

Lemos

The LEMOS-LMX-WiFi wireless transceiver

The LEMOS-LMX-WiFi is a compact wireless transceiver that can operate on IEEE 802.11 networks. It is supported by a 32-bit microcontroller running a scalable TCP/IP stack. The transceiver is well suited for wireless embedded applications involving digital remote control, digital and analog remote monitoring, asset tracking, security systems, point of sale terminals, sensor monitoring, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, environmental monitoring and control.

The 40.64-mm × 73.66-mm transceiver is available in two models: integrated PCB antenna or external antenna. Its features include software-selectable analog and digital I/O pins, a 2-Mbps maximum data rate, and a unique IEEE MAC address.

The LEMOS-LMX-WiFi can be powered by any 3.3-V to – 6-VDC source that can deliver 200 mA of current. The transceiver can interface to external devices that communicate via USART, I2C, and SPI. It also supports infrastructure and ad hoc networks.

Contact Lemos International for pricing.

Lemos International, Inc.
www.lemosint.com

Low-Cost, High-Performance 32-bit Microcontrollers

The PIC32MX3/4 32-bit microcontrollers are available in 64/16-, 256/64-, and 512/128-KB flash/RAM configurations. The microcontrollers are coupled with Microchip Technology’s software and tools for designs in connectivity, graphics, digital audio, and general-purpose embedded control.

The microcontrollers offer high RAM memory options and high peripheral integration at a low cost. They feature 28 10-bit ADCs, five UARTS, 105-DMIPS performance, serial peripherals, a graphic display, capacitive touch, connectivity, and digital audio support.
The PIC32MX3/4 microcontrollers are supported with general software development tools, including Microchip Technology’s MPLAB X integrated development environment (IDE) and the MPLAB XC32 C/C++ compiler.

Application-specific tools include the Microchip Graphics Display Designer X and the Microchip Graphics Library, which provide a visual design tool that enables quick and easy creation of graphical user interface (GUI) screens for applications. The microcontrollers are also supported with a set of Microchip’s protocol stacks including TCP/IP, USB Device and Host, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. For digital audio applications, Microchip provides software for tasks such as sample rate conversion (SRC), audio codecs—including MP3 and Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), and software to connect smartphones and other personal electronic devices.

The PIC32MX3/4 family is supported by Microchip’s PIC32 USB Starter Kit III, which costs $59.99 and the PIC32MX450 100-pin USB plug-in module, which costs $25 for the modular Explorer 16 development system. Pricing for the PIC32MX3/4 microcontrollers starts at $2.50 each in 10,000-unit quantities.

Microchip Technology, Inc.
www.microchip.com