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|How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to
Love the Gateway
The Four Benefits of Using a Gateway in Your IoT Design
Head of Cortet Engineering
article will help
you navigate through the deluge of IoT information and identify which
technology choices will have the biggest positive impact on your
upcoming product plans. Selecting the optimal protocol stack for your
IoT solution is critical. However, in order to that, we need to talk
about the Gateway.
By “Gateway” I really mean “Let’s have a
discussion about the ideal IoT network architecture.” We are big
advocates of using intelligent, on-premises gateways to manage both
local and cloud-based communication.
IT’S TIME TO STOP THINKING OF “GATEWAY”
AS A DIRTY WORD
We know the term “Gateway” has become a bit of a
lightning-rod-issue in our industry, with many arguing against the need
for them. Our goal here is to make the logical argument for why we
believe gateways are critical for success.
But first, let’s clarify how we define a gateway and a gateway-based network. Below is a simplified illustration of our preferred architecture. You can see that the gateway sits at the intersection of downstream user interface devices, upstream IoT devices, and the cloud.
WHY A CENTRALIZED INTELLIGENT
GATEWAY IS THE BETTER ANSWER
Here are four more big reasons why this design
is superior to many of the others being considered today.
Benefit 1: No Perceived System Latency
When an occupancy sensor registers movement, the
expectation is an immediate response from the devices it is controlling.
Some current architectures attempt to route all commands, including rules processing, scenes, and groups through the cloud, which can introduce unwanted latency.
Having an on-premises gateway ensures response to sensor input is perceived as immediate.
For example, when a user enters a room and activates the occupancy sensor, the respective fixture(s) must illuminate at the same perceived speed as if the user flipped a physical switch on the wall.
If not, user satisfaction and trust in the overall IoT system degrades.
Benefit 2: Adding and Configuring Smart
Devices Simply and Quickly
Commissioning a network, especially a large
network, is one of the most time consuming and difficult operations in
the network life cycle. Commissioning starts with making sure devices
are part of the network (also known as “joining” or “pairing”). It
doesn’t end there.
For a control system to be smart, it needs to support the following:
• Be able to control a group of devices in a specific way that could be different for different devices (often called a scene)
• Be able to control devices, groups, or scenes on a schedule
• Be able to take input from one device on the system and use that to control another device, group or scene.
• Do all of the above in an automatic way that feels magical to the end user
Rather than having to set up each group, and
schedule, and rule, the Gateway can be given a small amount of
information and use this to create the configuration of the network.
Benefit 3: Uninterrupted,
While cloud-based control and monitoring of
on-premises IoT devices will continue to be essential, attempting to
move all intelligence and routing responsibilities into the cloud has
so far proven to be ineffective. This is due to the latency issues
mentioned above, but a larger problem involves the need for a constant
Although internet connectivity and uptime have
made great advances, outages and other interruptions still occur
frequently. It simply isn’t feasible for users and managers to risk
losing control of vital devices in their offices and homes if an
internet failure occurs.
In simple terms, having an on-premises gateway
creates a reliable backup should internet access be interrupted. When
cloud access is unavailable, gateway-based communication continues,
allowing users to have uninterrupted control from on-site.
Benefit 4: Easier to Create Rich and
Useful User Interface
Every network needs a user interface. Hopefully,
this is used mostly for management and configuration and used only
sometimes for control since the majority of control should ideally be
The most common example of a user interface is a
mobile app. This mobile app needs to talk directly to the network when
on-premises and communicate through the cloud when remote.
Exposing a reasonable interface to allow the
mobile app to take these actions is the responsibility of the Gateway.
The better this interface is designed, the easier it is to modify or
create user interfaces.
Without a gateway, all devices would need to
present a reasonable interface for a user application. This would add
complexity to each device and would make the user interface development
far more difficult.
Having a gateway do the heavy lifting ensures
that users get seamless, “It just works” control experience they
expect; and that building managers get the immediate, “plug-and-play”
device installation and management they require.
CEL designs and manufactures the Cortet™ and
MeshConnect® lines of IEEE 802.15.4, ZigBee®, Thread, Wi-Fi®, and
Bluetooth® wireless solutions and participates in the ZigBee® Alliance,
the Thread Group and the Bluetooth® SIG. CEL is ideally positioned to
provide its customers with hardware and software products that greatly
simplify design and reduce time to market.
CEL provides engineering and applications assistance at its technical centers in Santa Clara (CA), Buffalo Grove (IL), and Lafayette (CO). The company supports customers through sales offices, sales representatives and distributors in numerous locations.
Visit us online at http://cortet.cel.com/
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