Software Content Management for Cost-Effective Scalable IoT Devices

In the run to democratization of IoT, “Software” is the major differentiating element and manufacturers have to constantly adapt their products to reach a fast-changing global market. With device prices going down, the best way to win the race against competition is to be the first on the market and/or to propose devices which software content can adjust to changing market conditions. Software Content Management determines the scalability of an electronic product during its lifetime.

Cost-effective power-efficient hardware at the heart of IoT systems

Let’s mention the basic components of any embedded device: hardware, software and connectivity. It may look simple, but it is not that easy to find the efficient combination.

First of all, the hardware or electronic components and boards support different types of software depending on their capacity. Regarding costs, the less expensive microprocessors are little microcontrollers (MCU) starting at $1. But which kind of software can run on it? Obviously it can’t be the same popular software platforms running on PC’s, smartphones or tablets, because the hardware required to support them is complex and expensive.

What are the connectivity options? Wi-Fi or Ethernet are the most used technologies in the PC/server world, but also the most expensive ones. The low-cost options are low-power narrowband networks like BLE, Thread, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Lo-RA, Sigfox, etc. Nevertheless, this kind of communication systems may not be capable of doing a complete software update of the whole system at once, and without updates the device can become quickly obsolete. So how a system upgrade can be done in these conditions?

Let’s recap: cost-effective power-efficient hardware can support neither the software platforms nor the standard connectivity of smartphones or PCs, so how can manufacturers develop IoT devices that can be scalable and run on low-cost low-power hardware at the same time?

A typical example are low-cost gateways. Because they need to be reactive to their environment and adapt to connect to new devices, they constantly have to propose new services or support new protocols. All this should be added remotely, without replacing the gateway nor calling a technician.

MicroEJ as a Software content management system for low-cost MCUs

MicroEJ OS is the software platform that solves all these issues at once. MicroEJ OS proposes the same advantages of smartphone technology on lower-power cost-effective hardware.

This is a unique solution for developing your own IoT platform, design smart applications and deploy them anywhere. Besides, it works even for small IoT devices, i.e. smart sensors, edge nodes, consumer electronics, etc. MicroEJ OS also offers the possibility to manage software content thanks to apps download. The device software becomes flexible and scalable, without any direct contact, it can be done remotely!

For example, a street light sensor can propose a new service by automatically reducing light intensity after 5 minutes of no movement detection. Thanks to MicroEJ OS, this new functionality can be pushed as an app from an online store to the light sensor.

Let’s come back to the gateway example. By using MicroEJ OS, gateways can propose new services by connecting to other devices thanks to apps downloading. The gateway can detect and connect to devices from different manufacturers around them (alarm systems, lighting, TV, white goods, heating, etc.). From an online store, the user can download these apps/new services to the gateway for controlling the various devices. Apps may target the gateway itself but could also be pushed by the gateway to smart devices to enhance their functionality. The gateway is used as a proxy between devices and the store. Then, there are two possibilities:

  1. The user can configure and manage the devices himself,
  2. The devices can have access to data and play scenarios. For example, switch in the lights if someone enters the room after 8 p.m., set the alarm on when the front door is locked, have different heating scenarios depending on seasons and for each room, etc.

MicroEJ OS for software content management:

MicroEJ for Home Automation

MicroEJ OS features a mini smartphone-like platform, running on any low-cost hardware, connected to any low-power narrowband networks, and enabling remote software content management. Indeed, devices powered by MicroEJ OS are able to connect to MicroEJ Store to download software applications and improve their functionality.

These software applications can serve different purposes:

  1. Add, update or remove features or services across several markets.
  2. Partial update or maintenance of the system.
  3. Collect data for analysis in the cloud.