In this piece, we’ll unpack Blues’ pioneering wireless harmonization approach, its 3 core pillars, how it’s impacting connected product development, and why wireless divergence is fundamentally flawed.
Today, a divergent approach to connected product development has mired the IoT industry. This divergent approach has led to a cumbersome product development experience where the choice of radio access technology (RAT) has to be made upfront, cloud orchestration platforms are only aligned around a single RAT, and hardware device designs are highly differentiated amongst RATs.
Blues set out to clear the divergent obstacle stifling IoT innovation through an innovative approach called wireless harmonization.
So, what is wireless harmonization? Here’s how we define it:
Wireless harmonization is an architectural approach that abstracts the complexity of connected product development by allowing developers to seamlessly transition between connectivity technologies at any point in the product lifecycle, whether prototype or deployment, based on the wireless connectivity available at the point of deployment.
To put it another way, through wireless harmonization, we’ve consolidated the many disparate, messy pieces of IoT into a single, unified experience:
- Rather than a specific hardware and software design for each RAT, we created a single unified hardware design and a standardized software interface that accommodates every RAT.
- Instead of routing IoT data through multiple RAT-specific cloud orchestration platforms, we built a single cloud orchestration platform capable of routing data received from any RAT to the cloud.
- Rather than sorting through numerous location data points captured from multiple sources, we analyze multi-source location data to automatically determine a device’s best location, giving you a single location to focus on.
Thanks to this architectural breakthrough, developers can now move freely between RATs such as cellular, LoRa, and Wi-Fi with minimal design changes. This approach enables developers to focus on developing ground-breaking applications and then decide which RAT to leverage, leading to better products in less time.
Now that we’ve defined wireless harmonization let’s outline the critical issue hampering IoT innovation and connected product development— the problem of wireless divergence.
Convergent Suppliers, Divergent Development
In the past few years, the IoT wireless connectivity market consolidated, giving rise to a market narrative around wireless convergence. Semtech acquired Sierra Wireless, UnaBiz acquired Sigfox, Telit acquired Thales Cinterion’s IoT business, and many more.
These acquisitions created suites of solutions under a single roof, allowing customers to source multiple IoT connectivity needs from a single supplier. The industry reduced procurement complexity by removing the need to procure connectivity solutions from multiple suppliers, achieved greater economies of scale, and put downward pressure on bill of materials (BOM) cost.
The industry should celebrate the supply-side efficiency improvements brought on by this consolidation; however, this strategy entirely neglects the product development experience, does nothing to solve the problem of wireless divergence, and certainly hasn’t achieved wireless convergence.
Wireless convergence is the idea that assumes these disparate and highly differentiated technologies like cellular, Wi-Fi, LoRa, and satellite can converge into a single, homogenized, blended approach. However, the reality is wireless convergence is not possible —at least in the foreseeable future — given how vastly different RATs are.
Rather than fixating on wireless convergence, Blues took a distinctive approach by addressing the challenge of wireless divergence. Recognizing the substantial variations among RATs (Radio Access Technologies), Blues crafted a sophisticated ecosystem that gracefully navigates and mitigates the intricacies inherent in these diverse technologies.
Before we dive deeper into wireless harmonization, let’s examine the critical shortcomings associated with a divergent wireless ecosystem:
- Developers are still forced to commit to a RAT at the beginning of the development lifecycle, even before they fully understand the product’s requirements.
- Cloud orchestration and data routing platforms are still RAT-specific, causing enterprises to execute multiple redundant implementations and incur greater costs while introducing greater operational complexity.
- Each RAT is supported by a distinctively designed hardware device featuring a unique form factor and specific software architecture.
The impact of this engineering oversight is tremendous. Enterprises are developing siloed, disparate IoT solutions, product development cycles are lengthy and resource-intensive, and teams must commit to a RAT at product inception, even before they fully understand their customers’ requirements and real-world demands.
Failure to solve the problem of wireless divergence is one of the core reasons the IoT space has consistently underperformed expectations and struggled to achieve its full potential. Simply put, the product development experience has been neglected, and there is too much complexity standing between developers and their ideal product.
At Blues, we set out to solve this problem by developing a wireless ecosystem that abstracts the distinct complexities of each RAT to create a unified and simplified IoT experience.
Understanding Wireless Harmonization
Let’s take a deep dive into how we put wireless harmonization into practice and what it means for developers building with our products.
Since our ecosystem is harmonized, our hardware (the Notecard) is interchangeable, and our connectivity is portable. This allows developers to build a connected product that utilizes multiple RATs while leveraging the same software and hardware design. In essence, you can develop your product and then decide which RAT(s) to leverage afterward.
Our framework is comprised of 3 core pillars: Harmonization of Radio Access Technologies, Harmonization of Location, and Harmonization of Data Flow. We’ll get to those shortly, but first, here’s a real-world example highlighting the profound impact of a harmonized wireless architecture:
An enterprise has built and shipped a solution that leverages the Notecard Cellular, but after meeting with some of your end users, you discover there’s demand for this solution in rural, cell-signal-challenged areas that require LoRa connectivity.
An enterprise has built and shipped a solution that leverages the Notecard Cellular, but after meeting with some of its end users, they discover there’s demand for their solution in rural, cell-signal-challenged areas. The current solution doesn’t need a low-latency network connection, so LoRaWAN connectivity is ideal.
But since they built with Blues, all they need to do is take the Notecard LoRa and plug it into the same M.2 edge connector that the Notecard Cellular was using, and they’re done.
It’s that easy.
There’s no hardware re-design, additional software development, lengthy time-to-market, or additional resource allocation. This pioneering approach dramatically streamlines product development and brings the world of IIoT into a new era.
However, there are certain constraints developers need to be cognizant of; primarily, their host firmware application should only target the Notehub core APIs that are supported across all Notecards. For example, Notecard Cellular features like GPS tracking aren’t supported because they are unavailable on the Notecard WiFi.
The 3 Pillars of Wireless Harmonization
Harmonization of Radio Access Technologies: Connecting the Unconnected
The cornerstone of our harmonization of radio access technologies (RATs) is the Notecard. The Notecard is a low-power, secure System-on-Module that seamlessly supports a spectrum of RATs like cellular, Wi-Fi, and LoRa — and in the case of the Notecard Cell+WiFi, it dynamically supports multiple RATs.
Since the Notecard is harmonized across RATs, developers have the freedom to prototype with, for example, Wi-Fi and then deploy with LoRa or cellular. All our Notecards can be integrated into your product through an M.2 edge connector and hardware communication interfaces like Serial and I2C that are compatible with just about any microcontroller.
Here’s a quick overview of each Notecard Blues currently offers:
- Notecard Cell+WiFi: features global connectivity options for both wideband (LTE Cat-1) and narrowband (LTE-M, NB-IoT & GSM) while supporting precise asset tracking through GPS/GNSS, Cell tower or Wi-Fi triangulation.
- Notecard LoRa: Achieve ultra-low power, long-range communication, and industry-leading security with the Notecard LoRa. These features make it ideal for battery-powered device clusters and rural and remote IIoT applications.
- Notecard Cellular: Combines prepaid cellular connectivity, low-power design, and secure “off-the-internet” communications in one System-on-Module.
- Notecard WiFi: Built the next generation of line-powered device clusters with a high sampling rate by leveraging our secure, low-power Notecard WiFi.
- Notecard WiFi Chips Edition: Designed to be easily integrated into mass-produced products, Blues packages ultra-low-power architecture, market-leading security, core firmware, and Wi-Fi connectivity into a single compact device.
- Notecard LoRa Chips Edition: Transform even the most cost-sensitive, space-constrained products into data-driven intelligent products with the mass-production ready Notecard LoRa Chips Edition.
Harmonization of Location: Finding the Unfindable
GPS/GNSS changed the world profoundly. The advent of real-time location tracking allowed humanity to create powerful applications and connect people in ways we’ve never thought possible.
However, like all technologies, it has its limitations. Here are 3 limiting factors of GPS/GNSS:
- Satellite Communication is Power-Hungry: The time and energy needed to track multiple satellite signals continuously or almost continuously consumes much power. Furthermore, devices often track different satellite constellations that operate at slightly different frequencies, meaning their antenna must be configured to receive all these, increasing power consumption even more.
- Time-Consuming Computation: Communicating with multiple satellites to triangulate a device’s location is time-consuming due to the distance signals have to cover and the involvement of multiple satellites.
- Unreliable Indoors or in Dense Urban Environments: GPS/GNSS cannot locate devices indoors as the long-range frequencies cannot get through walls and roofs. Additionally, if the device is located in a dense urban area like New York City, it will not deliver an accurate location due to multi-path errors.
At Blues, we’ve overcome the limitations of single source location tracking by layer in location data from multiple sources such as cell towers, and Wi-Fi, in addition to GPS/GNSS, and analyzing that data in Notehub to calculate the “best location” of a device automatically.
Notehub automatically evaluates how granular that data is, when it was sent, and a variety of other factors to provide you with the single, most accurate location of your device. Notehub takes the numerous data points from multiple sources and compiles them into a single location.
This harmonized approach abstracts the complexity of multi-source device tracking by making it as easy as single-source tracking, which is imperative for enterprises tracking fleets of devices constantly moving.
Harmonization of Dataflow: Explaining the Unexplained
Data is the reason we’re here.
It’s the cornerstone of business applications and AI models. The success of most business applications and AI models hinges on the ability to relay mountains of valuable data in real-time.
By integrating connectivity into a physical product, enterprises gain access to previously untapped datasets that provide unprecedented insight into their products and customers.
But all too often, wireless connectivity providers have made it difficult for developers to capture this data and route it where it needs to go.
At Blues, we engineered and developed Notehub, a cloud orchestration layer for seamless data routing, easy provisioning at scale, and remote asset management.
The primary goal of Notehub is to easily route your valuable data to where it needs to go. It natively supports secure routing to AWS, Azure, GCP, Snowflake, and numerous other cloud platforms — often in a “no-code” manner.
While this is a tremendous improvement from most other cloud orchestration layers, Notehub’s critical innovation is that it is a single platform capable of seamlessly managing and routing data captured from multiple RATs to the cloud. It is a single platform for all your IoT data, regardless of RAT.
Currently, most other cloud orchestration layers are RAT-specific, so connected product developers leveraging multiple RATs must route their data through several disparate platforms and then onto a single cloud destination where the data can be digested and utilized.
By removing the need for multiple redundant, unnecessary cloud orchestration platforms, Notehub dramatically reduces implementation complexity, expenses, and operational maintenance.
Notehub’s cloud-agnostic and omni-RAT architecture, coupled with its elegant but powerful JSON interface, empowers enterprises to build game-changing business applications faster than ever.
Embracing Change: Don’t Dread Network Sunsets
Network sunsets are a natural part of technological evolution, especially in the Cellular world.
Despite the predictability of sunset events, history is rife with manufacturers who have overlooked the importance of creating contingency plans to address them.
Here are just a few examples of how sunsets caused dramatic impacts on manufacturers:
- In the wake of the 3G sunset, some Nissan vehicles were left with an obsolete 3G modem, which left drivers without the use of several internet-enabled features. This led to costly recalls and damaging class action lawsuits.
- Sparking fears of ‘alarmaggedon,’ the 3G sunset prompted the Alarm Industry Communications Committee to raise concerns that roughly 2 million burglar intrusion systems, fire alarms, and personal emergency alerts would go offline. This caused providers like ADT to scramble for a fix amid the pandemic’s microchip crisis.
As an integral element of our wireless harmonization framework, Blues places a strong emphasis on designing an architecture that makes network sunsets painless.
We have streamlined the sunset experience with our swappable Notecard design. When the next sunset event arises, companies that have chosen Blues will effortlessly transition by simply unplugging the existing Notecard from its M.2 edge connector and plugging in the new one.
Similar to transitioning between RATs, no hardware re-design or software implementation is needed. This approach allows companies to future-proof their products by avoiding product obsolescence and dramatically reducing sunset-related expenses and reputational risk.
Futureproofing Your Connected Products with Blues
Blues’ wireless harmonization approach offers a forward-thinking solution to the challenges connected product developers face today and into the future.
Blues has given enterprises a massive head start on building the next generation of AI-powered products by harmonizing access to connectivity technologies, accurate device location data, and dataflow.
Our revolutionary approach to network sunsets protects the products you worked so hard to build from obsolescence through our modular, swappable Notecard design that eliminates the need for costly hardware re-designs and software implementations.
The end result of this hyper-focus on simplicity is an ecosystem elegantly designed to empower developers, foster innovation, and ultimately allow IIoT to achieve its full potential.
It all boils down to a fundamental decision:
Will you continue to grapple with unnecessary complexity and glaring architectural flaws at every stage of your connected product’s lifecycle?
Or will you build your connected products around Blues’ simplified, flexible, forward-thinking, future-proof ecosystem that fosters innovation and offers a genuine competitive advantage?
The choice is abundantly clear. So, if your mind is already made up, right this way.