It took nearly a year for [Chris Crocker-White] to assemble this glorious mahogany and brass Geiger counter, but we think you’ll agree with us that it was time well spent. From the servo-actuated counter to the Nixie tubes and LED faux-decatrons, this project is an absolute love letter to antiquated methods of displaying information. Although for good measure, the internal Raspberry Pi also pushes all the collected radiation data into the cloud.
[Chris] says the design of this radiation monitor was influenced by his interest in steampunk and personal experience working on actual steam engines, but more specifically, he also drew inspiration from a counter built by [Richard Mudhar].
Based on a design published in Maplin back in 1987, [Richard] included a physical counter and LED “dekatron” displays as an homage to a 1960s era counter he’d used back in his school days. [Chris] put a modern spin on the electronics and added the glowing display of real-time Counts Per Minute (CPM) as an extra bonus; because who doesn’t like some Nixies in their steampunk?
Internally, the pulses generated by a common Geiger counter board are picked up by some custom electronics to drive the servo and LEDs. Triggered by those same pulses, the Raspberry Pi 3A+ updates the Nixie display and pushes the data out to the cloud for analysis and graphing. Note that the J305β Geiger tube from the detector has been relocated to the outside of the machine, with two copper elbows used as connectors. This improves the sensitivity of the instrument, but perhaps even more importantly, looks awesome.
We’ve seen some very high-tech DIY radiation detection gear over the years, but these clever machines that add a bit of whimsy to the otherwise mildly terrifying process of ionizing radiation are always our favorite.
The Future of IoT Deployments in a Post-COVID World
With over 14 million cases globally, COVID-19 has caused significant disruption across all sectors, including IoT. Delays to physical roll-outs and maintenance of IoT devices and networks are occurring globally with varying travel restrictions and lockdown measures.
While the pandemic initially slowed the manufacturing, distribution, and implementation of IoT projects, it also effectively demonstrated how reliant our society is on the technology that keeps us connected. IoT device adoption in supply chains will play a role in mitigating future disruption caused by the virus, as well as making processes more efficient to get roll-outs back on track.
Required Evolutions for IoT Roll-Outs
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) networks are often expansive and have been designed to scale with growing operations. These IoT networks often consist of a large number of small form factor devices such as sensors and processors that require engineers to install and connect to each IoT device. As opportunities for physical site visits to provision a device have been limited throughout the pandemic, further deployments have been reduced.
As seen in Figure 1, the total number of cellular IoT devices is forecasted to reach 1 billion by 2024; rising from over 320 million in 2020. However, the embedded SIM (eSIM) has created the need for new frameworks for cellular IoT roll-outs; these frameworks need to account for the varying requirements of service providers in the industrial, enterprise, and consumer IoT markets.
With companies tightening their belts as the economic impact of the pandemic hits, cellular IIoT can help bring cost savings. Devices in the IIoT often only require limited connectivity, such as Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) that leverages low duty cycles to connect to the network. This low cost per connection is increasing the popularity of these cellular connections, although current roll-out procedure complications have limited growth.
Hardware vendors are also increasingly looking to reduce the size of their devices. This trend is most notable in LPWA equipment as they have fewer hardware requirements. The small form factor often means that the implementation frequently requires specialist tools as any built in user interface is not included on the device. Embedded modules and management platforms that create new frameworks are tools that can enable a smoother deployment and allow for remote management.
For traditional SIMs, much of this implementation process is still done at the physical location at which the device will be located during its operational lifetime. Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP), enabled by embedded modules, means that a large degree of this process can be done before any implementation at a central location where multiple devices can be configured at once. Once the unit is in the correct location, RSP enables it to be connected to cellular networks with minimal physical interaction. This reduces the demand for specialist engineers that need to implement a multitude of devices spread out across a large geographical area; a process that would have been made increasingly difficult during the early stages of the pandemic.
The learning curve currently facing the market has evidently been accelerated by the impact of COVID-19. The heightened emphasis on the benefits of IoT connectivity has essentially forced IoT service users to adapt to these new frameworks because they were unable to use the existing processes that they were accustomed to.
Post COVID-19 Cellular IoT Roll-outs
It is important to note that cellular IoT roll-outs have continued throughout the pandemic, but at a slower rate as IoT service users became increasingly hesitant about plans. As a result, the aforementioned ‘learning curve’ with remote provisioning of IoT devices has needed to accelerate as IoT service users switch to use remote services for IoT roll-outs.
We should view this as an ongoing opportunity for eSIMs in the industrial and enterprise space, with IoT service users no longer locked into long-term connectivity contracts with a sole operator. As the prevalence of embedded modules increases, so does the fairness of pricing and the flexibility available to these end-users.
There are some steps to fully exploiting the benefits of the embedded module:
- Migrating the remote provisioning process to a centralized online platform that can be accessed by multiple users. This is essential as these networks can comprise thousands of connected devices, and will only continue to grow. Remote provisioning enables standardized updates across the whole network and for individualized management of portions of the network, based on a user’s needs.
- Verifying and authenticating connections must be seamless and integrated into remote management services. Early IoT services used proprietary authentication services which developed into a market that had a high degree of fragmentation when it came to large scale deployments. We have seen numerous scenarios unfold in which devices would not be able to authenticate properly and thus provided security risks to the end-user.
- Utilizing devices based on cellular IoT standards is critical. As the number and scale of IoT networks increases, the efficiency of the provisioning process must increase to handle the future acceleration of the growth of IoT roll-outs. Offering services that can cater to the many different use cases in the IoT market means that products and devices need to share a common core of protocols in order to remain interoperable and manageable.
The importance of IoT ecosystems at all levels, including the device, network, and applications, cannot be understated. As the benefits of leveraging cellular networks for IoT purposes become more well-known, we will see an increasing amount of previously unconnected devices becoming part of IoT networks. The need for secure and reliable connections will continue to grow over the next five years, as the demand for real-time monitoring and management of operations increases. In turn, this will escalate the demand for comprehensive solutions that can manage the roll-outs of these devices across increasingly complex IoT networks.
How Could IoT Deployments Assist in Mitigating the Impacts of the Pandemic?
eSIMs can provide flexibility and scalability for IoT global deployments. They are programmable over-the-air, which supports current demands by seamlessly transitioning between various network subscriptions in real-time. With the right provider, eSIMs can offer complete connectivity with a large range of options so that, regardless of the country of deployment, multinational SIMs or local profiles are available to assist in the launch of IoT networks.
The ongoing pandemic is likely to provide several ‘learning opportunities’ for the cellular IoT market. Most notably, there is a need for more efficient cellular IoT deployments, to enable easy remote management and reduce operational costs in an uncertain economic climate. However, the ecosystem contains several stakeholders who all need to continue to collaborate on these processes to maximize their potential.
The pandemic has highlighted the benefits of cellular IoT technologies, particularly where remote environments are concerned. Educating the stakeholders on these benefits and the return on investment that can be accomplished will lead to accelerated adoption in sectors including healthcare, smart cities and agriculture.
Healthcare is the most notable sector that could have benefited from larger IoT presence during the early stages of the pandemic, particularly the ability to monitor citizens and early symptoms. The real benefit of taking this approach is the availability of data and the time it takes to be delivered. A key issue facing IoT adoption in the healthcare industry is the disparate systems in use in multiple countries, and in the worst cases, within the same country itself. IoT services within the industry have the potential to unify these systems to a certain degree. This global pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity to assess the future of healthcare industries; a future that needs to be centred on the potential advantages that IoT technologies can bring.
Evolving Operator Roles in Cellular IoT Deployments
Operators are increasingly moving away from a Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) model towards an Operational Expenditure (OPEX) model. This is most apparent in the deployment and expansion of 5G networks, which has highly reliant software-defined network components compared to previous cellular technologies. Despite the severe global disruption in the first six months of COVID-19, MNOs have pressed on with their 5G networks. By 2025, 5% of 5G connections are anticipated to be attributable to IoT, representing a revenue opportunity of $8 billion in that year.
Operators have already identified growth in cellular IoT demand, with Tier 1 operators setting up programs to encourage the development of eSIMs in IoT devices. This collaboration between operators and other stakeholders has been key to increasing the impact of eSIMs on IoT markets.
Many recent operator IoT efforts have focused on consumer devices. The IIoT market provides different challenges, market drivers and opportunities than the consumer aspect of the IoT. As a result, we’ve seen different sets of hardware vendors, end-users and use cases emerging. However, the operators remain the constant provider of the underlying cellular connectivity that all devices will operate with.
Looking to the Future
It has been said that one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic has been to accelerate digitization. That necessity has forced innovation in unexpected spaces in the IoT, and also shows how cellular IoT in particular can really help lessen the impact of movement restrictions.
Main Benefits of Smart Access Control
From unparalleled customizable access to optimal personnel safety during emergency situations, these are the main benefits of smart access control.
Due to the potentially devastating consequences of security breaches, it is essential for businesses to invest in top-quality security systems to protect their personnel, critical data, and resources. Because many breaches in security occur as a result of unauthorized personnel gaining access to a critical area of a facility, advanced access control should be held as a top priority. One of the best ways to control and monitor access throughout a facility is through smart access control. Smart access control refers to a sophisticated method of advanced security that utilizes modern technology such as biometric readers, integrated RF sensors, and 4K Ultra HD sensing cameras to monitor access to certain areas. To learn about the main benefits of smart access control, continue reading.
Another one of the main benefits of smart access control is the ability to customize who enters what areas at what times. Unlike legacy access control systems such as simple keypads or ID card readers which allow general access to whoever has the authorized password or card, smart access technology offers full control of who can enter which areas and at which times.
For example, if you want to grant someone access to a certain area but only from nine to five, smart access control technology can tailor access to specific time frames. Such customization helps minimize security threats as much as possible.
Enhanced Safety of Personnel During Emergency Situations
A key benefit of smart access control is that it can greatly improve the safety of personnel during emergency situations. For example, in the event an active shooter enters a facility, AI-backed sensing technologies can be used to monitor the situation in real-time to provide authorities with valuable intel on how to best respond to the incident.
Smart access control can also immediately notify personnel inside the facility that an active shooter is present as soon as they enter. To do so, smart sensors can be used to instantly detect unauthorized weapons and send off warning alarms to nearby locations and lockdown-compromised areas.
Further, facial recognition technologies used in smart access control can be utilized to send images of the intruder to authorities in a matter of seconds to increase their chances of getting caught. Such capabilities can greatly decrease or even eliminate the potentially devastating impacts of such emergency situations.
Remote Access Control
Smart access control also offers the advantage of remote operation. If you need to grant someone access to an area but don’t want to just give them your facility’s private passwords or provide them with a key, smart access control gives you the ability to manage locks from any location. That way, you can allow someone to enter your facility without physically holding the door opening for them or giving them full-access and having to change all your passwords after.
How to Disrupt with IoT and Edge Computing
The Internet of Things (IoT) has opened a wide door to businesses that want instant insights into data to operate smarter, competitively, and differently than ever before. Companies capitalizing on this shift are known as “digital disruptors.” According to IDC, only 5 percent of companies have achieved digital disruptor status. That leaves a gigantic 95 percent as “disrupted”—probably not the ideal place to be.
Emerging technologies in IoT and IIoT, such as edge computing, are helping companies of every size and vertical to successfully convert into digital disruptors. Shifting to an on-premises approach with edge computing brings you closer to the data generation source—and that offers distinct advantages.
With IoT edge computing, you can:
- Reduce the cost of sending lots of data to the cloud
- Optimize operations immediately by analyzing and acting on data locally and in real time
- Eliminate latency in decision making by bringing the asset as close as possible
- Prevent connectivity gaps by removing the time it takes for decisions in the cloud to reach an asset with a command and signal
In short, operations run faster. Decisions are made faster with the latest data. Your business becomes more agile, responsive and efficient. That’s a great place to be.
5 Steps to Disruption
Step 1: Fuse Your Fractured Enterprise
Two factions within any organization drive decision making: business and IT. While both parties share a common interest to keep stakeholders happy, their primary goals and responsibilities often compete. Business is focused on developing new business models, market adaptation, and revenue growth.
IT, on the other hand, is homed in on governance, modernization, and cost reduction. These conflicts of interest create a fractured enterprise, and these conflicts are why only 5 percent of companies become digital disruptors. That 5 percent has the tools to fuse the fractured enterprise; they work collaboratively and cohesively together, creating the truly connected enterprise.
Step 2: Free Siloed Data
Once business and IT are in sync, you’re set to create a connected and data-driven business. Integration of all systems is the key, enabling you to free siloed data and give everyone access to it, the space to operationalize it, and put it to work. With access to all your enterprise data, including data in core systems and real-time data from IoT, people across your business can use the latest and most complete data to innovate, improve the customer experience, and transform your business.
Step 3: Build Solutions
The Internet of Things makes you a disruptor in three ways:
- IoT reduces costs and increases business continuity by enabling you to predict when repairs will be needed and fix them before production problems occur. You can use IoT to remotely monitor and control assets as well as increase their lifespan, creating the notion of a hassle-free process. Effective asset management means remotely diagnosing problems and troubleshooting right away—rather than rolling out a service truck to the scene every time a problem is detected.
- IoT engages customers in a way that gives your business a better understanding of how customers interact with the goods and services you provide. IoT data you collect can provide insight into the behavioral relationship your customers have with your goods and services. You can use that data to enhance the customer experience. You’ll also be able to identify processes to evolve to strengthen relationships with customers, so they’ll want to buy more from you.
- IoT increases sales and revenue by enabling you to offer “products-as-a-service.” You can transform physical products (let’s say printers) into smart connected products (printers offered with subscription services where, automatically, ink is ordered, or technicians are called for repairs before equipment breaks).
Step 4: Overcome Barriers
When adopting IoT at the edge, be aware of barriers that could keep you from reaching your goals. One barrier is the deployment constraints of an existing architecture. Edge analytics requires on-premises infrastructure and is generally overseen by IT. An enterprise that doesn’t include IT in the ideation phase could overlook the important physical constraints of where to put things.
Continuous connectivity is another potential pitfall. Maybe you’re in a location that does not communicate with the outside world; you have poor cell signal, you have an unreliable internet connection, or internet connections are costly. These are actually reasons to move toward edge computing as long as you maintain a distributed architecture.
Step 5: Invest in Streaming Analytics
Because it’s expensive to send large amounts of data to the cloud, streaming analytics and AI are especially valuable at the edge; they go hand in hand.
So, when choosing a solution for streaming analytics, make sure it’s really “real time” so you can act on insights when they matter. Ask:
- Will analytics be accessible to a wide range of people in your organization?
- Will you need to manually push a software configuration or a firmware update to the edge?
- Will you be able to plug into a data capture pipeline to reduce latency of actionable insights?
- Will you be able to connect third-party products that benefit the rest of the business?
- Will you have full control of the device from a support and management perspective?
- Will you need an army of software engineers to architect and build your analytics solution?
Real World Disruptors
Digital disruptors are using IoT to do everything from remotely managing conveyor belts to checking inventory on industrial machines to monitoring water meters. Here are a few companies booming in IoT:
Dürr, a manufacturer of robots that paint cars, utilizes IoT solutions to create predictive algorithms using data from the robots. By introducing edge computing and analytics, Dürr does real-time data assessments of the painting robots and adjusts paint mixtures immediately. This increases the quality of paint jobs and reduced paint consumption dramatically—by 50 percent per car!
A company that builds and distributes wind turbines, generating power across nearly 6,000 wind turbines, uses Cumulocity IoT. The company connects these assets at the edge and manages information on the variants right in the control box of each wind turbine. Only critical bytes and bits are sent on to the cloud and a data center, reducing bandwidth costs.
Cruise ships use IoT and analytics capabilities to monitor guests in real-time. They can see whether a passenger has left the ship, fallen overboard, or been left behind at a port of call. Cumulocity IoT at the edge helps the cruise line see, act, and decide on guests “virtually” to improve their safety. This is done at the edge, because ships may be out of range of a central data warehouse or the cloud.
Collecting and analyzing data from connected “things”—at the edge or anywhere—enables you to further automate your operations for peak performance. The opportunities to optimize your business on IoT are endless—and essential to your transformation into a digital disruptor.
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