Development kit targets industrial IoT: Page 2 of 3

May 30, 2016 //By Richard Quinnell
Developers working on the Internet of Things (IoT) are seeing an increasing number of platforms become available that provide both prototyping hardware and connected services in a package deal. But most of those seem to target hobbyist or consumer applications, and far fewer provide a simple path to production. Avnet is seeking to change the situation with its latest introduction – the MicroZed Industrial IoT starter kit.

When I talked with Avnet about their kit, I was particularly interested in how readily any prototypes developed using it could be translated into deliverable products. This is an area where many platforms fail. The quality of their base modules and the reliability of off-the-shelf shields, especially in harsh environments, essentially require a full board redesign between prototype and production in order to bring things up to industrial standards.

Jim Beneke, Avnet's VP of global technology marketing, set my mind at ease. The kit's approach separates the processor module from the add-on hardware. Both plug into a carrier board rather than having the add-ons plug into the processor board. This means that in production, one could create a custom carrier with the desired additional circuitry hard-wired, and plug the MicroZed board into that.

There is still some design effort involved in going from prototype to production, but with Avnet's approach the design effort only involves the (usually) less demanding additional circuits. The processor module remains unchanged. And because Avnet makes the MicroZed board available in volume and using industrial-grade components, the carrier developer is all the customer needs to create. Further, the programmable logic of the Zynq can help eliminate the need for anything beyond sensor, signal conditioning, and power circuitry on the carrier.

The hardware and software processing power that the FPGA and ARM cores provide are among the most important assets the kit offers. Many IoT development platforms aim to support simple, battery-powered sensor and light-duty control applications. The MicroZed IIoT kit provides the power to offer substantial edge processing, so that the IIoT device can handle significant local control applications without cloud support. The device can also preprocess data to reduce network traffic and perform significant analytics locally. All of these features will be useful in the Industrial IoT.

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