IoT Design Considerations: Cloud

By definition, most IoT applications include some Cloud-based component. Many manufacturers entering the IoT space are new to Cloud development, which makes decision-making for Cloud applications, such as how and when a product will connect to the Cloud, difficult.

“How” an IoT-enabled device communicates with a Cloud application, refers to what protocol is being used. Many early IoT implementations followed a proprietary protocol, where the device manufacturer implements its own standards for communication. Recently, companies have become aware that a standard protocol is needed for IoT communications to be successful. Some have started providing third party, end-to-end solutions with platforms to develop and host applications.

“When” an IoT device connects to the Cloud, refers to the frequency of data exchange with the application. Devices that are always on (connected to a power supply) can easily stay linked to the cloud. This improves the ability to be “near real time” when communicating with the Cloud application. Battery-powered devices often only connect to the internet and send data periodically in order to conserve battery life. In this case there is a delay, as the device has to re-establish its connection to the wireless router and then to the Cloud server. Battery-powered devices should also consider implementing a “heart-beat,” so that the device can connect to the Cloud periodically without an event to trigger it. This allows the application to know the device is still online and has power or battery-life remaining for when an event does occur..

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here.

IoT Design Considerations: Cost

Connecting products to the Internet of Things (IoT) is essential to manufacturers looking to stay competitive within their industry. Adding IoT capabilities allows the manufacturer to stay connected with their customer, while discovering new product uses and applications that open them up to new revenue streams. However, these added benefits come with a cost. Connected devices come with a higher manufacturing overhead, but may also be sold with a bigger price tag.

Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections can be added to products for less than $10 in bill of materials costs. Other technologies, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave and Bluetooth, can be added for a lower price, but may require a separate bridge to connect to the Internet and access Cloud services.

To download the complete Internet of Things Design Considerations White Paper, click here.

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes this Winter

frozen pipes

When the temperature drops and pipes freeze, the result can be disastrous.  A 1/8th inch crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons of water a day! Leaks like this can result in flooding, major structural damage to your home and leave you at a huge risk for mold.  According to State Farm, the average cost of a claim for broken pipes due to freezing is $15,000.  Pipes that burst when no one is home are much more devastating. When the basement and other areas of the home unknowingly flood, costs in damage can rise to as much as $70,000.

Traditionally, people try and prevent pipes from freezing by leaving cabinets open and letting the water run from their faucets at a slow trickle.  Neither of these methods are foolproof or ideal.  

Leaving the cabinets open in some homes is fine, but for parents of small children (like myself), it poses a huge risk.  There are cleaners and other toxic substances inside of my kitchen cabinets that I would not want my kids to gain possession of out of concern for their health.

He may be cute... but he gets into everything!

He may be cute... but he gets into everything!

Leaving the water running does not always prevent frozen pipes and can be a costly decision. A quick check of the USGS Water calculator shows that 2 faucets left running at a trickle will waste 22 gallons of water or more per day.  After a few weeks of cold weather, the cost to your water bill is sure to add up.

temperature sensor

The ConnectSense wireless Temperature Sensor is a better solution for preventing frozen pipes in your home. This sensor can monitor the temperature of your pipes and alert you only when the temperature gets low enough and you should take action. This eliminates the need to waste water or leave cabinets open unnecessarily.

I set up my own wireless Temperature Sensor in my home last year as the temperature started to drop into the teens on a regular basis.  I am always particularly concerned about the sink in my kitchen since it is right on an outside wall.  If underneath your sink is anything like mine, there are no open power sockets to plug into, so ConnectSense's long-lasting battery power works perfectly for this application.  I set my sensor to record at every hour, as I felt that would be satisfactory for catching any drops in temperature.  If you are concerned about rapidly dropping temperatures, you can set the sensor to record the temperature even more regularly, but note that it will drain the batteries in the unit faster.

I then set up my rules in the ConnectSense cloud application for my wireless temperature sensor.

ConnectSense rules

First I created a rule to send a text message to both my wife and me if the temperature drops below 40°.  Should it get that low, we would take some of the traditional precautions of running the water, wrapping the pipes, or opening the cabinets.  The nice part about having this alert is that none of those methods are necessary until the temperature actually gets to that point.  This allows us to save money by not running the water and not have the hassle of having the cabinets open.

The second rule I created for the more urgent scenario is a rule that would result in a phone call to my wife and me should the temperature below the sink drop below 35°.  This would be close to freezing temperatures, and immediate action would be needed.  Having the phone call option for notification is also particularly important because a text message would likely not wake either of us while sleeping, while a phone call would.

water sensor

For added protection, I also installed a ConnectSense Water Sensor under my sink.  In the event of a leak or flood from a burt pipe, I will receive a phone call so I can deal with the water before it becomes a huge problem.  

After a few days of having the wireless Temperature Sensor installed under my sink, I can attest that it definitely gave me the peace of mind to not worry about having my pipes burst while I am at work or away from the house.  Checking the data, I saw that even when it was around 0° outside, I could easily monitor the temperature under our sink and make sure our our pipes—and our home—were not in danger.