Avnet Silica IoT: Complexity Simplified

Avnet Silica / Smart Communication

Avnet Silica IoT: Complexity Simplified

Bringing flexibility to the challenges and choices in Internet of Things system evaluation and development network management and application delivery. A challenge for Avnet Silica IoT.

by Philippe Fremont


The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a technological revolution that can deliver higher efficiencies and enhanced productivity in existing equipment infrastructure. More than this, the leveraging of cloudbased IT technologies and capabilities that are becoming increasingly powerful, the implementation of real-time data analysis can enable autonomous decision-making and create the potential for new services and revenue streams for companies. However, it can be acomplicated, fragmented and potentially fraught transformation for many, especially those in operating in industrial sectors. For example, the industrial world comes with decades of legacy equipment and existing infrastructure that cannot easily be replaced quickly or cost effectively. Introducing new embedded hardware and software to connect smart sensor technologies up with the cloud and enterprise software, potentially via an Internet gateway in many cases, brings issues of connectivity, interoperability,security and scalability. All of which can present a serious challenge in connecting up previously unconnected systems and devices, especially when dealing with solutions from multiple vendors.

Markets and Applications

Today there are widely varying estimates for the IoT market – but to choose one from many, market analyst firm IHS predicts rapid expansion over the next few years, resulting in an installed base of more than 50 billion Internet-connecteddevices by 2025 with new connected device shipments predicted to be more than 12 billion per year. A large share of the installed base is expected to be in industrial application sectors with approximately 20 billion connected devices deployed across a range of markets including industrial automation, building and home automation, smart metering and in alarm and security products and systems. This growth is being driven by numerous new applications and capabilities. A classic IoT application ispredictive maintenance, where for example manufacturing or operation data is collected via sensors located within or near to equipment and sent into the cloud for realtime data analysis.

There are many choiced to be made in terms of connectivity

This enables the ability to accurately diagnose and prevent equipment failure, which can be a significant advantage for manufacturing companies and vital for critical-service infrastructure. Predictive maintenance can provide a significant impact in high-tech manufacturing and smart factories and in what is being called the Industry 4.0 revolution in Germany. Another key application is track and trace for transport and logistics markets. The installation of lowpower narrowband transmitters within vehicles or large assets, in conjunction with data analytics in the cloud, can enable the real-time tracking of shipments, providing improvements in delivery as well as for insurance purposes. It can also deliver the potential to optimize logistics routes or warehouse capacity. Another example is the installation of fire alarms in homes, where the inclusion of connectivity with additional devices such as presence sensors can deliver a higher level of security as well as the potential to offer completely new applications and services to end customers.

Challenges and Connectivity Choices

There are many challenges for companies looking to introduce IoT systems and applications. These include: the low-power requirements of edge devices, especially remote devices that will typically be required to operate from small batteries; scalability and the ability to manage potentially thousands or even millions of devices; the vexing issues of security; and interoperability of discrete solutions at different levels of the IoT chain. There are also many choices to be made in terms of connectivity.

We offer a simple out of-the-box setup

Philippe Fremont
is Vice President Technical Marketing at Avnet Silica, the European semiconductor specialist of Avnet Inc., a leading global distributor.

Philippe Fremont - Avnet Silica IoT


Traditional possibilities involve short-range wireless communications usually wireless LAN, Bluetooth Smart (Low Energy profile) or ZigBee from edge devices to a gateway, often wired via Ethernet to the cloud or potentially connected via wireless LAN. Another option is cellular connectivity from the gateway or even from edge devices to send data directly into the cloud, but this brings the penalty of high power messaging that is not always suited to the small-size information packets typically required for IoT data. However, there exist alternative connectivity options with low-power narrowband messaging provided by LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) technologies such as LoRaWAN and SIGFOX. Complementing cellularmobile network and short-range wi-reless, the fundamental concept for LoRaWAN and SIGFOX is that many IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) edge devices will only need to transmit small amounts of data as well as operating from a small battery.

Avnet Silica IoT: Visible Things platform

These LPWAN technologies enable significantly lower costs and better power consumption characteristics as well as supporting large networks that have many millions of batterypowered edge devices. LoRa offers data rates from 0.3 up to 22 kbps, whereas SIGFOX employs UNB (UltraNarrowBand) technology, which makes it suited to even smaller data sizes, delivering from 10bps up to 100bps. Typical consumption of a SIGFOX modem for example is between 20 and 70mA and is virtually zero when inactive. This level can enable battery life of years for edge devices, especially with occasional rather than continuous transmission demands. Today, however, network coverage is limited to an extent with SIGFOX networks, for example, being rolled out in major cities, but largely within Western Europeincluding Benelux, France, Portugal, Spain and the UK. In addition, there is also a new and emerging LPWAN standard: NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT), which is backed by major telecom operators and equipment vendors worldwide. The technology is part of the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative to deliver lowcost and low-power communication for IoT networks using cellular standards. Today, the initiative is perhaps still in its nascent phase, but it offers much promise.

Avnet Silica IoT – Visible Things

To help companies looking to take advantage of the possibilities offered by the IoT, Avnet Silica has put together all the building blocks necessary to deliver a highly flexible and comprehensive edge-toenterprise evaluation and development IoT platform. Targeting a wide range of markets, the Visible Things platform is one of the first IoT systems and applications platforms to made available from an electronics component and systems distributor. The platform delivers tested, proven, secure and integrated hardware and embedded software to connect smart sensors and embedded devices via gateway solutions or LPWAN networking technologies, right through to the cloud and enterprise software applications. It is designed to be a highly flexible offering that provides customers a menu of different options along the path from edge to enterprise. The platform supports short-range connectivity to a gateway, and WiFi and 3G cellular communications to the cloud and enterprise software applications. It also supports the SIGFOX and LoRaWAN IoT networks, which have been designed to provide secure low-cost narrowband information messaging to meet the requirements of the IoT and smart city, machine-to-machine and industrial applications. In terms of security, the platform includes the UbiquiOS secure gateway embedded software, which integrates cryptographic technologies as well as Transport Layer Security v1.2, and server certificate (OCSP) and client certificate authentication. For additional security, the platform roadmap includes the early introduction of further silicon-based technologies that will, for example, integrate a secure element for deployment in smart sensor edge devices.

Avnet Silica IoT Figure 2

Avnet Silica IoT: Starter Kits

Delivering a simple out-of-the-box setup, three reference-design starter kits have been made available to enable developers to get applications up and running quickly. Each starter kit includes a board managed by ARM Cortex based microcontrollers. The basic Visible Things starter kit comprises a smart sensor board including Bluetooth Smart connectivity and motion, temperature/humidity and light/
proximity sensors, together with a gateway board, which manages connectivity to the cloud service via Wi-Fi. Available as an expansion option, a GSM peripheral module with embedded SIM and SIMconnector options enables cellular connectivity to cloud enterprise software services. SIGFOX and LoRaWAN based kits include SIGFOX and LoRaWAN module sensors respectively, as well as additional motion and light sensors. The Visible Things platform also provides a mobile app, available for iOS and Android based devices, enabling easy access to local hardware configuration and connection to cloud services.

Cloud Services and Avnet Silica IoT

A key element of the platform is the Devicepoint cloud service. Underpinned by IBM software components, the service builds upon data from sensors and edge devices with contextual information, plus data from other sources to deliver real-time analysis and long-term business intelligence. The tool can also be customised to enable greater management of sensor data for analytics, reporting and workflow management.


While the challenges and choices are many in developing IoT systems and applications, the opportunities are greater still in being able to deliver better efficiencies and new services to customers. The Visible Things platform is comprehensive and flexible IoT development solution that offers tested, proven and integrated components to enable companies an exceptionally fast edge-to-enterprise IoT deployment. The platform will also be continually augmented with new hardware and software options such as support for NB-IoT communications, further cloud services, enhanced SIM services, and increased edge-device security features in the future.


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