feature article
Subscribe Now

Industrial Internet of Things for IdIoTs

New Echelon Chip Eases Networking in Harsh Environments

Tired of hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT)? Good, because you’re about to get doused with a big stream of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) goodness.

Echelon has been making industrial-grade networking chips for 25 years; longer than some engineers have been alive. The company’s LONworks chips pretty much defined device networking for a generation of developers, and LONworks chips appear in more than 100 million devices, including traffic lights, railroad boxcars, and innumerable HVAC units, according to Echelon. But as useful and reliable as LONworks is, the technology is so… Eighties.

Catapulting itself into the 21st Century while also maintaining its traditional values (and traditional customers) was no small feat. The company took its time and came up with something called IzoT.

IzoT (which apparently doesn’t stand for anything; no word on whether its creators are UCI Anteater fans) is a reimagining of the original LONworks network for devices. It’s faster, it’s more capable, and for the first time it uses the familiar Internet Protocol (IP) for its transport layer.

Why IP? Mostly because everything else in the world speaks IP. Spreading IP right down to the device level means fewer gateways translating from IP to/from some other proprietary protocol. And, of course, because the devices themselves are a lot smarter than they were 25 years ago when LONworks was invented. Even little MCUs can handle IP stacks now, so there’s less need for a dumbed-down protocol just for devices.

What IzoT retained was LONworks’ laissez-faire attitude toward network cabling. If you’re the orderly type, it’s happy to work with your conventional star topology, with a controller, switch, or hub in the center and home runs of cable to each device. More common, however, are the more haphazard topologies, like rings, stubs, and multi-drop. You remember multi-drop: that’s where you run a single network cable across the building and use vampire taps along it. Multi-drop is big in industrial settings because it’s a whole lot easier to route than your typical Ethernet CAT5-with-a-switch topology.

IzoT can use “real” Ethernet, although Echelon’s first chip uses just generic twisted-pair wiring. The thinking is that cabling is a lot simpler and more tolerant of, uh, shall we say, “innovative” network topologies. With Echelon’s IzoT, you can cable everything up just about any way you please, from a single multi-drop line that everyone taps into, to a ring, to a random drunkard’s walk across the shop floor. Typical Ethernet or RS-485 drivers can’t tolerate the sloppy signal integrity you get from that kind of messiness, whereas IzoT needs only an occasional terminator. IzoT treats network cables more like power cables: if you can grab hold of one and tap into it, you’re golden.

If you’re into building automation – and really, who isn’t? – you’re probably familiar with BACnet, too. Echelon has been battling BACnet (building automation and control network) for years, as a competitor to LONworks. With IzoT, the company has thrown in the towel. Or, to use a nicer metaphor, extended an olive branch. Echelon’s new IzoT chips will work over BACnet networks just as well as their native protocol. That should give Echelon an entrée into previously closed shops that had standardized on BACnet and didn’t want to mix industrial protocols. “We love LONworks and everything, but we’re not stupid,” says Echelon.

Packaging up all this IzoT wonderfulness is the FT6050 chip, the first of an intended line of IzoT-compatible controllers. The FT6050 is a four-core device, although only one of the four Neuron CPU cores is visible to the programmer. The other three are “soft peripherals,” dedicated to networking and interrupts. The chip has 64KB of RAM and 16KB of ROM, with a serial interface for off-chip flash memory.

As with earlier LONworks devices, all user code runs from the on-chip RAM, not out of ROM. While 64KB of RAM doesn’t seem like much, how much code does a traffic light really need? Larger programs can be accommodated by swapping segments in from serial flash, a technique Echelon supports with built-in libraries. With its modest capabilities, IzoT really is intended for the Internet of Things, not just things connected to the Internet.

Does the FT6050 do wireless? Not directly, although you can get there with an add-on board. Echelon sees much more demand for wired networking than for wireless, at least with its initial device. Customers’ sites are generally too noisy to make wireless worthwhile, and running cables is easier and safer anyway. That’s not to say that wireless won’t ever come to IzoT. Just not in the first year.

Given recent events, future IzoT chips might also want to include security or anti-hacking measures. It should be a simple matter to dedicate one or more additional Neuron processors to the task, and firmware updates could keep the chips safe for years to come. Wouldn’t want the bad guys hacking those traffic lights.

Echelon’s IzoT, like LONworks before it, is intended to network things that control, not things that process data. The chips aren’t fast at calculations, but they’re good at responding to I/O requests. For the proverbial Internet-enabled Coke machine, that’s just about right. 

9 thoughts on “Industrial Internet of Things for IdIoTs”

  1. Pingback: GVK Biosciences
  2. Pingback: juegos friv
  3. Pingback: Boliden
  4. Pingback: slots
  5. Pingback: mold removal
  6. Pingback: Aws Alkhazraji

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
May 15, 2022
https://youtu.be/ur6dpXrELhg Made at Steve Brown's "moving to San Diego party" (camera Larry Lapides) Monday: no post Tuesday: TechInsights: Foundation for the Future Wednesday: Open... ...
May 12, 2022
Our PCIe 5.0 IP solutions, including digital controllers and PHYs, have passed PCI-SIG 5.0 compliance testing, becoming the first on the 5.0 integrators list. The post Synopsys IP Passes PCIe 5.0 Compliance and Makes Integrators List appeared first on From Silicon To Softwar...
May 12, 2022
By Shelly Stalnaker Every year, the editors of Elektronik in Germany compile a list of the most interesting and innovative… ...
Apr 29, 2022
What do you do if someone starts waving furiously at you, seemingly delighted to see you, but you fear they are being overenthusiastic?...

featured video

Intel® Agilex™ M-Series with HBM2e Technology

Sponsored by Intel

Intel expands the Intel® Agilex™ FPGA product offering with M-Series devices equipped with high fabric densities, in-package HBM2e memory, and DDR5 interfaces for high-memory bandwidth applications.

Learn more about the Intel® Agilex™ M-Series

featured paper

Build More Cost-Effective and More Efficient 5G Radios with Intel® Agilex™ FPGAs

Sponsored by Intel

Learn how Intel® Agilex™ FPGAs ease development of 5G applications by tackling constantly evolving requirements with flexible, highest performance-per-watt fabric, while providing a path to production and scale with Intel® eASIC™ and full ASIC implementations.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

High Voltage Charging Solution for Energy Storage & Backup Systems

Sponsored by Mouser Electronics and Analog Devices

Today there is growing demand for energy storage with more power, longer range, and longer run time. But the question remains: how can we increase our energy storage given the energy storage mediums on the market today? In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Anthony Huyhn from Analog Devices about the benefits of high voltage energy storage, why stacked battery cells are crucial to these kinds of systems, how high voltage energy storage systems can reduce conduction loss exponentially and what kind of high voltage charging solutions from Analog Devices are on the market today.

Click here for more information about the Maxim Integrated MAX17703 Li-Ion Battery Charger Controller