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Key considerations when transitioning from Pi to production

In my last article, I shared the pros and cons of Raspberry Pi and commercial-grade gateways for IoT prototyping. Many companies prototype with Raspberry Pi ultimately choose a commercial gateway for their production run. They realize during proof-of-concept prototyping that the Raspberry Pi simply doesn’t meet specific needs or perform as expected. If you are considering a transition to a commercial-grade gateway, read on as I discuss the best approach to make this transition.

The best time to switch from your Pi prototype is before you move into production. To determine which IoT gateway best supports your technical and budget requirements, start with these five key considerations:

1. Radio

Did you add a daughter card to your Raspberry Pi? If so, when switching from Pi to a different production gateway, consider why you added it and how you can select the best-fit chip in your production gateway. The right chip embedded in your production gateway:

  • Eliminates multiple wires and
  • Eliminates the need for an expansion board, as
  • Serial port connections are already made.

Carefully make these considerations, especially for small devices that might not have a lot of physical real estate. And, for multiple devices housed closely together that could potentially interfere with each other over the airways.

2. Certification

It’s important to note that the FCC classifies you as an “intentional radiator” when you take your Raspberry Pi prototype to production. As such, you must comply with CFR 15.249, which involves successfully passing hundreds of FCC tests. (You can read more here about being an intentional radiator.) Conversely, most vendors test and pre-certify their commercial IoT gateways to ensure regulatory compliance. When researching a commercial gateway, make sure to ask about the gateway’s certifications as this will free you from the significant time and expense associated with compliance.

3. Scalability

While commercial-grade IoT gateway designs accommodate growth, designers prototype on a small scale. In the process, don’t forget the size of your full-scale production and plan for the potential for even more growth. As you research commercial gateways, ask to load your own Linux image and edge applications at your own warehouse. Or, for a minimum order quantity, some vendors may offer to let you receive preloaded gateways directly from them.

Another vital question to ask is about the gateway’s exterior. Commercial gateways should have options that allow you to easily ship to locations where local technicians can easily install them given location-based requirements, such as PoE, and mounting options.

4. Software

Your programming language can impact how easy it is to move your prototype from Pi to a production gateway. If possible, choose a programming language such as Node.js, JavaScript, Java or Python that most hardware supports and migrates easily. If you have already programmed in an alternate language, you’ll need to research how easy or difficult it will be to migrate it from your prototype to any commercial gateway under consideration.

5. Security

Last but not least, you will want to assess gateways for security. Look for a technology that has security features built in. This security-by-design approach should apply to everything from the gateway’s firmware to secure communications with both IoT devices and the cloud. As the hub for communication and data aggregation and analytics, it’s important to ensure security. As such, make sure to ask vendors about secure boot features, tamper detection, encryption and if their gateway uses a hardware random number generator and/or a crypto engine.

IoT can revolutionize your business through cost savings, increased productivity and even new lines of business. A well-thought-out IoT gateway allows you to tap into the collective power IoT can have on transforming your business, and creating a prototype is a natural first step in reaching this goal. Choose wisely, even if that means going through several proof-of-concept iterations and you will be rewarded with a solid IoT product that is scalable, future-proof and happily used by your customers.

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