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Pi or production: Choosing a best-fit IoT gateway prototype

Gateways play a critical role in IoT applications. They manage end devices in a complex environment, collect and analyze data from these devices, and communicate aggregated data to the cloud. Determining how to apply these requirements to your specific IoT use case is an important first step. As prototyping an IoT gateway can help, I’m often asked about the best approach. And, more specifically, if Raspberry Pi or another technology is the best starting point. The answer depends in part on your particular needs when it comes to power, connectivity and exterior appearance — and your business case.

As a result, in this article I’ll walk through two common IoT gateway prototyping approaches, Raspberry Pi and commercial-grade production gateways. Both with the common goal of scalable, cost-effective mass production in mind.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi can be a great prototyping option. It has a strong community and basic connectivity at a decent price.

Power is a critical consideration for your IoT gateway, especially as many commercial buildings today use Power of Ethernet (PoE). Installing Ethernet cabling, considered a “low voltage” installation, simplifies installation and reduces cost as PoE is less expensive than wiring in an outlet. Unfortunately, Raspberry Pi does not offer PoE as an option. However, this is mitigated by simply adding a PoE adapter.

The Raspberry Pi 3 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in. But this can pose an issue if you try to stream too much data as the two radios will compete for airtime. For example, if your project will scan Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for nearby devices advertising sensor data or location information, your system will effectively be deaf every time the Wi-Fi radio sends a packet to the cloud. Conversely, if your use case requires cellular connectivity, using Raspberry Pi means you’ll need to plug in a USB modem. You will also require a daughter card if you need BLE 5, Thread, ZigBee or other proprietary mesh protocol.

Can you imagine the Raspberry Pi with its open plugs, connectors and motherboard at your local restaurant or retailer? Luckily, the popularity of the Raspberry means that you can easily find enclosures, (though most are intended for hobbyists). In my experience, companies want a sleek IoT gateway enclosure with design elements for cable management. (And perhaps even has wall or ceiling mounting options for their IT installers.)

Production-ready gateway

Next let’s assess production-ready commercial IoT gateways against these three elements.

Production-ready IoT gateways often come equipped with popular commercial-grade features such as PoE. Many commercial building spaces prefer PoE to simplify and reduce the cost of installation. An added benefit? Most wireless access points are powered by a switch that has a battery backup, so the IoT system using the same switch can still function even if the power goes out.

Connectivity is where a commercial IoT gateway can really shine. For example, some IoT gateways support Wi-Fi at both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz, as well as give users cellular connectivity options. No matter how much data you need to transmit, it will do so smoothly, without competition for time on the air.

In addition, leading commercial-grade IoT gateways will also provide support for BLE 5, Thread, ZigBee and possibly other proprietary mesh protocols. Thus, decreasing the engineering resources needed to design and manufacture your gateway product.

When professional appearances matter, production-ready IoT gateways conceal cables and typically include wall and ceiling mounting options. And, in most cases, will ship directly to your end-user customers where installers can simply open the box and add your gateway to the building. Leading gateway providers will even enable you to customize the gateway’s exterior, branding it with your company colors and more.

At the end of the day, deciding which path to take for your IoT gateway prototype is not easy. A majority of the drawbacks with the Raspberry Pi can be mitigated by adding to it. Yet, adding elements can add time and cost to the process. Conversely, production-ready gateways come equipped with many popular features and functions. Yet, this means that you may end up paying for features that you don’t need and/or won’t use. To effectively assess which approach is best for you, I highly recommend starting with the end goal — scalable, cost-effective mass production — and work backward to find the right gateway for your needs.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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Thanks for the key and the article. I think Windows 8 is another Vista. Tablets may be the future but for the present we're all using Laptops and Desktops. Windows 8 is a lead ballon. Microsoft could of went and made 2 versions of this product instead of one size fits all.
The proof that Windows 8 is a badly thought-out "game changer" is in the fact that essential functional screens on a touch-screen based OS are only easily accessible using... the keyboard!
I wonder if anybody at MS actually bothered to try a remote administration session with WIndows 8. I am, and it is driving me so insane that I am going to order Windows 7 for my clients until... Windows 9. It's Vista all over again, I am afraid.
There are several programs out there to restore a Start Button and all the Win 7 or XP features. It is also possible to run MS Win 7 Start Button!! Most everyone I know on Win 8 is using one of them. They not only give you a Start button but you can boot to the desktop with out going through the start page at all.
My biggest beef is the way the store access is screwed up when you try to configure the language you want while respecting the different country properties. My official Win 8 (paid for) metro interface only half works and none of the fixes offered seem to fix it. I also prefer a third party start option on the desktop.
Mirosoft messed up! They could have simply give the enduser a control panel choice, Windows 7 type of desktop and start menu or Metro. This way Corp. America would upgrade to Windows 8. The first thing I do is install IObit Windows menu. This gives me the Windows I want. Microsoft should have left in the choice! That's the American way!
I have used Win8 from day of release...

Yes MS could have done a way better job of providing guidance...

but I have found in most cases it takes LESS clicks to get the job done (even with switching to/from the Start Screen)...

There are keyboard and mouse equivalents for all of the touch gestures, so when I'm on a non touch platform (including non metro Remote Desktop) I have no real problem navigating...

Best of all - I have new ways of doing things and I don't have to unlearn the old way if I don't have to...

What's the problem with more choice?
Use the keyboard shortcut WINDOWS-X to get most admin tools you would use on a bad day. Now that's easy enough!
I think I learned that the "Windows 8 Settings 'charm' " is the "Right Hand Side Menu" in green color called "Settings".
Am I correct in assuming that I get to that "Windows 8 Settings 'charm' " by pressing the "Windows Key" (the key showing the "National flag of Microsoft" inside a circle), right ?

Apart from that, why are the colors of Windows 8 so terribly "clashing"? Green, purple and orange do not work well together. Were the programmers color blind?
So, Windows 8 was released August 1, 2012, and one would have to wait until Feb 2013 for Gary Olsen to provide "key knowledge" in "how to use Windows 8", in a "secret publicity stunt"? Ok! And is it really true that Microsoft was allegedly unwilling to post actually necessary user information on "Youtube" for free, because that would have validated an instrument of the "enemy Google"? Or is that all just a rumor ?
First question is "why bother", kind of like figuring out the best way to record on a betamax, or restoring a "Yugo" car. Much ado about NOTHING!
makes me laugh when people try to justify win8 claiming productivity and program 'app' switching.
dual screen applications oooo wow, have we all forgotten the alt+tab scenario and many apon many open application running and accessible and a click?
yeesh, shows me ms think people only do one or max 2 things at a time (although its a sad reality in a way)
The only thing holding the tablets or phones back from being the enterprise darling is the lack of docking stations for these devices.
WIN 8 is a waste. Created for tablets that come with keyboards? Who wants to use a touchscreen desktop? I get errors for media player, I access help to find the tools menu, but I get an article. I need to upgrade my PC's but will be looking at APPLE. I hope someone lost their job over this POS OS. I can't even post this comment using win 8.