Nexcomm Systems offers the complete solution for connecting devices to the cloud. There are several elements that are required to do this.
The device is created by our customers and is what they want to connect to the cloud. They generally have sensors and/or actuators for monitoring and controlling something. It is important to get the sensor data to the cloud for recording and analysis so that action can be taken when needed. Depending on the device, this can include sending commands from the cloud to control the actuators in the device.
The Gateway and Edge Computer
The gateway and edge computers are communications hubs that pass data from the devices to the cloud. They connect to the devices using wired connections, such as RS-232, RS-485, Modbus, I2C or Dallas 1-Wire. Or they communicate wirelessly using protocols such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, Thread or even proprietary protocols. They communicate to the cloud using Ethernet, Wi-Fi or cellular technologies.
Gateways are simple devices that only pass data between the cloud and the device. They don’t have the computing power to do much more than exception reporting, but are lower cost and lower power. Edge computers are typically Linux-based embedded computers that have the horsepower to perform some edge analytics before passing data to the cloud. Depending on the application, they can have the intelligence to make local decisions, without having to communicate with the cloud servers and wait for a decision to be made there and then pushed down to the field.
This seemingly simple term is deceptive. It hides a host of complex technical challenges and even more important security considerations. This block is how the gateway or edge computer talks to a server on the Internet (in the cloud) and secures that communication against unauthorized access. The most common communication methods are Ethernet, Wi-Fi and cellular. The protocols they use to talk to each other and secure the links are quite involved.
This is a nebulous term that refers to a series of computer servers out on the Internet somewhere. It covers several kinds of servers that do different things. There are connectivity servers that manage the connections to the gateways and edge computers out in the field. Database servers store the collected data. Analytics servers analyze the collected data looking for trends and can even predict problems so they can be handled before becoming a crisis. Finally application servers take the compiled data and generate visualizations and reports that are presented to users through web browsers or dedicated applications on personal computers, tablets, phones or other smart devices.