IoT platform solution: Hardware included

November 07, 2015

Stephen.Evanczuk-November 07, 2015

Platform development solutions are all the rage - and for good reason: The gap between design complexity and available design talent just keeps growing larger and a good platform solution will let developers focus on the differentiated portions of projects and rely on the platform for a growing list of critical middleware and backend capabilities.

In the mobile-app development world, software developers can turn to mobile BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service) platform offerings from Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and many many others. Mobile app development relies on an existing hardware base of course, so attempts to simply extend the mBaaS approach to embedded systems development for the Internet of Things (IoT) and other embedded applications have quite literally fallen short -- addressing the backend well but not offering much if anything for the hardware front end. Mentor Graphics looks to address this shortcoming with its own end-to-end IoT development offering, combining software edge and cloud services with a hardware reference design and software for a secure gateway.

Even at this early stage in the IoT's evolution, a trend in IoT development includes less reliance on the cloud -- moving more intelligence to the edge, according to Mentor's Warren Kurisu, Director of Product Management, Runtime Solutions. Kurisu notes that the lack of customizable gateway solutions forces companies looking for more specialized gateways to start from scratch and suffer the cost of development delays. Mentor hopes to address this with its customizable IoT Gateway SysDK (System Design Kit), comprising a hardware reference design and associated software intended to support bidirectional wireless communication with a network of IoT motes on the peripheral side and communicate with the cloud (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Mentor's end-to-end IoT platform combines its edge and cloud services with its SysDK for a secure gateway. (Courtesy of Mentor Graphics)

On the hardware side, the SysDK reference design combines Freescale's ARM Cortex-A9-based i.MX6 processor with multiple wired and wireless connectivity options, including Ethernet, 802.15.4 support, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (Figure 2). On the software side, the board is designed to support Mentor's Nucleus RTOS and Mentor's Embedded Linux. Mentor offers a multilayered security approach, building on ARM's TrustZone security architecture at the device level with Icon Labs' Floodgate for McAfee EPO (ePolicy Orchestrator) at the RTOS and enterprise level (Figure 3). 

Figure 2. Mentor's SysDK hardware reference design combines a Freescale i.MX6 processor with multiple connectivity options. (Courtesy of Mentor Graphics)

Figure 3. Mentor's IoT solution addresses end-to-end security through a combination of ARM's TrustZone at the lower layers and Icon Labs' Floodgate. (Courtesy of Mentor Graphics)

Along with the SySDK hardware and software, Mentor is offering a full range of development services starting with requirements and service scope definition; continuing through development integration & test; and extending through the product lifecycle with deployment and ongoing support. As part of its service package, Mentor is also offering a gateway management service. According to Mentor, the combination of SySDK and service offerings lets developers go from idea to product in as little as eight weeks for "simple" customizations.

"Adding EtherCAT would be simple," says Kurisu. "Removing a function for cost reduction - that's simple as well."

Although pricing is highly dependent on the nature of any customization and Mentor design, support and management services required by the customer, Mentor offers the existing gateway as a completed product priced at $399. Mentor's gateway management service is priced at $19.95/gateway/month with no minimum number of gateways.


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