What's an Intelligent Gateway anyway? - Embedded.com

What’s an Intelligent Gateway anyway?


Today, it seems everything in tech is versioned. You have all those fancy dessert names for Android. Apple has gone crazy with their iOS releases. There’s Web 3.0, 4G LTE cellular, and Industry 4.0 – to name a few of the more recent examples.

So, where are we with the Internet of Things? Actually, I’m beginning to see “IoT 2.0” pop up. But what does 2.0 mean? I’ve seen it referred to as the expansion from cellular connectivity to many types of connectivity. IoT 2.0 has also been characterized as pushing intelligence out of the cloud and down toward the edge. IoT 2.0 has even been referred to as a new wave in device interoperability and security.

I’m sure there are other definitions as well. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

In my view, they are all correct. As I see it, “IoT 1.0” was characterized by industries taking advantage of ubiquitous connectivity and technology advancements to collect and leverage data to improve business operations, manage deployed assets, or create entirely new products. Now that companies have seen the benefits of leveraging this “big data” they are ready to take it to the next level.

New market study by VDC
In a recent report entitled “The Global Market for IoT & Intelligent Gateways”, VDC Research reports that the intelligent gateway segment is the largest and fastest growing segment of the IoT gateway market (Figure 1). But what exactly is an intelligent gateway? According to VDC, the intelligent gateway enables “the creation and deployment of a wide variety of new connected applications and services for brownfield and greenfield environments.” Yes, that’s a rather generic statement, though VDC goes on to say the intelligent gateway needs to support legacy and advanced environments; it must support advanced computing as intelligence is pushed from the cloud to the edge; and as more information is stored and processed towards the edge, it must be secure.

In short, VDC is describing the current IoT 2.0 descriptions that are being bandied about today.

Figure 1: The intelligent gateway is making impressive strides in the IoT world. (Source VDC/Research 2015.)

Putting IoT 2.0 to work
This all sounds great, but what are the implications to companies that want to take advantage of all the IoT 2.0 goodness? After all, these are businesses, and they have all the unrelenting pressures of growth, profitability, competitiveness, and time to market. Obviously, these businesses could take an off-the-shelf gateway and integrate it into their business operations. Though, this approach raises questions:

  • Does the gateway have the specific connectivity my business requires?
  • If it doesn’t, do I need to purchase additional bridge hardware to aggregate my brownfield devices into my overall IoT strategy (thus incurring additional costs)?
  • Am I paying for functionality in the gateway that I don’t need (thus incurring unnecessary costs)?
  • Are there sufficient software and development tools to enable me to build the intelligent applications I need to differentiate my offer from my competitor?
  • Is there enough hardware and software security support in the gateway to protect my intellectual property, data, and that of my customers?

What’s becoming clear is that businesses, with increasing frequency and urgency, need a customized application hardware and software platform that is purpose-built for their specific needs. The application platform needs to potentially support a variety of things, including multiple types of data connectivity, data storage and analytics, custom-built applications, management software, software updates, and security monitoring and reporting to name a few.

Is there an intelligent gateway product-thingy out there?
Further, with all the complexities tied into creating the intelligent gateway to meet your specific needs, will you lose to your competitors on a pure cost and time-to-market basis? Probably… that is, if you try to build an intelligent gateway from scratch. It would take many quarters to design, build, and validate customized hardware. In addition, building up the software infrastructure to include security, and to enable application programming and integration with edge devices and the cloud, would take many more quarters. Fortunately, with design resources such as Mentor Graphics' Intelligent Gateway System Design Kit (SysDK), developers can leverage decades of experience in hardware design and embedded software and security in addressing critical business considerations related to bringing customized intelligent gateways to market with lower risk, lower cost, and faster time to market.

In an upcoming article for Embedded.com, I will address the technical considerations related to building a customized intelligent gateway, along with some direct-experience anecdotes from Mentor’s own development efforts. I believe leveraging our investment into the intelligent gateway SysDK will help our customers dive more confidently into the rapidly-emerging world of yes, I’m going to say it, IoT 2.0.

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