IoT Connected Smart Appliances

Smart mesh, self-healing AC mains control

The Skills Required

Fen worked closely with the client on New Product Introduction. The various AC mains devices were required to meet international conformance standards, including VDE. Fen supported this activity through to completion.
Fen defined and commissioned the production test process, designing and delivering bespoke test equipment for that purpose. In addition Fen provided training of the client's production line technicians.
Fen completed the integration of the production test process with the back-end cloud databases in preparation for commissioning products in the field.

Fen architected the complete end-to-end IoT solution, including recommending key technologies for both cellular and local area communications.
An infrastructure was created that enabled the client to evolve product requirements and specification detail throughout the development life cycle.
The Agile approach to development complimented the client's need to develop their product narrative through interaction with their end customers during prototyping and field trial phases.

The client had aggressive product hardware BOM cost targets. Appropriate system architecture and specification ensured sufficient freedom, in key component design choices, to meet these targets.
Marrying multi-phase AC mains power electronics with sensitive low voltage processor and RF circuitry presented a design challenge. Fen used its experience in this field to design a modular solution that supported a number of different product variants.

With Agile developments of this type, Fen uses a test driven development approach. This ensures that the addition of new features and resolution of bugs undergo a full system regression test as part of the development process.
During the delivery of the project, Fen were able to support the client taking ownership of long term software responsibility, as they recruited their in-house software development team. This included provision of client engineer training and support for the introduction of a number of secure billing systems into the product offering.

The Brief

Fen’s client could see that with IoT, there was an opportunity to take a fresh approach to their product business model and their client relationships. This required a suite of connected devices with a smart network management solution, that enabled a large number of appliances to connect with each other, and organise around a ‘master’ appliance acting as a cellular gateway to the cloud.

A complete end-to-end IoT solution was required, including:

  • The embedded gateway and local network units’ hardware and software
  • The cloud solution including payments and App interfaces
  • Web based dashboard UIs for admin & maintenance.

The client needed support for new product introduction (NPI) through strict conformance & safety testing and into volume production.

Key to the release of funding for the client was the very early delivery of a viable demonstrator installed in a public space, exhibiting many features of the final product.

 

The Solution

Fen’s first priority was to quickly deliver a credible representation of the final product, to reassure financial backers, which was achieved using carefully selected third party hardware. From the start, this allowed Fen to begin the Agile development and test of the final software solution, with an early delivery capable of fulfilling the demo’ requirements. In parallel with this, Fen began the specification and development of the product electronics.

At a later stage of the project, the software development simply transferred to the Fen-developed product electronics, with software that was pre-qualified on the third party hardware.

Fen created a central cloud repository for live and historical data and control of all appliances on the network. The associated applications and databases enabled implementation of the business rules and conditions of use.

Fen provided a REST API for third party App developers. Using the same API, Fen developed a set of secure multi-level access web dashboards to allow site, multi-site and global access to all devices on the network.

Fen developed a suite of electronics modules for site installation, in a number of different AC mains scenarios. These modules self organised around a Fen developed cellular gateway, finding the optimal RF path through the mesh network and self healing where comm’s outages occurred.

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