Letting your sensor platform go while keeping it close

It’s the span that matters

Deployment schema of a Smart-Road sensing platform mapping highway traffic to a single vehicle resolution

So why distribute?

  • Span — the ability to uniformly cover large and varying areas/terrains
  • Scalability — by nature, these systems are built to scale and could seamlessly scale as much as needed
  • Robustness — no single point of failure, allowing for significantly more robust systems
  • Redundancy — even in case of a node momentary failure, other nodes act to “cover” for him and keep the correctness and availability of the system
  • Accuracy —Overcoming the induced dependence of accuracy on the distance from the sensor in centralized systems (e.g. a cameras sensitivity drops as you move further away) thus increasing overall accuracy and resolution
  • Cost — while deploying hundreds of units intuitively sounds a costly solution, often the “loosening” of requirements per node (as 100% per-node availability is not needed) allows for much cheaper solutions, especially with the decreasing costs of IoT hardware in recent years
  • New dimensions — reach insights and data granularity often unobservable otherwise, and on that note do read Avi Tel-or’s article IoT — Paradigm Shift in Traffic Monitoring on the how and why now

Breaking it down, it comes out to 3 main challenges:

  1. Physically installing the system
  2. Initializing it (both individually and as a whole)
  3. Remote (and on premise) maintenance

1. Installation Flow

2. Initializing a distributed sensory system in a harsh, hard to reach environment

3.1. But what if we mis-configured them?

  • Monitoring device health metrics — having devices periodically transmit back their health metrics such as battery state, charging, operation mode and any other relevant metric. This should actually be a must-have feature in any such platform.
  • Two-way communication — while having the sensors transmit their readings is naturally a must (as it’s their job), having the ability to transmit back to them certain pre-defined parameters configuring anything from their working state to specific thresholds is also a key and useful feature.
  • Configuration management utils — both to monitor devices current configuration as well as load and update all or certain sub-sets of sensors for different tasks and operational modes.
  • Watch-dogs — a programmatic mechanism for detecting and overcoming software or hardware bugs. You better have a whole pack of those to save you from unfortunately inevitable situations.
  • Firmware-update Over the Air — see next clause for more details, but definitely don’t underestimate its importance.

3.2. Firmware-update Over The Air (FoTA)

3.3. A Maintenance State of Mind

  • A mechanical design allowing for easy swapping of devices. So adhering the sensor to the ceiling with epoxy is probably not a very good approach.
  • A software protocol for easy replacement of sensors, initializing the new sensor with the correct parameters.

A True Story About a Smart Road Platform

The Valerann Smart Road-Sensing platform

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