Interview #8: JoTio a unified HW platform
19 July 2021
Source: More on Soundcloud
Hello to all listeners of our channel. Today, I would like to welcome another member of IQRF Alliance, the JoTio Tech company, specifically their representatives Vojta Novák and Zdeněk Kolář.
We met a few years ago at the Czech University of Agriculture, where I visited and had a lecture about IQRF wireless technology. I still remember your sharp questions, you kept asking me.
Yeah, it was the first time we encountered IQRF Alliance and our questions were even then very technical. Maybe it was because even at that time IoT was already our hobby. Back then it wasn't even called IoT yet, but we perceived it as automation of households, we included it in our final theses for high school and then we also dealt with it in our bachelor's theses. We were really excited about what we were doing and gradually we started to shift it from a hobby to the business sphere.
Basically, this all started in high school, where Vojta and I studied together, and we were always led to look at the world of electronics in a slightly different way than most people. All of this together played a role when we met at school during a lecture. We didn't know what to expect from IQRF wireless technology, at that time we only knew LoRaWAN within LPWAN networks, and the questions led from LoRaWAN to some knowledge of IQRF. We took it as something unknown and tried to adapt it to our needs, which were at that time things around Smart house, etc.
It was a relatively long journey, I could go back to high school when we (each on our own part) worked on our graduation project, which in the final merged into a lecture on "Smart House". At that time, we used some units from the company Papouch and at the same time, we wanted to build some of the units on our own. It turned out that there were certain elements in the development of hardware that were used repeatedly, but at that time when we were about 18-19, we weren't able to describe them yet in any way.
As time went by, we met you and a bunch of other amazing people, which really helped us move forward. We started working on new projects, here and there even of the nature of custom development. Then we realized that we keep repeating basically the same elements, some of a mental nature, in terms of the ordering process, the process of assembly, operation and its monitoring of the product and some were really of a hardware nature, when certain elements need to be particularly monitored.
And so, over the last two or three years, we have begun to form a concept that is starting to come to life in the last six months, and it is something we have been working hard on so far. We are constantly moving forward and decided that we want to be independent in terms of the wireless network. Today we no longer care what wireless technology we use, although we primarily try to focus on IQRF and LoRaWAN, the platform is designed so that we are not attached to the product.
Now we are in a state where we finally want to start marketing these products and we have some pieces even tested in practice, so we know how they behave, either with customers or by our own examination. It is something we hope will soon move more forward.
I saw your three basic board sizes, which contained some basic interfaces and sensors. You said that there is a possibility of making these boards into some sort of device, either of an indoor or outdoor type.
That's right, it's like I said, we've identified some common elements that all the hardware leaving our company has. It's something we call the core of the product, and they are the essential features that cover things from the ordering process to installation and decommissioning. These are some shared features and for us, it doesn't matter what the product is. Now I'm going to exaggerate, we don't have anything like that yet, but whether it's gonna be a smartwatch or a thermometer, the basis is identical and the only thing that differs is the mechanical design. If we look at our product line, we currently have two, or three types of products, ready for specific installations and they differ only in the area where the product is installed. Whether it is resistant to dust, water or whether it will be installed in an indoor environment where we want to monitor things around the air, such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, etc., where we really need the air to enter the product, so we can measure it.
The third type is kind of specific, it often happens to us that even though we try to fit the needs of our customers to our products, it is not always possible and it would be more of a hurdle than a benefit. To do this, we have a printed circuit board, which we call a core, to which we can add peripherals for the customer according to a particular purpose and create a specific packaging pursuant to the customer's needs and environment. For us, however, it is an identical product, all the software fits in because already from the start we tried to create a strong product base so that we would be able to bring the customer what he needs without major costs.
That variability is great. Specifically, what have you already done and deployed somewhere in the field?
There's an interesting project on which we have been cooperating with the customer for over a year, where we apply our development code because there is a special need for housing, which brings me back to the fact that this is one of the three variants of the platform we provide. It is a research project for collars on cows, which are able to lit up, in cooperation with the Research Institute of Animal Production, even though it is still at the level of research and prototypes, it has been going on for a year because we have found it important to carefully understand the needs of our customer. Over time, it began to show that just choosing the right communication technology will not be that easy, thanks to the versatility of our platform we were able to use both LoRaWAN and IQRF technology, but later we found that individual pieces of cattle are often transferred between stables and there is very frequent movement. At that moment, with regard to battery savings, we realized that the first choice of IQRF technology was not exactly the most ideal, and we gradually began to convert everything to LoRaWAN technology. Thanks to the unified approaches, that is, whether the configuration, service application that we supply to our products as a service for their configuration, or because the final interface (control panel, dashboard) is actually the same, he didn't even notice that the technology changed over time.
In this case, we didn't use the IQRF technology in the end. However, where IQRF technology is useful when it comes to agriculture and service is the monitoring of the environment, such as stables and farms, where, on the contrary, due to the static installation of sensors, IQRF is more fitting, because each additional sensor strengthens the network. Our goal is to combine technology so that we get a usable outcome for the customer, and he got something out of it, that's why we try to look at things very comprehensively.
Well, the customer does not have to be an expert on what technology to use, he solves a problem, gives you an assignment and it is up to you how to solve it optimally, you are the experts and you should choose the appropriate transmission technology.
It occurs to me, you also had an ultrasonic water level sensor, of course, it probably depends on where you place it. According to that, there could be some wireless infrastructure, using lights or radio. Or it could really be somewhere in the fields where there is no infrastructure nearby, so it is obvious that you can use the technologies in different ways.
That's right, what we had presented you is our complete novelty, it is currently in the phase of development and trials. We placed a sensor above a stream, and it monitors the water level of that stream. Turns out there are many sensors on large rivers, but there are almost none on the smaller ones because of the sensor's price. Therefore, we got an idea to provide a sensor that will be affordable and thus allow us to expand the network of monitoring stations to smaller streams to better predict flash floods. I think that many municipalities could be very interested.
This shows the strength of the IQRF Alliance, as we are in contact with the Logimic company, which is preparing projects in the field of level measurement, and we have talked about a possible partnership, which fits directly into our concept of developing a platform that our customers can choose, adapt to their needs, customize the design, and deliver solutions to their customers, through our products.
You can imagine it well on the example of Tatra, they manufacture a chassis platform, it has a well-designed engine, wheels, steering wheel, and everything necessary for the car to be driveable. Some company builds a superstructure for that, and it becomes a fire truck, while another company builds different superstructure and now it's an army car, or it can turn into a crane. It doesn't matter what you build on it, the foundation is always the same, it's a robust chassis.
As we mentioned, once it was a collar for cows, the second time a water level meter or it could be something completely different, as Zdeněk stated at the beginning.
Do you also make any display and control applications for those products?
Yes, that's right, we have them separated, one is a control application that is mainly used to configure and manage all products across technologies, which means that the customer has a tool in which he can manage his products, regardless of technology, he can record certain metadata, installation parameters, etc.
Then there is the visualization of the data itself, our approach is that we are either able to create a custom control panel for the customer, as we did for the Research Institute of Animal Production, or we integrate data from sensors into customer platforms, whatever it may be cloud services such as Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud or Amazon Cloud. Some customers want to integrate data into some of these platforms, which we have no problem with. We are able to offer a comprehensive platform, select it for the customer and configure it.
Due to the fact that we manufacture and develop the hardware ourselves, it is adapted to the fact that the data could be processed on a cloud platform. We really think it all through, so everything works as a whole, I can show this on the example of the water level measurement.
In order to be able to measure the water level, it is sufficient to use an ultrasonic sensor, but if you need to save energy, it is unnecessary to measure the level that often when the weather's dry and the level is very low for several months. But then it can start to rain and the level starts to rise rapidly, at that moment, measurements only once every half-day can deprive us of important data from the time when the level began to rise.
Our concept is so that the sensor devices really work together, while using a higher algorithm, for example in cloud computing, where we can take advantage of knowing the topology of the system, such as where the river flows. We place several sensors and when one sensor detects level rise, we can dynamically change the configuration on all the other sensors further downstream. It shows that it is really important to approach projects comprehensively and understand the core of the problem, prepare algorithms for it and do IoT in the spirit that the sensors are interconnected and together have some acquisition.
I will now follow up on Mr Řehák from Netio, who took part in the podcast before us, where he mentioned that we helped him by providing him with NodeRed training. He was right, NodeRed is a great integration tool. It is one of the things that we did not mention yet that we can offer to our customers and that's workshops and training, especially on the NodeRed application and the like. Our motivation for doing this may not be for profit, but for education, so all the individuals can work together, and NodeRed is a beautiful collaboration tool where a lot of systems can work together to create comprehensive solutions. The products in the IQRF Alliance help a lot, thanks to the standards it is possible to combine various hardware manufacturers, individual products of complete solutions, which only then bring profit. For example, during the installation in the teaching hospital in Prague, several suppliers, projects and services were used and together they created a comprehensive solution, which has been working for several years. I think this is the perfect demonstration of the deployment of IoT solutions.
So, when you develop sensors or some other devices for your customer, it is not a problem (if it is standardized for IQRF interoperability) to include it in the IQRF system, in some shared network, which you then control unitedly with certain commands.
That's right. For us, it's not just about this though. When we develop a sensor, then thanks to the versatility of our hardware, we can swap the communication technology, so when we create a solution with the customer, for example with LoRaWAN technology, we are able to bring that solution very quickly in the IQRF network as well and the customer can run both of these technologies and use some bridges between these networks. For example, to obtain data locally using the IQRF network and transmit aggregated information over a greater distance using LoRaWAN technology, which is also something we have already tried out in our history. We have already presented the solution for IQRF to LoRaWAN bridge as a prototype, so you can really invent anything, it's just about fantasy.
From the beginning, JoTio's vision is to provide technological solutions, we don't care about the type of technology, the goal is to solve a problem for the customer. We offer products and services that support this, so our products are customizable to projects while maintaining certain common elements, such as configuration via mobile application, product management, passwords, etc. and also the related offer of consultations and services for the customer so that he gets what he needs and the project is in some way beneficial for him.
Thanks to both of you for the interview, have a nice day.
You too have a nice day and thank you.