Powertec are Powering Ahead with Internet of Things Solutions

Ran McDonald

With the recent development of the myinsight.io Connectivity Module, the myinsight.io system is revolutionising the way Australia does business. The complex, dedicated connectivity module was designed and built by Powertec and permits seamless connectivity to enable transmission of data. The collected sensor data is then forwarded via LoRaWAN, WiFi, SigFox or NB-IoT/Cat M1 to the myinsight.io dashboard. This combined with its capability to connect to just about any sensor or device (new or retro-fitted) which makes it an innovative and powerful Internet of Things tool.

Communication across all Internet of Things devices

The Internet of Things has big potential – and a big problem. All those ‘‘things’’ just aren’t very good at talking to each other. The problem is the diversity of radio frequencies and communication protocols in use.

As consumers, we feel quite at home with Wi-Fi and the data signal coming through the cellular network. We don’t think twice about Bluetooth devices or Near Field Communications (NFC) contactless payments.

But how about Long-Range technologies (LoRa WAN), Narrow Band (NB IoT), Sigfox, Zigbee and half a dozen more, which are all common in fields such as manufacturing and agriculture.

Each technology uses a different slice of the radio frequency spectrum and offers a different trade-off between data capacity, speed, range and power consumption.

The proliferation of devices built for these frequencies has created a telecoms Tower of Babel. And the cacophony can only get louder as the Internet of Things morphs into the Internet of Everything (IoE).

Definitions and estimates are hard to pin down, but analytics firm Gartner predicts there will be 25 billion IoT devices by 2021, and NASDAQ-listed analytics firm IHS Markit says this will hit 127 billion in 2030 if smartphones and other mobile devices are counted.

Data presented at the 2019 World Economic Forum suggest IoT devices will generate $US3.7 trillion ($5.26 trillion) in revenue by 2028.

Even so, the head of sales for Powertec Telecommunications, Ran McDonald, says: ‘‘In the world of IoT, the biggest issue is trying to connect a device up to the network.’’

Now the Southport-based company, the world’s largest distributor of Cel-fi products, says it has the solution: a connectivity platform that acts ‘‘almost like a universal translator for networks’’.

‘‘We believe we’ve built a world-first piece of technology that will allow any device to be connected to any network,’’ McDonald says.

‘‘No matter what data is available, or can be introduced, if we put this module on a device it will talk to any other device.

‘‘It’s as if I’m speaking German, French, Italian or Chinese, then I put this box on my head and simultaneously I can also speak English.’’

Ran McDonald
Ran McDonald, Head of Sales

McDonald says the company went into product development when the need for a connectivity platform came into focus through its work in the farm sector.

Farmers are IoT pioneers, installing technologies such as weather stations and sensors that measure soil temperature, moisture content and salinity.

Such remote tech can save a farmer a day a week they would otherwise spend monitoring water levels in dams and checking whether pumps are working.

‘‘We found that a farmer may have many legacy devices and they are reluctant to throw away their investments,’’ McDonald says.

‘‘But every vendor has proprietary ways of doing things and they aren’t always compatible with commonly adopted standards.’’

Powertec’s solution is its new connectivity module, which, as part of its total IoT offering (myinsight.io) it describes as ‘‘a full-service complete end-to-end IoE ecosystem’’.

The myInsight.io precision Ag IoT/E comprises an open-source solution, covering internet, cellular, Wi-Fi and LoRa gateways.

It is ‘‘customised to control, measure and track assets, people, animals and things, with a combination of live and historical data including events, notifications and machine learning’’.

MLA - Grain Silo 1
Grain Silo Level Displacement Sensor

At Red Meat 2018, the annual conference of Meat & Livestock Australia, Powertec was presented with the Best Installation award for the ‘‘quality and robustness’’ of its solution.

The company was among a group of IoT providers engaged to deploy solutions across multiple demonstration farms.

Powertec delivered an IoT solution across a 23-square-kilometre sheep and cattle breeding property with no access to mains power or reliable internet.

The installation included an industrial cellular router for internet access, a LoRa Gateway, and long-range high-capacity Wi-Fi access points and wireless data links.

Devices feeding data into the network included solar kits, weather stations and vehicle trackers, plus sensors for tank levels, grain silo levels and gate status. The data was integrated into a single dashboard showing live and historical information, event logs and alerts. A semi-automated bore pump controlling the water flowing into three tanks could also be operated remotely via the dashboard.

MLA - Grain Silo Solar & Antenna sml
Grain Silo Solar & Antenna at MLA

McDonald says the Powertec IoT Division has tested its system directly on farms ‘‘with cockatoos chewing it and cows and horses rubbing up against it’’. ‘‘Now we can run it off micro solar panels, which can keep it running even if we don’t have any sun for seven or eight days,’’ he says. Powertec has progressed from its first, hand-soldered device just over a year ago to contract manufacturing on the Gold Coast, he says.

It has ‘‘locked down the IP’’, giving it a ‘‘clear market run’’.

‘‘The market we are most interested in is to go to all of the vendors that make beautiful technologies that can’t communicate and say, ‘We want you to license our technology’,’’ McDonald says.

“No matter what data is available, if we put this module on a device it will talk to any other device.”

Ran McDonald, Powertec

 

Original article by Financial Review Digital Edition – Tue 30 July, 2019 www.afr.com

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