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I was wondering which devices are used in IIoT applications. Are devices like ESP8266, ESP32, etc. (or other used in makers world) reliable for use on industrial/critical environments? If other parts of the system (power supply, etc.) are designed to be fault tolerant, would those devices be the point of failure?

With IIoT I mean the use of IoT devices in industrial environments, interacting with (or replacing) traditional devices (SCADA S. for example). An industrial environment could be a production line, a pumping system, a remote weather station, etc. I'm not talking about switching our home ligths on and off or watering our garden.

I know my questions is generic but I didn't want to make a question for each type of board. I know that device selection is an application specific task but you can think about it in this way: If you need an arm processor, for example, would you pick a RPI for your reliable "thing" or you just use it as a prototype? Would you put a RPi in a production environment? Same thing with ESP32 and so on. If the answer is no, if you only use those for prototyping, which ones can be used instead?

Here is some background. I'm learning about IoT with these platforms: arduino, nodemcu, and RPi. I'm using micropython and processing so far. My "things" are reading sensors and speaking MQTT so far. I want to go further and I have two applications in mind. One is industry related and the other about environmental monitoring. I still have a long way to go and I want to walk in the right direction.

Maybe my question should be: What have I to learn next? or In which tools should I have to focus on? thinking about hardware development platforms for IIoT.

While I was working as a calibration technician I saw many datalogger projects building with microchip PIC and Atmel AVR microcontrollers that worked on the lab but they failed in the field. Most were academia related, grad projects or research groups projects. Industrial knowledge wasn't involved. I'm looking for that industrial insight.

  • What research have you already done? – hardillb Mar 8 '19 at 9:57
  • you need to define critical. they can't be used for aviation for example. they are used commercially and many devices have been approved by various regulatory agencies. It's all about how you use it. You can use an ESP to toggle a fail-safe hardware latch/switch for example, without having the ESP directly control it, which wouldn't work during a reboot or without wifi or whatever. – dandavis Mar 8 '19 at 22:29
  • @hardillb thank you for asking. So far I've seen those devices being used on DIY/makers proyects and for education purpose. I have not seen industrial IoT (hardware) systems teardowns. I'm learning myself with RPi, arduino and nodemcu's speaking mqtt in micropython and processing. I believe I saw stm and atmel mcs in commercial IoT systems like nest or phillips hue (I don't remember exactly which ones). I have to keep researching! – falco Mar 9 '19 at 22:49
  • that's absolutely fair @dandavis. With critical I meant being able to being used unattended for long periods of time without failure. It can be attached to some asset in an industrial environment or on a remote (not easy access) location. Does this make sense to you? – falco Mar 9 '19 at 23:10
  • Please define iiot - this is an acronym too far, particularly since it is critical to the sense of your question. – Sean Houlihane Mar 20 '19 at 11:12
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Two major differences between lab/experimental projects and industrial deployment are remote management and security. The devices once deployed must remain reliable and autonomous. This implies to have a way to update the devices on the field remotely and secure them. I will not go more into detail about this but this of paramount importance and it's often underestimated. It will impact the hardware choice.

As for IIoT platform, it's quite difficult to advise one as it depends on the application and constraints of the project. Solutions to develop proof of concept with more "industrial" hardware might be around:

  • STM32 (Nucleo for experimenting)

  • Digi XBee3 modules

  • Azure Sphere MT3620 Development Kit

Just to name a few. Of course these three very different example show you how different approaches can be taken and will lead to different development environments, community support, documentation, etc.

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  • It's probably also worth mentioning trusted firmware since this requires hardware support of some sort. – Sean Houlihane Mar 20 '19 at 11:27
  • @Clem844 thanks for your answer. I totally agree with you about reliability needed. Mostly every educational/hobbyist board has a way to communicate with it and update the software. I know my questions is generic but I didn't want to make a question for each type of board. I know that device selection is an application specific task but you can think about it in this way, : If you need an arm processor, for example, would you pick a RPI for your reliable "thing" or you just use it as a prototype? Would you put a RPi in a production environment? – falco Mar 20 '19 at 13:07
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The answer from @Clem844 covers the architectural questions. Your question also hints at reliability issues that are more of a board level design issue. There is more to this than just the RF module, but that is a critical part. You may find that the module specification gives you some hints about how suitable it will be for long term reliability. Consider:

  • Supply voltage operating range
  • Vibration spec
  • Temperature range
  • Guaranteed production lifetime
  • Certifications

Most of these module level parameters are things that you can compensate for with your product/packaging design, but it should be clear that starting with a design which should still work at high ambient temperatures (and also designing it to stay cool in the extreme operating scenario) will give you a better chance. In addition, you will understand how much design effort has gone into the module itself.

Finally, it is worth spending some time to design the system to be fault tolerant, so no one part of the system can disable your whole production line when it fails. This means checking your data, rate limiting your actions (see the unfortunate recent Boeing incident), implementing watchdogs, avoiding correlation between endpoints, lockout and recovery on fault, etc.

Along these lines, it may make sense to work more at the MCU end (less complicated software stack), design a custom PCB (minimise interconnect), over-rate the PSU, implement a 'supervisor' mcu (the equivalent of remote hard reset for a server). You might decide to invest in increased data logging capabilities so when a crash occurrs, you can root cause it and iterate the design. All of these directly add to cost, and sometimes can be counterproductive if they actually increase the failure rate.

Although you can do lots of MTBF analysis on each component and path, you can also leverage things like burn-in tests (maybe combined with thermal stress) in order to weed out the 'early failures' from the bathtub curve.

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  • Sean Houlihane thank you for your answer. It goes in line with my question. The last sentence represent my concern. If one of this boards is used with a robust power supply and a rugged "thermally designed" case, etc, would it be the point of failure? A decent system with a RPi could cost a couple of hundreds dollars while a commercial system a couple of thousands. – falco Mar 20 '19 at 14:18
  • According with the RPi foundation it is suitable for industrial or commercial use. specs: raspberrypi.org/documentation/hardware/computemodule/datasheets/… – falco Mar 20 '19 at 14:21
  • And there is a vendor Opto22 that sells an "industrial" expansion board for the Pi. – falco Mar 20 '19 at 14:23
  • And there is a vendor, Opto22, that sells an "industrial" expansion board for the Pi. But I didn't find a real application build with it. I am still looking for information about other boards but I was unsuccessful on that. – falco Mar 20 '19 at 14:29
  • @falco, I agree, RPi is built in volume, and they are forced to pay attention to reliability (several major issues fixed since the earlier generations). Whether it is the right product for your application is a completely different issue. – Sean Houlihane Mar 20 '19 at 15:09
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I recommend you using Nodemcu.

  1. Nodemcu have wifi connection. You can setup nodemcu anywhere in your factory/home/office and expand your project flexible and don't worry about how to commuite your sensor/relay/microcontroller with control center by wire.
  2. You can program nodemcu with arduino IDE, it's similar Arduino
  3. It's cheaper, small, simple than Adruino Board + Esp Wifi Sheld. You can build IIoT with low cost.
  4. It's have alot of project in Internet you can refer. You can use your smartphone to control it or using RPI as Control center.

I am building my smarthome using nodemcu and Rpi 3 as control center. It work well. You can refer some projects here pi project

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  • 2
    Why is this more suitable for Industrial IoT? – hardillb Mar 19 '19 at 7:43
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    Welcome to Internet of Things! Like hardlib said, please edit this answer to explain why nodemcu would be the way to go. Is it just that it is simpler (and it would be great if you could expand on that to: simpler to set up? to use? to connect with other systems?) and cheaper? Please don't post "quickies"; explain why you are right. Thanks, and once again, welcome to the site! (By the way, you can get your first badge by taking the tour!) – anonymous2 Mar 19 '19 at 12:14
  • You still haven't articulated why this is suitable for industrial use, the example you give is a home deployment. – hardillb Mar 20 '19 at 9:17
  • In which IIoT using many sensors, relays, microcontrollers. You must setup they in many localtions with long distance. Nodemcu have wifi connection, You can setup it anywhere and control them via wifi. You can't do that with arduino board. If you using Aruino board you must setup wire to connect between microcontrollers and control center. Which many sensors, relays, microcontrollers and long distance, cost for commuite by wire very expensive and limited. – Pi guide Mar 20 '19 at 9:50
  • 2. Cost for nodemcu board is cheaper than Adruino Board + Esp Sheild. Nodemcu board is 2-4$, Adruino Board is 3-5$, ESP 8266 Sheild for Aruino 3.5$. You can build your project with lower cost. – Pi guide Mar 20 '19 at 9:57

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