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Linux-powered IoT gateways offer LTE and Wirepas Mesh

Feb 26, 2019 — by Eric Brown — 1056 views

SolidRun has launched a Linux-driven line of i.MX6-based “SolidSense N6 Edge Gateways” available in indoor, outdoor, and industrial models with WiFi, BT, BLE, LTE, GPS, and Wirepas Mesh support.

SolidRun has introduced the first in a line of SolidSense Edge Gateways for IoT aggregation and edge computing that will be offered in indoor, outdoor and industrial form factors with a range of processor options. The currently available SolidSense N6 Edge Gateways run Linux on SolidRun’s NXP i.MX6 based computer-on-modules, which appear to be the latest versions of the same MicroSom modules that power its HummingBoard SBCs.



SolidSense N6 Edge Gateways Indoor and Outdoor models (left) and indoor model with antennas
(click images to enlarge)

Like the HummingBoards, the MicroSoms are proprietary but the rest of the SolidSense hardware is available with schematics, mechanicals, and other open specifications. There’s also an IoT-oriented open source Linux stack with Docker and Eclipse support.

The SolidSense Edge Gateways are designed for “managing massive enterprise and industrial IoT data loads at the network’s edge,” and are “ideal for asset tracking, security, smart factories, smart offices, and enabling automation,” says SolidRun. The “scalable” gateways are “capable of managing single applications to processing the data from numerous sensors within a factory in real time,” says the company.

SolidRun also announced a collaboration with Wirepas to integrate its Wirepas Linux Gateway software and up to two Wirepas radio interfaces into the gateways. This appears to be a recent deal since the current — and quite extensive — documentation does not mention Wirepas (see farther below).

The $260 and up N6 Indoor model is designed for monitoring cellular sites, smart buildings, digital signage and retail kiosks, or aggregating and analyzing data from a variety of on-site sensors at the network’s edge. The $350 and up N6 Outdoor model offers greater ruggedization features for deployment outdoors in fleet, transportation, infrastructure, and other outdoor applications.

The N6 Industrial model has been documented but does not appear to be ready for sale. The N6 Industrial is designed for “extreme-duty applications where an above average amount of sensory data needs to be aggregated, analyzed and secured” for “manufacturing facilities, smart cities, logistics, agriculture and more,” says SolidRun.

 
SolidSense N6 Edge Gateway hardware details

The SolidSense N6 Edge Gateways are offered with various MicroSoms with single-, dual-, or quad-core Cortex-A9 i.MX6 SoCs clocked to 1.2GHz. All three models are equipped with up to 2GB DDR3, a microSD slot, and 8GB eMMC.

The N6 gateways have single GbE ports, although with the usual i.MX6 limitation of 470Mbps. A 2.4GHz WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0 module is also available. There’s a separate BLE 4/2/5.0 module from Nordic Semiconductor with SDR support designed for “southbound” communications with sensors and other end-point devices. Other southbound interfaces include Wirepas/RS-485, Modbus, and USB-based OPC-UA.



SolidSense N6 Edge Gateway Indoor (left) and outdoor block diagrams
(click images to enlarge)

LTE and GPS modules are enabled via mini-PCIe connections. Options for the Indoor and Outdoor models include:

  • LTE Cat 4 EU + GPS (with fallback on 3G/2G)
  • LTE Cat 4 US + GPS (with fallback on 3G)
  • LTE Cat 4 AU/LAT + GPS (with fallback on 3G)
  • LTE Cat M1 EU/US + GPS

The N6 Industrial is spec’d only with a generic LTE Cat 4 + GPS (with fallback on 3G/2G), as well as LTE Cat M1 EU/US + GPS. It offers dual SIM slots while the indoor and outdoor models only have one.



SolidSense N6 indoor model in Basic configuration with 3x 2.4GHz antennas (left) and in Extended model with LTE and GPS antennas. There’s also a WBG SKU with all the antennas except GPS
(click images to enlarge)

The N6 Indoor model provides 4 x USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI port. Its 120 x 80 x 30mm, extruded aluminum enclosure supports 0 to 60°C temperatures and has a 7-36V power input with a twist and lock jack. There are 5x SMA antenna mounts, including 3x 2.4GHz antennas plus LTE and GPS.

The N6 Outdoor model lacks a video output and is limited to a single USB 2.0 host port, according to the spec list and image, but 4x USB ports according to the block diagram. There’s also a RS485 port, a solid-state relay output, and isolated digital inputs, all available on isolated external ports. The block diagram indicates there are 4x digital outputs to go with the 4x inputs.

The 175 x 130 x 45mm, IP65 protected Outdoor enclosure is made of high resistance ABS (UL94V) and has an extended -25 to 65°C range. The 7-36V input provides reverse polarity protection and is accompanied by a backup battery. There are 3x SMA antennas: dual LTE plus GPS.



SolidSense N6 Edge Gateway indoor (left) and outdoor details views
(click images to enlarge)

The upcoming N6 Industrial model has dual USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, and an isolated RS-485 port plus interfaces for a solid-state relay output and digital inputs. It’s the only model with a CAN Bus port. Like the Outdoor model, the 150 x 150 x 40mm Industrial SKU has a -25 to 65°C range. The IP42 protected aluminum enclosure has the same antenna support as the Indoor model and the same power features as the Outdoor model. It’s available with a DIN-rail mount.


N6 Gateway software stack
(click image to enlarge)

The SolidSense N6 Linux stack includes “a full suite of open source software solutions that can run on the gateways and in the cloud for device and connectivity management,” says SolidRun. Features include:

  • Device management, including software and network management
  • Application deployment with OSGi bundle or containers
  • Eclipse IoT Kura or Kapua container
  • Docker and Dbus support
  • Mender-io repository
  • Secure network communications
  • Connectivity to the cloud for application integration
  • Visual logic programming
  • Automatic updates
  • Supports field protocols like Modbus, OPC-UA, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

The stack can interact with SolidSense cloud software available via a Platform as a Service (PaaS) or deployed on customer IT infrastructures. The Wirepas testimonial quote below suggests that all this will sync up nicely with the optional Wirepas Mesh cloud software.

The Wirepas Mesh platform supports “any radio hardware and on any frequency band,” says SolidRun. Its decentralized IoT network protocol can be used to connect, locate and identify lights, sensors, beacons, assets, machines and meters.

Wirepas Mesh provides “reliable, massive-scale communications from Wirepas Mesh-enabled devices backhauled over cellular, Wi-Fi or ethernet connections, and provides built-in support for communication with Wirepas cloud assets, such as network diagnostics and positioning engine,” says the company. Wirepas Mesh is said to enhance wireless throughput via automatic multi-gateway and load-balancing support, thereby enabling large mesh networks with massive data requirements.

“The SolidSense N6 gateway family from SolidRun is an ideal choice for customers wishing to deploy Wirepas Mesh at scale,” stated Sami Kaislasuo, senior manager, product marketing – hardware partners at Wirepas. “The gateways are readily compatible with Wirepas cloud assets, but also offer edge computing capabilities for applications and expanding the gateway functionality based on the use case needs.”

 
Further information

The SolidSense N6 Edge Gateways are available from SolidRun or Arrow in Indoor and Oudoor models starting at $260 and $350, respectively. More information may be found on SolidRun’s SolidSense Edge Gateway product page.
 

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