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Evolving Challenges of Powering Industrial IoT Applications

By Florian Haas, Director of Marketing TRACO Power Group

There seem to be no limits for new ideas and possible business models based on evolving Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and solutions. In the industrial environment, there has been rapidly increasing demand for professional IoT applications. Common characteristics include the ability to distribute intelligence by connecting various sensors and actuators with decentralized control. The ability to make them “smart” comes from the fact that these sensors and actuators can collect and communicate data and are designed to be managed with intelligence. The market for industrial IoT applications will continue to expand as more applications evolve, including (home) healthcare, infrastructure, utilities, home automation and smart homes, vehicle, mobility, and more. These professional IoT trends will undoubtedly involve miniaturization, mobility, robustness, efficiency (degrees of effectiveness), and the networking of electronic devices.

Safety-relevant industrial IoT applications are subject to strict regulatory guidelines, both, for the engineer and for the components being used. This poses a great challenge for developers of industrial IoT applications. The use of certified, reliable and long-term available electronic components is critical, as they are often used in safety and function-critical applications. The professional support of component suppliers is playing a very important role.

Powering professional IoT applications - AC or DC input

The power module selection and strategy used in professional IoT devices are without a doubt a critical decision in the overall system or product. Miniaturization, low power consumption, size, and a high efficiency are playing an increasingly important role for those products. Semiconductors are probably the components which offer the highest level of innovation. A second key technology worthy of mentioning is the power transformation and isolation devices, whether AC or DC input, used in the products. Additionally, since these are often battery-powered IoT systems that spend most of their time in standby mode and only a small part in active mode, the built-in DC/DC converters must cover a wide load range with high efficiency.

Image of TRACO power supplies for IoT applicationsFigure 1: Power supplies for IoT applications should be designed for ultra-low power consumption in standby mode. (Image source: TRACO Power)

Size and efficiency matter- don’t forget safety and regulatory compliance

In order to design, certify and market, such professional IoT devices, more than just technological product features must be considered. If these professional IoT devices want to be certified and sold, they have to be fully compliant with increasingly stringent regulations through globally harmonized standards and guidelines, which bring a big challenge to today’s IoT electrical engineer. If IoT functionalities are required for critical applications such as in medical technology, the electronic components must be designed in such a way that they can be used accordingly, meeting industry specific regulations.

As an example, take a medical approved, wireless, battery-powered control panel with Internet access to the patient file. Wirelessly connected to this control panel is another device, which may come into contact with the patient (e.g. a blood pressure monitoring device). One of the key safety concerns with respect to medical devices is that the patient is often electrically connected to the device, an applied part. As a consequence, the power supply and the DC/DC converter of this IoT application must meet safety critical regulation such as BF compliance and 2XMOPP standards within IEC/EN 60601-1 3rd Edition.

Image of medical IoT application deviceFigure 2: All components of a medical IoT application device need to be compliant with the relevant standard. (Image source: TRACO Power)

Other good examples are industrial IoT applications for “smart” homes and buildings. High efficiency and low no-load power consumption (ErP compliant), small size, high reliability, and an affordable price are key elements to all these home/building IoT automation applications, and the ever-increasing compliance and standards including IEC/EN 60335-1.

Image of TRACO Power TBLC series of 6 ~ 90 watt Din Rail power suppliesFigure 3: TRACO Power TBLC series of 6 ~ 90 watt Din Rail power supplies for home and building automation. Features include: high efficiency and low standby power > compliance to ECO-Standard; UL 1310 class II approved and UL 508 listed; NEC class 2 and IEC/EN 60335-1 Household Appliance compliant; and reliability, calculated MTBF > 1.9 mill hours. (Image source: TRACO Power)

Careful planning is required with the entire supply chain

We know the use of new technologies in security-sensitive and functionally critical applications require increased reliability, quality, service life, certifications, and - last but not least - seamless traceability of electronic key components.

Manufacturers are more and more in the need of tools that have been established and perfected in the automotive industry for years, such as failure mode analysis, corrective actions, 8D Reports, DFMEA, PFMEA, Total Quality Management, and continuous improvement.

Today, Total Quality has to find its way into the earliest phase of almost every development. To achieve this, a developer has to do more than just provide a functioning solution. Where a mobile telephone used to be a useful accompanying instrument, today we are increasingly dispensing with redundancy from other means. Cash, camera, address book, and subscriptions are all integrated into the smartphone. Smartphones are therefore critical life companions today. The product designer bears much more responsibility for the quality of his development than he did 10 years ago. This trend not only continues, but will continue to develop rapidly. Moreover, suppliers should regard the digital transformation in the individual components and supply channels as a highly significant development. By establishing, analyzing, and processing relevant data, a fast, reliable and economic availability of the components can contribute to increased productivity at the customer's facility.

In summary, this means that in IoT applications in critical applications, for example in medical technology, building automation or mobility, not only need to be efficient, miniaturized with an ultra-low standby power consumption, they also need to be available for decades, traceable and fully compliant with the relevant standards and regulations.

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and/or forum participants on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of Digi-Key Electronics or official policies of Digi-Key Electronics.

About this author

Florian Haas, Director of Marketing TRACO Power Group

Florian Haas has worked more than 10 years in the medical device industry. In various Product Management roles he helps “translate” the requirements (and wishes) of both engineering & health care professionals to his engineering department for product development. At TRACO Power (a leading company for power conversion products), Florian and his team are responsible for product management, marketing and communication.

Prior to his marketing role at TRACO Power, Florian had been leading the Product Management team at Belimed (Switzerland and Charleston, North Carolina), a leading MedTech company for hospital equipment specializing in endoscopy reprocessing and sterilization. Florian also was the Global Product Manager at Ziemer Ophthalmic Systems (Switzerland) and was responsible for the development and market introduction of two femtosecond laser systems for eye surgery.

Florian holds two degrees, one in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing/Communication and also a degree in Information Technology from the Lucerne University (Switzerland).