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The Internet of Things

Olivier Constant - 12/12/2014

The Internet of Things : Two new equipments of excellence

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Inaugurated last autumn, the IoT-LAB and CorteXlab platforms are strengthening the capabilities of the FIT equipment of excellence dedicated to the Internet of Things. Offering a unique wide-ranging collection of equipment, these laboratories are available to both researchers and commercial companies alike.

Many people think that wireless technology, especially digital mobile phones, has changed their lives. But that’s not an opinion that is shared by the Inria project teams and partners working on the FIT project (see inset). For them, it’s the imminent advent of direct communications between objects that is about make profound changes to our daily lives. However, in order to bring these new technologies to fruition, researchers and commercial companies need access to the latest equipment for their experiments on new applications. This is the thinking behind the establishment of IoT-LAB and CorteXlab (see insets), two new platforms affiliated to Equipex FIT.

Simplifying access to connected objects

Launched on the 6th and 7th November, IoT-LAB is already well known to the Internet of Things community. “This experimental platform is an evolution of the SensLab platform which has been used by 350 regular users over the past three years”, explains Eric Fleury, Inria supervisor in the Equipex FIT project and manager of IoT-LAB, ”However, the move to IoT-LAB constitutes a significant qualitative and quantitative leap forward”.
The new facility boasts a number of improvements, including a threefold increase in the number of nodes*, the addition of GPS for accurate measurements, and around forty nodes mounted on moveable robots.
Less powerful, low consumption modes will be used by providers of embedded services needing to make accurate measurements of the battery life of their equipment, while more powerful nodes will be useful to developers of applications for smartphones and tablets, and home gateway** operators.
The combination of older equipment and the latest technology will also make it possible to simulate the actual status of networks. The various IoT-LAB sites will be linked over the Internet enabling experiments on hybrid systems using both wired and wireless communications over long distances.

An open laboratory

“The profiles of our users vary considerably”, continues Eric Fleury, “They range from academics working on communication protocols, through small businesses supplying measurement services and needing to free themselves from the constraints of wired systems, to large commercial companies, such as Schneider Electric, studying low-energy installations of communicating sensors. Our equipment is very valuable as it can test the scalability of systems, a factor that has a significant influence on the results achieved. It often happens that a theoretical model fails due to a simple reason such as interference or network congestion”.
The IoT-LAB network is open to all for use in developing their applications in total confidentiality, with no obligation even to reveal their results. A team of around fifteen people, including around ten engineers, is available to assist users less familiar with scientific test protocols. Reservation is free and experiments of all sizes can be accommodated, from a few minutes on part of a single site shared with others, to several days exclusive use of the entire platform, controlled remotely via a website if required.

Optimising the use of radio communications

CorteXlab was established in Lyon on the 28th October. Although younger than IoT-LAB, it has already attracted a number of universities and commercial companies. “This is an entirely new infrastructure that has taken three years to develop”, explains Tanguy Risset, joint project manager for Inria with Jean-Marie Gorce, “We started from scratch without any core of existing users, and our support team is not yet up to full strength. However, the facility is the only one of its kind in the world and the growing use of software radio justifies our expectations of a rapid increase in demand".
CorteXlab offers a wide range of facilities, including a huge electromagnetically isolated test room, nodes with high processing capacities, and a programmable radio transmission interface. This type of radio interface, still something of a rarity, can be used to test applications capable of listening on a network and selecting the most appropriate band and modulation at any given time. In this way, a single communication can seamlessly switch between a range of different protocols, including 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Achieving optimal use of the radio space is now a possibility.

Towards 5G

While the equipment resources of the CorteXlab are freely available to users, the laboratory is primarily aimed at organisations with the major resources needed to devote several months of development work to a project before making use of the laboratory's facilities. These facilities can also be controlled remotely. Princeton University, the B-Com technical research institute in Brittany, and a number of Canadian and Brazilian colleges are already associated with the project, which is really expected to take off with the arrival of 5G. “Within one or two years IoT-LAB and CorteXlab could be carrying out experiments together, both being controlled from the FIT portal. We will then appreciate the full value of this useful tool”, concludes Eric Fleury.
* Point in a network where the individual items of equipment connect calls between themselves and communicate over various transmission channels.
** Device used to connect two dissimilar computer networks, for example a local area network and the Internet.

Keywords: Equipex Internet of Things Wireless communication Communicating objects