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ZigBee for PDA

IDEA


ZibBee is the industrial radio access standard, which can communicate same time with different devices which operates on different speeds of access and different models of the information exchange. Main Purpose of this standard is to provide remote control for industrial applications.


ZigBee is based on IEEE 802.15.4-2003 standard. It’s quite similar to Bluetooth, but oriented to low speed connections, which are more secure, meantime, and it is better managing while many different types of connection are used. So, then it’s quite easy to have ZigBee module in Notebooks, PDAs and even SmartPhones.



Why to have it? The answer is that main part in such Remote Control is the Software, which processing all the information from/to all devices! Then we have obvious benefit if we use some generic platform like Windows Mobile, Android, Symbian and similar, compare to case-by-case development of the specific remote control unit.


Finally, there even possible to have some ZigBee SDK, and then the question of the programming in the exact industrial project is just to provide proper User Interface (UI).


TECHNICAL EXAMPLE


Just to have more clear understanding of ZigBee network and possible application of PDA (and PDA like) devices in it, let’s have a look one simple example.


We have a semi-automated workshop for production of milk. Here we have the following control functions:

· Control equipment of the main production line. Here operator should send commands (Control Unit to Equipment) like start, stop, pause, self-test and so on. From the Equipment to Control Unit we should get periodical status message and code of errors, if any.

· Perform monitoring and control of environment, where equipment is. Such parameters like temperature, humidity, must be received from sensors, along with fault messages from air-conditioning, filtering and similar systems. Then can be possible to operate air-conditioner, filter and similar systems, and this can be manual commands from operator or automated process.

· When occurs 3rd party related faults, it’s necessary to inform 3rd party department about it. For example, when un-stability with electricity – send message to technical department, no answer from some sensor – send message to IT department, lack of milk (less than 10% of the tank volume) – inform maintenance department.


If we produce some dedicated solution for exact workshop, then we can have following problems and un-conveniences, related to on-site (portable) Remote Control:

· Commands provided by Remote Control are fixed and it’s hard to enhance functionality.

· No possibility to have error messages on Remote Control or it’s represented by internal code only.

· No control or poor representation of fault sensors.

· No information (or poor representation) about interaction with 3rd party department.

· Very limited opportunity to manage automated modes over Remote Control.


If we use, PDA, then all the mentioned above problems are not seem as problems at all. By using some RAD compliant language and ZigBee SDK we can have Remote Unit upgrade as fast, as you have spend on reading this article until this partition. Such things as error codes and fault messages can be well equipped with any text messages, including brief description, detailed description, FAQ and even automatic script running, based on values of different parameters. Just add on PDA the condition that temperature down by 1 degree should send a command to increase power on air-conditioning by 3%. Meantime all the sensors and control modules can be placed on the workshop’s scheme.


Finally we have almost same functionality on PDA, as we have it only on regular PC workstation, when using standard Remote Control. What is even more important, we have same or more functionality, but spending resources in times less, when using well known PDA platforms.


Benefits of using standard PDA device based on standard PDA platform:

· A lot of FAQs and Tech Support for the platform, resulting less time necessary for development, upgrade and bug fixing.

· More programmers on the market, so we have more flexibility and less costs.

· Cheaper end-user equipment due to mass market distribution of standard PDAs.


DEVELOPMENT


Next stages for development can be represented by two ways:

1) After project oriented industrial implementation and basing on its experience, it’s quite possible to have complete end-user solutions for Smart House or Car Management. It can be done right after no technical issues are left unsolved, like network stability or plug&play drivers’ availability. There we have more simple integration part in such project, however must be enhanced GUI and some high-level management system, that typical user can manage the network.



2) Even now there is some new PDAs, which have 1GHz processor, hi resolution display and quite fast GPU, and Gigabytes of storage memory. So, then it’s quite possible to have Mobile Workstation based on PDA, not just Remote Control. There is of course must be some Security server with router(s), must be some Storage/Back-Up Server, but powerful PDAs’ really bring the opportunity to have portable workstation with full functionality.

3) For both cases there is a way for easy external connections, as most of PDAs have already Wi-Fi, GPRS or HSPA modules. Any protocols or applications conversions are done in PDA. It’s possible to tell that PDA even acting as router, if proper security like VPN is done and it’s possible to get access to ZigBee network over the Internet.


MARKETING


What is important in ZigBee project is to show commercial benefits. Some marketing man should demonstrate that project become less costly, while there are appearing additional benefits. With PDA’s usage there have to be no any problem, as effectiveness is obvious!


Let’s have a look on general ZigBee Network benefits:

· no complex wireline network

· less converter/modem like nodes

· more simple integration into IP networks and therefore more simple integration with ERP systems

· more flexibility in changing/re-programming production lines

-and benefits caused by introducing PDA:

· Standard PDA’s platform usage brings in times better time to market.

· Standard PDA’s platform usage brings better expertise and lower costs on HR

· End-user organization has in times less costs due to usage of mass market products

· Software application instead of external hardware – some local application can act as convertor module or access router, as mass marketed PDA has powerful resources (CPU, memory capacity, Wi-Fi/GPRS/HSPA modules). Obvious cost reduction on external devices and management of these devices.


RESUME


There must be clear understanding that described case is bringing significant cost reduction for corporate end-users. Even if some primary development needs some extra investements and industrial provider will be forced to sell the product line for the same price as wireline, then there are lot of additional benefits for no extra cost for the Customer.


Idea to use PDA can turn situation into great burst of real deals, as this reducing cost even more, meantime providing even more benefits. Additionally there is an opportunity to make simple projects by attraction generic programmers, which have no idea about standard industrial units, because if some programmer can write down script for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi module on standard PDA platform, then without any sufficient problems he/she can do the same for ZigBee module.


Final task – to have ZigBee in typical PDA. Along with developing some new PDA models with internal module, there should be some solutions like SDIO cards or external modules which communicating with PDA over Bluetooth (for example).


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