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All Places > Keysight Blogs > Next Generation Wireless Communications > Blog > Author: Cheryl Ajluni

Ask any R&D engineer these days if they are working on devices with wireless connectivity and they will likely say yes. Ask them again if they consider themselves Internet of Things (IoT) engineers and it’s a safe bet the answer will be no.

It’s easy to understand the disconnect. R&D engineers come out of college and enter the workplace ready to design widgets of all shapes, sizes and functionality. Until more recently, those widgets likely didn’t have to communicate wirelessly with other things and that was just fine, because for most, IoT wasn’t on the educational menu. In fact, it’s only recently that universities have begun incorporating IoT concepts and design practices into their curriculum.

Here’s where things get interesting. Everything is becoming wirelessly connected these days. By 2020 alone, there will be an estimated 50 billion connected devices around the world. That means one thing: It’s no longer a matter of if R&D engineers will have to work on IoT devices, but when.

What happens when these engineers, who have previously developed countless widgets, none of which ever had to communicate wirelessly with other things, finds themselves designing a widget and it has a radio. It needs to send and receive information and must work in an environment with lots of other widgets sending and receiving information at the same time, and potentially interfering with its communication. What once was a relatively straightforward design project, suddenly becomes a complicated mess.

So, while IoT may seem to some engineers like nothing more than an overhyped buzzword, it will soon be impacting every aspect of their design work—if it doesn’t already. And let’s be clear. There is a big difference between modifying a widget to communicate wirelessly and designing an IoT device to succeed in the real world.

Designers working on an IoT device design

Creating an IoT device to stand the test of time and onslaught from competing products is quite tricky. To make devices “smart,” advanced technologies must be utilized and that introduces new design and test challenges. The device may have to work unattended for long periods of time and in harsh environments, making a long battery life and reliability absolutely essential. It may have to work in networks with lots of other devices and sources of interference, necessitating extensive co-existence testing. It must comply with industry standards and regulations. And, it must be secure. How the device will be utilized in the real-world also has to be considered, so it’s design can be properly optimized.

Some of these concerns are commonplace for today’s R&D engineers, but many are not. Succeeding in this environment will require engineers to look beyond their job titles and come face to face with what it really means to design for the IoT.

For some, learning new IoT design skills will be in order. For others, it will simply be a matter of finetuning their existing skillset. Either way, make no mistake, designing IoT devices is a difficult task. It would be a serious misstep for any engineer to think otherwise and to assume that because they don’t consider themselves IoT engineers, they don’t have to deal with IoT issues. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Engineers will have to work hard to create designs to succeed in the IoT and that hard work starts with building a strong IoT skillset that’s supported by the right tools.

For more information on the designing for the IoT and understanding the challenges you face, go to and And to help you down the right path to improving your IoT design skills, check out these free webcasts: Maximizing IoT Device Battery Life, Overcoming IoT Device Wireless Design and Test Challenges, and Analyzing IoT Device Power Integrity. iotinternetofthings iottest endtoendtesting iotdevice batterylife devicesecurity

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing everything and it’s not just the interaction between humans and machines.


As with any new or emerging technology, the changes it creates often ripple through society in multiple ways. It may transform the way businesses operate and even, the goods and services they deliver. It may transform existing industries with new use cases and dramatically improve processes. And, it will undoubtedly transform workforces and the skillsets required of that workforce. It’s happening today in the IoT.


The IoT is comprised of a vast worldwide ecosystem of devices, wireless communications, networks, and infrastructure. It spans many industries and encompasses many different vertical markets, including: automotive, industrial, medical, smart city, smart home, and wearables. Each market has its own requirements and challenges, and so do the IoT applications within each of these markets.


Successfully navigating this dynamic ecosystem is no easy task. It requires designers, manufacturers, network operators, and service providers with skills finely tuned for the IoT.


They must know what challenges lie ahead, regardless of whether they are designing the next great wearable device or putting a network in place to support the many IoT devices within a hospital environment. They must understand the nuances of the environments in which their devices and networks will operate. And just as critically, they must learn how to use the resources at their disposal to overcome any challenges and meet any requirements to develop IoT devices, wireless communications and networks that can thrive in the real world.


With such a large expanse of diversity in the IoT, learning all this critical information can be difficult, and at times, overwhelming. Many designers, manufacturers, network operators, and service providers simply don’t know where to go for the information they need.


If you are faced with this problem, attending formal training courses and seminars, or reading up on the latest IoT-related article, books, and eBooks is always a good place to start. It’s also smart to reach out to your trusted solutions vendors to get their insight on challenges and requirements in the IoT. In addition, these vendors can help you learn what solutions are at your disposal for addressing those challenges.


However, if what you are really after is more specialized information on how to do specific IoT tasks, then the IoT Education Hub may be just what you need. The IoT Education Hub gives you free online access to the latest educational resources on IoT device testing, wireless communications test, and network and system test. You'll gain access to valuable “how-to” information like how to:

  • Measure current drain
  • Deal with the interference between medical IoT devices
  • Deliver consistent measurements for IoT designs
  • Build resilient security into your network
  • Unmask network and data evasions
  • And much more...


Check out the IoT Education Hub: Device Test, IoT Education Hub: Wireless Communications, and IoT Education Hub: Network and System today to jumpstart your development efforts. A little knowledge can go a long way in helping you more quickly realize the promise of the IoT.   iotdevicesecurity iot iotdevicesecurity iotdevicetest

Here’s a question for you: How do you define mission-critical in the Internet of Things (IoT)? Some might say that a mission-critical IoT device or application is one with the potential to impact life or death. A power plant, water infrastructure, refinery, or medical devices might fall into this category. If a city’s smart water system shuts down, the health of its citizens is impacted. If a medical monitoring device fails to deliver a critical alert to a healthcare professional, a patient may die. You get the idea.


I personally think that the mission-critical IoT is much broader than this definition. In fact, I would argue that many IoT devices and applications once thought of as luxuries have today become “mission critical.” They are an integral part of our everyday life and we depend on them to work right, every time—even if their failure to do so doesn’t necessarily have a dire consequence.  


GPS is a prime example. It’s a technology virtually everyone is familiar with these days. But that wasn’t always the case. When GPS first entered the marketplace, it was in the form of large bulky devices that could be carried with you as you walked, or attached to your car window to guide you to your destination. The devices were expensive and required constant software updates. They were a luxury item. 


Over time, those devices got smaller and more accurate. More importantly, GPS made its way into two very popular IoT devices: smart phones and smart watches. Today, that combination enables some very mission-critical applications.

When driving, GPS-based mapping applications in smart phones guide us safely to our destinations. If the wireless connectivity in the smart phone cuts out or the application fails to work as expected, accidentally sending you in the wrong direction or into an unsafe area, you could easily find yourself driving into a ditch or potentially, the victim of a crime. 


In smart watches, GPS helps to keep children safe via a geofence that establishes a virtual perimeter or barrier around a physical geographical area. When a child wearing a smart watch goes beyond that perimeter, a notification is sent to their parent or guardian. 


These examples underscore the ongoing transition of more luxury, or consumer-based IoT devices into the mission-critical arena. It's a trend that will only increase as the IoT proliferates. It's happening today. In the process, it is opening many new opportunities for designers and IoT device manufacturers traditionally developing products for the consumer market, and for network operators and service providers as well. By taking a broader view of the needs of individuals and society around them, they can begin to identify innovative ways to tweak their products for use in the mission-critical IoT. A prime example might be a wearable device adapted to alert patients and healthcare professionals to health irregularities and to predict potentially significant incidents before they have the chance occur. 


For IoT device designers, manufacturers, network operators, and service providers looking to expand into the mission critical IoT, there will undoubtedly be challenges ahead. Requirements will need to be understood and best design practices adopted. The right design, test and monitoring solutions will also need to be selected. 


Two other important factors that will need to be taken into consideration are reliability and security. IoT devices that people count on to work right, simply can’t fail. That means IoT devices, wireless communications and networks have to be ultra-reliable. And because those devices capture immense amounts of data, all of which is vulnerable to attack, security is imperative, especially in the medical arena.


Security is crucial for IoT medical devices.


Security involves not just the IoT endpoint device, but the networks on which the data is transmitted. Any potential vulnerability in the chain could be catastrophic. A hacker gaining access to a smart infusion pump, for example, might change the timing or amount of medication dispensed to a patient, causing a life-threatening emergency. Think it can’t happen? In 2015, the FDA issued an alert, warning of just that possibility with the Symbiq Infusion pump.


Appropriate visibility and test solutions designed to validate the security posture of networks can go a long way in ensuring any potential vulnerabilities are identified and dealt with quickly. Likewise, solutions that allow the performance of IoT devices to be evaluated under real-world conditions can be quite valuable for identifying reliability issues before they can result in costly product redesigns or even a recall.


While many unknowns lie ahead for designers, manufacturers, network operators, and service providers on the road to the mission-critical IoT, it’s clear that the size of the opportunity in this rapidly evolving space will only continue to grow. For many, that makes it a journey well worth undertaking. If you’re interested in finding out more about the evolving mission-critical IoT and what you can due to leverage its growing opportunities, check out the white paper Key Technologies Needed to Advance Mission-Critical IoT at the Keysight Mission-Critical IoT webpage.

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Within the last year I have been a victim, twice. The first time, a thief stole two catalytic converters off my car parked in my driveway. The second time, a thief stole a package from my mailbox. Okay, in the grand scheme of things, these probably aren’t the worst crimes that could have occurred; but they still got me thinking. Barring installing an expensive security system, welding rebar over my new catalytic converters, or picking up my mail directly from the post office, was there anything I could do to potentially prevent these crimes from happening again in the future? As it turns out, there may be, and it will likely come in the form of a low-power wide area network (LPWAN) technology known as Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT).


NB-IoT is one of the Cellular IoT (CIoT) technologies defined under the 3GPP umbrella to enable IoT connectivity using the licensed frequencies and to co-exist with legacy cellular broadband technologies like LTE, UMTS, and GSM. By reusing the cellular infrastructure, it enables devices to connect directly to operator networks, providing access to improved nationwide coverage with value-added services like mobility, roaming, security, and authentication. The target for NB-IoT is to provide sufficient coverage for smart meters and other IoT appliances typically located in basements and similarly deep inbuilding locations.


                                 Smart meter


That makes NB-IoT suitable for commercial applications like home lighting, security control, and maybe even keeping tabs on my catalytic converters and mail. It also opens the door to new opportunities for industrial IoT (IIoT) applications like energy and utility management (e.g., a smart grid), asset tracking, and machine-to-machine communication. After all, NB-IoT can provide robust coverage and is scalable to very large numbers of devices—two hallmarks for the IIoT.


But, succeeding in the IIoT with NB-IoT devices and systems will require critical attention to three key challenges.


Battery Life. In NB-IoT, the maximum battery life expected is in the range of 10+ years; however, to avoid costly maintenance, the battery should last for the lifecycle of the device. Unfortunately, battery life is impacted by coverage.


In low coverage, more repetitions are needed to transfer data. The more repetitions, the longer the duty cycles of the IoT modems and the higher the power consumption. Excess repetitions due to network misconfiguration or network implementation also have a similar impact. In a deep inbuilding location there may be a difference of tens of dBs in coverage between operators, and that can take years off the battery life of an IoT device deployed in that location.


To ensure a long battery life, manufacturers will need to characterize the current consumption of the device under active, idle, standby, and sleep modes. Device vendors, will need to recreate operating conditions to better understand how much current is drawn in each scenario (e.g., a remote software update versus a device that is unable to connect to server).


Coverage. NB-IoT is expected to be enable a coverage gain of 23 dB (max.) over regular LTE. The real gain may be less, depending on the deployment method and configuration. The challenge with NB-IoT coverage is that it is heavily dependent on the field performance of the commercial network equipment and IoT devices, interoperability between the equipment, and the network design and configuration.


To ensure extreme coverage, manufacturers will need to simulate different RF environments (e.g., at remote locations, basement installations, hidden installations, behind concrete walls, and industrial environments). And, they will need to perform transmitter and receiver characterization to understand device performance under these different RF conditions. Once the IoT network is live, the service provider will need to perform field measurements to ensure the simulated tests match real-life conditions.


Low Cost. The NB-IoT module target price is below $5.00. Initially the cost is expected to be comparable to that for GSM/GPRS. However, the underlying NB-IoT technology is much simpler and its cost will likely decrease as demand increases. An unreliable NB-IoT device can add to the module price, with its associated service and/or recall cost, as can the cost of test during the device’s development and production.


To achieve a low NB-IoT device cost, manufacturers can use lower priced components or simplify the hardware design, but the performance of the device must be properly characterized to ensure these cost-cutting measures don’t compromise device reliability. Manufacturers must also carefully select the right test equipment to reduce the cost of test. An integrated solution that can cover the whole product lifecycle, from design to manufacturing to conformance test, can help minimize test equipment capital cost.


A Final Thought

Without a doubt, NB-IoT holds great promise for the rapidly expanding IIoT. For those who can overcome its challenges, opportunities abound. Does that mean a nifty way of keeping track of my mail is around the corner? Perhaps. Telia, a Swedish mobile operator, recently teamed up with the Finnish postal service Posti to develop smart mailboxes for just that purpose. And, Borgs Technologies now offers a NB-IoT tracker for pets. Maybe a tracker for my catalytic converters will be next? In the meantime, I’ll be sure to set my car alarm and keep my driveway lights on!


If you are interested in finding out how Keysight’s solutions can help address your NB-IoT device and system challenges, check out the following links:

·       For battery drain analysis, check out the N6705C DC Power Analyzer and N6781A 2-Quadrant Source/Measure Unit

·       To monitor current drawn at sub-circuits with much higher bandwidth and dynamic range for the most demanding applications, check out the CX3300 Device Current Waveform Analyzer

·       To validate coverage with field measurement, check out Nemo Outdoor and Nemo Analyze

·       To perform parallel testing of multiple devices under test to get the maximum throughput for the production line, check out the EXM Wireless Test Set

internetofthings iot

industrialiot iiot iotdevicetest cellulariot nb-iot narrowbandiot

The Internet of Thing (IoT) is changing EVERYTHING. There are literally billions of IoT devices around us today, with hundreds more coming online each second. By 2020, there will be roughly 50 billion connected devices. By 2028, the IoT may become so pervasive that we won’t even need to refer to devices as being part of it anymore. It will just become a given that they are connected and interoperable.

As part of that evolution, the IoT will evolve from a focus on consumer-based applications like smart appliances for the home, connected clothing, and wearable fitness gadgets, to mission-critical applications for virtually every vertical IoT market there is. Mission-critical IoT devices will be used to automate energy distribution in smart grids, to enable remote machinery and remote surgery, and in autonomous vehicles for things like automatic emergency detection and autonomous vehicle accident prevention. It’s happening already.

As these applications proliferate, what will emerge is a mission-critical ecosystem designed and hardened to withstand the rigors of the real world. It will be able to deliver new functionality and new efficiencies, and it will bring with it many new opportunities for IoT designers and manufacturing engineers alike.

Here’s 3 important tips to help you realize success in the mission-critical IoT.

1. Understand your requirements

Unlike consumer-based IoT devices, mission-critical devices must work right every time, without fail. A failure in a pacemaker after all, could result in a patient’s death. That’s why mission-critical IoT devices have specialized requirements dictated by the industry in which they will work. Most require rock-solid security, unfailing reliability—even in harsh environments and remote locations—and the ability to operate with little or no human intervention. They also must abide by any applicable industry or government regulations.

Making sure you fully understand the requirements of the product you are designing is the quickest and easiest way to avoid any costly missteps during its development. It also can help improve your confidence that the product will be utilized as intended in the real world.

2. Don’t overlook these design considerations


Designing any product is hard. Designing a mission-critical IoT product is even harder! That’s because there are just so many things you have to consider. Here are a couple of the considerations you should not overlook. 

  • Battery Life. Many mission-critical IoT devices are not connected to power and often operate using a single battery for several years without maintenance or battery replacement. To ensure a long battery life, make sure your product’s battery and power management circuit have been optimized.


  • Signal and Power Integrity Issues. Interference and crosstalk between each of the product module’s blocks can degrade performance. Ripple, noise and transients riding on your circuit’s low-voltage rails can do the same. Be sure to identify and eliminate these issues.


  • EMI/EMC. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can be problematic in scenarios where large numbers of IoT devices operate simultaneously in close proximity to one other. Be sure to weed out such problems early in the design process when they are easier and cheaper to fix.


  • Wireless Connectivity. Mission-critical IoT devices have to perform in the presence of multiple users, with different wireless technologies, in the same spectrum. Verifying that your device can handle this load is critical to ensuring robust wireless connectivity.


  • Co-Existence and Interference. With lots of mission-critical IoT devices entering the market, the chance of interference between devices goes up and that can impede the ability of your product to peacefully co-exist with others. This can be especially problematic in hospitals where medical monitoring devices have to share the 2.4-GHz ISM band with the likes of cordless phones, wireless video cameras, and microwave ovens. Making sure your product’s operation can work as anticipated in this type of environment is crucial. 


3. Choose your tools wisely

While your creativity and skill are essential to a successful product, if it is not built on a solid foundation, it could all come crumbling down. To ensure your product’s foundation is solid enough to survive the real world, you have to choose the right tools for the right job, and those tools must be accurate, high performance and flexible. There is no universal Swiss Army knife when it comes to designing for the mission-critical IoT.


One of the tools you should consider utilizing is battery drain analysis. It can help you accurately determine your device’s current use and the duration of each of its operating modes, which is critical information when trying to optimize battery life. Signal integrity and power integrity tools can be used to evaluate high-speed serial interconnect and analyze how effectively power is converted and delivered from the source to the load within a system. An accurate EMI simulation and modeling tool will allow you to estimate emission levels before your hardware is developed. And, to ensure your product can communicate effectively, wireless connectivity and co-existence testing are essential.


There is no denying that the mission-critical IoT is ripe with opportunity and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. But whether or not you succeed in this arena will depend heavily on the choices you make about your design’s requirements, regarding design considerations, and on which test and measurement tools to use. If you are looking for more information on the choices you face, please go to And don’t forget to keep checking the Keysight Community Page for future blogs on other related IoT topics.iotdevicetest iotwireless iotsolutions iottechnology industrialiot iiot internetofthings iot