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From Scratch to Success – Firmware Development for Real-Time Data Acquisition Devices

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From Scratch to Success – Firmware Development for Real-Time Data Acquisition Devices

Published: 2024/01/25

4 min read

This article explores how our embedded engineers designed and developed firmware that integrates with machine monitoring software and smoothly transfers data using wireless mesh connectivity. Based on practical experience supporting a client with data acquisition needs, our experts share insights about integrating firmware that boosts productivity and reduces maintenance costs.

In today’s fast-paced world, the combination of embedded systems and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies has become a cornerstone for achieving unparalleled digital transformations. These innovations, beyond empowering businesses to analyze, optimize and predict real-time processes, are leading to enhanced productivity and efficiency.

These real-world benefits help explain why the worldwide number of IoT devices is expected to nearly double from 15.1 billion in 2020 to over 29 billion in 2030, according to research from Statista. Key to deploying effective, efficient and evolutive IoT solutions is embedded software. Read on to learn why embedded engineers are essential for driving IoT development.

Understanding the problem

In today’s corporate environment, companies are encountering significant problems which are pushing them to seek innovative strategies for outperforming rivals. Despite the drive to implement emerging technologies, many businesses possess outdated hardware systems. Our engineers helped a company that provides real-data acquisition devices – which play a crucial role in bridging the divide between outdated and modern technologies by establishing connections where none exist. Drawing on our expertise in embedded systems development, RTOS including FreeRTOS, and data acquisition, we helped this client build a solution that supplies data to asset management software and solution integrators, especially from machines that were previously inaccessible.

For this project, our embedded engineers were responsible for designing and developing firmware for a clients’ data acquisition device that seamlessly integrates with machine monitoring software and transfers data using wireless connectivity. This meant developing firmware – crucial for enabling the device to function effectively – from scratch. This complex task required a multithreaded approach to gathering data.

Our experts crafted a robust firmware solution leveraging C language and FreeRTOS as a bare-metal operating system. Communication requirements led us to choose an external Wirepas chip and employ a mesh-enabled, dual-MCU strategy.

Firmware Development chart 1 Firmware Development chart 2

Comprehensive embedded services

Our support extended far beyond mere firmware development which, at the initial phase, involved the creation and maintenance of software tailored for embedded systems. This firmware was carefully designed to closely interact with the hardware and provide specific functionalities aligned with project requirements. Moving forward, the provisioning stage focused on configuring and preparing devices for deployment. This included setting up initial device settings, as well as the implementation of crucial security parameters to ensure readiness for operation in the intended environment.

To establish a seamless connection between IoT devices and the cloud, our embedded engineers launched the gateway configuration phase. This involved the meticulous configuration of communication protocols and security measures to facilitate uninterrupted data transfers between devices and the cloud infrastructure. In the context of mesh networks, ensuring reliable and efficient data transmissions is paramount. This phase involved optimizing the devices to communicate directly with each other, creating a network where each device acts as a relay for others, thereby enhancing the overall system’s reliability. Efficient and secure communication rules were crafted in this stage through the development of intricate application protocols. These protocols, defining the rules and conventions for communication between devices and systems, ensure a robust and secure information exchange. To enable remote updates without physical access, over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates were implemented. Secure bootloaders were developed to ensure a reliable and secure process for updating firmware, thus contributing to the maintenance and enhancement of device functionality.

The project culminated in the creation of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) tailored for the Wirepas communication stack. This involved the development of rules and tools that enable effective communication within a wireless network, while aligning with the specific protocols and requirements of the Wirepas stack. Wirepas was an obvious choice given that, from a developer’s perspective, there was reduced effort – data was simply sent to the Wirepas module and the rest of the work was handled by the module itself, (like for example retransmissions).

Project results:

  • Enabling swift identification of inefficiencies through seamless, real-time analysis of production processes.
  • Implementing predictive maintenance that utilizes machine monitoring systems to effectively detect anomalies and avert potential issues.
  • Significantly enhancing overall equipment efficiency through energy monitoring that not only tracked consumption, but also optimized usage.

This is just one example that illustrates the power of embedded solutions to enhance overall equipment efficiency. By analyzing processes in real time, identifying inefficiencies and implementing improvements, the firmware built by our engineers increases productivity and significantly reduces maintenance costs.

Experienced embedded specialists provide expertise

Though the surge in IoT development is not slowing down, there are nonetheless challenges associated with this technology. Some hurdles are associated with smoothly integrating IoT solutions with existing technology stacks and others are related to security and data privacy concerns. For many organizations, there may be internal resistance to adopting this technology and a lack of in-house competences to work with it. Obviously, the costs associated with implementing and maintaining IoT devices are also an issue to consider.

Building on the success of developing firmware for real-time data acquisition devices, the next critical phase involves integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the solution. This step aims to enhance efficiency and functionality by enabling intelligent data analysis, optimization and real-time predictions on the edge. Our expert team is geared to seamlessly embed AI algorithms into the existing firmware and push the solution to the forefront of innovation in embedded systems and IoT technologies.

Overcoming these challenges is possible when teaming up with a digital transformation partner who learns your business, understands your goals and delivers tailored engineering support. That’s why companies around the world and across sectors turn to Software Mind. Fill out the form and get in touch with a proven embedded team that designs embedded architectures, develops firmware for devices and configures, tests and verifies embedded systems.

About the authorJakub Górski

Business Development & Consulting Manager

Jakub has specialized in audio and embedded software for over 5 years. He has extensive knowledge of connectivity standards, standards organizations and various certification programs due to years of close collaboration with global organizations responsible for the development and scaling of emerging technologies such as FiRa Consortium, AVNU Alliance, LoRa Alliance, Car Connectivity Consortium and Bluetooth SIG.

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