Inside the Dell IoT Labs

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By Brian T. Horowitz

As companies continue to experiment with the Internet of Things, Dell OEM Solutions is ramping up activity at its three IoT labs: in Santa Clara, California, Limerick, Ireland, and Singapore.

Jointly funded with Intel, the labs provide potential and future Dell customers, from small startups to large telecommunications companies, with a facility to develop proof-of-concept projects in IoT. At the IoT labs, companies collect data from remote sensors, aggregate them from the Dell Edge Gateway 5000 Series using analytics software and then send them to the cloud.

Proof-of-concept testing at the labs lasts an average of three to five days. Some solutions then go live in a couple of weeks, while others could take six months.

The projects may include work with Dell’s end-to-end lineup — including end point devices, networking, compute, storage and analytics software and services — or connecting sensors to the gateway. The Dell IoT team provides the infrastructure for customers to test their solutions, and system integrators help customers with deployment.

“As many of the current engagements in IoT span both digital and analog sensors, leveraging the Dell Edge Gateway reduces the need for sensors to directly send data to the cloud,” said Glen Burrows, regional general manager, Asia Pacific and Japan, for Dell OEM Solutions.

“The intelligent Dell Edge Gateway aggregates the data and can run a wide range of analytics software, including Dell Statistica, to determine the type, size and frequency of sensor data to send through the cloud to customers’ big data infrastructure,” he said.

Customers are able to visit the labs in person or access a sandbox online through secure virtual networking.

“Companies can request access to the dedicated POC rooms for a certain period of time to conduct R&D on the Dell Edge Gateway 5000 series,” Burrows said.

Santa Clara, California

Dell’s Santa Clara IoT lab opened in 2014. Automation for smart buildings is a main focus for customers at the lab, according to Raja Tamilarasan, product technologist consultant for Internet of Things (IoT) and OEM Solutions at Dell.

Customers are using wireless technologies such as ZigBee to automate buildings.

The Dell gateway collects data about temperature, light and a building’s ventilation, and companies track the data using Dell’s Boomi cloud analytics platform as well as Statistica predictive analytics software.

“Say you have an apartment complex. If the temperature within a building is too hot and your threshold is between 65 and 69 [degrees], you will turn on the ventilation and it will cool down to 65,” Tamilarasan explained. “That’s what happens in a smart building demo.”

Boomi also pulls weather information to predict conditions and regulate the temperature and establish thresholds, resulting in energy savings, Tamilarasan said.

“This is going to be a more predictive system than a reactive IoT solution,” Tamilarasan said.

The IoT labs have also been allowing companies to test security solutions, particularly in video surveillance, according to Tamilarasan.

“From the lab we’ve been doing testing on different types of security solutions on how to make IoT more secure,” he said.

Limerick, Ireland

Opened in June 2015, the Limerick lab is home to Dell’s Internet of Bees project, in which real-time data is captured from a hive using the IoT gateway to study the impact of carbon dioxide, oxygen and dust levels on honey bees.

Like Santa Clara, the Limerick location is also working in conjunction with OEM partners in the area of smart building solutions, according to Jeff McCann, director of EMEA IoT labs & Dubai Solution Center.

In one experiment, motion sensors can help employees detect availability of meeting room spaces by indicating if a room has been vacant for 15 minutes or longer. The sensors can connect with the Microsoft Exchange server via a 5000 series gateway to mark a room as free and send email notifications.

In the Limerick lab, ZigBee technology connects lighting systems using 433MHz sensor arrays, McCann said. A program called Ubiworx provides an application design framework in the cloud to monitor sensors and push management rule sets down to the gateway.

“Ubiworx has more than 20,000 different sensors it can support on the software stack we have running on our gateway,” McCann said.

The Limerick lab is also working with customers in the video surveillance space to help with public safety. It provides integration with video surveillance and facial recognition solutions. The work involves scaling Dell server, storage and networking capabilities along with nVidia general-purpose GPU (GPGPU) and Pivot3 storage solutions to provide the closed caption TV (CCTV) companies’ reference architectures. Our OEM partners can then sell these validated solutions to end user customers. IoT video surveillance solutions can be placed in airports, police stations, factories and shopping malls.

“We’re putting tremendous effort into video surveillance solutions at the moment,” McCann said. “It’s a large opportunity for Dell and our partners coming into the smart cities arena.”

In addition, the Limerick lab is using intelligent lamp poles outside its offices to experiment with cameras and sensors. The light poles can take registration information from cars entering a parking space to streamline the parking payment process.

Rather than people going up to a machine to buy a ticket, cities can bill for parking automatically, McCann explained.

“Other sensors in the light poles can also be used to track temperature, humidity and localized air pollution,” he added.

“We’re currently working with partners and a city in EMEA to deliver a large-scale deployment,” McCann said.

Expanding to Singapore

The Singapore Dell IoT lab opened in January 2016 and is the first lab for the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region. The Singapore lab will focus on projects in industrial automation, transportation and precision agriculture, according to Burrows.

“Users will be able to learn what M2M or human-to-machine actions can be performed with smart devices brought into the lab and set up on the workbench,” Burrows said.

The IoT lab fits into Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, Burrows noted.

The Smart Nation involves using technology to create stronger communities as well as situational awareness through data collection from sensors.

“With a strong connectivity infrastructure and the government’s vision to create a Smart Nation, Singapore is the ideal choice for the location of our first IoT lab in the region,” he said.

IoT in the future

As companies experiment with IoT in the labs in the future, sensors will be automatically built into products, according to McCann. There will be endless data sets, and analytics systems will need to be deployed to provide actionable insights.

“Today with IoT I think we are where we were with big data five years ago and cloud computing seven or eight years ago,” McCann said. “Businesses that look at disparate data sets and these new data capabilities will have to make a decision whether to use this data and look at, adapt and modify these business models or they’re going to get left behind.”

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