The term “The Internet of Things” is a concept that went from a novel (like Bitcoin or Streaming or something similar) to a phrase that is as household as a Spying Siri or an Alert Alexa.
Way back, when I was a green engineer, the nominal upper frequency for testing PCs and the like was 1 GHz. System clocks ticked along at a blistering 25 MHz. Jump a generation and the talk is in the THz, which is a nominal 1000-fold increase in frequency, or to the logarithmically inclined, an increase in 60dBGHz which works out, throughout my career, an increase of about 20dB/ decade indicating an exponential increase in operating frequencies, which goes with a plethora of design challenges, ever higher data rates, spectrum expansion and the potential for interference, not to mention the need to making measurements of this stuff.
Staring at the green pre-LED phosphor-painted wiggles on our trusty HP 8568 spectrum analyzer, we didn’t see much “up there” as most of the mush from the early machines of the x86 family of microprocessors petered out above a few hundred MHz. (Historical note, initial versions of Intel’s offerings appeared as 8086 and 8088.
**The 4044 is the first commercially-available 4-bit µP** As the speeds/densities increased, Intel released models numbered 80286, 80386, and 80486 and finally said “Heck with it, let’s stop at ‘5’ and call it PENTIUM.) Of course, this was about 26 dB years ago (refer to previous footnote regards liberal use of the dB acronym), as many advances in processor technology have occurred. Currently, the Pentium product is nominally an entry- to mid-range processor—Intel’s “Core” offerings are the current high-end data workhorses.
Now, embedded designs, agile software-defined radios, multi-function chipsets and networked solutions are the norm.
Interference Technology’s IoT, Wireless, 5G EMC Guide, at it’s surface covers a few topics, namely some thoughts on the Internet of Things, Wireless, and Security—all things that designers, test houses/compliance professional/systems planner have to contend with. The convergence of these ideas and notions has happened amazingly quickly.
The current generation of IoT consists of numerous applications, from asset-tracking to inventory control, Earth sensing and geo-location. We have a client that uses low-data rate array of sensors to communicate with a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. The ground-based sensors use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to image the dirt underneath. These data are relayed to the satellite to provide the image data to geo-physicists for research and exploration (beats digging up the planet, I guess, and is nominally less intrusive than explosive-based seismic monitoring or brute-force prospecting). This particular application uses a very low bit rate and burst communications to the satellites, a good example of “Internet of Space” and the application of sensing to IoT.
On the opposite end of the “spectrum of use” so-to speak are the SATCOM networks used for broad-access broadband internet communications, useful in our busy e-commerce environment and appealing to Tik-Tokers the world-over (and yes, I am guilty of hours of “swiping up” to the next silly video). Various contenders use LEO and GEO orbits for data delivery.
IoT is a medium of many forms and, really, has been around for many decades. Expect more…
Wireless Applications are proliferating profusely. 5G is pretty common nowadays and rapidly spreading. 6G is next (and being adopted in various guises)—the “G” having nothing to do with frequency, but about performance metrics, data delivery and access, and marketing. The exciting part of this area of technology is the upper-push into the GHz+ space. Various stakeholders are working and competing in this arena are across the industry and government. One common link to these activities is the mmWave Coalition https://mmwavecoalition.org/ which is an advocacy group for spectrum access for industry and academia. Incumbents include government users and space-exploration advocates. Careful accommodation of the various users of the spectrum is a key goal.
The tricky part of these frequencies are the milli-meter wave measurements that need to be quantified (for performance and regulatory purposes). As a test lab, we are continuously challenged to make the most-accurate measurements possible. The real tricky part of these measurements are the very fine beam-widths that are affiliated with the physics of the propagation of small-wavelength signals (and noise). Tiny displacements of device arrangement and measurement probes make a huge difference in performance and quantification. I think of these subtleties as the precision needed to focus a magnifying glass to a fine point to scorch a leaf or burn a piece of paper. Millimeters matter.
Layered atop these implementations of IoT and wireless application are the real concerns about security. The actions of bad-actors, state-sponsored and sophisticated bandits, lays a heavy cold blanket atop the promise of more access and functionality of our data-driven world.
For device suppliers with a European market (CE Marking, UKCA), a cyber-requirement is emerging under the Radio Equipment Directive (RED). The implementation of cyber-protections is emerging and will require compliance with Article 3.3(d), (e) and (f). A useful guide can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/ documents/33162.
EMC, in its traditional sense, has morphed to cover layers of the physical and software world. As the world becomes more complex and intertwined, the EMC engineer needs to be a “Swiss-Army” engineer with multiple tools to assist clients and maintain proficiency in our fast-changing industry.