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IoT gateway clustering makes sense for large-scale implementations where uptime and scalability are critical. Find out how it works.

IoT gateways may be the unsung heroes of the Internet of Things world. Without them, there would likely be no expectations of tens of billions of IoT devices coming online in the next few years. In many respects, gateways are the glue that holds many IoT implementations together. They enable real-time analysis of IoT data and link multitudinous connected sensors and devices to the cloud. In addition, gateways act as a bridge between various sensor types and connectivity protocols, while helping to link equipment from an organization’s information technology (IT) and operation technology (OT) departments.

But gateways can also be single points of failure in IoT networks. In a poorly designed system, when a gateway goes down, critical functions stop. Preventing that outcome is possible, however, with an IoT gateway architecture based on the idea of clustering.

Why we need gateway clustering

Many IoT projects have anywhere from hundreds to millions of connected devices. Networks supporting such a large scale of endpoints ideally use a cluster of gateways connected to one another via a mesh network. If one node goes down, the redundancy of that network topology ensures reliability and the continuity of cloud communication for commands and storage of data.
Let’s take a look at how this works: IT and OT buses establish the connection between gateways, some of which are linked to the cloud and others that are connected to other gateways. If one gateway goes down as a result of excess load or internal faults, the network transfers the running application configuration and APIs to another gateway in the cluster using the OT bus.

A gateway control center in the cloud manages the transfer of application data between gateways. The control center also can configure the cluster by defining the geographic correlation of gateways, which are units placed near one another and connected remotely to the same set of sensor devices, enabling a backup for the neighboring gateway. During a failure, IoT gateways can transfer their applications and device connections to one another and at the time of a threshold limit. For example, if a gateway

 is connected to a ZigBee device, it cannot transfer applications to another gateway beyond a predefined distance. In this case, a geo-correlated gateway can help build redundancy into the system by shadowing the functionalities of the neighbor gateway. Hence it is important that the IoT gateway architecture and device layout are geographically correlated to achieve uninterrupted connectivity.

Clusters for load balancing

To avoid overloading a single gateway, you can use a cluster manager to define the threshold occupancy of each gateway, and the data are distributed to different gateways in the cluster for faster response and balanced load distribution. When a gateway load goes beyond a set limit, it transfers the excess load to a nearby gateway automatically.

How edge and fog analytics works in a cluster

Clustering enables distributed edge analytics. The distributed edge nodes allow processing of data at the edge before transferring it to the cloud. This reduces latency. The edge-filtered data can be sent to the fog node or cloud directly for post-event processing. Further, the individual cluster creates a fog node, and a combination of fog nodes allow distributed fog computing. It gives the benefit of fast and real-time data analysis in any large geographical area, enabling faster fault response time.

Horizontal scaling in a gateway cluster

Horizontal scaling is the ability of an IoT framework to add more gateways to an existing mesh network. To enable that, gateways need to be connected to each other through a common communication bus. (At eInfochips, we call this a “communication interface bus,” which is a combination of OT buses.) With OT bus connectivity, any new gateway can be added without modification to the existing network of devices.

Vertical scaling in a gateway cluster

Any functional capability increment with memory, device software, OS, hardware, device configuration and APIs constitutes vertical scaling. Microservice application based architecture for gateways allow vertical scaling options. This enables you to add as many devices, resources and microservices to the gateway as your requirements change.

To conclude, gateway clustering should be a consideration for large-scale IoT implementations where uptime and scalability are critical. Implementing gateway clusters, however, requires careful deliberation and planning. However, a well-structured approach to IoT gateway clustering enables enterprises to start small and address specific IoT use cases, while preparing for future large-scale IoT ecosystem deployments.

(Originally Published by Me on IoT Institute)
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IoT Gateways are becoming an essential part in various smart grids solutions, across Industrial, Residential, and Transmission & Distribution projects. Gateways help in address energy conservation at both the consumer and transmission level. Here we discussed some of the unique features of IoT gateways like clustering, interoperability, security, and others.

With ever increasing human population, urbanization, and connected digital lifestyle, many energy companies are now focusing on developing sustainable energy management and conservation solutions. Today, smart grid solutions or IoT solution for grid infrastructure is playing a major role in developing many use-case based energy conservation solutions, by connecting disparate platforms in home automation, building & infrastructure automation, and transmission & distribution systems. An IoT gateway for a grid solution can quickly help in connecting and transitioning the existing devices infrastructure, even legacy systems, to securely connect to any smart grid infrastructure, thereby enabling a highly scalable solution for energy conservation projects.

What is the role of IoT gateways in home & industrial grid systems?

  • IoT gateway enables a wide range of connectivity to HAN or BAN (Home Area Network or Building Area Network) protocols like ZigBee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, BACnet, and LAN. Devices or sensors can connect to the gateway which in turn connects to the cloud. This allows the user to access the sensor data remotely through their mobile devices from any location at any time.
  • AMI (Advance Metering Infrastructure) / Smart meters are playing an important role in energy management of a grid system. It collects energy consumption data on real-time from devices, and this data is later analyzed by gateway that is connected to AMI via HAN. Gateway escalates necessary output or command message to the control system. The message can be an alarm, HVAC control message or any other utility management commands. It enables communication between devices and AMI system. Combination of AMI connected to the HAN or BAN and an IoT gateway results in a smart grid system.
  • It helps in analyzing energy utilization of each device, which aids the user in managing device up/down time. Users can access historical data from the cloud - which device consumed more data and at what time of the day, and accordingly they can optimize their consumptions of energy.

How an IoT Gateway helps in business analysis of Transmission & Distribution / Utility companies?

  • IoT / Industrial IoT gateways provides utility companies with a broader view of their energy distribution patterns, by enabling high connectivity and real time analysis of resources.
  • It enables to develop a Demand-Response mechanism for the utility providers to optimize energy distribution based on the consumption patterns.
  • Collects data from all AMI systems that are connected to that utility provider and gives analytical results on high and low energy consumption periods. Accordingly, utility providers can utilize these insights from analytics to predict peak load times and enable dynamic pricing options.
  • It collects energy data from the sources (Wind, Solar etc.) which are generally variable and non-static and provide a cumulative energy data statistics to utility providers so that they can accordingly distribute the power to substations. In power grid systems, a substation is the key point of energy distribution. The gateway provides connectivity between substations via LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) that helps in maintaining a continuous energy flow.
  • There are gateways connected at both the levels - consumer (AMI) and Utility (Substation). At AMI level gateway allows distributed edge computing, and forms fog computing nodes at substation level. When these gateways are clustered it allows the utility companies to develop a distributed fog computing network. Clustering of Gateway also enables inter-gateway communication, providing benefits of horizontal and vertical scaling. For example: If one gateway that is associated to a grid substation fails due to the excess load or any other malfunction, it can transfer the running application container to another substation gateway. This results in the reduction of system failures. Fault identification and solution for the same can be done in minimal time period. That enables dynamic control on the substations at bigger levels - like city, state or may be at country level for the better grid system.

         Image: Gateway Clustering

  • It enables predictive maintenance of the system. It sends notification to utility companies on the faults identified in the system that would need a quick response. Gateway enables interoperability, provides a wide range of protocols that ensure connectivity to most of the grid components.

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