In both cases, there are energy balance disorders. On the other hand, there is no provision for the external resistors in the main-boards or in the rest of the expansion shield boards [ 87 ]. Signal routing inflexibility: There is no mechanism to terminate the route of the BECs signals at the shields level.
For instance, when the MCU outputs a signal to a particular shield, then this signal is needlessly forced to be an input to the rest shields due to the common BECs signal pins. On the other hand, the existing BEC style of mechanical standardization limits the full exploitation of the overall system, since any single signal of the BECs, except from the supply voltages and ground pins as well as the data busses pins, can be used only from one shield and the main-board, so the functionality is sacrificed on the altar of the invaluable expandability and reusability.
Poor energy conversion efficiency: Due to the fact tha, all the OSH expandable architecture solutions have originally been designed for pilots and proof of concepts in indoor test environment, they disregard the need for efficient power management. For WSAN applications in the field of agriculture where the hardware nodes have to be battery-operated, the existing OSH architectures entail problems, because these solutions are not energy optimized.
Therefore, the use of this type of voltage regulators, in the multi-board architectures, downgrades the overall energy efficiency of the final system. Inability to ensure the power of the expansion shields: After the regulation of the external voltage, the voltage supply signal of the MCU, e. Unfortunately, the amount of power that can be drawn from the expansion shields is limited by the particular voltage regulator of the main-board shield [ 88 ]. When the expansion shields require levels of power higher than that sourced from the main-board, then, some or all of the shields must have their own power source circuits, in order to be able to accept external power.
Power cabling ataxia: The high power consuming shields have their own connection terminal blocks or headers separated from the common BECs. In this way, the total shields constructions are suffering, not only from poor energy inefficiency, but also from power cabling ataxia. This problem is significantly escalated when, in the multi-board system, there is the need for secondary voltages, e. In this circumstance, the use of particular external power supply units for the system is mandatory. From the physical layer perspective, none of the existing OSEP mechanisms of expansion is supporting the physical connection of multi-value voltage signals.
Energizing unnecessary circuits: In the expandable architectures boards, it is very popular for the main-boards and their shields to have some extra circuitry for general-purpose use, e. Such extra circuitry may be useful for testing, during the development phase, but it is totally useless in the final in-situ application, because it wastes significant amounts of energy. For battery-operated WSAN systems in the agricultural environment, this testing circuitry degrades the valuable available energy. Unfortunately, the existing OSEP architectures do not have any provision for this constraint, so there is no mechanism for developers to disengage that extra circuitry, in order to build energy optimized systems.
To emphasize this problem, a single LED indicator that is blinking inside of a closed plastic box, installed in the agriculture field, is useless for the users and it consumes more energy than that consumed by e. In the case of the Arduino-like expandable architectures, the firmware development is mainly implemented into the particular IDE of the hardware vendors.
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Whilst such IDEs provide many development facilities to the engineers through the use of extensive ready-made APIs or project templates, they produce firmware that is far from being optimized. For instance, the firmware for just toggling a single LED indicator may involve several kilobytes of program code.
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In battery-operated WSAN systems, such in the case of remote agricultural applications, wordy firmware is a well-hidden source of energy wastage. Thus, the ease of firmware development is counteracted by the excess in energy consumption. Today, there are programming tools solutions for the open-source developers that can help to the production of efficient and optimized code e.
Hence the key point is the firmware developers to start thinking about the energy effectiveness. The concept of multi-MCU aspect is totally absent from the design strategies.
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Peripherals and energy charge : One of the most convenient and low cost methods to download the firmware to the program memory of a MCU is the in-circuit programming, or else, in-system programming. Whilst, the programming operation takes place once in-house and lasts for a few minutes, the programming circuitry remains permanently on-board. Furthermore, this circuitry may cause electrical conflicts with other shields, because the programming pins are physically routed to the rest of the shields through the BECs, so in most of the cases, it is mandatory to remove any connected shields before a MCU-based shield programming take place.
Limited debugging capabilities: Since, the development of the firmware is mostly based on a combination of ready-made open-source parts of code, written by someone else, it is very critical for the system to be able to support real-time debugging with all the shields engaged.
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Practically, the main-board and each one of the expansion shields which incorporate a MCU must host their own programming and debugging circuits on-board. Of course, all the aforementioned constraints can harm, in a lower or higher degree, the robustness and the reliability of the total system, but there are also some additional issues that relate to the real-life applications:. Lack of compliance to norms and regulations: Because the majority of the existing OSEP solutions are considered as prototyping development tools, they are not tested and certified in terms of specific norms and regulations for particular application domains.
No form factor and encapsulation provision: Any WSAN application domain has its own particular requirements for the form factor and the encapsulation of the systems in order to facilitate the deployment and to ensure the longevity of the systems. The existing OSEP solutions do not care about the physical dimensions of the final implementation. Taking into consideration the constraints mentioned in the previous section, the prospect of a new scalable architecture which, on one hand, can maintain the obvious advantages of the OSH expandable architectures, and, on the other hand, can help OSH concept take the next step towards optimization and reliability by provide the mechanisms for avoiding the existing limitations can be reasonably raised.
Therefore, a new architecture, namely the SensoTube, is proposed and described in this section. Escape from the structural restrictions of the existing architectures: The adhesion to the traditional architecturea together with the persistence for miniaturization seems to be rather inappropriate for real-life applications in agriculture. Keep the advantages of OSH expandable concept: The new architecture should maintain the reasons for which the Arduino-like OSH architectures became popular, i. Also, the end-users should have clear and reusable building blocks for their present and future integrations.
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Support the "separation of concern" : Regarding the research efforts to study new challenging technologies with potential benefits for WSAN systems, there is a trend for decoupling the WSAN from the application [ 91 ]. Also, several other studies, e. This decoupling is practically achieved either by the addition of more than one MCU on-board, or by the usage of FPGAs, or by the addition of extra RF communication circuits or modules.
Such modifications are necessary to overcome the limited boundaries of the traditional architectures, in order to implement the pilots. On the other hand, they may be considered as custom closed-architecture designs.
Therefore, the new architecture should ensure the accommodation of research in new and challenging technologies. To meet this target the architecture should provide the highest scalability and standardization. In this way, the WSAN systems could be seen from the middleware infrastructure as well-defined functional multi-class objects.
Ensure optimization: The systems based on the new architecture should combine the performance level required in real-world WSAN applications [ 10 ] with the vagaries of the agricultural domain. Ideally, the systems should have the optimization level of the commercial end-systems, but with the flexibility of a testbed. Furthermore, a provision should be made in terms of the form factor of the WSAN systems and their encapsulation, in order to cover the specific requirements in the open agricultural field. Actually, the name SensoTube reflects the idea of using plastic tubes for the encapsulation of the WSAN systems in the agricultural fields.
The first step towards the foundation of the SensoTube architecture, was to identify every single possible function that should be exist in an ideal hardware WSAN node and to classify the functions into certain groups according to their similarities and their scope. Next, these groups are considered as seven discrete functional layers see Table 2 by which any WSAN hardware system can be studied, designed and built. As it is reported in [ 96 ], any efforts towards the substantial hardware abstraction can increase the fidelity of the characterization and classification of WSAN systems. According to SensoTube, each one of the suggested functional layers has to be able to be implemented as a separate expansion shield.
In particular, such functional shields have to be:. Autonomous: Each functional layer shield should be fabricated on its own PCB. Dedicated: Each shield should be designed in order to implement the tasks of the functional layer at which it belongs. Intelligent: Local intelligence in every shield is necessary, in order to take care of its functions and to allow for reasonable reconfiguration. Uniquely identified: When a system needs to incorporate several shields of different functional layer, as well as more than one shields of the same functional layer, then each shield should be able to be uniquely identified by the system.
Addressable: The system, according to the execution of its application scenario, should consider the functional layer shields as addressable units. Self-expandable: In cases where the PCB surface area is not enough to host the necessary circuitry of a particular function, then one or more complementary extra PCBs should be able to be added without, at the same time, to disturb the rest of other functional layer shields.
Context aware: Each functional layer shield should be aware of its environment, that is, to be able to interact with other shields. Testable: Each functional layer shield should provide plain testing facilities, e. Compatible: Each functional shield should be designed with respect to the homogeneity in form factor and expansion mechanisms.
From the above characteristics, which form the profile of the ideal functional layer implementation, it is evident that the WSAN system should be a multi-processor system. On the other hand, the provision of a multi-processor ability will help designers to escape from the egocentrism of the existing multi-board expandable architectures e.
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The commercial MCU solutions present in the market today [ 40 ], together with the ongoing research on ultra-low power MCUs can guarantee multi-processor operation, even for battery-operated WSAN nodes [ 98 , 99 ]. In addition, particular techniques for energy saving in WSAN nodes have already been studied and have shown remarkable results. Some of them have focused on the wakeup and idle states of MCUs [ 99 , , ], or on the behavior of MCUs as normally-off devices [ , ]. In order to handle the functional layer shields as autonomous functional blocks, which can occasionally be added and removed from the main system, particular provisions have to be in place, so as to avoid anarchy in the expandability and scalability.
All the functional shields have some common characteristics regarding their operation. In particular, they have to share their electrical signals with other shields, they demand either a single or a multi-value voltage source, they have to be in-system programmed and updated, their MCUs must easily communicate with other MCUs from other shields. The proposed SensoTube architecture establishes the necessary mechanism to support these uniformity and openness needs by the introduction of four inter-layer services:.
Since the four service layers cannot be implemented as distinct plug-in shields, specific provisions have been made in the form of electrical channels in the BECs of the expansion mechanism of the SensoTube architecture, as explained in the implementation reference model in Section 4. Actually, the establishment of the inter-layer services is the key enabler for the realization of the proposed functional abstraction.
Furthermore, the inter-layer services can ensure the building of a sound, expandable and scalable system. For instance, it is possible to have a system comprised of several OSH main-board shields sharing the very same expansion mechanisms, but at the same time each one of them can be self-expandable and autonomous.
A complete representation of the SensoTube architecture is given in Figure 8. At a conceptual level, the presented architecture can satisfy the sub-aims a to g , posed at the beginning of this section. The seven functional layers are shown as discrete horizontal layers.
The four inter-layer services are shown to vertically penetrate the seven functional layers. In the following sub-sections, the usage and benefits of the proposed seven functional layers are described, with particular emphasis on the advantages of the novel mechanisms of the inter-layer services.
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Additional emphasis is given on the facilitation of challenging WSAN research aspects, and on the solutions to existing design constraints. At the same time, the target is to explain how the WSAN designers can use the SensoTube architecture to adapt their particular requirements.
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