Endless possibilities with nanoFramework
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that has been appearing increasingly in recent years in the world of technology and innovation. A term that refers to devices and objects connected to the internet, allowing them to communicate and share information (data). By using IoT devices, companies can work more efficiently and save costs. Consider, for example, installing factory sensors to optimize production or making smart energy meters even smarter to anticipate energy needs.
Specific software has to be written to get these ‘things’ to the point where they are self-learning (intelligent) and can transfer data. One of the ways to do this is the nanoFramework, of which LINKIT has recently become an official partner. Dick van Straaten (Director Cloud & IoT at LINKIT) and José Simões (CEO of Eclo Solutions and founder of the .NET nanoFramework) explain what this means in this article explain why this is interesting for the business.
The challenges of IoT
It is clear that IoT is the future. Gartner expects IoT devices to grow to more than 22 billion by 2025. But that growth also poses challenges, such as the demand for experts with knowledge of the underlying programming language. Something Dick recognizes: “Traditionally, IoT equipment is programmed in languages such as C or C++. However, knowledge of these programming languages is limited. Moreover, for the new generation of developers, these languages are not ‘sexy enough’ to learn.”
José adds: “C and C++ are sometimes taught at the university, but not at HBO. So it is less accessible than other programming languages. The nanoFramework offers a solution because we replace C and C++ with the common programming language .NET C#. It makes writing embedded software (software written to control machines, ed.) much easier.”
What is the nanoFramework?
Dick: “The nanoFramework is an ecosystem of various organizations with knowledge of IoT-related software and hardware. The framework is designed for programming smart devices with minimal memory and computing power. These Micro Controller Units (MCUs) can autonomously collect data or perform actions.”
José adds: “Due to the extensive network of companies and the accessible programming language (C#, ed.), an ecosystem is created, and we act as partners to support customers in the field of hardware and software. In addition, the nanoFramework is open source. It offers numerous libraries and tools, allowing developers to customize it to their needs and retain full control fully. It makes the development process simpler, faster and more accessible.”
What are the advantages of the nanoFramework?
There are several advantages to the nanoFramework, says José. “It includes everything around .NET, such as Microsoft Visual Studio. It allows developers to go through the entire programming process – from concept to production. In addition, the nanoFramework is flexible and adaptable to different hardware configurations.”
Dick: “As LINKIT, we have developers with programming experience in C#. The nanoFramework enables them to use their knowledge and experience to program software for smart IoT devices. The learning curve to program smart devices is therefore very small, and the framework works as an accelerator for developing our new IoT proposition.”
For which industry is the nanoFramework interesting and why?
Dick: “For almost every company and every industry. I often hear from different industries that companies want to do ‘something’ with IoT. Previously, they often collected huge amounts of data to gain insight into their processes. However, by the time this was projected onto a dashboard, the data turned out to need to be updated, resulting in damage in some cases. The demand for real-time data, with which they can immediately anticipate when it is needed, is increasing. IoT plays a major role in this. Take ‘predictive maintenance’ as an example: you want to repair something when it breaks. You want to prevent it from breaking through timely maintenance.”
José agrees: “Any company interested in embedded systems and IoT can benefit from the nanoFramework. Data has always been the most important parameter to provide insight into processes. Still, nowadays, the most important parameter is time. Almost every company wants to be ‘fast forward’ and be able to simulate what will happen in the future. You get these insights by using the nanoFramework and the ecosystem around it. As a company, you can anticipate these changes in time.”
Which projects have been realized using the nanoFramework?
One of the realized practical examples that Dick mentions is FC Utrecht’s Smart Parking project. “The stadium can accommodate 23,000 fans, but there are only 3,000 parking spaces in the immediate vicinity – something that causes problems during matches. FC Utrecht wants to positively change supporters’ experience by improving the parking experience. With the nanoFramework, we can develop smart devices to detect available places. Through a proof-of-concept, we have provided real-time insight into several parking spaces for FC Utrecht.”
José is also proud of a successful project that has been developed thanks to the nanoFramework. “We supplied smart equipment to a large refrigerated transport company. These devices monitor during the entire route whether the products are cooled to the right temperature and whether they do not spoil. At the same time, the devices also monitor the technical condition of the truck and signal when a future defect may occur. This project is not only of value for refrigerated transport but for the entire logistics sector. In this way, they can guarantee quality and continuity and immediately anticipate what is to come. And that, in turn, results in efficient and cost-saving business operations.”
Why did LINKIT become a partner of the nanoFramework?
Dick: “We are always looking for (new) partnerships that complement and strengthen us and with which we can offer end-to-end solutions together. LINKIT is not a hardware supplier. But, thanks to the partnership, we are in direct contact with companies that are, and we work closely together to advise and support customers.”
Another reason for the partnership is the expansion of LINKIT’s IoT services, says Dick. “The specific IoT equipment that organizations request must, of course, be programmed. However, thanks to our extensive knowledge of C#, Microsoft and the HIVE platform we developed, we can set up projects quickly and complete them with the customer.”
José is also happy with LINKIT’s entry into the ecosystem. “LINKIT has proven itself as a reliable IT partner and adds something to the ecosystem. By combining our collective knowledge, the ecosystem becomes even more powerful. We can further strengthen our belief that IoT offers added value for every organization.”
The future of the nanoFramework
The endless possibilities the framework and IoT offer make José and Dick very excited about the future. “You determine the logic yourself with the nanoFramework. Moreover, the technology is cheap, so companies do not have to spend capital on equipment or connectivity. So it also offers interesting opportunities for smaller companies,” says Dick.
José is also enthusiastic. “We have already achieved a lot, and that is not even a small part of what is possible. There is more and more support from (large) Cloud providers, and interest from companies is increasing. The community is also growing thanks to the active developers, and the GitHub activity is also increasing. All signs that the future of the framework is very bright.”
Do you want to make IoT work for your company?
Are you curious about what IoT can mean for your organization? Or do you want to use your real-time data efficiently but need help figuring out where to start? We are happy to tell you about the possibilities that the nanoFramework offers you and how this can be of value to your company.
Dick van Straaten Director Cloud & IoT (LINKIT)
Dick (53) has worked at LINKIT for two years and is ultimately responsible for the Cloud & IoT squad. He advises clients and partners on strategy and business issues with his team. He shares his in-depth cloud and Microsoft knowledge.
Jose Simoes CEO (Eclo Solutions)
José (48) is the founder of .NET nanoFramework and one of the three founders of Eclo Solutions. With his company, he focuses on electronic software and develops and realizes smart IoT and cloud solutions for companies.