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Extending the Reach of SQL to IoT Microcontrollers, ITTIA and Cypress Release SDK

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In a recent press release, ITTIA, a maker of embedded database software for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and Cypress Semiconductor Corp, announced a collaborative IoT device and data management capability. The new capability integrates SQL into the WICED SDK and unlocks the power of flash media on Cypress wireless microcontrollers (MCU). One of the benefits of using this approach is, SQL queries allow manufacturers to stream, analyze and distribute data, at scale, on edge devices using a popular data query method.

InfoQ recently had the opportunity to interview Sasan Montaseri, president of ITTIA, to better understand the impact of these investments. Here is what Montaseri had to say:

InfoQ: Your organization recently shared: "ITTIA DB SQL unlocks the power of flash media on Cypress wireless MCUs and can run standard SQL queries against data stored on that media." What opportunities does this unlock compared to traditional approaches?

Sasan Montaseri: The Internet of Things is changing the way we live. From vehicles and buildings to roads and cities, everything around us is increasingly becoming controlled by devices that come together to automate and improve our lives. Sophisticated computer chips are embedded in objects that each collect and transmit information, and these integrated devices interact and analyze a wealth of data originating from sensors growing into network of connected objects.

By silently embedding ITTIA DB SQL into device applications, information that would otherwise be discarded, such as due to bandwidth restrictions, can be captured to local flash media. The database makes it easy to analyze or distribute information at any time, once it is captured, even if it is difficult to predict which data points will be valuable later. Since flash media has lower latency than most web services, devices are more responsive when presenting information from a local database, while also making more efficient use of available bandwidth. Devices can even function completely autonomously, using offline queries to boost user engagement.

When building an embedded system, developers need to prepare in-house expertise to select and confirm verified hardware and data management solutions, which often takes many months or more. With our solution, we have introduced relational database software which started its evolution from traditional systems for embedded systems and IoT devices. Ease of use, simplification in maintainability and data interoperability are among few values which traditional systems gain when integrate and embed ITTIA DB SQL with their platform.

InfoQ: How important is it to support SQL queries for IoT Developers? Does this lower the barrier of entry for developers to build IoT solutions?

Montaseri: IoT is all about data and the initial challenge is to make sense of the collected data and offer tools to gain intelligence from it, while ensuring safe and fault‐free behavior to the system. More than simply streaming data and receiving commands from other nodes and sensors, these devices run complex, high level software programs and must operate with or without a network or cloud connection. Meanwhile, devices embedded in the IoT systems must handle large transactions for various tasks and need to be able to connect to each other on multiple networks. Important decisions are made in microseconds, using a continuous steam of data coming in and going out of the system. In short, devices need to stream, collect and manage a large volume of data, even when they decide to go offline.

A relational database management system is proven software that gives developers the ability to store and search as much data as they can fit on a device.  The Structured Query Language, known as SQL, is the standard way to access the databases on servers throughout the world, and now SQL is available on MCUs and MPUs for local data processing.  SQL has proven over the years to be the core fundamental tool for data management and with ITTIA DB SQL, search and queries are used to quickly retrieve information from within a large amount of device data.

When developers embed ITTIA DB SQL, they benefit from standard SQL at every stage in the development life cycle:

  • Development planning: SQL greatly simplifies the design and conceptualization of data management problems
  • Initial development: rapid prototyping in C/C++ or with scripting languages such as Python and Lua helps developers get started quickly
  • Late in development: applications can transition from SQL to low-level table cursors where necessary to support platforms with limited computing resources
  • After deployment: developers build more robust data models when they have SQL to easily combine and correlate information from different tables. As a result, adding new data-driven functionality to deployed devices with over-the-air updates is easier to implement and poses less risk of data loss.

SQL is a proven language with which most developers are familiar. SQL eases data interoperability between other embedded systems and IoT devices while seriously easing data maintainability.

InfoQ: Another capability ITTIA is providing is a management platform that other embedded systems manufacturers can leverage. How can manufacturers leverage this capability in their solutions?

Montaseri: We offer device data management value for embedded systems and devices and provide a data management platform, which includes built-in data distribution and remote SQL queries, that can be fully embedded into other frameworks or directly into device applications. Meanwhile, our partners provide various frameworks for device management and development, and we work with them to integrate our database into their frameworks.

We recently presented a joint webinar with our partner, NXP. Information about this event is available at our web site. In particular, I would like to invite you to watch our live demonstration which relates to device data management and various IoT devices.

For this demonstration we revealed ITTIA DB SQL cross platform capabilities as we offer data management to desired, capable MCUs and MPUs offered by our partners, to collect, store, manage and analyze data for decision making purposes.

InfoQ: How are your customers using edge technology to further business? Can you share any interesting solutions that your customers have built on your edge technology?

Montaseri: An interesting scenario to share is one where robots are employed to manage animal health care. Devices monitor feeding activities for cattle, horses, and other livestock to determine the most efficient milk yield, weight control, and best health care practices. These systems search for feeding instructions for different animals and track feeding history, data that may be communicated with a central cloud data management location, but which must be indexed and accessible on each individual system. The instructions given by the Cloud applications need to be communicated with many locally embedded databases. The database software must be robust enough to catalog and retrieve data, and to prepare the system for local data management challenges such as power loss and concurrent data access. 

InfoQ: What industries do you see being the most prepared to adopt IoT solutions?

Montaseri: Advancements in computing greatly impact the way we will go about our lives. From agriculture using robotics to manage the day-to-day care of livestock to fast food restaurants finding ways to minimize waste, IoT solutions are revolutionizing every industry. Because intelligently applied automation improves quality, consistency, and efficiency, many markets will benefit from the IoT revolution, especially automotive, industrial automation, and health care.

Conclusion

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to be a transformational technology that is driving new business opportunities. ITTIA is leveraging the Structure Query Language (SQL) as a means to lower the barrier of entry for developers to build IoT applications. Another opportunity that ITTIA is taking advantage of is providing the ability for device manufacturers to take advantage of flash memory to store data on local flash media. By using this storage type, organizations can reduce data access latency compared to other approaches like web services. They can also leverage a low-cost data store for microcontrollers and microprocessors.

ITTIA is not using this approach in isolation, but extending it to partners as well. They are extending the ability to provide built-in data distribution and remote SQL queries, that can be fully embedded into other frameworks or directly into device applications. Meanwhile, ITTIA partners provide various frameworks for device management.

Edge computing continues to be an important deployment model for IoT solutions. Some applications cannot withstand the latency of command and control instructions being provided by a cloud solution. Not only is latency a concern, but having the data indexed locally in an embedded database allows for quick decisions to be made, but also enables concurrent data access and resilient data access that can withstand intermittent power outages.

Autonomous IoT is no longer considered science fiction. ITTIA is seeing opportunities where robots are employed to manage animal health care. Devices monitor feeding activities for cattle, horses, and other livestock to determine the most efficient milk yield, weight control, and best health care practices. These systems search for feeding instructions for different animals and track feeding history, data that may be communicated with a central cloud data management location, but which must be indexed and accessible on each individual system.

About the Interviewee

Sasan Montaseri is the founder of ITTIA, a company focused on data management software solutions for embedded systems and intelligent devices. Montaseri has worked directly with customers in various vertical markets to define ITTIA's database product roadmap and provide solutions to common data management problems faced by those customers. Under his guidance, ITTIA has grown from its inception to offer a data management solution to prestigious multinational customers throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

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