As we enter 2020, the Internet of Things is everywhere. From the smallest remote sensor to the most elaborate fully-integrated smart home, smart devices are changing how we work, how we live and even how we think. And while device designers and techies rightfully give a lot of thought to the components inside an IoT device, what’s protecting those components and holding them together is an electronics enclosure.
With IoT networks expanding everywhere from machine shops to national parks to consumers’ living rooms, it’s essential that these devices be protected by electronics enclosures that are up to the task. IoT device enclosures have to meet the increasingly demanding performance standards of a market that’s now everywhere, with devices that do just about everything.
Polycase is rising to meet the challenges of the growing and dynamic IoT market with a range of enclosures that are ideal for IoT applications. What should enclosure buyers look for when choosing an IoT device enclosure?
First, let’s take a brief look at the general state of the IoT market and why it’s so critical for all kinds of IoT devices to have enclosures that are capable of protecting them. Then, we’ll get down to the business of which Polycase models can offer the performance you need.
We can define an Internet of Things device as one that can be connected to the Internet, with the capacity to upload and/or download data (often without human interaction). Smartphones and computers certainly count, but you’ll usually find that discussions about IoT focus on devices such as smart home appliances, media streaming devices, Web-enabled remote sensors and smart industrial machinery.
IoT devices now fill an incredible variety of niches. You’ll find all kinds of functions within the IoT device sphere, including:
According to some estimates, there will be 75.44 billion IoT-connected devices by 2025, with 5.8 billion enterprise and automotive endpoints alone. As the IoT continues to expand, you’ll find more and more smart devices where you least expect them. That means that protecting IoT devices from their environments is an increasingly urgent priority, particularly when those devices are being used to power and regulate increasingly large, complex and expensive systems.
What should be on your must-have list when looking for an IoT device enclosure? That all depends on the specific demands of each IoT application, but there’s a basic framework of considerations to begin with. These questions can help you get started on selecting the IoT enclosure that’s right for your application:
Despite the high levels of interest and investment in IoT devices, there is currently no standardized certification or rating process specifically for IoT enclosures. However, there are two general enclosure rating systems, NEMA ratings and IP ratings, that can provide the information you need to make the right choice.
The NEMA rating system is established by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and rates enclosures on their protective qualities against factors such as solid particulate ingress, liquid ingress and corrosion. NEMA ratings are used primarily in the United States.
The IP rating system, meanwhile, is used around the world, but rates only liquid ingress and solid ingress protection rather than the wider range of factors that NEMA ratings use. Ratings from one system can often be roughly translated to another, although it’s important to use caution, as the two systems don’t rate all of the same criteria.
NEMA 4X enclosures, NEMA 12 enclosures and IP67 enclosures are among our most popular ratings for IoT devices. Check out our easy-to-use NEMA ratings guide and IP ratings guide for more information on these important rating systems and how they can help you find the enclosure you need.
IoT devices must be able to send and receive data when they need to. Thus, enclosure buyers should make sure when selecting an enclosure that the enclosure material is appropriate for their signal transmission needs. That might mean protecting the device from interference generated by other electronic devices, or it might mean ensuring that the device can transmit signals without interference from its enclosure.
Interference can come from many places, including other electronic devices in the environment and from components inside a device itself. Electronics designers use various strategies to mitigate interference, but selecting an enclosure made from the right material can be one of the most important.
These factors have to be considered especially carefully when dealing with signal transmission in metallic enclosures. Aluminum enclosures, for example, have a natural radiofrequency shielding property. This can make them great candidates for devices with external antennas or those that transmit signals via Ethernet, and it can help reduce interference from other devices.
On the other hand, aluminum is often a sub-optimal choice for devices that use internal antennas, as many IoT devices do (particularly those designed for the consumer market). The material’s natural shielding blocks the Wi-Fi signal and makes it hard to transmit effectively. Stainless steel and carbon steel enclosures are also known to provide a level of RFI/EMI shielding, with similar accompanying pros and cons.
If your device needs to transmit RF signals through an internal antenna, Polycase offers enclosures in a variety of materials that will not interfere with signal transmission. Our polycarbonate enclosures and ABS plastic enclosures offer rugged performance with no compromise in signal clarity.
Many IoT devices used in the commercial and industrial sectors also need to be able to resist corrosion. Corrosion from water is a major concern for industrial IoT devices that are subject to repeated wash-downs–and marine environments can be even worse, since salt water is more corrosive than fresh water. A device enclosure may also need resistance to common cleaning chemicals that can degrade less durable enclosure materials.
When selecting an enclosure that needs corrosion resistance, look for a NEMA 4X rated enclosure. This rating means that an enclosure provides additional protection against corrosion. For best results, choose a material that’s already resistant to corrosion, such as polycarbonate or stainless steel.
With thousands of different IoT device types on the market and more being invented every day, it’s clear that diversity in form and function is a hallmark of the IoT market. Fortunately, Polycase offers an array of enclosures that are perfect for IoT applications.
Our IoT customers especially love these product series:
IoT devices can be complex, meaning that they often need printed instructions and/or multiple cutouts for antennas, data ports, cables and other hardware. Polycase helps our customers bypass the hassle of finding machining and printing for their IoT device enclosures by offering customized cutouts with CNC machining and digital printing capabilities in-house.
We can create custom cutouts using state-of-the-art CNC machining tools on any polycarbonate, ABS or aluminum enclosure. All we need is an engineering drawing or CAD rendering, and our advanced CNC systems will do the rest, with ultra-fine tolerances of +/-0.005”. We offer any size or shape cutout on any surface of your IoT enclosure.
IoT devices also often require custom printing to ensure that any user can easily understand the device’s functions and features. Polycase makes it easy to give any enclosure the exact visual look that it needs, with full-color printing that’s applied directly to the device, rather than labels that are prone to fading, peeling and crooked application.
The Internet of Things is among the most exciting new frontiers of the global tech industry, and selecting a great IoT device enclosure from Polycase will help ensure that your device is ready to perform on the global stage. For more information, be sure to check out our full selection of electronics enclosures, or just contact us online or by phone at 1-800-248-1233 to speak to our friendly enclosure experts.