The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connecting things, people and cloud services to enable new use cases and business models.
We are currently at the IoT inflection point, but we must ask what is driving the huge buzz and why is it happening now? From a “things” point of view – there are a few reasons we see this surge:
- We are making the “things” much more intelligent by using programmable microcontrollers in them
- Connectivity, specifically wireless connectivity, is becoming more and more affordable
- Low-power semiconductors are enabling long lived battery-powered nodes
- Wi–Fi and Internet access is becoming broadly available
More than a Market
Is IoT a market? Not in my opinion. We should look at the IoT as an enabling technology that will drive new use cases, new services, new applications and growth in all the markets we are already serving.
IoT starts with wearable technology which is a fast moving industry with short development and life cycles. With many of these wearables the gateway is the phone, and the wearable connects to the phone over BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth Smart). The connection to the cloud offers here clear value – data storage, remote analytics, connecting to standard internet services, etc.
But IoT does not stop with wearables and it is transforming many other markets. It already moved into building and home automation, and into smart cities, smart manufacturing, healthcare and automotive. All these markets can benefit from better visibility and control of nodes. All of them can leverage analytics that can give better insight, better efficiency and more safety. Although the IoT is developing at an accelerating pace, there are several challenges to overcome before we can see the broad deployment.
First are the sensors. The IoT is about collecting real-world data, which means we need to sense many attributes from temperature to light, humidity to pressure and many more. So we need many new types of sensors to address these needs.
Second, we need to enable battery-operated nodes. We are making significant progress here and, as examples, we can now run a Wi–Fi-based sensor on two AA batteries for a year, or a water meter on a coin cell battery for ten years.
Another challenge is the multitude of wireless standards in this market; Texas Instruments currently supports 14 different wireless standards. Each standard addresses different needs in respect to data rate, latency, range, power and more.
Next, a big obstacle is complexity. How do you enable the smaller “greenfield” customers to use wireless? To help here, TI began integrating the complete network software stack on-chip so developers could access it directly at the application level. We call it “Internet on a chip”.
And finally – we need to make it simpler to connect with the cloud. This is where TI has worked with cloud partners to allow a seamless connection to the cloud by adding an “IoT agent” which runs on the device and supports the specific protocol required by each cloud provider.
Gaining knowledge for dealing with these challenges is an ongoing mission. For this purpose TI in collaboration with Telsys, have initiated a 1 day event (free of charge) at which addressing the IoT challenge will be discussed.
It is a highly technical event at which experts will share ideas and solutions for solving system technical issues.
Author: Avner Goren, General Manager of Strategic Marketing, Embedded Processing, Texas Instruments (TI)