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How IoT is changing the component industry

Posted: 06 May 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Internet of Things  IoT  microcontroller  sensor  Cloud 

The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) vision is touted to result in homes, offices and cities becoming gradually interconnected. No single company owns the machine-to-machine (M2M) and the IoT concepts of course; so for this vision to develop and progress, close cooperation between companies from various backgrounds will be required. The IoT has rapidly achieved a high level of interest and excitement amongst entrepreneurs. The prevalence of smart phones, inexpensive computers and connectivity result in many business opportunities.

What will really happen when things, homes, offices and cities become smarter? We are likely to see radical alterations to the way we live: this could include a vacuum cleaner that starts cleaning on its own following receipt of a dust storm weather forecast... or a coffee maker that might order coffee itself after running out of a specific flavour. This may sound far-fetched, but the means to make these examples happen exist. A good way for the IoT idea to expand is to add "intelligence" to mainstream products in the form of microcontroller (MCU/MPU) and sensor; this will enable a sensing of the environment and the transmission of information for processing to the controller. We can foresee 'things' being fitted with an artificial brain linked to the Cloud, from where it would be controlled and multiple tasks assigned.

Another consequence is that the market will require far more smart chips than it currently does. In general, smart chips are divided into three categories: control, sensing and connectivity. Interestingly, each of these categories falls into a "Blue Ocean" (W. Chan Kim, 2005) type of definition with new demand created in what is an uncontested market space. Manufacturers that can support all three categories will lead the IoT era. These categories are expected to thrive in the future, with great volume and room to expand.

Category 1: Adding control components – these chips are the 'brain' of the operation.

Low end, microcontrollers can vary between 8bit processors designed to manage a microwave oven menu, to more complex chips such as 32bit or multi-core chips seen in TV converters (also known as set-top box). MCU that can support the Internet of Things vision is taking shape at present. The extensive range of usage scenarios and devices within connected devices means that the gadgets will require more power than saving in performances or only inexpensive 32bit chips designed for more industrial application. Many of these companies have an edge because they are using ARM hardware-software solutions in a broad variety of end products.

Category 2: The addition of Sensors to our smart phones and tablets. The sensors we are referring to include microphones, acceleration, Gyro, humidity, pressure, light and temperature; in the past, many of these were complex and even large in size, but today they are convenient, inexpensive and small which helps explain why they can be found embedded in any existing product as well as in battery-based products. This technology is coming to the mass market, heralding a new way in which we communicate with our daily appliances.

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