IoT, A Market And Technology Set To Explode

We’ve only scratched the surface for useful well-connected devices.

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While a fully-connected Internet of Things (IoT) world is still away off, an increasing number of devices are being built that can communicate with each other through wireless connections such as WiFi, Bluetooth, 6LoWPAN or Cellular.

Current technology trends point toward a more seamlessly connected world, and for that to happen we must have cost-effective, low-power and highly connected devices.

One driving force behind the Internet of Things is the falling cost of microprocessor production. Processors and other important pieces of technology are now affordable enough to use in almost every product. Combined with improvements in low-energy wireless technologies, and the prevalence of the Internet in the modern world, it’s becoming easier to have all of these smart devices communicate.

The importance of microcontrollers may not seem relevant for larger devices that require more powerful CPUs that connect to components externally, but in smaller low-power and low-cost devices microcontrollers are indispensable. IoT devices make use of highly integrated components; they don’t require expandable storage for example, which is why having an efficient all-in-one microcontroller makes sense.

The MIT Technology Review estimates close to 28 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, with almost half of these devices being ‘things’ rather than smartphones or PCs.

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Some good examples of useful implications for well-connected devices come from NEST. Although NEST only has a small line-up of smart connected products available, ideas such as its Auto-Away Thermostat, which turns the temperature down when you’re out of the house, and phone alerts if you’re smoke alarm goes off, are definitely pointing in the right direction.

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Technology for the Internet of Things
If you are familiar with the first batch of wearable devices on the market, you will probably have noticed that they are all powered by microprocessors. Low-power processors include core designs suitable for moderately powerful connected devices such as smartwatches and other wearables. These require some level of user input, while more passive fitness tracker bands are powered by even smaller core designs.

A 32-bit processor is able to perform complex tasks quickly, because it can send more data per clock cycle. This is particularly useful for low-power devices that spend a lot of time idle. For example, a 32-bit ARM®-based processor can wake up and perform tasks quickly, then go back to sleep. This means it doesn’t need to be powered on for as long.

Improved energy efficiency for low-power devices is important for always-on devices that demand long battery life. More sophisticated smart IoT devices won’t be built from single inputs and processors, but will most likely require a number of low-power microprocessors to perform various tasks for a wide range of sensors and inputs. Additionally, 32-bit technology provides significant benefits for security cryptography and protocols. Considering that the Internet of Things depends extensively on connectivity via the Internet, strong encryption and security features will no doubt become an essential part of the industry as more and more devices go online.

As with wearables, a wealth of embedded hardware and software development resources and technology is helping developers to explore and expand the range of IoT products available, allowing low-power devices to communicate over the Internet, which will be crucial for future IoT communications between smart devices to the cloud.

Investments in improved software ecosystem for developers and product designers, is going to be the real driving force behind innovation in the growing IoT market.