Internet of Things

Friday’s Blog is brought to you by the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, or “IoT” certainly seems to be the social media buzz phrase of the week. It seems every link I clicked on today took me to a post discussing the IoT. You can blame the flurry of technical blog coverage on recent events like the Trillion Sensors Summit, ARM TechCon 2013, CIsco’s Internet of Things World Forum, and Intel’s IDF 2013. All at once, Cisco Systems, Fairchild Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Intel and others have launched big campaigns promoting their IoT technology. The timing must be right, since according to a recent report, titled The Internet of Things business index: A Quiet Revolution Gathers Pace, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and sponsored by ARM, 94% of the business community believe the IoT is NOT merely hype, but a viable opportunity for investment and development.

Here’s the back-story of the report. In June, 2013, a survey of 779 senior business leaders from around the world, nearly half (49%) of whom are C-level executives or board members, was conducted to gauge current and future use of the IoT by the business community. The ensuing report revealed some interesting statistics:

  • 95% of respondents expect their company to be using the IoT in three years’ time.
  • 63% believe that companies slow to integrate the IoT will fall behind the competition
  • 58% would like to see government doing more to promote development and adoption of the IoT
  • 45% believe adopting the IoT will make their company more environmentally

SemiWiki’s Paul McLellen attended ARM CEO’s Simon Segar’s Keynote at TechCon 2014 and from his vantage point reports Segar’s perspective: making the IoT real requires a lot of coordination and standadrs development. In his blog post, McLellen also expands more on the findings from the Economists’ report.

This should be encouraging news to semiconductor manufacturers who have already begun to invest in this “quiet revolution.” Reporting from the TSensors Summit, EE Times, Rick Merritt quotes Fairchild Semiconductor’s Janus Brezuk as saying, “This could be the biggest business in the history of electronics,” citing estimates from Cisco Systems and GE of a $15 trillion IoT market by 2020. Merritt writes that GE, Amazon, Cisco are all “ramping IoT services and business units.” There are many hurdles on the technology side still to be overcome. It’s not just about the sensors and devices to integrate them. As Ajith Amerasekera of Texas Instruments’ told Merritt, operating systems and software need to be in place, and more “killer apps” need to be develop.

Likewise, in a post on ZDNet, Larry Dignan reports back from the Cisco Internet of Things World Summit that CIsco has launched its IoT division “that will focus on linking data, machines and people and the standards that go with them.”  Dignan reports that Cisco has had IoT initiatives running since 2006. He quotes unit leader, Guido Jouret,VP and GM of  Cisco’s IoT unit “The Internet of things is a complex landscape and we saw there wasn’t a concerted effort to simplify it,” said Jouret. “There is a need to bring together technology companies, integrators and industry to accelerate adoption.”

The IoT buzz has made it all the way to the White House, as Merritt reports here in this EE Times, news item. According to this, the White House has issued a Smart America Challenge, calling all engineers to build several IoT testbeds around the country by April 2014, aimed at demonstrating what cyber-physical systems can do “to improve safety, sustainability, efficiency, mobility, and overall quality of life,” There is no funding backing this challenge, but interested parties are invited to attend a workshop in DC on December 12. Merritt’s article contains all the important details.

The IoT promises to enable a lot of cool lifestyle improvements. At the recent Intel Develper Forum (IDF 2013), the semiconductor giant demonstrated its perceptual computing centered around the IoT, featuring displays with hand motion sensor tracking, and eye tracking to replace the mouse. They claim these capabilities for navigating your computer create a natural and more intuitive way to interact. Watching this video, it occurred to me that at the very least, incidences of carpel tunnel is sure to go down.  Another cool video featuring an “interactive amusement park experience,” shows us how intelligent systems link into every part of our lives.

Texas Instruments’ promotional campaign shows in this Halloween video, how the IoT can be used to create a truly horrifying experience for trick-or-treaters. (I suspect there will be a Christmas light version as well, coming soon to a neighborhood lighting competition near you.
Additionally, a TI community blog post details a case study promoting “The Internet of Pets”  in which and end-user integrates TI devices into its blue-tooth controlled Whistle Activity Monitor, an on-collar device that measures the activity level of your dog. That sure falls in the what-willl-they-think-of-next category.

I don’t know about you, but I find this dawning of the IoT generation to be very exciting. I’m amazed at what this means for our daily lives. As it was with mobile devices, It won’t be long now when we won’t know how we got along without it. ~ F.v.T.