The Evolution of the Internet of Things
This white paper was originally published by Jim Chase of Texas Instruments and can be read in full at: http://www.ti.com/lit/ml/swrb028/swrb028.pdf?ICID=I-CT-TP-getting-started-137
From connected things to living in the data, preparing for challenges and IoT readiness:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is generally thought of as connecting things to the Internet and using that connection to provide some kind of useful remote monitoring or control of those things. This definition of IoT is limited, and references only part of the IoT evolution. It is basically a rebranding of the existing Machine to Machine (M2M) market of today.
IoT in its culmination – where we live in the data is defined as:
The IoT creates an intelligent, invisible network fabric that can be sensed, controlled and programmed. IoT-enabled products employ embedded technology that allows them to communicate, directly or indirectly, with each other or the Internet.
In the 1990s, Internet connectivity began to proliferate in enterprise and consumer markets, but was still limited in its use because of the low performance of the network interconnect. In the 2000s Internet connectivity became the norm for many applications and today is expected as part of many enterprise, industrial and consumer products to provide access to information. However, these devices are still primarily things on the Internet that require more human interaction and monitoring through apps and interfaces. The true promise of the IoT is just starting to be realized – when invisible technology operates behind the scenes dynamically responding to how we want “things” to act. Predictions say there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and in our lifetime we will experience life with a trillion-node network. Those are really big numbers. How things are fundamentally deployed today is a barrier to realizing those numbers. The industry will only achieve the reality of 50 billion connected devices by simplifying how things connect and communicate today.
The IoT of Tomorrow:
The hotel where I have a reservation knows I am coming and the approximate time of my arrival because I have allowed Apple and Google to track my location. It also knows that I am hot and sweaty from my trip because of the temperature and moisture sensors that are part of my smartwatch. The hotel room I will stay in is currently dormant (no lights, drapes closed, the temperature is at optimized dormant levels). Upon my arrival, the valet knows it is me. He opens my door and the car adjusts the seat because it detects the valet. My preference is to carry my own bag, so I am not accosted by the bell captain. Once in proximity of the hotel lobby, a secure key app is available on my smartphone. By the time I reach the elevator, the room temp has adjusted to coincide with my smartwatch sensors. The light level, music and privacy settings are to my requirements. Because I am hot and sweaty the room also prepares hot water for a shower I will probably take after entering into the room. As I approach, the secure key app unlocks the room door. Once settled for the night, the room detects the lights are turned out, it changes the temperature setting to my sleep preferences. In this scenario, every room in this particular hotel chain has multiple sensors and actuators. Every rental car has multiple sensors and actuators. I am wearing multiple sensors and actuators, like a watch vibration for alerts. I am not interacting with my smartphone touchscreen constantly to direct these connected things to take actions even though it is one gateway for my activity. There will be millions of people doing this every day. We will be living IN the data. This vision of IoT will not happen right away. The scale required will only be achieved by creating a lowest common denominator, simple messaging scheme that everyone on the planet will agree to. It will have to be digitally organic, imitating nature. At present, technology protocols and data structures are limited by their design complexity as well as security, extensibility, and much more. Our connected devices will have to become easier to use even though the complexity of the devices will increase. The line between analog and digital will blur. Every person on the planet will be able to “author” his or her own life environment, even though they know basically nothing about the underlying technology.
Getting IoT Ready:
Preparing the lowest layers of technology for the horizontal nature of the IoT requires manufacturers to deliver on the most fundamental challenges, including:
- Connectivity: There will not be one connectivity standard that “wins” over the others. There will be a wide variety of wired and wireless standards as well as proprietary implementations used to connect the things in the IoT. The challenge is getting the connectivity standards to talk to one another with one common worldwide data currency.
- Power management: More things within the IoT will be battery powered or use energy harvesting to be more portable and self-sustaining. Line-powered equipment will need to be more energy efficient. The challenge is making it easy to add power management to these devices and equipment. Wireless charging will incorporate connectivity with charge management.
- Security: With the amount of data being sent within the IoT, security is a must. Built-in hardware security and use of existing connectivity security protocols is essential to secure the IoT. Another challenge is simply educating consumers to use the security that is integrated into their devices.
- Complexity: Manufacturers are looking to add connectivity to devices and equipment that has never been connected before to become part of the IoT. Ease of design and development is essential to get more things connected especially when typical RF programming is complex. Additionally, the average consumer needs to be able to set-up and use their devices without a technical background.
- Rapid evolution: The IoT is constantly changing and evolving. More devices are being added everyday and the industry is still in its naissance. The challenge facing the industry is the unknown. Unknown devices. Unknown applications. Unknown use cases. Given this, there needs to be flexibility in all facets of development. Processors and microcontrollers that range from 16–1500 MHz to address the full spectrum of applications from a microcontroller (MCU) in a small, energy-harvested wireless sensor node to high-performance, multi-core processors for IoT infrastructure. A wide variety of wired and wireless connectivity technologies are needed to meet the various needs of the market. Last, a wide selection of sensors, mixed-signal and power-management technologies are required to provide the user interface to the IoT and energy-friendly designs.
The IoT is expected to transform how we live, work and play. From factory automation and automotive connectivity to wearable body sensors and home appliances, the IoT is set to touch every facet of our lives. We will “author” our life with networks around us that constantly change and evolve based on our surroundings and inputs from other systems. It will make our lives safer with cars that sense each other to avoid accidents. It will make our lives more green with lighting systems that adjust based on the amount of daylight from windows. It will make our lives healthier with wearables that can detect heart attacks and strokes before they happen. There is a long road ahead but one thing is for sure, it is going to be amazing.