There are a myriad of sensor-laden kits hitting the shelf that will help you create wearables, immersive gaming, augmented reality, 3-D mapping—virtually all IoT-targeted designs. If you’re looking to improve power consumption (and who isn’t?), or make your designs painfully smaller, rest assured that there are comprehensive kits that will help you cut through the IoT’s considerable complexity.
Kits often save an outrageous amount of money, especially in the software department. Given the breakneck speed required to get products out the door, the kits provide integrated hardware, software and connectivity as well as a ready-made platform for fast and sometimes inexpensive design. One timesaving aspect in particular is the ability to have software and its licensing in hand, enabling design through development and then maintenance throughout a product’s life cycle.
Many of these devices are connecting for the first time ever, while design teams are lean and sometimes lack the gamut of knowledge and design experience necessary to create IoT devices and do it fast. In addition, the bundling of hardware, middleware, stacks and real-time operating systems used to be helpful to the design team; now it’s pretty much mandatory.
Kits have evolved, especially in the IoT realm. In the past, they often included “free” or low-cost software, which could result in substantial expense in reliability problems, as well as low- to high-end security. Challenges would often arise in the designer’s accessibility to support, upgrades and fixes. Today kits are available that include software and hardware configuration, debug, test and, depending on the kit, other important and optional components on board. These include support, updates and licenses directly from the vendor offering the kit, enabling customers to concentrate on their own value add and get to market as fast as possible.
Ecosystems are becoming more critical as are collaborative efforts. An example of perfect timing, an ecosystem and kit that was ready at launch is Amazon’s AWS IoT Platform, announced at the Invent conference late in 2015. Amazon claims that the managed cloud platform supports billions of devices and trillions of messages, processing and routing the messages to AWS endpoints and devices securely.
Here are some ecosystem kit offerings designed to spur adoption. Partners for the IoT platform at launch and features of their offerings include:
- Dragonboard IoT Starter Kit with Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 at up to 1.2 GHz per core, including 32- and 64-bit support and Qualcomm Adreno 306 GPU supporting advanced APIs such as OpenGL, ES 3.0, OpenCL, DirectX and security. The kit also features Android 5.1 on Linux Kernel 3.10, Linux based on Ubantu, as well as support for Windows 10. There is on-board Wi-Fi, BT and GPS antenna, and one 40-pin low-speed and 60-pin high-speed expansion connectors.
- Intel Edison and Grove IoT Starter Kit featuring Grove buzzer, button, LED, rotary angle, sound and light sensors, smart relay, temperature and touch sensors, mini servo and LCD RGB backlight. The kit also has an 8GB microSD* Card with an SD Card Adapter, 9V to Barrel Jack Adapter—126mm, 26AWG Grove Cable, Micro USB Cable, Serial Cable and Ethernet Cable.
- Marvel EZ-Connect MW302 IoT Starter Kit features a MW300/302 Wi-Fi MCU SoC with 1x1 802.11n Wi-Fi and integrated Cortex-M4 MCU in addition to a 512 KB SRAM and flash controller and SPI, I2C, UAET, I2S, PWM, ADC, DAC interfaces.
- MediaTek LinkIt One IoT Starter Kit Microchip IoT Starter Kit with the MediaTek MT2502 SoC supporting GSM, GPRS, Bluetooth 2.1 and 4.0 and Wi-Fi and GNSS and integrated ARM7 EJ-S. The LinkIt ONE SDK integrates with Arduino software. It features pin-out that is similar to Arduino boards, including digital and analog I/O, PWM, I2C, SPI, UART and power supply.
- Renesas RX63N RDK IoT Starter Kit features a 96 MHz RX63N board with an integrated debugger and a peripheral set that includes Ethernet, CAN and USB. Micrium Spectrum software is pre-programmed and includes protocol and cloud service portfolio. A three-axis accelerometer is onboard, as is J-Link OB for high-quality source code debugging.
- Texas Instruments SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3200 Wireless MCU LaunchPad includes a CC3200 Wi-Fi wireless MCU in QFN package, a USB interface to PC for CCS/IAR using FTDI USB drivers, two 20-pin connectors compatible with BoosterPacks and flash update over the USB using SimpleLink Programmer.
- WICED B4343W IoT Starter Kit features Broadcom’s WICED Wi-Fi+BLE+MCU module with integrated Broadcom 2.4GHZ 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth/Bluetooth Smart 4.1 SoC and the STM32F411 ARM Cortex-M4 MCU that supports 512 KB Flash, 128 KB SRAM and 8 Mb Serial Flash.
Another example includes IoT starter kits announced at Embedded World 2016 by Farnell’s element 14. Dubbed Entrepreneur and Enterprise, the kits target the development of flexible, cost-effective and intelligent building products for hospitals, homes and more.
The Entrepreneur kit features EnOcean sensors and Raspberry Pi and EnOcean Pi boards. In addition, it provides access to IBM’s Watson IoT Platform and Bluemix services. In comparison, Enterprise includes EnOcean OEM self-powered sensors and EnOcean Gateway combined with access to IBM’s Watson IoT Platform and IBM TRIRIGA facilities management program.
NXP is also targeting the IoT with the LPC43S67 A 70CM kit kit via element 14 that combines AES128/192/256 encryption, NFC, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and sensors centering on the LPCXpresso43S67 board with LPC43S67 dual-core M4F and M0+MCU. The board is expandable via Arduino Uno R3 and Pmod-compatible headers. Debug is provided by an on-board, high-speed USB debug probe. The kit is supported by NXP’s LPCXpresso IDE and ZentriOS.
NXP also announced that it is supporting two recently introduced reference platforms for wearables—the Hexiwear platform and WaRP7 platforms. Hexiwear, built by MikroElektronica, is based on the Kinetis K6x MCU, Kinetis KW40Z multimode radio SoC, NXP sensors and a single-cell battery charger IC. The WaRP7 is an NFC-enabled MPU, developed in collaboration with element 14. The platform enables evaluation and rapid adoption for wearable device innovation. It allows for power efficiency optimization, lower BOM and performance flexibility.
Intel also just unveiled the latest version of its IoT starter kit for IoT, Developer Kit 3.0, that includes support for a variety of sensors. It also enables devices to connect to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform. Thanks to this integration, developers also can take advantage of Watson application programming interfaces for analytics, speech and image recognition. IoT will be the primary development tool for Intel's recently announced Robotics Development Kit that includes a developer board with an Atom processor and a RealSense 3-D camera.
Examples wouldn’t be complete without a kit that specifically targets the industrial IoT sector. Avnet just announced a starter kit designed to streamline smart device and cloud development.
The Avnet MicroZed Industrial IoT Starter Kit is an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box system that accesses solutions from IBM, Wind River and Xilinx. The MicroZed Industrial IoT Starter Kit enables edge-to-cloud development of Internet-connected solutions and includes building blocks for developing a production-ready, IoT-enabled, industrial processing system.
The platform is based on Avnet’s MicroZed system-on-module with a Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC from Xilinx and pluggable sensor solutions from Maxim Integrated and STMicroelectronics. It integrates IBM’s Watson IoT Platform agent on a custom-configured, certified image of Wind River’s Pulsar Linux OS. IBM’s Watson IoT Platform agent enables registered, secure connection to the Watson IoT Platform and additional cloud services and applications from the IBM Bluemix portfolio.
Designing IoT devices is complex. However, design kits provide more than a platform. They offer enhanced compatibility between disparate devices, software compatibility and reliability through to production, and a fast and understandable basis for companies to add what they do best while “partnering” with the kit providers to get to market as fast as possible—the only way to be competitive in the exploding market segment.