The Internet of Things in the Smart Society

28 October 2013

Later this week in Barcelona, Renesas will join leaders in business, industry, government and academia at Cisco's inaugural Internet of Things (IoT) World Forum, a conference focused on creating a framework for collaborative industry innovation and market adoption that will accelerate the impact of the Internet of Things on the global economy, society and the environment. It promises to be a great opportunity for various industries to come together and work on making IoT happen around the world.

While there will be many different opinions about the future of IoT, I'm sure we'll see agreement among the attendees about the importance of establishing common languages in the heterogeneous world of IoT. Like PC computing in the 80s, Internet computing in the 90s and mobile computing in the early 2000s, IoT will be the driving factor behind semiconductor solution development in this decade.

There are three layers of the IoT: 1) the edge where sensor-enabled devices gather data, 2) connected hubs that will collect that data and then forward it to 3) data centers for analysis and the compilation of Big Data. Solutions designed to operate in these three layers will all require semiconductors with varying degrees of connectivity and processing capability, and they will number in the billions. That is why shipments of chips for the IoT are expected to surpass 10 million units per year by later this decade. But this kind of volume cannot be achieved unless some key factors are addressed. Among these factors are the ability to process and understand data; the ability to authenticate and secure the data, and the ability to operate at a nearly perpetual or "always on" state.

Sensor fusion allows us to collect and process real-world data at the edge. It is enabled by the proliferation of various types of sensors combined with the ability of microcontrollers to fuse the individual sensor feeds in order to determine what does and does not constitute relevant data for "intelligence" establishment.

Similarly, by establishing security at the edge of the network, as the intelligence moves up the food chain, it will be authentic. Adding security and ensuring authentication at the edge of the network will further minimize the vulnerabilities that could exist in the gap.

Advancements in low power semiconductor technologies and the emergence of alternative energies will enable the devices at the edge of the network to collect more data, more often. The ability to collect larger sample sizes will further qualify the intelligence that will feed into Big Data.

At the IoT World Forum, I will be moderating a panel titled, "Minding the Gaps at the Edge of the Network," which will also include participants from Freescale, Intel and Zebra Technologies. We'll explore the idea that the proliferation of sensors combined with low-power, high-performance and affordable microcontrollers is enabling us to quantify and qualify the real and analog world around us in ways that will empower the intelligence of IoT from the edge of the network, where it will have the most impact on the whole. Sensor- and microcontroller-enabled embedded devices will therefore fill the intelligence gap at the edge of the network.

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