The IoT (Internet of Things) is not one product, technology, segment, or market. It’s a combination of many things, many markets, and many technologies. However, it’s one thing that needs to connect everything together; edge device to gateway to cloud. That brings the complexity, how’s that possible amid large heaps of heterogeneous devices, multiple M2M protocols, multiple communication protocols, large amount of data transport, security issues, and so on across the world? How can we see IoT becoming the Next Big Thing without addressing these issues?
Okay, large data centres can be constituted to handle big data. Technology processes and specialized chips with low power, low energy and low cost are already around the corner; some are already developed for IoT applications. But does that hardware confirm to the right software that can address the issues on a larger scale for a seamless and secure connectivity among devices and the internet across the world? We do not have one answer to that but have multiple answers. Everyone is working towards finding the right solution; there are multiple open source M2M protocols, communication protocols and company sponsored open IoT platforms in the work today. Earlier in this year, I had made a forum post on Semiwiki (the link is provided at the end of this article) about IoT standards in which I have mentioned about these.
There is a general consensus that different verticals in IoT market have different requirements. I would expect at least a common standard for each vertical and there should be ways for horizontal crossing between them to satisfy important requirements of IoT such as security, communication, data processing, and so on. There has been good effort to design smart and cost effective IoT edge devices, but what happens when you have to equip them to work with multiple wireless technologies because different regions across the world have different standards? The cost increases which is in conflict with IoT market growth. A common standard across the world can significantly reduce the cost from various angles and accelerate IoT market.
As I said in my forum post, the market forces will determine who wins among several IoT platforms and standards which are in evolution mode. This is not something which is already known and a standard can be formed by discussion. It has to evolve, and since there is big opportunity ahead, in such situation one who wins that becomes the standard. Let’s see some of the progresses made in this direction.
Qualcommdeveloped AllJoyn platform and released it for open development. Many manufacturers have joined AllSeen Alliance, an industry group to develop AllJoyn as an standard IoT protocol. Qualcomm is also working to integrate its next-generation peer-to-peer protocols with its new 4G networks with MuLTEfire technology that allows running 4G networks on a neutral unlicensed spectrum. The acquisition of CSR brings Qualcomm a powerful Mesh protocol which adds security, a key requirement for IoT, to Bluetooth standard. Bluetooth is a symmetrical standard for short range devices to communicate without any router in between unlike WiFi. Bluetooth with Mesh can allow any number of devices to securely connect and communicate with each other, thus providing impetus to IoT. If Qualcomm is able to significantly increase mobile network capacity with its MuLTEfire technology and make 4G cells as common as WiFi, it could be a clear winner in the IoT space. Hope Qualcomm comes out of its current crisis and fulfils its strategic vision about IoT as it has the right setup of hardware in terms of MuLTEfire, Mesh network, and AllJoyn platform required for IoT.
ARM mbed IoT device platform is another promising common platform for developing IoT devices at a scale. ARM’s IoT Subsystem for Cortex-M processors is available for IoT endpoint development and other IP solutions for all points including gateway and cloud servers. Recently, ARMannounced a new Quality Assurance Standard for mbed enabled devices. This platform provides interoperability between mbed-based devices. It could be another winner as it has the support of ARM IP platform that provides IP for most of the devices in the semiconductor industry.
Intelis investing heavily to build an IoT platform with specialized low-power devices and software. Their Quark SoC X1000 series based IoT platform has an open architecture for anyone to develop customized platforms for different applications. This platform caters to the complete IoT ecosystem from the edge to the data center. Recently I Intel demonstrated this platform working perfectly for industrial, energy and transportation segments of IoT.
Also, there are smartphone makers like Appleand Samsung investing in developing IoT platforms. There are automotive players gearing up for the classified automotive segment. What we need is standard platforms for different verticals. It may so happen that adjacent verticals, for example wearable, personal health and consumer segments can share a same standard.
Market forces will determine the winners. Smaller players will eventually join the larger players and a set of standards will evolve for IoT to become the Next Big Thing. We have great enablers from the EDA space as well with their tools and IP to fuel IoT development.
My forum post on Semiwiki: IoT standards – what, when, the reality and what’s possible
Pawan Kumar Fangaria
Founder & President at www.fangarias.com