Designing for the IoT as Intelligence Moves to the Edge
Spreading IoT intelligence around
The IoT is evolving, from a sprawl of raw data sources into focused instances of processed information. Putting intelligence at the edge is creating demand for even more performance using less power and with lower latency. Understanding this, designers and manufacturers are developing and delivering the solutions needed to support doing more with less. Ultra-low power solutions are enabling battery-less designs to be deployed all around the network, each one producing valuable and actionable intelligence.
There are already billions of always-on devices constantly generating and transmitting data over a wider system of networks, feeding cloud-based servers and contributing to Big Data. Power efficiency is relevant at every juncture but the potential to reduce dependency on power is now a reality at the very edge.
If an IoT smart sensor is battery-powered, the TCO (total cost of ownership) goes far beyond the cost of purchase and installation. Every time a battery needs replacing the owner or operator will incur the cost of an on-site visit and while these can often be scheduled as maintenance, there will always be cases where the battery power fails between routine site visits. The environmental cost of manufacturing and replacing billions of batteries is also significant and for these reasons there is growing interest around developing ultra-low power solutions.
This massively significant development is enabled by technologies like the revolutionary RSL10 Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth Low Energy System-on-Chip (SoC) and System-in-Package (SiP) from ON Semiconductor. The RSL10 is not only the industry’s lowest power Bluetooth solution currently available but also the highest EEMBC ULPMark SoC. This combination of low power and high performance gives the RSL10 manufacturers a competitive edge when developing ultra-low power or even battery-less designs to transmit data over Bluetooth.[PM1] .
Energy harvesting is increasingly viable in the IoT, particularly for ultra-low power sensors.
In the past, achieving meaningful communication from harvested energy has been challenging, but through constant innovation, developers now have access to complete wireless sensor reference designs that can operate entirely from harvested energy. .
The same approach can be used to design smart sensors using power harvested from solar, [PM2] motion or temperature differentials. This is made possible by the very low power requirements of the latest devices and is set to enable a wide range of ultra-long battery life or even battery-less smart sensors across the IoT.
Technologies enabling sensing, connection and actuation in the IoT
We have always interpreted the world through sensors; transducers that convert one form of information to another. It could be argued that our five senses are really only transducers, albeit with very high resolution and backed up by the most intensive processor known. If sensors are the eyes and ears of the IoT, actuators are the muscles. The ability to sense a condition, interpret its relevance and act on the results is effectively the value proposition offered by the IoT.
The number of ways in which the IoT is able to sense, connect and act expands daily. The evolution of sensing technology is truly amazing, spurred on by the opportunity presented by new and exciting applications. For instance, ON Semiconductor’s expansive Image sensor portfolio are now empowering vision-based endpoints in the IoT, integrating advanced features to cover a wide range of resolutions, dynamic ranges and shutter technologies to address every application.
The IoT doesn’t conform to traditional ideas of how technology is used, it is increasingly data-centric and that’s putting new pressures on developers. Data may start with a sensor but it quickly moves to the cloud, so it is now more important to support manufacturers in that entire journey. Avnet has that covered, from advice on how the IoT can help you, to designing the right solution for your application and adding the cloud services to deliver the insights you’re looking for, all with secure connectivity at the core.
Wireless and wired connectivity is fundamental to the IoT and continues to differentiate endpoints. There is no ‘wrong way’ to connect an IoT node, it all depends on the application. Supporting that takes a product portfolio that covers all of the major solutions, including Bluetooth, Zigbee and Sigfox, as well as proprietary RF implementations in the 2.4GHz and Sub-GHz bands. Wired connectivity is still strong in many applications and USB continues to be a popular choice, a position that is strengthened by the emergence of USB Type C.
Actuation is elemental to automation and it invariably involves controlling the application of power, from directing volts to driving motors. The area of power control is synonymous with efficiency, and as the IoT expands it is becoming more important to deliver higher efficiencies at every point. ON Semiconductor’s portfolio of MOSFETs, IGBTs and relay drivers, coupled with its expertise in power conversion and power management is a key strength, developed to address the needs of the IoT.
Reducing design pressure through platforms
Estimates vary but the IoT is widely anticipated to comprise tens of billions of devices within the next several years, but what is perhaps more significant is that the revenues expected to be generated by the data produced by the IoT will far outweigh the cost of its implementation.
But even with this clear potential there is inertia within the industry; this isn’t reluctance to adopt new technologies but rather a resistance to changing the way we work. Avnet and ON Semiconductor believe this can and must be overcome if we are to realize the true potential of the IoT.
We can no longer afford to work in isolated pockets of excellence; just as every node is part of something bigger, IoT is multi-disciplinary and also involves multiple groups within organizations. We are actively developing solutions to make this possible, enabling engineers to be more effective designers.
The Internet of Things Development Kit (IDK) is ON Semiconductor’s platform for the rapid development and prototyping of IoT endpoints. It includes a wide range of modules featuring sensors, actuators and connectivity solutions. The compact, node-to-cloud multi-sensor platform featuring RSL10 and over a dozen sensors, forms the basis for several use case deployments such as industrial wearables and asset monitoring.
Turning data into insight
The IoT is already a melting pot of protocols and that is only likely to continue to grow. Gateways provide one way of bringing them together, but cloud resources offer greater levels of flexibility and performance. This is where platforms like Avnet’s IoTConnect are able to deliver convergence between operational and information technology. It offers the ability to connect any number of ‘things’, with remote access and real-time monitoring, as well as support for moving data between disparate systems.
The opportunity is great and only getting bigger
IoT markets are being defined by companies that can deliver a low-power, data-centric approach to end-to-end connectivity. With many millions of devices already connected and billions more yet to be designed, the IoT has a long way to grow. Manufacturers looking to be part of this exciting but challenging opportunity should look for a partner that can add real value to their own design resources, by bringing expertise in all the areas that can make a competitive difference. By working with Avnet and ON Semiconductor, all manufacturers can have the resources, expertise and solutions they need to help them get to market quicker.
Learn more about how Avnet and ON Semiconductor can enable your IoT applications by exploring our many resources designed to take you from concept to product release.