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IoT triggers outburst of new ideas

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wearable? IoT? Internet of Things? creativity?

The Internet of Things opens Pandora's box. The result will be a creativity explosion.

Everyone believes that the advent of IoT is unstoppable, and they are right. The Internet of Things is the next "big thing" in electronics. This is an explosion of new ideas that will add sensing and controls to literally billions of everyday situations. From food quality sensing and biomedical applications to smart cars and smart parking spots, purpose-built tiny computers will be deployed to (hopefully) make our lives easier and better.

The concept is basically easy. Take one of hundreds of standard microprocessors, attach its I/O ports to a sensor, add some packaging and some software and bingo, a "Thing." Communication to the outside world is via Ethernet or a wireless protocol. Many, especially "wearable" items, will use batteries, but some will attach to wall power. IoT is really flexible.

IoT has all the makings of a supply-side bonanza. Makers of ultra-low-power microprocessors will find ready markets with few standards. Though Intel is entering the space, there are no predetermined preferences for "Intel Architecture" products and in fact the ARM processor and Android operating system may already have an edge in designs.

Apart from sensors and microprocessors, the pull-through on other components will be tremendous. Voltage converters, resistors, capacitors, and ferrites will have a field day and circuit board makers will be stuffing a lot of small circuit boards.

We can expect a good portion of the "Things" to be low-volume items. The driver for this is 3D printing, making production of plastic and metal housings on-demand relatively simple and inexpensive. This is where 3D printing is going to find its niche. It allows a "Thing" designer to get to market quickly, and without all of the trappings of plastics moulding, not least of which is a reduced level of engineering staff.

For a while, at least, the highest visibility markets revolve around health-related products. Implantable sensors, wearables, and microchip diagnostic devices are well along in the research labs, and the exploitation of these ideas will involve a good deal of innovation and re-packaging as the technologies evolve.

Most nations and health service providers are looking for ways to reduce costs, and the new technologies impact major areas by reducing the need for doctors, and by improved analysis and reporting of health issues. Still, the idea of invasive "Things" is not intuitively acceptable, which will impact form and function as vendors look for the least invasive unit possible.

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