IoB’s Adrian Bridgwater looks at building the back-end infrastructure needed for the IoT to thrive.
Behind the user interfaces, shiny touchscreens and fun-to-press buttons, work is being carried out apace to bring standardization and harmony (along with essential functionality, obviously) to the guts that drive the Internet of Things.
The software the drives the IoT is in crucial need of liberation and democratization in the accessibility sense, so what developments should we be taking heed of?
Companies like Taiwan’s MediaTek make the circuit boards that sit inside our devices and the firm’s most recent product is designed to meet the needs of the Android developer community. Given the widespread popularity of Android as a mobile operating system for smartphones, this kind of backroom development will be key if we are to see the kind of free market innovation that we all hope the Internet of Things will ultimately deliver.
All shapes of IoT devices
According to MediaTek, “Developers can use the Helio X20 advanced board to build solutions for existing and emerging markets including virtual reality, advanced driver assisted systems (ADAS), mobile point-of-sale, smart signage, vending machines and more.”
The interesting point for the layperson non-techie here is that IoT vending machines are being built with the same technologies that are going into advanced driver assisted systems.
A crash course in IoT acronyms
At another level, New Hampshire based company Senet is helping to popularize the IoT term LoRa, meaning Long Range. As the use of connected IoT products starts to broaden, the physical playing field upon which they are installed increases in breadth and width. But, crucially, so does the need for wide area connectivity between the devices themselves. Add to that the need for the devices to operate on Low Power (LP) and you have another acronym to add to the set.
Logically then, when we combine long range LoRa, plus low power LP with a computing term we already know — Wide Area Network (WAN). The resultant union of the three is LoRa based, Low-Power, wide-area networks, or LPWANs to keep it snappy.
A whole new set of IoT uses
Senet IoT Foundry is a suite of development services for developers of IoT sensor-based solutions. The offerings are designed to help developers in startups as well as established companies accelerate the commercialization of LoRa-based LPWAN products and solutions. The company insists that the advent of LPWAN connectivity enables a whole new set of innovative business cases for solving customer problems.
“Solutions that leverage LPWAN connectivity are the newest, and potentially most innovative, in the IoT market,” said Dima Tokar, co-founder and CTO of IoT research firm MachNation.
“Many of the early solutions originated in Europe and have not yet entered the North American market. Senet has led the way in North America by offering the first public LoRa network and now they are offering their expertise to help developers accelerate solutions to market. This strikes me as a win-win situation for the LoRa ecosystem and for the end customers who will be the ultimate beneficiaries.”
How low is low, how long is long?
As these breed of IoT devices starts to grow, we will see more and more devices connect over very long ranges (approximately 15 miles) while delivering very low power enabled long battery power life (approximately 10 years). The end result is (in theory) an extremely low total cost of ownership… but it’s still early days in 2016.