The Internet of Things = Billions of connected nodes?

Posted: April 2015

Colin Howlett, VP Smart Grid Systems, shares technology developments available in the IoT market.

Everybody’s talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). Any item connected to the web is now part of it, from a connected Barbie to a connected street lamp.

But what will it really mean for the internet to extend its tentacles to billions of objects in every corner of the world?

 

Many of the IoT devices being produced now look very small and very cheap… compared to a full scale computer. The Raspberry Pi for instance is one of a growing number of relatively low cost computers being pushed into the market place and used by enterprising engineers to connect all kinds of devices to the internet using all the same internet technologies we’re familiar with – WiFi, Ethernet, IP addressing and so on.

The ARM chips that power the Raspberry PI and lower power versions of them are also finding their way into lower cost, lower power development kits often using networking approaches which are less familiar to the average consumer but are likely to become so soon, such as ZigBee or Nest’s ‘thread’ protocol, or sometime Bluetooth. These communications approaches attempt to bend the traditional internet’s protocols into a form a bit more suitable for low power devices without quite breaking them – with varying degrees of success.

To really get connected devices into every nook and cranny of our world, we’ll need to do much better in producing tiny, ultra-low power devices. We need sensors and control devices that can communicate over long distances and survive on battery power for years or better still decades. We need them to be so cheap that connecting every device is a ‘no-brainer’.

The Long Tail

For several years many analysts have been suggesting that the majority of applications in the future IoT will be of this kind. They form the so-called ‘Long Tail’ of applications. This relies on the network effect that makes the internet so powerful. If there were only two or three people on Facebook it may not be very interesting, but as the number of connections multiply, you can learn more and more as each new node in the network adds incrementally more connections.

The situation in the internet of things is much the same – each tiny sensor may add only a little more information – after all, it’s cheap, it can’t do much. But as we add more and more tiny sensors, we build up a more and more comprehensive picture of what’s really happening in the energy use in our homes and factories, in remote gas pipelines or farmers fields, and this wealth of information assembled piece by piece from tiny cheap, zero maintenance remote sensors enables us to take smarter decisions.

Enter MicroMonitor and OpenThings

MicroMonitor Logo white

To address this growing need for low power, very low cost sensing and control devices with long range wireless communication, Sentec has introduced the MicroMonitor[1] line of silicon chips together with free support and reference designs to make integrating them into your products as easy as plug and play.

MM Diagram resized

At launch the MicroMonitor range includes two energy measurement and control chips with a radio driver interface built in, and two with a more basic UART connection, and prices range from a little over $1 to less than $2. More products will be coming soon.

The MicroMonitor chips with UART connections can of course, very simply be connected to any communication device you desire, while the chips with radio interfaces speak Sentec’s new OpenThings[2] protocol.

OpenThings Logo

OpenThings is designed to provide an extremely simple to implement, low power data protocol for use on sub-GHz radios that have much longer range than traditional wireless networking approaches such as WiFi, ZigBee or Bluetooth.

MicroMonitor powered devices can therefore be much cheaper, have long-range, two-way radio communications and endure in the field for years or decades on a single battery charge.

The Internet of Things will only truly achieve its potential when we deploy billions of such devices across our planet and start making smarter decisions with the data and insight they provide.

Colin Howlett – VP Smart Grid Systems

mm@sentec.co.uk



[1] http://www.sentec.co.uk/technologies/micromonitor

[2] http://www.o-things.com

Colin Howlett, VP Smart Grid Systems, shares technology developments available in the IoT market.

Everybody’s talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). Any item connected to the web is now part of it, from a connected Barbie to a connected street lamp.

But what will it really mean for the internet to extend its tentacles to billions of objects in every corner of the world?

 

Many of the IoT devices being produced now look very small and very cheap… compared to a full scale computer. The Raspberry Pi for instance is one of a growing number of relatively low cost computers being pushed into the market place and used by enterprising engineers to connect all kinds of devices to the internet using all the same internet technologies we’re familiar with – WiFi, Ethernet, IP addressing and so on.

The ARM chips that power the Raspberry PI and lower power versions of them are also finding their way into lower cost, lower power development kits often using networking approaches which are less familiar to the average consumer but are likely to become so soon, such as ZigBee or Nest’s ‘thread’ protocol, or sometime Bluetooth. These communications approaches attempt to bend the traditional internet’s protocols into a form a bit more suitable for low power devices without quite breaking them – with varying degrees of success.

To really get connected devices into every nook and cranny of our world, we’ll need to do much better in producing tiny, ultra-low power devices. We need sensors and control devices that can communicate over long distances and survive on battery power for years or better still decades. We need them to be so cheap that connecting every device is a ‘no-brainer’.

The Long Tail

For several years many analysts have been suggesting that the majority of applications in the future IoT will be of this kind. They form the so-called ‘Long Tail’ of applications. This relies on the network effect that makes the internet so powerful. If there were only two or three people on Facebook it may not be very interesting, but as the number of connections multiply, you can learn more and more as each new node in the network adds incrementally more connections.

The situation in the internet of things is much the same – each tiny sensor may add only a little more information – after all, it’s cheap, it can’t do much. But as we add more and more tiny sensors, we build up a more and more comprehensive picture of what’s really happening in the energy use in our homes and factories, in remote gas pipelines or farmers fields, and this wealth of information assembled piece by piece from tiny cheap, zero maintenance remote sensors enables us to take smarter decisions.

Enter MicroMonitor and OpenThings

MicroMonitor Logo white

To address this growing need for low power, very low cost sensing and control devices with long range wireless communication, Sentec has introduced the MicroMonitor[1] line of silicon chips together with free support and reference designs to make integrating them into your products as easy as plug and play.

MM Diagram resized

At launch the MicroMonitor range includes two energy measurement and control chips with a radio driver interface built in, and two with a more basic UART connection, and prices range from a little over $1 to less than $2. More products will be coming soon.

The MicroMonitor chips with UART connections can of course, very simply be connected to any communication device you desire, while the chips with radio interfaces speak Sentec’s new OpenThings[2] protocol.

OpenThings Logo

OpenThings is designed to provide an extremely simple to implement, low power data protocol for use on sub-GHz radios that have much longer range than traditional wireless networking approaches such as WiFi, ZigBee or Bluetooth.

MicroMonitor powered devices can therefore be much cheaper, have long-range, two-way radio communications and endure in the field for years or decades on a single battery charge.

The Internet of Things will only truly achieve its potential when we deploy billions of such devices across our planet and start making smarter decisions with the data and insight they provide.

Colin Howlett – VP Smart Grid Systems

mm@sentec.co.uk



[1] http://www.sentec.co.uk/technologies/micromonitor

[2] http://www.o-things.com