The Internet of Things (IoT) will bring union among sensors, end points, the cloud, and the network. These products, as parts of the overall system, provide a unique view into processes, machines, automation, and consumer activities and allow more convenient access and usage of the Internet.
Sixty-four-bit processors are now being integrated into smartphones. MediaTek has an 8-core application processor with an ARM Mali quad-core graphics processor. These types of processor innovations into the smartphone will foster the integration of power management components and other analog functions as AFEs with sensor integration.
Freescale has embarked on the IoT with ARM Cortex ICs for such applications as appliances (white goods), security systems, and smart thermostats. The microprocessor can communicate with devices via Bluetooth, Zigbee, or 802.11 with embedded communications for industrial applications.
Here's a practical example of such communications used in the transportation sector: A bridge can be equipped with temperature sensors on or next to its surface. Pressure sensors (usually strain-gauges) can be embedded in the concrete or attached to structural members (girders, beams, and trusses). During inclement weather (especially in the wintertime), the sensors can communicate weather-related changes. Snow and ice conditions can be easily detected; road warning signs can be activated to notify drivers.
Beyond just these wintertime road surface conditions, structural status of bridges can be sent to a central location. Tragedies such as the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota could be averted.
An example of how lots of functionality can be integrated into an IC (for applications similar to the above temperature example) is a recent device from Maxim Integrated (this site's sponsor). The device, the MAX31855, is a mixed signal IC. It has provisions for and contains sensor excitation, signal conditioning, cold-junction compensation, ADC, fault detection, and protective devices all integrated into a single package.
Features of this level of integration are many and varied. Look for improvements in connectivity, decision-making capabilities, productivity, and analytics (that can result in improved safety). Also, expect to see improvements in existing infrastructure and machines by making them smarter.
Your smartphone will be a key component in the IoT since it stores a tremendous amount of data about your activities, preferences (likes), and behavior. For example, something we are just now starting to see: control of digital ads (signs) across a network, which can change information displayed according to demographics of the nearby audience.
2014 will bring more new solutions to enhance our experiences, tighten our focus on our needs, and improve our products and systems. It will be exciting to see a strong effort and progression in this area by semiconductor companies. What are you looking forward to in integrated analog technology in 2014?