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Your Internet of Things: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

The Internet of Things has become so heavily hyped that it is tempting to pen a buzz-kill, but as tempting as that might be, it would be disingenuous.

The Internet of Things is really earning its stripes: The technology is growing rapidly and reaching farther and into broader applications. Your things — phones, watches, keys, thermostats, and locks — can be connected via communication channels to each other and to the Internet to provide unprecedented convenience and benefits. In fact, many of your things already are connected (or at least can be with a few purchases).

What technologies are providing the impetus for this growth, and what applications are reaping the most benefits? I'll discuss a few in this blog, and more in subsequent ones.

As a MEMS sensor guy, I am partial to the technologies, applications, and benefits of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), so I'll start there. In subsequent posts, I will cover multi-sensor based applications and their needs; areas of growth and why they are growing; connectivity issues and solutions; as well as IoT enablers, examples, and technological and societal challenges.

Although sensors are just one of the five enabling technologies of the IoT (the others are MCUs, power management and control, communications, and security), sensors are the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and fingers of the IoT body. Tiny, accurate, power efficient, and cost effective, they have enabled the strong penetration of MEMS-based sensors into high-growth applications in portable devices.

Image 1

MEMS moves towards multi-sensor devices with embedded intelligence

MEMS moves towards multi-sensor devices with embedded intelligence

Want to measure aspects of the environment like heat or humidity? Want to measure movement of any sort? Want to measure sound? Sensors can do any or all of that.

To accelerate time-to-market and achieve economies of scale, standardizing the core technology has been critical. At the forefront of the necessary standardization efforts, the development of ThELMA (Thick Epitaxial Layer for Micro-gyroscopes and Accelerometers), a 0.8-micron, surface micro-machining process, combines variably thick and thin poly-silicon layers for structures and interconnections, respectively. Using the same micromachining technology platform for manufacturing accelerometers and gyroscopes also enables the integration of linear and angular mechanical elements on a single die, delivering significant cost and size benefits.

In combination with ThELMA, the VENSENS process (VENice process for SENSors) allows the integration of a cavity into mono-crystalline silicon, producing an ultra-compact pressure sensor with excellent size and performance properties–thinner and smaller devices with higher robustness, thermal stability and reliability. Then, Through-Silicon Via technology (TSV) in high-volume MEMS production can replace traditional chip-to-chip wiring with short vertical interconnects in multi-chip MEMS devices, such as smart sensors and multi-axis inertial modules. This enables a higher level of functional integration; greater space efficiency; higher interconnect density; and better performance in a smaller form factor – all while increasing robustness and performance.

One by one, MEMS sensors have revolutionized a variety of human accomplishments: navigation, gaming, printing, projection, vehicle safety, fitness and wellness, DNA analysis, and drug delivery, to name just a very few. The “things” that enhance life have been made more efficient, smaller, and more useful, through micro-electro-mechanical systems.

27 comments on “Your Internet of Things: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

  1. Davidled
    May 16, 2014

    Environment sensor detecting air pollution degree (ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide) and wind speed could be equipped with Clouding Computer. These data could be transferred into the third party through Cloud computing.

  2. eafpres
    May 18, 2014

    Hi Jay–there is no doubt that the miniaturization of everything, including sensors, leads to more ubiquitous applications for sensing.  I've noted that nearly all sensors require analog in the signal chain, so I might add to your list of key technoligies analog front-ends or more generically, signal conditioning.

    It seems that there are areas of favor in MEMS applications.  You note several realted to position.  There may be no benefits of MEMS in certain measurements such as temperature or photometry.  That may represent only our bias given current sensing paradigms.  For example it is possible to induce an oscillation that is related to temperature difference; a MEMS device could detect very small oscillations and enable a new measurement technique.

     

  3. eafpres
    May 18, 2014

    @Jay–a lot of the communications frameworks for emerging IoT applications seem ill-conceived.  For instance, controlling home automation via Bluetooth.  This is fine for toying around, but doesn't seem to be a long-term scalable approach.

    On the other hand, I don't think the scenario that has a large fraction of nodes on cellular networks to get to the internet makes complete sense.  My view is that a lot of applications involve a large number of relatively closely spaced nodes.  The model of a robust short-range technology (like some form of 802.15.4) linking via a mesh to one or more gateways seems better.

    What are your thoughts?

  4. Netcrawl
    May 19, 2014

    @easpres MEMS is taking a big role in the world of electronic, MEMS are used in virtually all areas of industry-healthcare, consumer, aerospace, construction and military. Much of the growth in the MEMS industry is expected to come from products that in the early stage of development or yet to be discovered.  

  5. Netcrawl
    May 19, 2014

    @Daej I think its possible with today's development on MEMS, MEMS will definitely play a critical role in enabling a more intelligent Iot-something that could change the whole consumer space. 

  6. chirshadblog
    May 19, 2014

    @Netcrawl: Yes indeed with the help of the rising technology and its tools nothing is impossible right now but we have to be careful when we try to automate things fully or towards the maximum line since that might make things out of control.  

  7. samicksha
    May 19, 2014

    Yes Sensor is one of the MEMS application widely used, either in automobile or in phones but not sure which material is best or widely used for MEMS manufacturing.

  8. chirshadblog
    May 20, 2014

    @samicksha: If you are to target a wide market then best would be to go for automobiles but if you are to think and go with the future then opt for mobiles

  9. samicksha
    May 21, 2014

    I guess both the markets keep relevance in their own segements, little tough to decide.

  10. etnapowers
    May 22, 2014

    STMicroelectronics is a global leader in the field of MEMS, that is a product which holds a lot of potential because it could be utilized to transduce vibrations into a electric signal that can be further elaborated by integrated microprocessors, that are a part of ST's portfolio.

  11. etnapowers
    May 22, 2014

    A system on chip solution is really promising for STMicroelectronics and for its competitors, that are enriching their MEMS portfolio too much. MEMS is really a key product for the future development and success of the IoT technology.

  12. geek
    May 22, 2014

    “I don't think the scenario that has a large fraction of nodes on cellular networks to get to the internet makes complete sense”

    @eafpres1: I agree with this. I think there has to be a distinction between what devices should go to the internet directly and what shouldn't. Ideally, I'd like the devices to be connected via Wi-Fi to a central controller. The controller should be the one with access to the internet and all devices should go through it.

  13. geek
    May 22, 2014

    “Much of the growth in the MEMS industry is expected to come from products that in the early stage of development or yet to be discovered.  “

    @Netcrawl: What do you think restricts the use of MEMS in upgraded versions of mature products? Is it a limitaion in the technology itself that does not let the upgrade take place while using MEM?

  14. Davidled
    May 23, 2014

    I think that Wi-Fi is temporarily connection resources. Device should be connected everywhere and anytime, even though Wi-Fi hot spots are becoming popular. High capacity network should be implemented for a bigger user community. I guess that this type network could be implemented by a better analogy design.

  15. chirshadblog
    May 26, 2014

    @DaeJ: Well its easy but does have some security concerns in it. True if you protect it via a strong password then you are safe but not 100%. 

  16. geek
    May 27, 2014

     

    “Device should be connected everywhere and anytime, even though Wi-Fi hot spots are becoming popular”

    @DaeJ: When you're talking about the device being connected anywhere anytime, you cannot rely on Wi-Fi as it's meant to be primarily used for indoors and for a short range. The other alternates like Wi-Max and 3G are better geared towards meeting this requirement.

     

  17. Davidled
    June 2, 2014

    Security could be a huge subject. There are so many methods being discussed such as protocol change and data encryption. But, I might be looking at bootloader encrytion by which data could be protected. Interface circuit might be related to bootloader execution time.   

  18. Davidled
    June 2, 2014

    4G with LTE and 5G increases the number of bandwidth and data rates, as industry demands more bandwidth. 5G cellular network might have a high capacity for delivering data to many customers simultaneously. 

  19. geek
    June 9, 2014

    “5G cellular network might have a high capacity for delivering data to many customers simultaneously. “

    @DaeJ: I think that would be a great advantage and bring about a lot of operational efficiency as far as telecom infrastructure is concerned. They'd need to invest in lesser number of cellular towers because of this increase in the capacity.

  20. Sachin
    July 31, 2014

    The other alternates like Wi-Max and 3G are better geared towards meeting this requirement.

    @tzubair, but surprisingly we are not seeing much activity in 3G. Companies are reluctant to invest in infrastructure rollout 3G features because already people are talking about 4G and so on.

  21. Sachin
    July 31, 2014

    5G cellular network might have a high capacity for delivering data to many customers simultaneously.

    @DaeJ, no doubt LTE and 5G increases the number of bandwidth and data rates but the primary goal with 5G is to make it feel like the end user is always connected, regardless of where he is located so giving him the sense of true mobility.

  22. Davidled
    August 13, 2014

    Data coverage could be overlapped between two cellular towers. Engineers need to configure data traffic over the time with signal strength and decide the location of tower that are capable for handling the massive multiple input and multiple output with network switch box.

  23. Davidled
    August 16, 2014

    One of advantage of 5G might be connectivity and speed of data rate. When data packet is requested, data could be downloaded to device so much faster than 3G and 4G. It is known that 5G could deliver 1Gbps in both uplink and downlink.

  24. Netcrawl
    August 16, 2014

    @Daej I agree with you about 5G, actually 5G is not a term officially used for any particular specification or any document made by companies or standardization bodies like WiMax Forum, the implementation of standard under 5G would likely to hit by the year 2020. 

    The term 5G is currently used in some research works to denote the next major phase of mobile standards beyond 4G. 5G will include all type of advanced features, which make it more powerful and much faster. 

  25. Netcrawl
    August 16, 2014

    In 5G we'll see compute capabilities getting fused with communication everywhere-the IoT and wearable technology, here wearable devices an connect to other devices and could lead to a whole new kind of computing environment and experience.

    5G will bring processing power and speed to devices that need it. It would be the first network designed to be scalable, versatile, smarter and energy saver for the hyperconnected internet of everything. 

  26. chirshadblog
    August 18, 2014

    @Netcrawl: Good point mate. I think it's the process behind what matters. The name can be deceiving sometimes

  27. dassa.an
    August 18, 2014

    “It's the process that matters. Name can be deceiving”

    @chrishadblog: Very true and I agree with you on it. My concern is that why do people opt for technology or whatever without having a proper knowledge on it. If you know the basics of the background that you are looking for, then it's easy for you to proceed. If not only the deceiving part comes in. 

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