Understanding the IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that there are nearly 10 billion devices in the world connected to the Internet, a figure expected to triple to nearly 30 billion by 2020.

According to Alain Louchez of the Georgia Institute of Technology, interest in the IoT has accelerated dramatically in 2013. A number of initiatives – annual conferences, forums, new journals, standards groups and public consultations – have recently kicked off around the world, confirming the growing importance of connected objects.

“IoT is many things to many people. It is often cloaked with various names, depending on the context. For example, machine-to-machine communications (M2M), ubiquitous computing, cyber-physical systems, industrial Internet, smart grid and smarter planet are a few examples of expressions used to describe IoT,” Louchez explained.

“[However], the development of any IoT solution requires the combination of myriad technologies and expertise, from the sensing and actuating stage to the transformation of data into actionable information. For IoT to thrive, education, training and awareness must become a top priority for businesses, governments and academia.”

Louchez also recommended that more colleges and universities integrate IoT technology into their respective curricula.

“China is one of the first countries to understand the need for well-adapted educational programs to support IoT acceleration. Many Chinese universities already offer degrees in Internet of Things Engineering. Note that the fundamental technical knowledge necessary to prepare for IoT can be found in universities with programs in ubiquitous computing, interactive computing, human–computer interaction, cyber-physical systems and M2M networking,” he continued.

“These programs are inherently dynamic because they need to keep pace with a rapidly changing industry. With the arrival of Big Data, generated in no small part by IoT and associated technologies, ‘data science’ has become a hot topic in academic circles. The information extraction is central to IoT and cannot be ignored by IoT architects.”

Finally, Louchez noted that smart roads, home automation and fitness-data collection are examples that can be used to explain the power of IoT on practical terms to both businesses and consumers.

“IoT is about the radical transformation of society, which won’t happen overnight. Education, training and awareness are some of the highly visible prerequisites, and critical to IoT’s success. The faster we come to grips with this, the faster IoT will move to mainstream adoption,” he concluded.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the rapidly evolving IoT represents perhaps the greatest potential growth market for semiconductors over the next several years. And that is precisely why Atmel remains focused on designing the absolute lowest power sipping products, particularly with regards to microcontrollers (MCUs).

“Atmel is well positioned for the rapidly evolving IoT as our portfolio includes ultra-low power WiFi capability and an extensive lineup of microcontrollers (MCUs). As applications become more interconnected and user interfaces become richer, MCUs must handle and transfer ever-growing levels of data. To boost performance for these smart, connected applications, Atmel’s 8-bit Flash MCUs integrate a wide range of classic communication peripherals, such as UART, SPI and I2C,” an Atmel engineering rep told Bits & Pieces.

“Plus, our higher-performance 32-bit MCUs and embedded MPUs (eMPUs) feature Ethernet and full-speed and high-speed USB, while also providing extension ports for external communication modules such as WiFi or cellular modems. Simply put, Atmel MCUs are designed to deliver maximum performance and meet the requirements of advanced applications. That is why we offer highly integrated architecture optimized for high-speed connectivity, optimal data bandwidth and rich interface support – making them ideal for powering the smart, connected products at the heart of the IoT.”

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