Tag Archives: smart grid

Profile of an IoT processor for the industrial and consumer markets


 If there’s a single major stumbling block that is hindering the IoT take-off at the larger industrial scale, it’s security.


The intersection of data with intelligent machines is creating new possibilities in industrial automation, and this new frontier is now being increasingly known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, if there is a single major stumbling block that is hindering the IoT take-off at the larger industrial scale, it’s security.

It’s imperative to have reliable data in the industrial automation environment, and here, the additional security layers in the IoT hardware often lead to compromises in performance. Then, there is counterfeiting of products and application software, which is becoming a growing concern in the rapidly expanding IoT market.

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Atmel’s answer to security concerns in the IIoT infrastructure: a microprocessor (MPU) that can deliver the security while maintaining the level of performance that Internet-connected systems require. The company’s Cortex A5 chip — the Atmel | SMART SAMA5D4 — securely stores and transfers data, as well as safeguards software assets to prevent cloning of IoT applications.

The SAMA5D4 series of MPUs enables on-the-fly encryption and decryption of software code from the external DRAM. Moreover, it boasts security features such as secure boot, tamper detection pins and safe erasure of security-critical data. The A5D4 processor also incorporates ARM’s system-wide security approach, TrustZone, which is used to secure peripherals such as memory and crypto blocks. TrustZone —comprising of security extensions that can be implemented in a number of ARM cores — is tightly integrated into ARM’s Cortex-A processors. It runs the processor in two different modes: First, a secure environment executes critical security and safety software, and secondly, a normal environment runs the rich OS software applications such as Linux. This lets embedded designers isolate critical software from OS software.

The system approach allows control access to CPU, memories, DMA and peripherals with programmable secure regions. That, in turn, ensures that on-chip parts like CPU and off-chip parts like peripherals are protected from software attacks.

Trust

Performance Uplift

The Atmel SMART | SAMA5D4 processor is based on the Cortex-A5, the smallest and simplest of the Cortex-A series cores that support the 32-bit ARMv7 instruction set. It’s targeted at applications requiring high-precision computing and fast signal processing — that includes industrial and consumer applications such as control panels, communication gateways and imaging terminals.

The use cases for SAMA5D4 span from kiosks, vending machines and barcode scanners, to smart grid, communications gateways and control panels for security, home automation, thermostats, etc. Atmel’s MPU features peripherals for connectivity and user interface applications. For instance, it offers a TFT LCD controller for human-machine interface (HMI) and control panel applications and a dual Ethernet MAC for networking and gateway solutions.

Apart from providing high-grade security, SAMA5D4 adds two other crucial features to address the limitations of its predecessor, SAMA5D3 processor. First, it uplifts performance through ARM’s NEON DSP engine and 128kB L2 cache. The NEON DSP with 128-bit single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) architecture accelerates signal processing for more effective handling of multimedia and graphics. Likewise, L2 cache enhances data processing capability for imaging applications.

The second prominent feature of the SAMA5D4 is video playback that boasts 720p resolution hardware video decoder with post-image processing capability. Atmel’s embedded processor offers video playback for H.264, VP8 and MPEG4 formats at 30fps.

A Quick Overview of the SAMA5D4

The SAMA5D4 processor, which got a 14 percent performance boost from its predecessor MPU, increasing operating speed to 528 MHz, is a testament of the changing microprocessor market in the IoT arena. Atmel’s microprocessor for IoT markets delivers 840 DMIPS that can facilitate imaging-centric applications hungry for processing power. Aside from that, the SAMA5D4 is equipped with a 32-bit wide DDR controller running up to 176 MHz, which can deliver up to 1408MB/s of bandwidth. That’s a critical element for high-speed peripherals common in the industrial environments where microprocessors are required to process large amounts of data.

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Finally, the SAMA5D4 is configurable in either a 16- or 32-bit bus interface allowing developers a trade-off between performance and memory cost. There are four distinct chips in the SAMA5D4 family: SAMA5D41 (16-bit DDR), SAMA5D42 (32-bit DDR), SAMA5D43 (16-bit DDR along with H.264 video decoder)and SAMA5D44 (32-bit DDR along with H.264 video decoder).

The SoC-specific hardware security and embedded vision capabilities are a stark reminder of specific requirements of different facets of IoT, in this case, industrial and consumers markets. And Atmel’s specific focus on security and rich media just shows how the semiconductor industry is getting around the key IoT stumbling blocks.


Majeed Ahmad is the author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronics and The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.

Atmel achieves certification for PRIME v1.4 solutions


The Atmel | SMART portfolio of metering solutions now support the latest advanced connectivity standards.


Atmel has become the first company to receive the PRIME (PoweRline Intelligent Metering Evolution) v1.4 Profile 2 certification for the Atmel | SMART SAM4CP16B and ATPL230A smart metering solutions. The certification extends Atmel’s leadership and commitment to delivering state-of-the-art connectivity solutions and ensures that the company’s customers are able to develop high performance solutions, incorporating new features of the PRIME v1.4 standard. The latest standard supports some of the most demanding requirements of smart metering systems by offering increased robustness, throughput, band expansion, band-plan flexibility and IPv6.

Dual core MCUs suit smart metering platforms 2

“We are pleased to be the first semiconductor supplier to help develop and validate the technology, and to achieve this significant milestone with deep cooperation and partnership with our customers and the PRIME Alliance over a period of nearly five years,” said Kourosh Boutorabi, Senior Director of Smart Energy Solutions at Atmel. “We see increased interest in the PRIME standard by utilities in EMEA, Latin America and Asia and believe that as its adoption and proliferation continues, it is essential that its technical evolution continue to be fully standard compliant and certifiable by our customers as well as the utilities.”

PRIME is a mature, consolidated and worldwide PLC standard for advanced metering. There are currently millions of smart meters based on the PRIME standard that have been deployed supporting the PRIME v1.3. The Atmel | SMART portfolio of solutions now fully comply with both v1.3 and v1.4 standards ensuring total flexibility and scalability for original equipment manufacturers developing next-generation smart metering systems worldwide.

Interested in learning more? The Atmel PRIME v1.4 Profile 2 Certification is available on the PRIME Alliance website. Meanwhile, you can delve deeper into the wide range of PRIME-based PLC solutions here.

Atmel introduces next-gen SoC solution for smart metering

Atmel recently announced the introduction of its latest Power Line Communication System-on-Chip (SoC) solution designed for smart metering applications.

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The Atmel SAM4CP16B is an extension of Atmel’s SAM4Cx smart energy platform built on a dual-core 32-bit ARM® Cortex®-M4 architecture. Fully compatible with Atmel’s ATPL230A OFDM physical layer (PHY) device compliant with PRIME standard specification, this highly flexible solution addresses OEM’s requirements for various system partitioning, BOM reduction and time-to-market requirements by incorporating independent application, protocol stack and physical layer processing functions within the same device.

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“We continue to build on the success of our industry leading SAM4Cx platform and offer best-in-class embedded connectivity, flexibility and cost structure for high-volume smart metering deployments,” said Andres Munoz, Atmel Marketing Manager, Smart Energy Communications. “Furthermore, additional enhancements developed to meet PRIME standard specifications provide unprecedented performance in rigorous environments.”

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As part of the Atmel® | SMART™ family, the solution includes integrated low-power driver, advanced cryptography, 1Mbytes of embedded Flash, 152Kbytes of SRAM, low-power RTC, and LCD controller. Additional key features include:

  • Application/Master Core
    — ARM Cortex-M4 running at up to 120 MHz
    — Memory Protection Unit (MPU)
    — DSP Instruction
    — Thumb®-2 instruction set
    — Instruction and Data Cache Controller with 2 Kbytes Cache Memory
  • Co-processor
    — ARM Cortex-M4F running at up to 120 MHz
    — IEEE® 754 Compliant, Single precision Floating-Point Unit (FPU)
    — DSP Instruction
    — Thumb-2 instruction set
    — Instruction and Data Cache Controller with 2 Kbytes Cache Memory
  • Symmetrical/Asynchronous Dual Core Architecture
    — Interrupt-based Interprocessor Communication
    — Asynchronous Clocking
    — One Interrupt Controller (NVIC) for each core
    — Each Peripheral IRQ routed to each NVIC Input
  • Cryptography
    — High-performance AES 128 to 256 with various modes (GCM, CBC, ECB, CFB, CBC-MAC, CTR)
    — TRNG (up to 38 Mbit/s stream, with tested Diehard and FIPS)
    — Classical Public Key Crypto accelerator and associated ROM library for RSA, ECC, DSA, ECDSA
    — Integrity Check Module (ICM) based on Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA1, SHA224, SHA256), DMA assisted
  • Safety
    — 4 Physical Anti-tamper Detection I/O with Time Stamping and Immediate Clear of General Backup Registers
    — Security bit for Device Protection from JTAG accesses
  • PRIME PLC embedded modem
    — Power Line Carrier Modem for 50 Hz and 60 Hz mains
    — 97-carriers OFDM PRIME compliant
    — DBPSK, DQPSK, D8PSK modulation schemes available
    — Additional enhanced modes available: DBPSK Robust, DQPSK Robust
    — Eight selectable channels between 42kHz to 472kHz available
    — Baud rate Selectable: 5.4 to 128.6 kbps
    — Four dedicated buffers for transmission/reception
    — Up to 124.6 dBμVrms injected signal against PRIME load
    — Up to 79.6 dB of dynamic range in PRIME networks
    — Automatic Gain Control and continuous amplitude tracking in signal reception
    — Class D switching power amplifier control
  • Shared System Controller
    — Power Supply
    — Embedded Core and LCD Voltage Regulator for single supply operation
    — Power-on-Reset (POR), Brownout Detector (BOD) and Watchdog for safe operation
    —Low Power Sleep and Backup modes

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s new comprehensive smart energy platform? You can check out our recent deep dive on the subject here.

The Internet of Things and energy conservation

Humans are creative, and adaptive. We’ve done it all our lives, and all our existence. We needed more food, and so we created agriculture. We needed to live together, and so we created architecture. We needed to communicate, and so we created hundreds of ways to do just that; Internet, mobile telephone networks, computers. We are so fond of computers that we have them everywhere, often without noticing them. Yes, you might have a bulky desktop computer at home, or maybe even a flashy new laptop, but those are not the only computers. Your mobile telephone is a computer, but technically, so is your microwave, your car, your television set, and even your washing machine.

Our lives have changed greatly. We’ve all seen pictures and even films of medieval castles, and we know how we used to live. Today, our lives are made more comfortable by scores of machines; when was the last time you washed your clothes by hand? The clothes go in the washing machine, then in the dryer, and then in the cupboard. This all comes at a cost; financially, of course, but also in terms of energy.

Energy. The art of creating electrical power and delivering it to our homes and cities. For most people, this is as simple as having overhead power lines here and there, and paying a bill at the end of the month. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated than that. Power stations require scores of people to operate, and something surprising, data. In France, we have “too many” power stations, and most run at low capacity. When it gets hot, those who have air conditioning like to put it on, consuming electricity. Multiply that by a few thousand, and you get an idea of how much energy the power station needs to produce. When it gets cold, people like to heat their homes and businesses, and since everyone has radiators, electrical consumption soars. Imagine the amount of radiators an entire city can contain, and imagine even 50% of them turned on at the same time. Imagine.

Data is needed from other sources, not just from the weather. Imagine the amount of power required to let all the football fans watch the world cup. Our problem is that we can generate electricity, but we cannot store it (at least, not on this kind of scale). When everything gets turned on, the power station must be able to respond. If it can’t, bad things happen; the lights dim, or sometimes everything goes dark. We now know we cannot live without electricity.

SMART Energy Flow

We all know that we need to reduce our energy dependence, even if some of us don’t want to. To make more people aware, some cities turn off all the lights for an hour. It’s called Earth Hour. For one hour, people are encouraged to use as little electricity as possible; turning off the lights, for example. This does have an impact, but it is a double-edged sword. For one hour, the electricity usage drops considerably, while everyone thinks about the planet, and what we will leave behind for our children. At the end of the hour, everything goes back on, and this is where things get tricky. When electrical devices are first turned on, some can generate what is called an energy spike; a large consumption at first, before something more stable. It is visible just after Earth Hour, but it actually happens every day.

Building Appliances and Home Systems using Energy at Optimum Times

Peak hours. In my house, my electric water heater is connected to a peak-hour detection system. At 11:30 PM, my electricity provider starts “off-peak” hours, a time where electricity costs less. It costs less, an incentive to make me use power-hungry devices at a time when other devices are not needed. At this time of night, most businesses are closed, and so there is less demand. It is all about normalizing energy requirements, and to stop peaks during the day. At 7:30 AM, peak hours start, the water heater turns off, businesses start up, and my kettle turns on, the day is about to begin.

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Energy is available, that isn’t the problem. Our problem is our use of energy. If only we had a way of using energy when it was available. Imagine, a certain amount of energy available. When I need light, I want my light to be usable immediately. I need a start time; now. However, when I put my clothes in the washing machine generally, I need them to be ready for the next day. I need and “end” time; I need the device to get the work done before a certain time. When will the washing machine start? Well, I don’t actually mind when it starts, and this is where I need help. This is where the IoT can help us, because we really need help.

The IoT will give us millions of connected sensors. This will also supply us with data, lots and lots of it. Why wouldn’t a small device in my house have direct control over my washing machine, or even better, actually be inside my washing machine? It could be programmed to start at a specific time, talking to other devices on the energy grid? Or even in my home; it could tell the water heater to wait until it has finished, and then the water heater gets its chance. The possibilities are endless.

Washing Machine is Connected - SMART HOME

IoT will give us an incredible amount of data, and data that can be used to help up control, and maybe even overcome our need to energy. But wait a minute, doesn’t the IoT itself need energy? It does, but the amount of energy that it will save outweighs the amount of energy it uses, and by a large factor. Take, for example, Atmel’s SAM D21 microcontroller. It uses less than 70µA per MHz, and that is when it is running at full speed. Of course, these devices have advanced power management, and with careful coding, they can last for months on cell batteries. Low power does not mean no power; it has enough flex to get the job done, and more. With built-in USB, ADCs, DACs and enough RAM and ROM for the most complex programs, it gets the job done. It also has the Atmel Event system, a powerful system that lets the microcontroller react to external events without the need to constantly look at inputs.

(Source CES 2014 - Samsung's Vision of the Now and Future of Connected Appliances)

We need a little help in our lives to make simple decisions; when should I turn the heating on? When is the best time to turn on the air conditioner? We think we know, but we don’t. IoT will allow us to know exactly when the cold weather is coming. IoT will know when to turn the lights off. In short, IoT will generate enough data that it will know better than us what to do, and when. What we have seen so far is only the beginning.

Atmel is building the Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a future world where all types of electronic devices link to each other via the Internet. In 2009, there were 2.5 billion connected devices; most of these were mobile phones, PCs and tablets. By 2020, there will be over 30 billion connected devices of far greater variety.

According to Gartner, 50% of companies expected to help build the rapidly evolving Internet of Things have yet to coalesce. This is precisely why Atmel views the Maker Movement as one of the primary tech incubators for future IoT companies and devices, many of which will undoubtedly use Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs) to power their respective platforms.

MakerBot, which manufactures the Atmel-powered Replicator 3D printer, is a perfect example of a Maker-inspired company that emerged from nothing, yet was recently acquired for approximately $600 million by Stratasys. Adafruit, responsible for designing the Atmel-powered Gemma, Trinket and Flora platforms, is another example of a successful company started by Makers, for Makers. Of course, Atmel is also at the heart of multiple Arduino boards used by millions of Makers, engineers, schools and corporations all over the world.

There is a reason Atmel’s MCUs and MPUs are the silicon of choice for both Makers and industry heavyweights. Simply put, our low power sipping portfolio, which includes WiFi capability and extensive XSense integration options, is optimized for a wide variety of devices, ranging from IoT wearables to more stationary industrial platforms with connected capabilities such as smart grids and home appliance automation. Indeed, an IoT-enabled smart grid equipped with advance sensors offers huge energy savings, helping to create a green and sustainable future by conserving power and reducing water consumption.

Clearly, the age of IoT is already upon us. To be sure, over three-quarters of companies are now actively exploring or using the Internet of Things (IoT), with the vast majority of business leaders believing it will have a meaningful impact on how their companies conduct business. As noted above, the number of “things” predicted to be connected to the Internet by the end of this decade range from a staggering 30 billion to 50 billion.

According to Clint Witchalls, the Internet of Things is a quiet revolution that is steadily taking shape. Businesses across the world are piloting the use of the IoT to improve their internal operations, while preparing a stream of IoT-related products and services. Consumers might not (initially) recognize them as such, but that will not stop them from being launched, as few end users need to know that user-based car insurance, for example, is an IoT-based application.

From our perspective, the IoT represents one of the greatest potential growth markets for semiconductors over the next several years. That is precisely why Atmel remains focused on designing the absolute lowest power sipping products, particularly with regards to microcontrollers (MCUs) which offer maximum performance and meet the requirements of advanced applications. Atmel also offers highly integrated architecture optimized for high-speed connectivity, optimal data bandwidth and rich interface support – making our microcontrollers ideal for powering the smart, connected products at the heart of the IoT.

Smart energy is getting even smarter

Writing for the Electronic Engineering Journal, Bryon Moyer recently took a closer look at the grid and a number of corresponding smart meter solutions.

After speaking with an Atmel engineering rep, Moyer concluded that complete solutions and reference designs are now “the name of the game.” As Moyer notes, Atmel, a leading supplier of smart meter solutions, has effectively categorized the market into five primary spaces:

  • The analog front end (AFE), which touches the actual power;
  • Metrology, which is where the bill collector gets his or her data;
  • The ubiquitous application processor, where you can do everything that you haven’t decided to cast into hardware;
  • Communications protocols and encryption; and
  • The communication physical layer.

“The figure above contrasts various solutions they provide at different levels of integration. The first row is a more-or-less discrete solution to the problem, with only the AFE and metrology combined,” writes Moyer. “The second row is for system houses that already have an approved metrology module that they don’t want to touch (because they’d need to go through approval again). So it integrates the other three columns.”

Meanwhile, the third row reflects the interests of designers who want to keep analog physical separate from digital. As such, says Moyer, digital bits are all combined, with separate power-line and communications PHY circuits. Indeed, the last row helps keep communications PHY separate, as reflected in the integration shown in the final row. On the software side, engineers can:

  • Optimize the power factor;
  • Streamline efficiency;
  • Detect wear-out, so that, for example, they can see ahead of time when a transformer is getting ready to fail; and
  • Identify the power signatures of various appliances, both so that the homeowner can do a better job of managing his or her power and so that even the utility can help to manage the load by reaching in and tweaking with the appliances.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel recently debuted a new and comprehensive smart energy platform designed specifically for smart grid communications, electricity, gas and water metering systems and energy measurement applications.

According to Kourosh Boutorabi, Atmel’s Sr. Director of Smart Energy Products, the Atmel SAM4Cx platform includes several system-on-chip (SoC) devices built around a dual-core ARM Cortex-M4 architecture with advanced security, metrology, wireless and power-line communications (PLC) options.

“The unique and highly flexible platform addresses OEM’s system partitioning, bill of materials (BOM) and time-to-market requirements with the widest range of integration and performance optimization options available in the market today,” Boutorabi explains. “Flexibility to address a new and diverse set of smart grid communications and metrology standards with low power system-on-chip solutions are crucial requirements for OEMs targeting high-volume deployments.”

To be sure, key features of Atmel’s smart energy platform include best-in-class metrology with class 0.2 accuracy and dynamic range of up to 6000:1 for single and poly-phase applications; low-power PRIME PLC connectivity with integrated line driver; advanced cryptography; the ability to integrate application, communication and metrology; up to 2Mbytes of embedded Flash and 304Kbytes of SRAM with external memory expansion option. Additional specs include low-power RTC, LCD and anti-tamper feature sets designed to reduce smart meter BOM by as much as 40 percent.

Interested in learning more about Atmel’s new and comprehensive smart energy platform? Be sure to check out our official product page here.

1:1 interview with Michael Koster

Series 3 – Why IoT Matters?


By Tom Vu, Digital Manifesto and Michael Koster, Internet of Things Council Member


Three-part Interview Series (Part 3)


Tom Vu (TV):  Describe how Internet of Things matters? Why should anyone care? Should futurist, technologist, data hounds, product extraordinaires, executives, and  common consumer need to understand what’s to come?

Michael Koster (MK):

There are two main effects we see in the Internet of Things. First, things are connected to a service that manages them. We can now monitor things, predict when they break, know when they are being used or not, and in general begin to exploit things as managed resources.

The second, bigger effect comes from the Metcalfe effect, or simply the network effect, of connecting things together. Bob Metcalfe once stated that the value of a communications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected compatible communicating devices. Since then it’s used to refer to users, but maybe Bob was thinking way ahead. Notice the word compatible. In this context, it means to be able to meaningfully exchange data.

When we connect physical objects to the network, and connect them together in such a way as to manage them as a larger system, we can exploit the Metcalfe effect applied to the resources. We are converting capital assets into managed resources and then applying network management.

Because Internet of Things will be built as a physical graph, it’s socialization of everything, from simple everyday devices to industrial devices. Metcalfe states that 10X connections is 100 times the value.  Cisco is projecting that the Internet of Everything has the potential to grow global corporate profits by 21 percent in aggregate by 2022. I believe these represent a case for pure information on one end, and an average efficiency gain over all of industry on the other.

This has the potential to change things from a scarcity model, where the value is in restricting access to resources, thus driving up price, to a distribution centered model, where value is in the greater use of the resource.  Connecting things to the network is going to reverse the model, from a model of “excluding access” to “inclusion access”, a model where you push toward better experience for consumer/customer/co-business.

Crowdsourcing of things is an example, where models are inverted.  The power arrow is going in the opposite direction, a direction equalizing toward the benefit of the massive body consumers and people.  This in turn, helps shift the business model from a customer relationship managed by vendors, also called advertising, to vendor relationship managed by customers. This is called Vendor Relationship Management, or VRM, pioneered by Doc Searls. This reverses the power arrow to point from customer needs toward business capability to meet needs, and needs are met now that the vendor is listening.  A lot of this is not just IoT but also open source nature, and the big changes happening in people, where sharing being held more valuable than the exclusion of access.

Inverting the value model, breaking down artificially bloated value chains, creating a more efficient economy, I believe it important to create a layer of connectivity that will act as the necessary catalyst to the next Internet of Everything, Internet of Things, Industrial Internet.  Break down the scarcity-based models, exclusion of access, turn it around. Instead of excluding access and driving prices up for limited resources, we will yield higher more efficient utilization of resources.

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Michael Koster describing Internet of Things and the Maker Movement and Open Source Importance of this Development with Booth attendees at Maker Faire 2013 in San Mateo

It matters on a Global Scale, by giving us better resource utilization. SMART Grid alone has resulted in up to 19.5% efficiency improvement, with an average of 3.8% improvement over all deployments already. We do not have enough energy storage or transmission capacity to deal with the major shift to solar energy sources now in progress worldwide. We are going to have to adapt, learn, monitor, manage, and control our usage in ways only possible with large scale sensing and control.

For the spirit of IoT, it’s not only in making peoples/consumers lives more convenient, solving their first world problems, but its more in the ability to manage resources together as a larger system, from the individual out to a global scale. Especially, this holds true with the effects of globalization, balancing, localization, connectivity, and ubiquity.  It’s for the people.  Social Media had it’s transformation across many things, Internet of Things will also have an efficiency and business transformation.

Companies like Atmel play an important role in creating the building blocks for embedded control and connectivity by means of progressing the ARM / AVR / Wireless / Touch portfolio of products, all of which are the necessary thinking and connecting glue of the Internet of Things. Internet of Things has a large appetite for ultra low power connectivity using wireless standards.  Wireless Sensor Networks are key technology for the IoT, so much that WSN was probably the number one issue in the early deployment. There are many competing standards: Zigbee, SA100.11, Bluetooth, Body Area Network, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, Z-Wave, EnOcean, KNX, XRF, WiFi, RFID, RFM12B, IEEE 802.15.4 (supporting WPAN such as ZigBee, ISA100.11a, WirelessHART, IrDA, Wireless USB, Bluetooth, Z-wave, Body Area Network, and MiWi).

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Michael Koster Exhibiting with Atmel Booth at Maker Faire 2013 San Mateo

Tom Vu (TV):  What would be the most important design decision that supersedes the eventual success of an open source Internet of Things compliance?

Michael Koster (MK):

The first most important decisions are to do open source design based on needs and use cases. I don’t think we can build an IoT if its not open source, or if it’s not connected to the real world use cases.

Just like the Internet, built on open source and open standards, the starting data models are important for building on and building out. HTML and http and URLs allowed many platforms to be built for the web and supersede each other over time, for example Server Pages, SOAP, Javascript, and AJAX. A browser can understand all of the current platforms because they are all based on common abstractions. We believe that the Semantic Web provides a solid basis of standard web technology on which to base the data models.

Tom Vu (TV):  Describe the importance of Internet of Things silos and other M2M standards currently at large in the development community? What are the differences?

Michael Koster (MK):

The IoT has started off fueled by crowdfunding, VC money and other sources that have to some extent built on a business model based on vertical integration. Vertical integration has a big advantage; you need to have a self-contained development to get things done quickly for proof of concept and demonstration.

Vertical integration is also a big driver of the current machine-to-machine, or M2M, communication market. This is the paradigm supporting the initial deployment of connecting things to services for management on an individual thing basis.

The downside of vertical integration is that it leads to silos, where the code developed for a system, the data collected, and even the user interfaces are all unique to the system and not reusable in other systems. Moreover, the vertical integration is often seen as a proprietary advantage and protected through patents and copyrights that are relatively weak because they apply to commonly known patterns and methods.

It’s not always this way, though. As an example, the Eclipse foundation is open source, allowing their M2M system to be used for vertical application development as well as integrated with IoT Toolkit data models and APIs to enable interoperability with other platforms.

The European Telecommunications Standardization Institute, or ETSI, also has an M2M gateway that is a combination of open source and paid license code. New features are enabled through Global Enablers or GEs that implement a particular function using an OSGi bundle consisting of Java code. The Smart Object API can be built into ETSI through a GE bundle, which will enable an ETSI M2M instance to inter-operate with other IoT Toolkit instances. This is the power of the approach we’re taking for interoperability, which is obtained by adding a Smart Object API layer to the system.

Tom Vu (TV):  Explain horizontal and service interoperability for Internet of Things, why is it so important?

Michael Koster (MK):

Connected things connect through WSN gateways and routers to Internet services that fulfill the application logic for the user. Today, for the most part, each vendor provides a cloud service for the devices they sell, e.g. Twine, Smart Things, or the Nest thermostat. There are also some cloud services that allow any connection, providing an API for anyone to connect, for the purpose of integrating multiple devices. But the dedicated devices mentioned earlier don’t work with the generic cloud services.

Many IoT services today are based on providing easy access to the devices and gateway, with open source client code and reference hardware designs, selling hardware on thin margins, and Kickstarter campaigns. There is typically a proprietary cloud service with a proprietary or ad-hoc API from the device or gateway to the service, and a structured API to the service offering “cooked” data.

These systems contain a highly visible open source component, but much of the functionality comes from the cloud service. If a user wishes to use the open source part of the system with another service, the APIs will need to be adapted on either the device/gateway end or service end, or both. It’s not exactly a lock-in, but there is a fairly steep barrier to user choice.

IoT in Silos

Internet of Things (IoT) in Silos

There is the beginning of an ecosystem here, where some devices are being built to use existing services, e.g. Good Night Lamp uses Cosm as their cloud service. Other services that allow open API connectivity include Thingworx and Digi Device Cloud. These services all use very similar RESTful APIs to JSON and XML objects, but have different underlying data models. As a result, sensors and gateways must be programmed for each service they need to interact with.

The current system also leaves users vulnerable to outages of a single provider. Even if there was a programmable cloud service that all could connect to that ran user applications, there would be a vulnerability to provider outages. Much better and more robust would be an ability to configure more than one service provider in parallel in an application graph, for a measure of robustness in the face of service outages. Even more, it should be possible to run user application code in IoT gateways, local user-owned servers, or user-managed personal cloud services. Today’s infrastructure and business models are at odds with this level of robustness for users.

In terms of business and business models, a lot of the connection and network infrastructure today was built on a “value chain” model. These are businesses that are built on a model of vertical integration. In these models, value is added by integrating services together to serve one function, hence vertical.  With the Internet of Things, traditional value chains are collapsing down and flattening. There is a bit of a disruption in the business model (services, etc), but also new opportunities emerge to create new Internet of Things services, which is good for business and consumers.

Companies will continue to build out vertical models to specialize in their services. IoT can potentially augment service models with the customer even further and offer creative possibilities of cost savings and experience and deploy more customer centric business fabrics, which will result in better service for consumers.

If companies build their vertically based infrastructure of applications integrating into the IoT Toolkit platform, the basic enablement for horizontal connections will already exist, making it easy to create horizontal, integrative applications based on automatic resource discovery and linkage.

Access to the knowledge can enhance the customer experience and ROI for businesses.  We are at the brink of the new era, where companies and products can arise from the information economy; only now motivation via implicit or explicit engagement is tied to things, assets, information, sensors, education, and augmentation; and everything is more intertwined and involved.

Tom Vu (TV):  Please assume the role of a futurist or even contemporary pragmatist. How does the landscape of Internet of Things fit into that picture for an individual?

Michael Koster (MK):

It goes back to the idea that your life is going to change in ways that we are no longer be driven by the scarcity pressures we experienced as hunter gatherers. IoT will trigger the overall shift from the resource accumulative, to the interaction driven and resource sharing-enjoying model due to the ubiquitous connectivity and the right kind of applications we can use to bring this experience to maturity.

We expect the Internet of Things to be where the interaction moves away from screens and becomes more like everyday life, only more convenient, comfortable, and easy to manage. We’re still looking for the valet, the system that simply helps us manage things to enable us to become more as people.

Tom Vu (TV):  Do you have any insights into how industries like Semi-Conductor can help share the responsibility of making Internet of Things for the People and by the People?

Michael Koster (MK):

Yes, of course, everyone has a part in the build up and build out of Internet of Things.  From business to academia, in the home and across the planet, the march to Internet of Things is inevitable.  Again and again, the familiar signs of disruption are being seen.  We see that happening today with the very first initial releases of connected products.  There is a movement in Makers, with substantial global activity. Which is quite harmonious to open source and open hardware.  This will be even wider spread once critical mass takes effect with products more and more becoming connected and smart via Internet.  The power of the sensor proliferation is akin to Twitter having 10 people registered and using their Social Fabric versus 100s of millions.  The more everyday devices and things are connected, the more the power of IoT will overwhelmingly surface.

It’s only how well we integrate and collaborate together across industry to propel this next phase of Internet to the next level.  Every potential disruptive technology has a turning point.  We are at that point and we are all part of this movement. In turn, the Internet of Things will make better products, a better user experience, and optimized efficiency across all resources. How we decide to apply this technology will make all the difference.

This very notion forces industries to be more aware, efficient, and productive. Sensors and connected devices will help supply chain, manufacturing, research, product roadmaps, experience, and ultimately drive an economy of growth. The enterprise begins to have a visibility, transparency to customers, people.   Ultimate, it’s a true nervous system, connected via an enterprise level to a personal consumer level.

SMART, AWARE, and SENSORY are new enhancements to business to include customer habits and patterns of use, threaded right into the production routine and product design. Internet of Things will help sculpt a more consumer oriented and customer centric world of products. Customers will have direct influence in the manufacturing of individual products and instances of products.  Companies can help by being part of the community, albeit in the field of electrical engineering, design, data, to software development on the cloud.  Internet of Things will have touch points between customers and business as much as the electrical power grids have influence across all business today.

The new ecosystem will have micro scale and agile manufacturing at a level of customization unimaginable today. It’s the next driver for brilliant machines, maybe artisan-machines that work for individuals but still live on the factory floor.

You can work with the developers and work toward expanding businesses that can embrace the development world.  Help build the $50 cell phone or connected devices that bridge fiscal and energy compliance for a better world.

Ride the long tail wave… and the inverted business models…  Make more accessibility to all products and be responsible in accessibility… From crowdfunding or crowdsourcing, like Kickstarter or Makers, someone is going to figure out how a sensor can do more, in a very impactful and human experience paradigm. The new innovations will come from everywhere; from the 14 year old in Uganda who takes apart her cellphone to repurpose it into a medical monitoring device, from the basements and garages of millions of makers and DIY’ers worldwide who have sure genius among them.

It is super important to get the very latest hardware out to the open community so that innovation can be leveraged, taken to new levels of creativity and crowdsource ideation for collaboration and massive cross-contribution. Accessibility, documentation, development, ecosystem for software support for the MCUs are all too important.  Atmel holds building blocks to many of these pieces, combined with their development tools and evaluation ecosystem (Atmel Studio 6, Atmel Spaces, Atmel Gallery) and involvement with Makers and Arduino.

Open Hardware / Open Source will come to be de-facto standards.  Bundle open source along with the open hardware to make it even more accessible and embed rapid guide start for newcomers. Right now a key piece is the Wireless Sensor Net. If there were a good open source WSN available and supported by manufacturers, it could enable a groundswell of connected devices.

Build open source and open hardware educational IoT developer’s kits for ages 8 and up, for high school and college, to hit all levels of involvement and expertise. Support community hackspaces and places (ie Noisebridge) where everyone can learn about the digital world and programming.

We are seeing the leveling out of the development happening in all parts of the world. Radical innovation is happening everywhere. Open Source is helping shape this curvature.  This is the broader whole tide that we are seeing. Pinocchio is one great innovation emerging from Makers and Open Source, then we have IoT hubs such as SmartThings, Thingworx, or Xively (formerly Cosm).  There is a lot of crowdfunding, ideation, blooming of disruptive products looking to change the scene of things to come….
Support open source and open collaboration in everything, to create a culture of sharing and innovation, a culture of synergy in building the Internet of Things together. Involve customers as participants and makers of their own experiences. Make sure everyone has access to the information and support they need to build, maintain, hack, and repurpose their devices over time to promote a healthy ecosystem.

This time innovation is going global. The ideation is happening everywhere. There are many global Silicon Valley type hubs, other metros in the world, as well as global accessibility to the same information. We see startup mentality blossoming across all geo-locations.  Again, Semi-Conductors is contributing, helping pave the back-plane for innovation & connectivity for the development layers on top.  Global village of innovation is coming of age… Now.

 

Also read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Interview Series.