Based on his brilliant concept and the enabling technology of the Internet, the world passed through a kind of singularity. It was a technical singularity that so remade the world that it almost wiped out memory of what life was like beforehand. A colleague regales his 18-year-old twins with “When I was your age…” stories of pre-Web society and they—in all honesty—admit that they cannot conceive of day-to-day living without ubiquitous access to information at any time, and at any place. The change is that fundamental.
The times they are a changin’ – again. There’s another singularity coming. The Internet of Things will enable it.
Defining the Internet of Things
All of the “stuff” around us is becoming connected. What kind of stuff? Big things for sure: the major infrastructure in your home like the HVAC, media systems, and appliances. But it’s the little things: light bulbs, the food in your fridge, your toothbrush, the street light outside your door, your pet, even your running shoes, which will make up the Internet of Things.
We have passed the point where the number of connected devices exceeds the population of the planet. One conservative estimate predicts 15 billion connected devices by 2015. Another claims 1 trillion connected devices. Whatever the real number, the curve will go hyperbolic soon.
Technologies enabling the Internet of Things: IPv6, RFID and Moore’s Law
There are several technical streams converging to enable this trend. One of them is IPv6 – a protocol for directing internet traffic. It will support 3.4*10^38 addresses, about 100 addresses for every atom on the surface of the earth. That should last us a while.
Another is the advent of low cost RFID technology. Almost anything can locate itself, broadcast data, and communicate with its neighbors, cheaply.
Yet a third is the effect of Moore’s Law. Processing power becomes cheaper, power demands get smaller, battery life gets longer, and features once limited to expensive processors are now available for low cost.
Building the Internet of Things: chips and connectivity
This is where the triad of partners comes into play: ARM, Freescale, and Motomic.
The Internet of Things is built with tools. At the core of that (pun absolutely intended) are ARM® processors. Why ARM processors? They already power billions of mobile devices, industrial devices, consumer devices, the “things” that will make up a major part of the Internet of Things.
ARM cores are built by partners, and Freescale is proud to be one. The ARM Cortex™-M Series is aimed squarely at low-power embedded processing. The recently-announced Cortex-M0+ processor uses just 11.2uW/MHz. Like it was with the Cortex-M4 processor, Freescale expects that its Kinetis L series will be the first silicon based on the Cortex-M0+ processor to reach the market. It is ideal for a multitude of applications and supports connectivity for: domestic appliances, portable medical systems, smart meters, lighting, power and motor control systems, to name a few.
Implementing connectivity is where a company like Motomic Software comes into play. They bring Human Machine Interface (HMI) capability to a new arena. With connectedness comes the need for HMI to get smarter, to display what we really need to know when we need to know it in better ways. Take the lowly thermostat – as simple as its task, a traditional digital thermostat UI is typically confusing to use. A modern, simple UI in a “learning” thermostat can be quite simple. The contrast in complexity is startling as shown in Figure 1.
Processor size is no longer an issue. To provide a face to the Internet of Things, Motomic has created groundbreaking embedded browsers. The µButterfly microbrowser and Butterfly minibrowser run on embedded devices with very small memory and processing footprints, yet they bring the same rich interfaces to embedded devices that we experience every day on much larger devices. Processors as small as the Cortex-M4 can now have rich HMI created entirely in HTML. With enablement like Motomic’s browsers, you are limited only by your imagination. Take a look.
What’s really cool is that you can create great UI without writing a lick of C or C++ code. Not only can you do it on a microcontroller, you can do it entirely in HTML. This capability opens the embedded world to a whole new class of creative people. That is key! Innovative solutions like Motomic’s browsers across ARM’s range of processors enable web developers to enter new realms. These highly creative people will implement innovative solutions in the staid world of embedded software. We will need them, because there will be a lot of things that need a good UI.
This is a huge hairball to deal with if you’re in the software business. You have new processor families, new software technologies, new “stuff” to build and understand. Now you need great HMI, GUI software or a browser. Suddenly, wireless connectivity becomes an issue, and it never was before. Where do you get the components, the code, the libraries you need?
Embedded Software Store: finding the right software components
Enter the Embedded Software Store, from AVNET and ARM. The store is a place where you will find the software components you need to get to market faster: compilers, operating systems, board support packages, middleware, and so on. It is an open marketplace where software vendors present their products to you. You can easily find them, and learn about them to determine whether they meet your needs. If they do, you can purchase them right there, all in one place. Neat, sweet, and complete.
The Internet of Things simply defined
So, to wrap this all up, ARM creates the processor design, partners implement it, other partners create the software for the ecosystem, and ARM and AVNET pull it all together to enable easy access to tools. For the Internet of Things, the technical streams are blending. Great companies like ARM, Freescale, and Motomic are working together to invent the tools and get them to you through marketplace innovations like the Embedded Software Store.
Based on that foundation, like Tim Berners-Lee did with the internet, one of you out there is going to get the idea. You will be empowered by the billions of things broadcasting data into a web of possibility. You will see potential and do something absolutely amazing. It will be fundamental, utterly simple, and totally obvious in hindsight.
Let me call one possibility Augmented Interactive Reality – the AIR around us filled with the information that passes our personal filters. We see what we choose to see when we want to see it from the thousands of things in context nearby: where our friends are, where the deals are, where the dangers are. It all appears effortlessly, passing by as a stream of data in a heads up display, in our sunglasses. Life is simplified and enriched. Everything we need to know is there when we need it. It amounts to just-in-time everything.
Whatever the result is – just in time everything or flying cars – for sure something will grow out of the Internet of Things. It will change the world as we know it. When we emerge on the other side of this singularity we won’t be able to remember the world we live in today. How could we live without AIR?
It is ordinary folks like the good people at ARM, Freescale, and Motomic Software, sitting around a table making this happen. As partners we are helping build the future we will all live in. That is pretty cool. That’s what makes going to work in the morning fun and what we do genuinely worthwhile.
Guest Partner Blogger:
Freescale Embedded Beat blogging community.
ARM welcomes its wealth of Partners in the ARM Connected Community (CC) to submit guest blogs to be published on our multiple community blogs. If interested in participating please submit email inquiries to Tell.Us@arm.com.
The ARM Connected Community (CC) is an extensive ecosystem covering all aspects of ARM processor-based design, from chip implementation through to system and device design. The CC provides a platform for collaborative innovation, with multiple types of forums for members to work with one another, and with customers, to solve industry challenges, all with the purpose of enabling designers to focus on differentiating features and an accelerated time-to-market for ARM powered solutions.
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