Connectedness brings the option of computer control.
Need for user interfaces with more complex information
With connectedness and apps comes the need for user interfaces to display increasingly more complex information. In the past, embedded devices have generally had very simple user interfaces. For example a thermostat might show the current temperature, whether it is set to cool or to heat, and the fan setting.
Graphical user interfaces allow information to be shown much more intuitively, for example blue for cooling or red for heating, arrows showing up or down. They also make it possible to display the additional information coming from other connected devices. With graphical user interfaces, the depth and power of the user experience is limited only by the creativity of the developer. For example you might not want to turn on the heating inside your house if you can know that the temperature outside is rising rapidly.
Apps have kicked off a new wave of human-machine interfaces (HMI). Rich experiences are becoming a requirement not just for mobile phones and PCs, but across devices much more widely.
Companies are jumping on this wave, creating new markets. They are applying touch sensing to rich graphics that can display data accessed wirelessly. Touch screens open up interfaces to navigation by users, who are already well-trained in their use through their experiences with smart phones and other devices.
Low power requirements for connected devices
Connected devices are not necessarily connected to power, they may be hand-held or operate from battery or solar power. If so, then low power consumption becomes an important objective. Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS), with their almost instant on and low power consumption, become important. Start times of over a few seconds are rapidly becoming unacceptable for a growing number of devices.
The rapid pace of product evolution demands choice and reuse. Systems must not only become smarter but also must scale across markets. Smarter systems expand opportunities for device manufacturers.
The flexible, diverse ARM Ecosystem is evolving to enable new paradigms for the Internet of Things across new markets. The IoT is not dominated by high-performance processors such as ARM’s Cortex-A series processors. Less costly ARM processors such as ARM’s Cortex-M0, Cortex-M3 and Cortex-M4 processors are more suited to deeply embedded MCUs. These low cost processors, with low power and tiny footprint, are necessary to support low costs products such as coffee makers and thermostats.
However just because the power and area are limited these devices do not have to be disadvantaged. They can still have the rich graphical interfaces of much larger devices.
How Motomic’s browsers provide a face for these new connected devices
An example is Motomic, whose groundbreaking embedded browsers provide a face for the IoT. These browsers run on very small footprint processors, on a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS). Motomic’s µButterfly™ microbrowser and Butterfly™ minibrowser run on embedded devices with very small memory and processing footprints, yet bring the same rich interfaces to embedded devices that we experience every day, from PCs to smart phones. Processors as small as the Cortex-M0+ processor can now have rich human interfaces created entirely in HTML.
Our interview at Design West:
Motomic has created two browsers. Both browse and render HTML/CSS. Motomic’s µButterfly “microbrowser” runs in as little as ~320 KB Flash and 109 KB RAM. The Butterfly “minibrowser” is based on Qt, it supports features such as TrueType fonts, anti-aliasing and alpha blending. It requires 6+ MB of Flash. The RAM requirement depends on screen size and content requirements, starting around ~1 MB.
Both leverage the very low power requirements and very small footprints of ARM’s Cortex-M0+ and Cortex-M4 microprocessors that are too small to run a web browser such as WebKit, Chrome, Mozilla, etc. These small processors can now accurately render HTML/CSS content previously reserved for higher-end processors.
HTML designers in the creative community can now create dynamic user interfaces and content for the IoT, just by writing HTML. HTML designers are easier to find than embedded “C” programmers, and tap a more creative pool of graphics talent rather than traditionally trained computer engineers.
Development for the IoT is also being boosted by the Embedded Software Store. Motomic’s browsers and hundreds of other components for developing embedded software are accessible. Pre-built components allow solutions to be assembled more rapidly and with lower project risk. Complex systems can now be built rapidly by adding pre-built components.
Innovative solutions like the Embedded Software Store (source of pre-built components for embedded developers), Motomic’s browsers, and ARM’s range of processors are allowing the creativity of developers to envision and build highly innovative solutions for the Internet of Things.
For more discussion about connectivity with the Internet of Things and the Embedded Software Store, please read this earlier blog by Jim Trudeau of Freescale.
Find Motomic Software on YouTube at youtube.com/motomicsoftware.
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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