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Hardware

  • Bluetooth

    Bluetooth Low Energy was originally aimed at wearable technology, not the broad IoT market. But in early 2014, CSR, a semiconductor maker, announced a mesh network for Bluetooth, meaning it could now connect to thousands of things.

    Bluetooth's ubiquity in mobile devices means that a Bluetooth mesh network as a broad IoT platform will have some advantages. Because Bluetooth is already a feature on smartphones, a smartphone could act as a management hub inside a home. But it's not perfect. A hub will be needed if someone wants to connect with the home network remotely, such as from work.

  • Mesh Networks

    Devices in a mesh network connect directly with one another, and pass signals like runners in a relay race. It is the opposite of a centralized network. The transmission range of an IoT device on a mesh network is anywhere from 30 feet to more than 300 feet.

    Since mesh network devices can hand-off signals, they have an ability to connect thousands of sensors over a wide area, such as a city, and operate in concert. Mesh networks have the added ability of working around the failure of any individual device. Wireless mesh IoT protocols include the Z-Wave Alliance, the Zigbee Alliance, and Insteon, which also has an alliance of vendors. These protocols aren't directly interoperable, although there are workarounds via hubs (more on this later).

    ZigBee is an open protocol, but its critics say that not all of its implementations are necessarily the same. ZigBee runs a certification to ensure standard deployments. Insteon and Z-Wave are proprietary, which may ensure standardization of implementation.

  • Power

    Some IoT devices will get power from electrical systems, but many, such as door locks and standalone sensors, will use batteries. These devices send and receive small amounts of information intermittently or periodically. Consequently, the battery life of an IoT device can range from 1.5 years to a decade, if the battery lasts that long. One IoT maker, Insteon, uses both radio and powerline communication, which can send data over existing electrical wiring as well as via a radio, which it says will offer an increased measure of reliability.

  • Radio

    An IoT device will have a radio that can send and receive wireless communications. IoT wireless protocols are designed to accomplish some basic services: Operate on low power, use low bandwidth and work on a mesh network. Some work on the 2.4 GHz band, which is also used by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the sub-GHz range. The sub-GHz frequencies, including 868 and 915 MHz bands, may have the advantage of less interference.


  • Sensors

    Sensor Technologies will drive the Internet of Things.

    Many IoT devices have sensors that can register changes in temperature, light, pressure, sound and motion. They are your eyes and ears to what's going on the world.

    MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) are a very tiny component, literally. The low-power sensors are just a thousandth of an inch in size, and chances are you didn’t hear much about them in all of the news that came out of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.

    Still, they’ve been called “the unsung heroes many of our favorite and beloved technologies” by the Mashable tech blog, which also acknowledged how MEMS are “particularly critical for smart home devices and the Internet of Things.”

    Ah, the Internet of Things. Certainly you heard plenty about that at CES this year. After all, 2015 is already being heralded as “The Year of the Thing,” with vast projections for the number of connected devices ballooning to into the billions over the next five years.

    That’s where tools like Broadcom’s WICED™ Sense™ development kit become mission critical to a new wave of developers. The kit, which went to market about six months ago, is outfitted with Broadcom’s WICED™ Smart low-power Bluetooth chip, the company’s Bluetooth 4.1-compatible WICED™ Smart software stack and, of course, MEMS sensors – a gyroscope, accelerometer, eCompass, as well as sensors that measure pressure, humidity and temperature.

    “In wearable devices and IoT applications such as smart homes, buildings, cities and vehicles, [MEMS] usually form a sensing cluster around the application processor, feeding it with every sensory change taking place,” Stephen Whalley, chief strategy officer at the MEMS Industry Group told EE Times earlier this month. “That data is then processed using algorithms to make sense of it so that humans or machines can react appropriately.”

    At CES, considered to be the place where up-and-coming technologies take center stage, there was a dedicated conference track about MEMS that focused on low-power sensors for wearables and smart home devices. Uses for MEMS are expected to grow in the coming years, with market researcher IHS Inc. projecting the market for MEMS to grow to $214 million in 2018, up from up from $43 million in 2013.

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