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Embedded systems enable Internet of Things

Posted: 17 Nov 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Internet of Things  IoT  sensors  processors 

The Internet of Things (IoT) used to be confined merely to the imagination of science fiction writers. However, now we are seeing it as an imminent reality that has come to mean a lot of different things to different people. This is because the possibilities the IoT presents are boundless, covering everything from smart fridges, smart cars and smart grids, to wearable devices that monitor your vital statistics.

What's more, by 2030 it is projected that 100 trillion devices will be connected to the IoT. In short, pundits believe that anything that can be connected, will be connected and this heralds a "new" industrial revolution called The Internet of Things.

But since embedded systems are the key ingredients of an IoT system, wouldn't it be more accurate to call it embedded-Internet of Things or e-IoT?

Firstly, it's only by being fitted out with sensors, processors and communication modules, that everyday objects will become "smart". They record processes in the physical world, connect them to the virtual world of the Internet and so provide the basis for the Internet of Things.

Hence everything belonging to the domain of IoT should possess certain attributes, some of them being: Lower power consumption, powerful processing capabilities, ability to connect to other smart objects. No single component can perform these myriads of functions by themselves. This means that every 'Thing' is composed of an embedded system consisting of several components, each one fulfilling one of the attribute needs of the 'Things'.

This article will make the case for a closer inspection of IoT and the critical role analog and digital components will play in the developing connectivity or relationships between people-people, people-things, and things-things and show how multiple components designed into signal chains and embedded systems are the underpinnings that make IoT a reality.

Defining the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a type of network where information transmitting equipment such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, wireless communications, real-time localization, and sensor networks link any physical objects to the internet to perform information exchange. These physical objects are designed to have identities & virtual personalities, operating in smart spaces, using intelligent interfaces to connect and communicate within the social, environmental and user context.

The term Internet of things was originally coined by Kevin Ashton, back in 1995. But in the years that followed, the IoT languished. As Jeremy Rifkin explains in his book "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", this could be primarily attributed to two reasons:

 • The cost of sensors and actuators embedded in "things" was still relatively expensive. In an 18 month period between 2012 and 2013, however, the cost of RFID chips used to monitor and track things, plummeted by 40%. These tags now cost less than 10 cents. The price of MEMS, including gyroscopes, accelerometers, and pressure sensors, has also dropped by 80 to 90 percent in the past 5 years.
 • The internet protocol, IPv4 (uses 32 bits for its internet address) allows only 4.3 billion (2^32) unique addresses on the internet. With most of the IP addresses already gobbled up by the more than 2 billion people now connected to the internet, few addresses remain available to connect millions and eventually trillions of things to the internet.

However with the implementation of the new Internet protocol version, IPv6 (using 128 bits for its internet address) it will help expand the number of available addresses to 340 trillion trillion trillion (2^128) – more than enough to accommodate the enormous number of emerging "Things".

The core infrastructure and constituent element
The core of the IoT operating system is the coming together of the Sensing, Energy, Computing, Communications and Software in a cohesive operating platform. If each remains siloed from the others, it will be impossible to erect the IoT and pursue the vision of a smart society and sustainable world.

Each of these five constituents enables the others. Without sensing there is nothing we can measure. Without energy, we cannot generate information or power transport. Without computing capabilities we cannot analyze or do any deductions on the generated data.

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