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Evolution of IoT creates uncertainties

Posted: 12 Jan 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:FPGA  Internet of Things  Internet  ASIC  ASSP 

Developments from Web giants Microsoft Bing and Baidu, supported by Altera, show that with their flexibility and massive parallelism FPGAs can improve throughput, response time and energy efficiency, working intimately with the server CPUs. A key part of this trend is to make the FPGA programmable and debuggable in languages already familiar to data centre programmers. Altera's SDK for OpenCL tool, for example, allows programmers to create and debug a complete CPU-interface-FPGA platform from a high-level language.

IoT platforms: Internet may not be enough

The other problem is that today's Internet is not appropriate for the IoT for three major reasons:

First, the WiFi and Ethernet connections at the edge of the Internet require power-hungry, always-on interfaces, the opposite of what all those tiny sensors and actuators, the Things, can provide. So a myriad of short-range, low-power networks is springing up to connect the Things to hubs, which in turn connect to WiFi or Ethernet.

Second, some devices have tasks such as motor control that must have guaranteed maximum delay. If you move the controller to the other end of the Internet, you can't guarantee packets will arrive at each end on time. Eventually new functionality will be needed, such as the time-sensitive networks now in development. But for now, these control loops will require real-time computing in the IoT hubs.

Third, hackers will certainly attack the IoT, as seen with the Stuxnet worm of 2010. As the IoT emerges, responsibility for authentication, encryption and functional safety will fall upon the hubs.

The hubs will have to support a plethora of ultra-low-power network protocols, a variety of application-dependent, real-time computing loads, and rapidly evolving security and safety tasks. This varied and uncertain environment would be a nightmare for ASICs or standard-product SoCs, but it is the natural environment for fast, computationally efficient FPGAs.

Today we see momentum shifting from the smartphone explosion back toward investment in 4G build-out, creation of the IoT peripheral networks and their smart hubs, and evolution of data centres. As the industry faces these emerging trends, programmable logic will surely be at the forefront of leading these developments.

- John Daane
  CEO and Chairman
  Altera Corp.

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