Billions of IoT Devices in the Next Decade May be a Pipe Dream

By Christian Legare, Micrium Executive VP and CTO

You need to first understand what the IoT is before you can start the process of designing attached devices.

The IoT hype machine has been in full swing for a couple of years, and it’s understandable – the potential presented by a world with billions of smart networked devices is hard to fully comprehend. Improvements in sensor manufacturing, including new materials, nanotechnology, and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are presenting new sensing and monitoring capabilities never before envisioned. Advancements in semiconductor manufacturing with transistors (nodes) at 14 nanometers are allowing the production of smaller and faster processors and components that are far less energy hungry, and cheaper, too.

One question unanswered at this point is whether the widespread prediction of billions of IoT devices deployed in the next several years is practical, affordable, and for device makers, profitable. Let’s look at the some of the requirements and design decisions you may face when building an IoT device.

Cloud computing has completely upended how we look at data processing and usage. The availability of scalable, expandable IT architectures has prompted the assumption that networks can be (and ought to be) 100 percent reliable, and that network faults are acceptable and manageable.

The electronics industry is predicting the deployment of billions of low-cost Internet-enabled devices in the next five to ten years. But the design and production costs of these low-cost devices must be in a range that makes a reasonable business case. We are living in a capitalistic world after all. If our products don’t make a profit, we shouldn’t make them!

There are many mistaken ideas about IoT. Some think that a sensor that sends its data over a network constitutes IoT. This is a portion – a very small portion – of the IoT, but it’s not the whole picture. Others might think that just because a smartphone is used to remotely control a device or to view data it constitutes IoT, and that’s not true. A smartphone is only one component of an IoT system, and not even a mandatory one.

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