Over the next few years, our lives will be surrounded by more connected digital devices. A large number of these won’t be something we carry with us, like a smartphone, but actual appliances. This trend is known as the IoT (Internet of Things).
Networking vendor Cisco predicts that billions of these IoT devices will connect to the Internet over the next few years.
On the business side of things, the potential is incredible. Tiny devices could be monitoring temperature, rainfall or air quality in the field. Fridges in supermarkets could reorder supplies without a human being involved. Devices could monitor a medical patient 24 hours a day.
The number of potential solutions for business and industry is almost unlimited.
A huge number of these will be bespoke, and custom-designed devices just made for that particular farmer, miner, manufacturer, government agency, etc.
Each of these devices is unique, based on customer needs, the environment, the systems to integrate into, mobility requirements, etc.
Some of these will even be wrapped up with software and sold as a service instead of just a product.
A large Japanese semiconductor called Renesas is set to tap into this market opportunity. It’s the world's number one supplier of microcontroller and a leader in advanced semiconductor solutions for automotive, industry-leading microcontrollers software, SoCs, analog power, memory and USB solutions.
They’ve recently introduced a new complete and qualified platform called Renesas Synergy. It helps small specialist electronics engineering businesses to create these IoT devices.
In the past, these specialist electronics businesses would’ve spent a long time developing bespoke hardware for each solution. Renesas's new platform is an open modular platform that seriously accelerates this development process. It provides almost all of the low-level hardware and software tools in a simple package.
IoT developers can then bring solutions to market much quicker. Think of it like how Intel chips allow computer manufacturers to focus on what they do best instead of reinventing the wheel every time.
IntelliDesign is an original design manufacturer based in Queensland. They recently produced an air quality measurement device using the new Synergy platform. With a SIM card installed it can save on traditional expensive measurement equipment or even human trips to locations. “Without this new platform development would’ve taken three times as long,” says Chris Bishop, the Managing Director of Intellidesign.
In Australia and New Zealand, there are four partners already. One can also imagine numerous new startups and electronic engineers jumping onboard this new platform.
“The platform Renesas have developed includes hardware and software and hardware which allows independent design houses like ours to accelerate the development of the devices. It can take three times longer if we had to take desperate components and integrate them together from different sources,” says Simon Buchwald, Managing Director Amatek Design.
With the hardware much easier to develop and bring to market, the focus for these partners can then turn to the wider solution including software.
“What our Synergy platform enables today is for our partners to focus on connecting sensors to gateways and eventually those gateways to [the] cloud. This could even provide new business models of selling back that collected data,” says Peter Carbone, Vice President, Synergy IoT Platform Division, Renesas
Intelligent software and cloud services are really where the rubber hits the road. That is what makes these IoT devices valuable to businesses and our economy.