6 Internet Of Things Building Blocks - InformationWeek

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IoT
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2/22/2015
12:06 PM

6 Internet Of Things Building Blocks

Need an embedded system to whip up an IoT prototype? These six platforms make it easier than ever to get started with embedded programming.
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Arduino Uno
In many ways, the current generation of 'makers' in the embedded system arena can trace their history back to the Italian educators who came up with the idea for a simple, inexpensive embedded controller. There is now an entire Arduino family, but the Arduino Uno is the foundation for the group. A low-power board in every sense, the Arduino Uno is based on the ATmega328 processor and features 32 KB (that's right, kilobytes) of memory for software. Using it requires tight, efficient code with no unnecessary frills. But if you're looking for a simple controller that can easily fit into an Altoids tin, the Arduino Uno fits the bill. Most developers find, though, that they want to move their project onto a more streamlined system, such as a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), for high-volume production.
More information on Arduino.
(Image: courtesy of Arduino)

In many ways, the current generation of "makers" in the embedded system arena can trace their history back to the Italian educators who came up with the idea for a simple, inexpensive embedded controller. There is now an entire Arduino family, but the Arduino Uno is the foundation for the group. A low-power board in every sense, the Arduino Uno is based on the ATmega328 processor and features 32 KB (that's right, kilobytes) of memory for software. Using it requires tight, efficient code with no unnecessary frills. But if you're looking for a simple controller that can easily fit into an Altoids tin, the Arduino Uno fits the bill. Most developers find, though, that they want to move their project onto a more streamlined system, such as a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), for high-volume production.

More information on Arduino.

(Image: courtesy of Arduino)

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pfretty
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pfretty,
User Rank: Ninja
2/26/2015 | 11:17:30 AM
Great list!
IoT has so many components that make it a reality from the sensor, mobile technology, processor capabilties all of which ultimate gather and transfer the data for timely analysis to move to the next stage and make a meaningful impact on an organization's ability to accomplish key goals - operational optimization, customer experience enhancement as well as new product development.  I'm excited to see all of this continue to build/evolve.

Peter Fretty, IDG blogger posting on behalf of SAS
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/25/2015 | 9:31:06 AM
Re: Computers Everywhere
@Curt that's a good point - the failures of IoT can be used as stepping stones towards genuinely useful products. Sure we'll see our "smart" pancake flippers, refrigerators, teapots, etc. but those will be more like expensive novelties for wealthier (and perhaps lazier) customers.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
2/25/2015 | 8:34:30 AM
Re: 6 Internet Of Things Building Blocks
@Curt, I agree that IoT is more than just sensors but that is what we hear the most about.  I have a dozen Raspberry Pis around that server up real-time data throughout our warehouses.  If a key event changes in one warehouse we know about it seconds later in all of the other warehouses.  Interconnection is the focus no matter where the information is coming from and I hope to see more of this in the future, not just refrigerators counting up the number of times the door is opened.  If the data being collected and displayed isn't useful we will fall into the habit of ignoring it.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
2/25/2015 | 8:11:58 AM
Re: IoT based devices
"I think the RF connections will be most useful when connecting sensors and devices inside the building. When it comes to linking out to an Internet-connected controller or system, many buildings have some sort of broadband access -- those that don't will be relying on a 3G or 4G connection (though those are serious overkill for most embedded control purposes)."

Curt, thanks for this clarification. So through a common internal gateway, all these devices get connected to the public network.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2015 | 7:11:34 PM
Re: Computers Everywhere
@Kelly, I'm sure that there will be some real "dogs" in the IoT world, but the work done on those dogs will help the designers and builders create better, more useful products later. And I think you're right -- hitting the proper price/convenience is where the market will be won. Even though I'm optimistic about the future of the IoT, I'm not at all sure I'd pay for an intelligent version of one of those things that flips the pancake for you.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2015 | 6:29:41 PM
Re: 6 Internet Of Things Building Blocks
@zero203, I agree with every part of your well-thought-out response. The reason I didn't focus on sensors in this article was simple: There are just too many of them. Some are part of standard board ecosystems, some are open-source designs, and some are easy to make for engineers or hobbyists who need a one-off sensor.

There are going to be all kinds of system architectures used in the IoT because the term itself describes such a broad universe of things. From health sensors worn by weekend athletes to complex building or process control, just about anything that has a data-gathering capacity and some sort of communications ability is now part of the "Internet of Things." That breadth makes the topic exciting -- and about as precise as jelly nailed to a tree.

I'll admit that this is an area in which I'm very interested: I look forward to much more coverage in the future!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2015 | 6:22:08 PM
Re: IoT based devices
@Gigi3, I think the RF connections will be most useful when connecting sensors and devices inside the building. When it comes to linking out to an Internet-connected controller or system, many buildings have some sort of broadband access -- those that don't will be relying on a 3G or 4G connection (though those are serious overkill for most embedded control purposes).
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/24/2015 | 9:50:52 AM
Re: Computers Everywhere
I'd say a combination of convenience and price. I'm all for making things easier, but I wouldn't purchase a device that does something I could easily do myself. Something that saves energy automatically, for example, I would consider. That said, as @DanBluePlanet notes, we will undoubtedly see connected devices that are like "talking dogs," or more expensive novelties than anything else.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2015 | 7:58:01 AM
Re: 6 Internet Of Things Building Blocks
I think the number and variety of comments here is a testament to just how much IoT is on everyone's minds, and just how complex of a space it's going to be. Like some others, I was a little surprised to see that this list focused just on embedded systems. It was nice to get a refresher on what the people behind Raspberry Pi (which still looks like the king in terms of bang-to-buck ratio) and Arduino are up to these days, as well as some of their competitors, but Doug and Charlie are right to point out that there's more to IoT than just that. When I think 'building blocks' I think of the pieces we'll combine to make everything else later. We will be combining Arduinos with RasPis in places, but we'll also be combining them with individual sensors, various networks and protocols, and many combinations therein before IoT hits critical mass. There's certainly room for plenty more articles to be written on the matter.

As for the topic of the first killer app for consumers, I'm with Brian. I think some of you may have misunderstood his point - I don't think he meant that the IoT devices will need to be low-power (that's another topic), but that IoT devices that specifically help people manage their energy consumption (like a thermostat) will do well. I  think that's likely to be true. It's one of few problems that touches every single household. SaneIT, who I don't see in this thread, made a point once about home automation being a great market because homeowners can dip their toes in, then buy more later once they're happy with them. It allows manufacturers more flexibility than the win-or-lose enterprise space. You could expand that category to include lighting, etc. The smart fridge that tells me when my vegetables go bad might be a ways off, but the smart thermostat that pushes an update to my phone to tell me the temperature has gone up and would I like to turn my heat off might be right around the corner. 
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2015 | 4:29:21 AM
Re: IoT based devices
"you're absolutely right: Connectivity is the defining characteristic of the IoT. One of the advantages that most of these building blocks bring is that they allow designers to add networking using the same protocols and standards that they use in office networking."

Curt, you mean that developers/users can build or add-on more building blocks over that. What about the back end connectivity is it over wifi or GSM based networking. Then there may be compactable issues because GSM works on 900/1800 MHz bandwidth and wifi on different bandwidth.
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