6 Internet Of Things Building Blocks - InformationWeek

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2/22/2015
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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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Six Building Blocks for the Internet of Things
(Image: courtesy of Arduino)

(Image: courtesy of Arduino)

The "Internet of Things" is, in reality, the rise of embedded systems. Taking a small computer and embedding it in a formerly un-computerized object allows us to control the object, gather data from the object, and ultimately tie the object to other things through a network or the Internet.

Fortunately for engineers and product designers everywhere, it has become rather easy to find very capable small computers that can be rolled into an object to bring it into the Internet of Things. More to the point, it's become easy to find embedded systems that make use of the same operating systems and programming languages used in business servers and workstations.

It's difficult to overstate the importance of being able to use common operating systems and programming languages to develop prototypes and production systems for the Internet of Things. Embedded systems have been around for decades, but for most of their existence programmers have needed special software development environments to write code in unique languages (often, but not always, a variation on assembler for the processor sitting at the heart of the computer).

Now, there are various platforms on which people can develop prototypes for IoT applications. Some of these are the same platforms that will ultimately be used in a final product, while others will simply be the initial springboards from which to launch a product. Either way, the systems here will help a product development team get a project off the ground.  

There's one more thing that really must be mentioned here: Any of these systems can also be a great way to teach people programming. Whether you're thinking about a system for teaching a young person how to code, or just looking for a way to sharpen some of your skills, you won't really go wrong tinkering with any of these embedded systems.

The real challenge to you is this: What do you want to build today? The embedded platform is no longer a good excuse for avoiding the dream project you've had locked in your head.

 

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
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2/22/2015 | 6:57:02 PM
Computers Everywhere
The current state of there being a computer in almost every household has change the economy in many ways. If at least one object in a household had a computer embedded in it then, I feel that the economy will change again.

For developers, it would be hard the pin point the exact application in which the IoT will drive the greatest level of initial demand. However, I feel that embedded systems that aim to optimize energy usage around the home will be an even bigger source of demand, from its current level.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2015 | 11:10:06 PM
IoT based devices
"The "Internet of Things" is, in reality, the rise of embedded systems. Taking a small computer and embedding it in a formerly un-computerized object allows us to control the object, gather data from the object, and ultimately tie the object to other things through a network or the Internet."

Curtis, connectivity is the major part in IoT. So any devices having this connectivity module can come under the preview of IoT.  It can be of network connected or self talking through various sensors.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/22/2015 | 11:25:43 PM
Re: Computers Everywhere
@Brian, I think one of the most exciting things about the IoT is that the "killer app" is likely to be something none of us has thought of, yet.

I certainly hope that energy use is the target of a great deal of the activity around IoT. Behind more thorough instrumentation, greater machine intelligence, and battery technology like that now being put forward by Tesla, there's at least the possibility of a real breakthrough in the relatively near future.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
2/23/2015 | 10:38:33 AM
Re: IoT based devices
@Gigi3, 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. The downsides to that are that the protocols tend to be "heavy" in comparison to the data being moved, and hackers also understand these protocols very well.

In my mind, the biggest hurdles to IoT acceptance are going to be privacy and security related. If people don't trust that the data moving between sensors and controllers is safe, they're going to be very reluctant to instrument more of their lives.
WaqasAltaf
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WaqasAltaf,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 10:43:26 AM
IoT and Open-source
Curt, the flourishing of open-source systems has encouraged amateur developers to test their skills. I think IoT will encourage them further to test their practical capabilities in a way that helps consumer and industrial market and in return they can make the name for themselves.
WaqasAltaf
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WaqasAltaf,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 10:52:20 AM
Re: Computers Everywhere
BrianDean, yes energy applications have the most potential since it is a major cost to many households and if IoT helps in reducing energy costs, consumers will invest heavily in these applications. The impacts on industrial sector can be even bigger.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/23/2015 | 3:59:18 PM
Re: Computers Everywhere
I'm betting on convenience as the force that will drive consumer IoT, much more so than energy savings. If energy savings come along for the ride, great, but otherwise most people choose convenience over energy savings every day.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
2/23/2015 | 4:32:24 PM
Aren't sensors enough?
When I think IoT, I think of Internet- and network-connectable sensors, not tiny computers that give devides onboard computing power. GE's Intelligent Platforms business, for example, makes available mobile- and network-connectable sensors for heat, vibration, RPMs and what not. You need to computer somewhere to consolidate and analyze all those signals, but the remote devices may need only connectivity, not computer power (however tiny). 
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/23/2015 | 5:47:13 PM
Re: Computers Everywhere
I'd agree with you on that, Chris. Energy savings are great, and no doubt people value that, but ultimately convenience will be the force that encourages consumer adoption of IoT. If it makes something easier, people will want to try it.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
2/23/2015 | 5:47:32 PM
Re: Computers Everywhere
Great point @Curt, the likelihood is very high that the IoT will generate value in a completely unexpected product or service. I feel that high gain value sources might even emerge from procedures and processes. For instance, the IoT might create a situation where collecting census data becomes infeasible.

This makes selecting the right building blocks an important process and developers will have to consider a large number of variables and build expandability into their product/service/procedure.   
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