Getting Started With The Internet Of Things

May 21st, 2015 by

If you are not on board with The Internet of Things, be prepared to be left behind…

The IoT – as it’s known to enthusiasts – is the buzz phrase of 2015. It refers to the connection of items such as your fridge, car, lighting or central heating to the internet for the purposes of remote control and monitoring.

However far-fetched it may sound, twenty years ago most people wouldn’t imagine they’d be shopping online for books, so just figure for yourselves how quickly we get to grips with new systems.

Internet-enabled home appliances are already available for purchase, although some are finding converts thin on the ground. The usual technology hardware early adopters have been quick to launch internet enabled products, but it’s new gadgets that have struggled entering the market.  However a new partnership could bolster confidence in the new world of connectivity. UK microchip designer ARM and US-based computer and internet cloud giant IBM have designed a starter kit for startup firms and individuals which will enable them to incorporate internet connectivity and functionality into their devices from the beginning. They even claim that the starter kit can be online five minutes after it arrives at the door!

The kit comes in two parts:

The first board is a pre-configured microcontroller board designed for developers, and is a little reminiscent of the Raspberry Pi. Onboard is one of ARM’s Cortex-M4 processors and enough memory to accommodate one specific task.

The second board contains a selection of sensors including a thermometer, two ‘dimmer knobs’ or potentiometers, a buzzer, an accelerator,  a multi-coloured LED light, small LCD display, and a small, simple joystick.

The two boards fit together and can connect to the internet via an Ethernet connection or to a computer via a USB cable.

The device logs its data directly to an IBM-owned website where owners of the device can log in and observe the data sent by the device in real time.

IBM’s vice president of development Rob Lamb stated: “The use cases are bounded only by human imagination.” And we know that human beings are very imaginative.

Possible (simplified) uses for this device include

  1. Judging when it’s dark so a signal is sent to instruct a device to turn on household lighting.
  2. An alarm being triggered when the temperature of a fridge or freezer hits a certain point.
  3. Monitoring a car or van so if someone tries to steal it, the owner is alerted.

These are suggestions for the device, but it’s a certainty that once some creative minds start experimenting with the kit, the uses will multiply.

ARM’s vice president of marketing, Zach Shelby, commented that the device is for “…anybody who is into making products, whether they are makers who have a Kickstarter idea…all the way up to the device engineers for the big companies.”.

The Internet of Things is expected to explode over 2015, with internet providers already considering the extra demand that will be placed upon their infrastructure.

A manufacturer for the kit has been assigned – Freescale – but a unit price has yet to be firmly established. Sources have suggested that it is likely to be somewhere between $50 and $200, a price range which places it in direct competition with the extremely popular and versatile Raspberry Pi.

The hardware may be accompanied by a software developers kit for smartphones, PCs and server-based applications, but no details of this have yet been released.

If you’re thinking of launching a new product in the next couple of years, it would certainly make sense to make it IoT compatible.

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