Last time, operational definitions of the Internet of Things (IoT) were presented and, since no objections were heard, Logic PD's chief technology officer Scott A. Nelson's definition rounded up the concept completely. He concluded the IoT is "the integration of devices with an open architecture data storage and application facility, i.e. cloud, to enable new sensor and data driven experiences that increase productivity, convenience, and security for operational entities and individual users."
From Mr. Nelson's definition the next question emerges, how has the concept of IoT affected sensor products? For an emerging initiative that is triggering visions of trillions of sensors deployed worldwide serving countless apps and offering staggering opportunities, the answers range from minimal to significant, essentially warm to cool, but enthusiastically optimistic at the very least.
The IoT Effect
Jim Knutti, President and CEO of Acuity Inc. claims the effect of the IoT on sensor products is minimal. He states, "Product requirements are driven by market needs and internet information sharing is just one tool that combines to meet these needs."
On the other side of the coin, American Sensor Technologies, Inc. Marketing Manager Greg Montrose sees a larger impact from IoT on sensor products, but not necessarily in terms of significant design changes. He points to opportunities, claiming the "IoT has created significant growth and opportunities for our business. With the decreased overall cost of transmitting data wirelessly and the fast development of cloud-based monitoring software and systems, applications for sensor-based products have grown steadily over the past ten years. From inventory monitoring to system performance and health, IoT has put sensors in a remarkable position to provide information to the people that matter to save time and energy."
Tim Scott, Director of Business Development at Novati Technologies Inc. sees IoT as a significant influence on sensor devices from both a design and growth point. He also cites the wireless aspect as being a key to current and future designs. He says, "All new sensor designs include the RF circuitry that will allow connectivity to the IoT. But even devices that are not sensor-centric are adding the necessary circuitry to allow them to be able to connect to the internet as well. One concept of the smart home, for example, where specific circuitry is added to enable the color of the light being emitted by a LED bulb to be controlled by a smart phone."
It's Still A Network
Basically, the internet has been, is, and always will be just an immense network of computers and it would be logical to assume that any apps designed for it must bet network friendly. So goes Dave Coughlan, President of TE Sensor Solutions, when he professes, "The internet of things "thinking" has definitely broadened the concept of a network, but we have been working on network-suitable "smart sensors" for a long time. A smart sensor is able to put data on a network and allow the information to be shared and utilized by any device on the network, but it can also itself utilize network-provided information to make it smarter."
Has it affected product designs? Coughlan concludes, "So while I can't attribute IoT specifically to greatly affecting our designs, I can say that the focus of placing data on a network to be utilized by all network addresses has influenced us greatly."
The ZigBee Alliance is not an OEM or design outfit, but the organization is at the center of wireless connectivity and interoperability issues. According to ZigBee Alliance Director of Strategic Marketing Ryan Maley, "Although the Alliance does not make products, in one sense, IoT has affected everything we do. Since 2002, our members have been creating standards to enable communication in everyday objects so people may monitor and control the world around them. Alliance standards are developed with end user requirements in mind so the standards we create can enable innovative products that meet the needs of consumers."
The Whole Picture
Asked how the IoT affected sensor products and/or his company's approach to product design, Logic PD's Scott A. Nelson says, "Significantly." He informs us that, " The recurring use expectation of IoT solutions has changed both how we develop new offerings and how they are designed to both deliver a sustained value proposition and support continuous innovation throughout the life cycle. We have deployed a more agile approach to development with multiple iterations of prototypes with users to identify and refine the value of the offering experience."
Again, we have a description that seems to condense the varied experiences and impact of the IoT concept on the sensor and sensor-related product makers. Essentially, one size will not fit all, so various prototypes will be in order. Unless it's a proprietary app or something that does not need to communicate worldwide, all sensors will need to be able to connect to the internet and most likely in a wireless topology to enable remote communication by any method of choice, be it smartphone, tablet, etc. And no matter who is making the device, it will need to interoperate reliably, effectively, seamlessly, and effortlessly with all related components on the network.
Next time, we will see where the hot markets are for the IoT and future innovations. Essentially, we'll be asking, "Where's the beef?"
About the Author
Mat Dirjish is Executive Editor of Sensors magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].