The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised at a tipping point where market demand
and technological capability are rapidly converging to enable an
enormous shift in connectivity. All of the jigsaw pieces are in play now
with the final hurdle of M2M optimized connectivity being realized via
white space spectrum. White space spectrum offers wide area network
reach equivalent, and in many respects superior to, traditional
telephony based cellular architectures but at a terminal cost and power
consumption more usually associated with LAN technologies such as
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This is the catalyst for a revolution in capability
that could have been created serendipitously for M2M.
Traditional approaches simply cannot tick all of the critical boxes
that are necessary to realize the potential. 2G, 3G and LTE whilst
exceptionally good for high bandwidth human communications such as voice
and video streaming to expensive cellular handsets with a battery life
measured in hours are simply not appropriate for vast numbers of low
cost remotely located wireless sensors. The low price point and long
battery life associated the latest LAN technologies such as Bluetooth
4.0 tick two of the critical boxes -- cost and power consumption -- but
cannot provide the range necessary for the majority of M2M applications
leading to tiny cells with large gaps between them.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.