SAN FRANCISCO--The Internet of Things has long been a buzz phrase in the technology industry, with a bevy of experts predicting that someday soon, billions of mundane household appliances could be connected to the cloud, yet so far, that notion has remained right around the corner.
Texas Instruments, however, believes it has come up with the product needed to give the Internet of Things a kick start, with SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3000, a self-contained wireless processor to give developers a quick way to add internet connectivity to any embedded system using any microcontroller.
TI said SimpleLink, which uses an 802.11 network processor, will make it easy for people to add wireless connectivity to almost anything, from lawnmowers to dishwashers, allowing everyday products to connect up and share information.
Examples of what this kind of connectivity could entail include smoke alarms able to send text messages to home owners if they detect smoke while a person is away from home, or security systems that can email business or home owners when they detect intruders.
In the personal wellness sphere, applications could include blood pressure monitors that alert doctors when in-home patients’ levels spike or treadmills that connect to Web-based health services to track fitness progress.
Connectivity could even be used in personal items like umbrellas, which could connect to weather updates via the Wi-Fi network, and include an LED light that changes to “blue” if rain is expected.
SimpleLink CC3000 purportedly consumes just 0.5% of the resources of traditional Wi-Fi, with TI saying it uses just 6kb of flash and has just a 3Kb RAM software footprint.
The wireless processor also uses standard software APIs and has no need for an operating system, ensuring that it can be integrated into products within hours and just work. This, says TI, applies to both new and existing embedded applications.
“Wi-Fi technology has been around for more than a decade, but it hasn’t necessarily been accessible for most classes of product,” said Matt Kurtz, the channel marketing manager for TI’s wireless connectivity business unit.
Kurtz said customers repeatedly approached TI with simple microcontroller-based products, wanting to add Wi-Fi.
“We realized that it was unreasonable to expect them to start running Linux and change to a high performance applications processor, so knowing the potential of the Internet of Things market, we rolled up our sleeves and rearchitected our existing Wi-Fi solution to make it suitable for any product – regardless of the architecture,” he said, adding that SimpleLink offered customers a “blueprint to connect even the simplest devices to the Internet.”
TI is on the right track by betting on WLAN for such needs, Cellular connectivity is an overkill for most such needs.
What is needed to get Things off the ground is integration into a platform where such devices can be interacted with. Existing platforms such as Android, iOS are good candidates.
The interface needs to be a handheld device such as a smartphone or a tablet; not necessarily a laptop/desktop computer.
This would be great to control my sprinkler system. I could go onto my computer and program or adjust the watering times. You could even have a script that checks the weather online and adjusts the watering schedule accordingly.
War is over. In the domain of Consumer Electronics it will probably kill other Wireless Technologies like Zigbee. Good thing or not? Now we can re-think operability. I like it. Still have to check the data sheet, BOM and software effort but it looks like no need no more for "Linux like systems" or Multi Chip Modules to do WiFi.
I think the theory is that "things" will send a very small amount of data, not very often. So, like SMSs on Cellphone networks, the increase in traffic will be quite small compared to normal network traffic.
Luis Sanchez: right you are--cost is a big factor here, particularly since a lot of the applications seem to be merely convenience functions. I'm not against convenience, but I'll only pay so much to not have to dial in a weird code to my washing machine. After all, how often do I have to do it?
Another issue, also, is that I really, really don't want this information going outside my home. These devices will all be connected through my router, and that's good for me as long as the data stays there. I don't need an information harvesting 'bot to take up residence in one of my machines or my router (or be put there by a chip manufacturer) to feed data on my home routine to anyone. I can think of all sorts of reasons to be paranoid about that.
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.