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Internets of Things Need Glue

8/12/2013 01:00 AM EDT
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gdilla
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Is this really that much of a problem?
gdilla   8/12/2013 10:05:15 AM
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From a security point of view, it's probably smart to assume that your network is accessible from the outside. But from a practical point of view, interoperability of INTRAnets of Things seems like something purist hackers want and not industry. If you are an enterprise, the data, the apps you create, and things, machines and sensors you hook up are proprietary. It's not a fair comparison to say Things should be like websites. It's more apt to say connected things are like resources in your private network. 

JanineLove
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
JanineLove   8/12/2013 10:57:45 AM
I'm coming at this from the same perspective as gdilla. In the end, the mesh networks connect to the Internet, so why do they all need to operate in the same way? Each app will have its different requiremens. For instance, some will need to focus on extremely low power, some may need more emphasis on security. Why not let these apps drive their individual protocols, and then fly the end data or queries over the Internet?

gdilla
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
gdilla   8/12/2013 11:09:51 AM
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Better said than I! And companies can publish their APIs/SDK on managed services like Mashery and the like if they really care about letting people mash things up (or just for their own third party partners).

LarryM99
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
LarryM99   8/12/2013 12:50:31 PM
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It all depends on the scalability of the solution. If you trace the history of networking there were a number of protocols that were designed for local network segments because there would be no reason for the data to go any further than that. Novell, DECnet, Microsoft networking, and innumerable others were built to scale only to the size of at most a medium-sized corporate network. When TCP/IP came along it swept all of these aside because it was a truly scalable and uniform solution.

Many companies would argue that sensor networks are different, that the information should be limited to strictly local networks, but I sat in too many meetings in the '80s and '90s where the same class of people made the same arguments about their internal networks and came to the conclusion that they didn't really need this newfangled "Internet" thingy.

gdilla
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
gdilla   8/12/2013 1:43:49 PM
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Does it really matter if a node is still addressible via the internet, or the data from that node?

rick merritt
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
rick merritt   8/12/2013 2:16:36 PM
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@gdilla: I didn't mean to suggest that all IoTs need to talk to all other IoTs.

What I meant was there is not an interopera blke set of hardware and software choices available for people who build IoTs today.

You could, for example, build a nice Zigbee net today. But later if you decide you like the features of the 6WLowPAN products you are stuck with needing to forgo them or rip out the old Zigbee net or create a homegfrown bridge.

This is just one scenario where the lack of interoperability and standards raises its head. There are probably as many scenarios where tis comes up as there are deplyments.

Does that make sense?

gdilla
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
gdilla   8/12/2013 2:27:27 PM
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Yes. that makes sense. Thanks. Hopefully the costs of these technologies are low enough and getting lower that the pains of the 80s/90s won't be as accute.

docdivakar
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
docdivakar   8/12/2013 4:03:10 PM
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@RickMerritt: there are already solutions in the market today to integrate the plethora of standards into IP-based portal like EnNET by GridLogix (which was acquired by Johnson Controls). Though this last example is predominantly in the energy & building management / automation space, a similar approach could work for IoT.

MP Divakar

Bert22306
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
Bert22306   8/12/2013 4:11:17 PM
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"What I meant was there is not an interopera blke set of hardware and software choices available for people who build IoTs today."

But there are common protocols in use that can be converted into whatever you need to run over the backbone network, which may in turn be tied into the Internet (if it makes sense to do so).

Countless examples of this. For instance, for machinery, you might have legacy buses like BACnet, Modbus, Profibus, used to run stuff in factories or in other venues. All of these legacy buses can be tied into an Internet backbone. In many cases, those old protocols are actually layered over TCP/IP or UDP/IP, as a quick way to link these devices into intranets.

Is there a reason why a particular intranet like that should be made available on the Internet? Well, usually not, unless tunneled over secure long distance links. But that's only because the people who run the operation don't want intruders in there. If there were such a need, there's nothing difficult about making these messages available to anyone on the Internet.

Same goes for the lights in your house. If you're so inclined, there are ways already out there to link up switches into an intranet, and ultimately, if you wish, the Internet. There's nothing new that MUST be invented, unless you want to create a more standardized and coherent set of protocols to displace all the ones already in existence.

pierre kil
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
pierre kil   8/12/2013 4:15:16 PM
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Going back to the orginal article...YES it's a real issue. In communication platforms there are dominant and commonly adopted platforms which allow people to maximise the benfits of the existence of an internet connection anywhere and anytime: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

The absolute mess of protocols, still hampers an easy equivalent integration of devices, sensors, data across platforms. It's the reason OpenRemote (founders Marc Fleury, Juha Lindfors) started an open source middleware, allowing the integration across verticals ("the standard is no standard"), adding cloud based vizuaisation tools, and running on standard hardware.

Intreaging to see how traditional companies, seem to think that choosing the right standard is critical, while they should focus on getting real value to their customer base...

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: Is this really that much of a problem?
Sheetal.Pandey   8/12/2013 2:28:23 PM
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IOT is still has long way to go before it becomes a reality. I guess everyone has their own version of it. Standarizing it and limiting it would help.

krisi
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total mess
krisi   8/12/2013 2:50:06 PM
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I don't share the enthusiasm of many on this thread that IoT networks will just need to be connected...I think the IoT space is a total mess right now, and nothing really can be networked effectively as is...lots of work on standarization is required...I am not planning to re-boot my thermostats and my freezer every second day like my PC, nor I am planning to become IoT home network specialist to resolve all networking conflicts that will arise once my garage door opener starts taking to my gardening hose ;-)

akhe
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The needed bits
akhe   8/12/2013 3:36:23 PM
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I think IoT/M2m always will live on different networks and protocols and that we have to live with that. What we need are models and interfaces, I would like to call them abstractions, for things over different protocols to be able to talk to each other.

The situation we are at at the moment is much like how PC software development was carried out before windows arrived. We at that time made a small program that fitted well on one diskette and to be able to sell this program we had to supply maybe ten or twenty times the diskettes for hardware drivers for different printers, screens, keyboards, etc etc. The hardware abstracion layer in Windows all changed that with the boom in software revenue that followed.

So what we need is the abstractions also for m2m/IoT.   VSCP (http://vscp.org) presents one such model (no its not just a protocol) it's a framework. And it solves some common problems

1.) A uniform way to discover devices.
2.) A uniform way to configure devices.
3.) A uniform way to present data from devices.
4.) A uniform way to update firmware in devices.

Never mind who made the hardware, who owns the presentation surface or what protocol that is used. IMHO all discussions on which protocol is the killer protocol is of no interest the points above must be solved and are the key to the successful growth of m2m/IoT.

rick merritt
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Re: The needed bits
rick merritt   8/12/2013 7:44:39 PM
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@Akhe: Interesting proposal. Of course the 6WLowPAN guys say it is there stack.

In any case, there's no need to shoe horn Web standards into IoT, just a need to have their corollary, a consensus around some interopability framework...maybe yours.

rick merritt
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Re: The needed bits
rick merritt   8/12/2013 7:44:41 PM
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@Akhe: Interesting proposal. Of course the 6WLowPAN guys say it is there stack.

In any case, there's no need to shoe horn Web standards into IoT, just a need to have their corollary, a consensus around some interopability framework...maybe yours.

akhe
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Re: The needed bits
akhe   8/13/2013 2:56:35 AM
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The most important is not that it is our solution "that wins" the important thing is that we have a common way to work. Wo instead of building things vertical as almost everyone does today, at least we use firm specified interfaces at different levels that makes it possible to use whatever standard will "win" at the end when it emerge.

Bert22306
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Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Bert22306   8/12/2013 3:49:24 PM
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The biggest problem with Internet of Things is the redundant name, that makes people think this is something new.

Things can be internetworked to the extent that is necessary, from the point of view of the system design. A single factory can have its intranet, linking together the various machines perhaps. If a company has multiple plants, that company can tie them together, to whatever extent is required. The system designer makes this happen. If some of the machines use weird protocols, you install gateways to do the translation. IP is a great lingua franca, but that doesn't oblige everything that is internetworked to speak IP (although that's the general trend).

The car hacking hype. Same thing, right? A car becomes an intranet of things, and when they get tied together (even for simpole telemetry), they become part of what some might call IoT.

I can't say it enough times. Having done this for decades now, even before IP had become as common as it is now, I see the major roadblock as one of fundamental understanding of what IoT means. People seem to be creating inflexible religious dogma out of something that has been evolving gradually over time.

Just like the car hacking articles, security applies to anything on the Internet. Call it IoT or just your own in-home network. Makes no difference, except as a matter of degree.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/12/2013 5:15:00 PM
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Bert: I'm with you on the IoT name. It's hype, imho. Most of the principles of the IoT were well-defined as part of the "Information Superhighway" in the late 1990s.  Whether it's called the industrial internet, the internet of things, or whatever, it's still the Internet, isn't it? 

y_sasaki
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
y_sasaki   8/12/2013 5:40:37 PM
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10 Years ago, there was .NET. People thought everything on Internet can be managed by SOAP/WSDP, just by defining XML schema. Did not happen.

20 Years ago, there was SNMP. Pepole thought everything on Internet can be managed by SNMP, just by defining MIB. Did not happen.

30 Years ago, there was OSI. People thought everything on OSI network can be managed by X.500 DAP, just by defining DN. Did not happen.

 

X.500, SNMP and WSDP were not dead for nothing. They successfully used for some applications, but they are not a holy grail of manage-everything-globally-universal-standard.

Recent IoT sounds similar to me. It will solve some problem, but won't be one, unifined, ultimate solution for manage everything.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/12/2013 5:44:49 PM
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Y-sasaki:  At least the earlier examples you mentioned were specific technologies that ultimately made specific contributions.  The IoT is basically a broad generalized term -- a high concept. Many things will happen that can be categorized that way, but few will happen just because we started using the term IoT.  (Also, I like your little green man icon!)

rick merritt
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
rick merritt   8/12/2013 7:39:33 PM
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@Y-Sasaki: What sticks in my craw is that we had finally got to the point where apps could all be written to open Web standards and along comes Apple's iBandwagon saying that if you want to run on the iPhone, forget Web apps, it has to be native iOS code.

Aaaarrggghhh!

Jayna Sheats
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Jayna Sheats   8/12/2013 8:39:30 PM
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I agree that the name itself is arbitrary, but calling something "hype" just because it is a suddenly-popular buzzword isn't very useful.  People have to have buzzwords to quickly convey general themes in this ever-more-frenetic world, and of course they are inaccurate and simplistic.


I also agree that the IoT theme has been around a long time (Joel Birnbaum talked about MC2 - read "MC squared": measurement, communication, and computation.  But it is more than just the Internet, and indeed that is the question here: what does it take to get this new data (from unaccustomed sources) onto the Internet so it can reach interested users?

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/12/2013 9:54:14 PM
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JRS: I'm open minded on that, but I'd like to hear some specifics to understand why the IoT is something more than the same ol' same ol'.  The technorati (haven't heard that word recently) have been talking about smart appliances, wearable computers, and the connected community since circa 1997. What specifically does IoT add to that conversation beyond adjectives like "ubiquitous" and "pervasive"? 

Jayna Sheats
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Jayna Sheats   8/12/2013 10:12:30 PM
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Absolutely nothing but a name that seems to be accepted...   Seriously, Joel (who was my boss at about the time you mention) had been promulgating the MC2 concept for several years (that means >5) prior to the date you mentioned.  He also spoke of the Information Utility in many public speeches in the same era.  Now we have the Cloud and the IoT.  But no SaaS startup is going to claim that their service is available from the Information Utility.

There is, however, an important distinction between "ubiquitous" and "pervasive" (thanks again to Joel).  "Ubiquitous" means "found everywhere", while "pervasive" means "spread throughout", as in "television's pervasive influence on our culture" (MW dictionary).  A pervasive technology, as Joel conceived it, is not only commonplace but becomes almost invisible - we use it without even knowing it.  That is not true of the very ubiquitous cell phone.  He envisioned that MC2 would be a pervasive technology.

Whatever you call it, it needs M, C, and C.  The last of the three is pretty much there; the first is not (but emerging).  The middle C is there physically (with some questions about capacity in the long run), but the software for interfaces, the subject of Rick's article, is not. Without it, all the cheap sensors and powerful computers in the world won't make the vision happen.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/13/2013 10:56:50 AM
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This discussion is making me wonder how long it will be before we actually have refrigerators that order food for you and other such gizmos.  In the late 90s, they were expected by 2002. A decade later, a few exist, but I wouldn't say they're common.  Will we all have those...ever?  Is it desireable?  Or is it one more thing to convenience/nuisance to remember when you're going on vacation or a long business trip?  ("Oh, I have to reprogram the fridge not to order anything while I'm gone. And I have to tall the house not to stay cool.")  Right now, I just have to remember to stop the snail mail, and that's enough of a bother.

Jayna Sheats
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Jayna Sheats   8/13/2013 1:43:47 PM
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Tom: I hope people aren't getting totally tired of the dialog; I think this has been a good exchange!  To your point, there is a difference between industrial and consumer customers for the IoT concept, and I totally agree with your skeptical questions about consumer apps.  There are lot of things we'd "like", but they have to be actually easier and better than what we have, and that isn't so simple. 

There are five areas where I think these pervasive sensors can have immediate impact which is socially (and economically) useful: mobile medical monitoring, lighting control, water conservation, food freshness, and general energy conservation.  The first is the biggest "present" market.  The others are emerging (with water being the furthest behind), and the main question hindering them is "who pays?"  Several parties benefit, but one has to see enough short-term benefit to make the investment.  But none of these would make life more complicated for the individual consumer.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/13/2013 1:58:05 PM
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JRS et al:  I think it is only through conversation that people are able to think-through the social and cultural issues related to IoT, and I hope nobody would be shy about joining in. 

As for sensors, yes, I like the idea of medical sensors for those who need/want them, particularly in a society where 78 million boomers are now drifting towards their golden years (the eldest boomers are now 67; the youngest are 49).   And while it sounds like a good idea to use sensors for water and energy conservation, or food freshness, I think the devil may be in the details there. I mean, really? Do I need something other than my nose to tell me my milk has turned? Do I want my fridge to order more (no).

And who will control all that energy conservation -- great goal, but I just heard an ad from my power company advising me not to use my personal computer before 7 pm. Soon, I expect power comapanies to limit energy use through smart meters. Will sensors give power companies the option of turning off your TV in the middle of your favorite show? Or shut down a computer as you tweak a complex spreadsheet?  I wonder.

Admittedly, I'm borrowing trouble here. I'm trying to see the negatives so that they can be avoided. So please accept these questions in that light.

 

Jayna Sheats
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Jayna Sheats   8/13/2013 2:13:26 PM
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When I say "food freshness", I am referring to use in the supply chain rather than the home refrigerator (though I have often longed for a device to point out to me that there is a mystery science experiment going on back there where I haven't looked for ages...): waste of perishable goods due to improper storage and transportation.  "Sell by" stamps are a poor substitute for time/temperature histories, and this is a multi-billion dollar problem.

But the control issue is related to security and privacy, and is very much an elephant in the room. New technologies often can be used for good and bad, and this is no exception.  How access to the data is controlled, and how it may be responded to, are critical social questions.  As with the Internet, I think more access to information is good, but it is easy to see how it can be abused.  I definitely do not have the answer, other than to say that some system of effective checks and balances, and/or external audits, has to be in place.

kfield
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
kfield   8/13/2013 4:56:53 PM
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@Tom Good point about how long, and do we even need some of these services? Frankly, the fact that my refrigerator doesn't automatically order food for me isn't causing me any great headaches at the moment.

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/13/2013 5:07:30 PM
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Karen: I think I WOULD  get a headache if my refrigerator, car, air conditioner and other appliances  started sending me texts.  And then I'd probably get a text saying my blood pressure was rising.... ;-O

pierre kil
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
pierre kil   8/13/2013 7:45:30 AM
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IoT is not a hype anymore as the big difference is that the market seems to be ready: individual users are grasping the posibilities of an IoT to solve real problems they face. Yes technically it can already (theoretically) be done for decades. But as long as user doen't recognise value and haven't naturally familiarised with technology and the fundamental intuitive means to interact with other people and devices via internet, technology won't get adopted (the promise of Home Automation has been there for decades...). Today people understand.....

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/13/2013 11:02:55 AM
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Pierre: You're absolutely right. Technology tends to be available for a long time before businesses adopt it and people start using it.  It takes time.  EG: bar scanning has been available for, what, at least 15 years?  But it was only in the past couple of years that a few large supermarket chains started letting customers scan their own groceries, and it has only been the past year that some are letting them use their mobile phones to do so. 

People have a lot of expenses these days and not much extra income. So the idea of buying an IoT refrigerator just isn't high on the list.

pierre kil
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
pierre kil   8/13/2013 3:42:21 PM
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Hi @Tom Murphy: the refrigerator you mention is a nice example. I guess people don't need a fridge with a touchpanel and internet access mounted on the door, the thing which a whitegood manufacturer tried to sell for years ("what would I use it for"). However, the Nespresso coffee machine which recognises your favorite taste and allows you to order extra at the touch of a button, via your Facebook login at Nespresso.com, is compelling. Or the Whirlpool freezer which allows for remote warning, if your freezer stops working... It starts adding value, if it's just with a single click and/or a simple notification on your phone. From a technology perspective, it was all possible for decades already. However it get's attractive, due to an existing eco-system massively adopted by peope (smartphones, mobile internet). It's the tools for OEMs to enable integrations across verticals which might make a difference to also start offering applications beyond the single devices, I guess that's the glue which @Rick Merritt was referring to...

Tom Murphy
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Re: Everyone's understanding of reality seems different
Tom Murphy   8/13/2013 4:27:31 PM
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Thanks Pierre.  Good thoughts.   I do like the idea of a freezer that gives you a warning that it is on the fritz (although a built-in alarm would work for most people).  Some of this reminds me of the discussions of how some folks can now use a mobile phone to turn on the air conditioning before they get home. Great concept, but I have yet to meet anyone who does that. Most people just set timers and leave them that way for months, right?   

The more I think about this, the more I think that people are going to be the big challenge here.  And if they don't think they need it, why go through all the cost and bother of creating it? 

Jack.L
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THERE IS NO Interoperability on the NET today ...
Jack.L   8/12/2013 4:25:08 PM
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Sure things plug into networking standards and my computer can talk to my printer, but my router does not. Sure packets can be exchanged but there is no high level that says I am a printer and treat me in such a way, etc.

Ultimately what we have is stacks that and physical standards that allow communications, but much of what happens is defined by software that has no standards at all in many cases.

Is it wrong to believe that IOT will be any different?

Yes we need stacks and physical standards to allow communications but we need to be careful we do not go overboard defining interoperability lest we make meaningless standards that market forces just walk over or worse yet hinder progress.

 

 

Bert22306
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Re: THERE IS NO Interoperability on the NET today ...
Bert22306   8/12/2013 4:36:31 PM
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"Sure things plug into networking standards and my computer can talk to my printer, but my router does not."

Of course it does. We have all manner of Intranet connected printers throughout the enterprise, and anyone from coast to coast can send documents to any one of them. The messages go through routers, to the printers.

And to use those printers, any PC needs the appropriate drivers for that model of printer. You want your printer available to anyone on the Internet? That's easily done too. Its name gets into the public DNS, and you're done.

The stacks of different standards which exist today has been decreasing already, for decades, as the best ones survive. At the same time, anytime something new is networked, this new thing brings with it some specific needs. So that's a counterforce.

Jack.L
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Re: THERE IS NO Interoperability on the NET today ...
Jack.L   8/12/2013 4:46:30 PM
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You actually proved my point with your statement.

 

The underlying network is defined ... which I said on my post. That underlying piece already fully exists for the IOT to implement today, right now.

All the other things you discussed, printer drivers, etc. are not defined by standards, but defined by printer companies, Microsoft, etc. They are not universally agreed upon defined standards but commercially implemented pieces of software.

 

Do we want/need different networking standards to implement specific real and perceived requirements of next generation networks? Yes. However, I see some standards move perhaps too far up the application space and when that happens while you can drive adoption in specific markets, you can also stunt progress and/or create effective fragmentation.

 

 

Bert22306
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Re: THERE IS NO Interoperability on the NET today ...
Bert22306   8/12/2013 5:00:25 PM
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"Do we want/need different networking standards to implement specific real and perceived requirements of next generation networks? Yes. However, I see some standards move perhaps too far up the application space and when that happens while you can drive adoption in specific markets, you can also stunt progress and/or create effective fragmentation."



The way I would put is is that you cannot pre-define all of the standards that might be needed for the IoT, so-called. The printer example is a good one, because vendors will always come up with a printer that can do something new, or better, and will have to accommodate the new features in the message protocol to run that printer.

So, this has been going on forever, essentially. Printers are actually a decent example. Used to be they were connected via localized serial or parallel interfaces. Then they got onto Intranets, attached to boxes that translated your DECnet or Appletalk or IPX into the serial interface the printer wanted. (Note: very similar to a Modbus that morphs into Modbus over TCP/IP.) Then they started supporting a gozillion different fonts, paper sizes, enveloped, photographs, faxing, scanning, etc.

Who would have predicted what protocols would be required, 25 years ago? Why should we obsess that we can't predict the future now, on this topic thread?

Jack.L
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Re: THERE IS NO Interoperability on the NET today ...
Jack.L   8/12/2013 5:13:06 PM
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I believe we are agreeing. People do seem to be obsessed with predicting the future no doubt in many cases for their corporate goals and really I don't blame them, we all want our competitive advantage.

 

It is that need to define the future that has lead to the stalling of base protocols for IOT I believe.

 

docdivakar
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DCIM
docdivakar   8/12/2013 6:05:59 PM
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There is a very closely related discusson on-going on a LinkedIn forum:

How important is the integrated support of various communication protocols (SNMP, Modbus BACnet etc) for a DCIM-solution?

http://linkd.in/1cuYvT9

MP Divakar

rick merritt
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Re: DCIM
rick merritt   8/12/2013 7:36:56 PM
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@Doc D: Thx for the link, man!

jtjans
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IoT Generation
jtjans   8/21/2013 3:39:26 PM
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I see reference to 15 years between possible and implementatin=on or acceptance.  Can anyone say generation gap.  It takes the next generation to be comfortable with most new technologies.

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