If the skillset of embedded engineers is the speed bump in developing next-generation embedded devices, then they need to either retrain or get out of the way. I have long said that embedded systems is developing a real application layer, particularly when you have powerful 32/64 bit computing capability, full operating systems, now networking. Back in the day of the Internet toaster I was very skeptical of most embedded network devices because the infrastructure simply was not there to support them, but that is no longer the case. Embedded teams creating IoT devices should include application-level engineers that can professionally take advantage of that power.
I don't think the problem is skillset of embedded engineers...the problem is definition of the problems they are asked to solve...checking my fridge whether the milk is going bad is not useful...connecting trillions of sensors to predict weather locally is...we just solve the wrong problems
I'm kind of with Kris on this. The problem is, it seems like everyone is saying something or other about this IoT, but no one is defining what THEY mean by the term. You need to get specific enough about A problem you want to solve, before you can say anything intelligent about this amorphous concept IoT.
Let's say you feel the urge to know the temperature of every item in your refrigerator at home, even while you're somewhere else. That's not so difficult to do. You furnish each smart refrigerator with a gaggle of probes to poke into or wrap around every item, hardwire the probes to a central processor in the refrigerator, have that refrigerator processor request an IP address from your home modem/gateway via DHCP, build a web server in that processor, and now the owner can access his refrigerator from anywhere, with a standard web browser. (You probably have to dedicate a TCP port in the NAT, if using IPv4, but even that's a well-known technique by now.) Perhaps in Version 2, you use Bluetooth to connect each probe to the refrigerator processor.
There. You don't need any new industry-wide standards for that problem. All the standards you need exist already, and every refrigerator manufacturer is free to organize his own refrigerator web site as he pleases. But that's AN example. There are countless ways you can use a global network to provide access to gizmos. And too, just because something CAN be done doesn't mean it needs to be done.
The refrigirator case is simple: there's plenty of power , plenty of space, cost is not so constrained(maybe),
Let's talk about something different. A connected tooth brush that due(maybe connection for the dentist is important) to some reason you really need for it to be connected to the internet , not just to a smartphone. And you want it to have an easy to use API because all kinds of interesting apps could be developed , and you want other companies which are better than your hardware company in things like health,behaviour change and gaming. And it's very price sensitive.
Since it's power limited, you have to optimize yoour communication protocol. WIFI isn't good enough. Bluetooth isn't good enough because you need direct net connection. What do you use ? you can use zigbee but then you need some server.more money. It's possible , but not ideal.
I get your more general point, but as to this toothbrush, not so difficult really. Electric toothbrushes out there today sit on a charger dock, which plugs into the bathroom electrical outlet. So the problem is much like the refrigerator. You build the smarts into the charger pod thing, and then that can access the toothbrush via something like Bluetooth.
Yes, the easy approach now is HTTP, in large part because it avoids the user, or the dentist in your example, having to install anything new in his PC or handheld.
But really, this is my point. I keep seeing articles that try to make broad brush general statements about "the IoT." The problem is, you can't. A whole lot of IoT applications would not require anything new or revolutionary at all.
It sounds better for industrial uses but don't they already have sensors, networks, data, and analytical tools?
Agreed, Highlander. It has been around in non-consumer venues for decades, even if not always in a pure Internet Protocol form (e.g. there's a long transitional phase of other industrial network protocols connecting to sensors and devices, then gateways tied together with IP). That's why I've never understood the hype.
Bert, that is the kind of implementation that I saw in many of the Internet toaster generation. There are problems with it, though. It will display on a website, but the data would be hard to extract and use. These implementations need data that is self-describing and interpretable by computers instead of people. Let's change the problem a little. Let's say that the refrigerator manufacturer wants to collect the information to make sure that their products are working. They would want to collect the information from hundreds of devices and run statistical analyses on the data. They might put out version 1.0 of this and start getting data. Then they might realize that it would be useful to collect diagnostic information as well. Version 2.0 would add this capability, but they would still want to collect from the V1 devices. This would be a good reason to tag the data with a version number. They might use HTTP to transfer the data, but another protocol may be more desirable - for example, they might use SSH to log into the device and trigger diagnostics or otherwise interact directly. All of these things can be done using standard protocols, but a standard for the data format would enable allow the same information to be collected across all refrigerators, even if they used different versions of the standard. Many industries have defined XML schemas for things like this, allowing data exchanges to take place. You are correct that standards should be used, but there is also room to create specialized standards across industries or other groups. This can also be done in a proprietary fashion, but that creates islands of data that make things more difficult.
IoT is the Next Big Thing. PCs are in negative growth and smart phones are hitting saturation, so chip-makers need the Next Big Thing so they can sell Lots of Chips. IoT is that Next Big Thing. Trying to define it more specifically than that is beyond the scope of engineering :-)
It's kind of like the history of Artificial Intelligence. Nobody can really define intelligence in any intelligent way. Indeed, Edsger Dijkstra is quoted as saying: "the question of whether machines can think is about as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim." So the practical definition of Artificial Intelligence was "whatever the DoD is funding this year that's being called AI". Basically, once a mysterious "intelligent" algorithm is understood, it ceases to be intelligence and becomes Mere Automation. OTOH, everybody understands what it means to be funded.
For those who missed it the first dozen times I said this, when I first heard about IoT at a recent ARM TechCon, it took me about five minutes to change IoT into "Internet of Digital Things", or IDioT. I'm going to have fun playing with the many "IoT" chips that will come out since they'll give me cheap computing and connectivity, but as far as end products are concerned I think I'll wait for the next Next Big Thing :-)
Sorry Bert, not really directed towards your comments, just a rambling on my part.
If I want to know if the milk's bad, one wiff will do it. The temperature offers little value I find milk good for 2-6 days past the used by date and that can be for 2 cartons bought on the same day with the same expiry date.
A fridge that tells me I'm out of milk tells me nothing I don't already know because I used it and what if I bought more fruit juice last week so there's a fruit juice in a milk slot?
I can't for the life of me figure out what I would want an internet connected fridge for (certainly not to browse the web), having a power meter tell me the power is out and therefore the fridge & freezer are off line maybe.
A toaster? well If I'm down the street when the toast is done I won't make it back in time to butter it.
I think control in plants is a good idea and having the power utilities all wired is great, but I just don't see many other actual useful uses for IoT.
Maybe I'm lacking imagination, but in a world where we need to reduce power consumption, adding an ethernet power hog to everything doesn't sound like a good idea.
Does anyone have a difinitive list of things that are going to be attached?
Things that the IOT can offer(with consumer examples, since B2B usage is easier and abound):
1. Interfaces: remote , complex, beautiful, intuitive , more or better feedback. Example: a connected basketball, Offering internet connection color controlled illumination(the HUE) which seems to be accepted well among consumers.
2. Data: Gathering more data, combining data from multiple users, data mining, optimization. Some sort of programmable cooking device that enables people to share cooking programs, Fitness and quantified self based devices that let's you optimize fitness exercises.
3. Predictive maintenence. Example: Might save money and offer less hassle on dryer repairs.
4. Sharing and payments. Enables shared usage models on devices. Examples: shared washing machine, zipcar, shared DIY equipment.
1. I'm worried about the weight impacting on expected performance/balance/spin. Basketballs have fairly low mass and are sensitive to such things. The illumination has got to require a sizeable battery and wireless transmission over the required distances too.
2. Data gathering This is a boon to people wanting to sell something, but generally not to endusers. for cooking I see a tablet with a skype like program a better investment. Fitness we already have the ability to download the data to a PC. an IoT version will not have the battery life of current devices. Using an NFC connection to a mobile phone would make more sense and reduce battery size/consumption.
3. definitely worthwhile for some things, a car maybe, most household appliances have near zero maintenance. The only thing I have that might benefit is my coffee machine that already puts up a display to descale or whatever when I'm within reach of it and can actually perform the task. If I was away I wouldn't beable to do much with the message and I certainly wouldn't want it calling the serviceman to do a descale. I've repaired my dryer 4 times in the last 30 years, twice for a belt, once for a thermaostat and once for a broken switch. If it had an IoT board you could add 3 times to have a faulty logic board replaced if my dishwasher is anything to go by. Outside the home in mining etc. there would be a big call for it but that's the industrial arena where it'a already being done extensively.
4. This one is an interesting thought although I'm not sure it offers additional utility to existing methods.
5. I've added this one :-) vending machines would benefit but that's more an industrial/commercial use.
One guy that works on automation of cooking is a very famous product design expert(forgot his name). So it could be a great popular product. It's too early to tell how future kitchen will look.
> Fitness we already have the ability to download the data to a PC. an IoT version will not have the battery life of current devices.
People preferer that stuff done automatically - the data automatically downloaded to net, automatically analyzed, possibley with automatic relevant notifications. And as for the complexity of charging - there's wireless power. Just put the watch in intel's wireless power bowl.
> Predictive maintenence
You're lucky to have a dryer that lasts 30 years. Most of the stuff sold is not very reliable. And most control boards are electronic.
Thanks for your feedback, I'm interested in how it pans out. I'll be watching that space.
Yeah I'm an electronics design engineer so I buy things that are as unelectronic as possible :-) That's why they last so long. Amazing how reliable 2 bi-metal switches an electromechanical selector switch a polyurethane drive belt and an AC brushless motor can be.
I have a fridge that's 32 years old too where the traditional thermostat sensor tube leaked due to corrosion after 19 years only because it was assembled wrong in the plant. The new one I put in will out-live the compressor.
Our hotplate is electric with bimetal thermostats so after 12 years in this house it's still going.
Pity the Chinese don't know how to make oven elements or I wouldn't have had to change 2 in 12 years in our oven. Our old one made it to 30 years when we moved and was still going.
Most stuff I design has a 30-40 year lifespan but redesigning controllers for all the new products I buy is obviously not an option so low tech it is (where possible).
Yep they sure don't make stuff the way they used to.
@etmax: I do wonder why nobody offers highly reliable white goods at a decent price ?
There's one company that offer such goods with a 10 year warrante. But it's much more expensive so price per year(over 10 years) comes similar to the other cheap junk price(over 3 years). But maybe calculation should be over more than 10 years.
Also , it's not just electronics, it's shitty materials, etc.But really i don't see a big problem with the eletronics not lasting long - electronics are cheap to replace, and could be designed to be easy to replace by layman. And electronics can offer some benefits , among them power savings - which over time might save quite a money.
IOT devices needs better interoperability defined so that different players can sell their devices together as a solution. This is going to take some time till some one defines the right solutions and right way of information exchanges.
@Alex My experience has been that electronics is cheap to manufacture but as a spare part they are 10 x the manufactured cost. Add to that, stocking the parts for 10 years because your spares have to be made on a viable production run and then every electrolytic capacitor used deteriorates while it's on the shelf make me think that's utopia. A mechanical part can sit on the shelf for decades with only amortisation costs to consider. Yes it's possible to use polymer and tantalum caps in a lot of situations but it costs another 10 or 20 cents that the manufacturer doesn't care to spend. I experienced a situation where a safety component worth 50 cents was eliminated by a competitor to win a multimillion dollar contract. High volumes have the costers turning every cent over twice.
I like your idea of user replaced parts but a lot of the stuff is mains rated and it is well beyond the average person to deal with the safety issues involved. Additional thought as to making things user serviceable adds cost again also.
I think the idea is also that they want a turnover of the stuff out there because the world population isn't growing fast enough for them.
A solution would be that government mandates lifespans for goods. The Europeans would be on board but most other countries, the US in particular don't like any form of regyulation even for the greater good.
in general people haven't been willing to pay 2x for high reliability devices. But maybe they're willing to pay 1.2x for machines that are very easy to repair.
If people would like it, this should cover good capacitors.
Another option for good long term serviceability might be open sourcing and circuit sharing to increase controller availbility. It seems that could be solutions for long term availabilty.
Yes mains rated could be a problem, but people have been fixing computers and even cars - which are much more dangerous - on their own. So maybe there's a solution here. And many of the problems in machines are mechanical, so solving them doesn't need to deal with electric power, just easy access, simple fault detection and simple video instructions.
And the most important thing is: nobody is offering it("this machine can be repaired by anyone") , so it might be a good place for a new business.
FYI, electrolytic capacitors aren't so much bad capacitors as capacitors that are currently one of few technologies that provide high capacitance at medium to high voltages in an acceptable volume. Typical mains voltage capacitor vaues are 470uF to 2500uF at 400V. There is no other technology viable currently for those specs, limiting life by design :-(.
BTW, I've repaired cars, mains equipment and CRT based TV's and the CRT based TV's are in my opinion the most dangerous to repair. You can only fault-find them while they're running with voltages up to 27.5kV floating around. I have had numurous high voltage burns and shocks and well scarred hands from where things have gone wrong.
re: "I can't for the life of me figure out what I would want an internet connected fridge"
The hype ruins this one. When manufacturers or pundits talk of browsing from the refrigerator or notifying of milk freshness, they do everyone a disservice. Those are "features you can sell", not "features you can use."
I can see a few valuable uses though. Think of the warning lights in your car. You hope to never see your oil light come on, but if your oil gets too low, even one use of the indicator light during the life of the car makes it worth having.
An equivalent in a refrigerator (or freezer), as you suggested, would be a power off and temperature rising, or door open and temp rising indicator. I know people that have lost hundreds of dollars' worth of food from a partially opened door.
If I'm in bed, I may not know that the fridge door didn't close all the way. I may not find out until the morning when just about everything's gone bad. A quick text message to my phone would save my food.
The hype promoting useless applications will make it more difficult for legitimate applications to be adopted. Of course, the other problem is the setup. Unless it's "push one button" easy, most people won't bother to set it up.
Hi Duane, I get your drift as we say downunder but I'm one of those people that goes through life subconciously confirming my actions. If I close the fridge door and that characteristic pft sound deosn't occur I subconciously turn to look why. car doors house doors etc are all the same to me.
Have you ever been walking and an object got in front of your leg and begun to tug and you don't realise it until you've tripped? Well I felt such a tug once and slammed on the brakes only to find it was a spider web. It didn't break :-)
But that said I have to agree most people out there simply aren't aware of their surroundings at all let alone a fridge door so maybe??
My daughter and Son-in-law bought a Samsung fridge that had a a full web connected PC with email, browser, music service, the works. I just had to shake my head. There's a permanent 2-5W 24hour a day 365 days a year, my old fridge now 30 years old only draws power when the thermostat engages (thermal pressure type). Obviously insulation has improved but I'd like to have that sort of thermostat in my new fridge, :-)
re "What's your general opinion about IOT in consumer goods"
I actually think there will be many, many uses that no one has come close to thinking of yet. Some may sound pretty ridiculous at the moment, but their time will come.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems to solve is to make the "IOT" portion of the thing completely invisible.
In my refrigerator scenario, I don't really want to know or care that it's connected. I just want the warning that few times it will be needed. If I put on a Fitbit exercise monitor, I don't really want to know or care that it's an IOT device. I just want it to help me train better.
When the fact that something is an IOT device is not discusses and not visiblt, then the IOT will be truly useful. In the end, I suspect that there are very few things that can't benefit in some ways shape or form, from being connected.
Interesting thought, I often used to think that millions of users downloading videos would cause that, much to my surprise I have better bandwidth now than when I first thought this. The billions of devices will likely have very low bandwidth requirements individually so what's worse? 1 billion devices at 1kbs against 100 million video downloaders at 10Mbps?
I think IoT devices would tend to mostly provide info that the owner would store and if they decide to upload it to a web page that would be separate. Even then it is stilll stored locally by the owner.