Building the Internet of Things
There is another interesting trend in the making, that of the ‘Appcessory’. This is basically and application tied to a device such as a blood presure monitor, heart rate monitor, sports and fitness monitors, peripherals or even a TV remote. Here a mobile phone or tablet can act as the portal to the internet as well as the display if needed. In this scenario, everything tied to a particular individual becomes smartphone or tablet centric. Similarly, intelligent power devices that know how much they consume or have a failure would become app-based. After all, a plug might talk a user’s phone to report a fault in the power line, or the microwave could report its consumption. However, such devices do not necessary connect to the Internet, instead they use a low power wireless protocol such as ANT or Bluetooth Low Energy to talk to an ‘app’ on the phone or tablet.
Many devices could also talk to each other as well as the tablet or smartphone. Such personal sensor networks could be the way forward in the connected home. Connecting devices to an application gives the device a purpose and the user a reason to use the device in such a way.
However, making this happen requires very low power consumption of the wireless link, so low in fact that energy harvesting looks after the devices energy needs or a coin cell battery powers the device. The battery needs to work for years, if not for the life of the device in question.
Nodic Semiconductor, a specialist focused solely on ultra-low power wireless is one company making all this possible. They have raised the bar with the release of Bluetooth Low Energy and ANT SoCs that combine the 2.4 GHz radio, software stack and 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 on a single chip. See page 8 for more details.
It is quite likely the Internet of Things will come to pass, but the majority of such devices will be ‘app’ centric.