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Intersil’s Latest Automotive Video Decoder with MIPI-CSI2 Output Interface Supports Next-Generation SoCs

Intersil Corporation announced the TW9992 analog video decoder, which features an integrated MIPI-CSI2 output interface that provides compatibility with the newest SoC processors. The decoder’s MIPI-CSI2 interface simplifies design by making it easier to interface with SoCs, while also lowering the system’s EMI profile. The TW9992 decoder takes both single-ended and differential composite video inputs from a vehicle’s backup safety camera, and is the latest addition to Intersil’s video decoder product family for automotive applications.
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Registration Opens for Microchip’s European MASTERs Conference; Premiere Technical Training Event for Embedded-Control Engineers

15th-17th September 2015 at HTW Berlin; Classes Available for All Experience Levels, From Beginner to Expert.

Microchip Technology announces that registration is open for its European MASTERs Conference at HTW - Berlin, Germany.

The European MASTERs Conference is a valuable resource for designing with Microchip’s products. It provides design engineers with an annual forum for sharing and exchanging technical information on the Company’s 8-, 16- and 32-bit PIC® microcontrollers, high-performance analog and interface solutions, dsPIC® digital signal controllers, wireless and mTouch® sensing solutions, memory products, and MPLAB® development systems - including the industry’s only singular IDE to support an entire 8-, 16- and 32-bit microcontroller portfolio.
This three day conference offers a selection of more than 50 classes that cover a broad range of topics, taught by Microchip’s application and design engineers as well as selected industry experts.

Learn from these experts and leave with everything needed to get up and running on new designs. Lectures, hands-on classes and unique Open Experts Lab sessions will cover a wide range of embedded control topics including new products and peripherals, C programming, firmware design, connectivity sessions on TCP/IP, USB, CAN and Bluetooth, graphics and capacitive-touch interface development, intelligent power supplies, motor control, selecting op-amps for sensor applications using an RTOS and low-power system design.

Extracurricular events include a BBQ Dinner and a Dinner Cruise along the river Spree.

Registration is now open, with an early-bird discount available until 27th June 2015.

Microchip Technology
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The path toward augmented reality with Renesas R-Car family

The combination of powerful 3D graphics, outstanding computer vision capabilities and optimized video capture to form single chip SoC solutions is key to the success of future parking assistance solutions that include surround view systems using multiple cameras. The second SoC generation from Renesas, called R-Car, aims at providing the appropriate solution to enable ready to use advanced 3D surround view applications and offer the driver an immersive and safe experience.

Key words: ADAS, 3D surround view, 3D graphics, computer vision, image recognition, structure from motion, Ethernet AVB, video compression, low latency

Author: Simon Oudin, Senior Marketing Engineer, Renesas Electronics Europe


Surround view monitoring will become a common functionality in cars. This feature is part of the parking assistance system. From a niche market first driven by Asian car makers, it has become an option offered by the majority of car manufacturers, with the consequence of a higher requirement in terms of driver experience and solution scalability.
Renesas, as a lead SoC vendor for infotainment and ADAS applications, is already a major player for supporting surround view requirements in their early phase. Today, Renesas provides a new generation of SoC to answer global market needs with a scalable and innovative approach.


The purpose of surround view monitoring is to display a panoramic view of the car’s immediate surroundings. This representation, at 360 degrees with 2D perspective from the sky, is called “bird view” or “top view”. The different views are stitched together thanks to the correct geometric alignment of the cameras. The brightness and colour of the different cameras’ videos are modified for the harmonization of the surround view [1] [2].
Nevertheless, displaying only this representation does not generally help the driver during the parking process. To facilitate this manoeuvre, additional information can be shown to the driver as 2D overlays or rear view [1]. A complementary approach is to improve the driver apprehension of the distances with
a 3D representation of the car’s surroundings. The target is to use 2D cameras around the car to create a 3D comprehensive representation of its immediate vicinity with a 3D generated car as a driver perspective reference. It should reflect a realistic representation of the distances to nearby elements (pedestrians, cars and buildings). The 3D sphere perspective should dynamically change according to the car movement. The model car has to be properly integrated in the overall scene with light or reflection on the model car [2].

This level of application drives the performance required in terms of 3D graphics and computer vision in an automotive embedded platform. Renesas created the SoC family called R-Car in order to enable this level of applications. The second R-Car generation was first officially released in March 2013 and supports a wide variety of applications, such as connectivity, entertainment expansion and ADAS. This family provides outstanding performance with optimal power consumption capabilities [3] and a common API for reducing customer development efforts. From this family, two devices support surround view application: the R-Car H2 and the R-Car V2H.


R-Car H2 is the first device released in March 2013 and tailored to integrated cockpit solutions with the 3D surround application. For this utilisation, we first need to consider 3D graphic engine performance requirement. We should particularly pay attention to the two parts of the scene: the texture mapping of the 2D camera images on a 3D sphere and the 3D car representation.
The polygon count of the scene depends on the deformation of the 3D sphere and the rendering effects on the car model. For better rendering, the graphic engine must be able to process a significant polygon count in a short time. Moreover, as the
application can use different shader programs for one scene, the graphic engine must come with a powerful shader engine. Those performance requirements must be supported by a high GPU frequency, which will allow fast data processing. All these performance aspects justify Renesas’ decision to integrate an outstanding 3D graphics engine in R-Car H2. Indeed, its 3D graphic engine provides similar performance than the latest iPad Air 3D graphic engine.


The sensing of the scene in 3D is the other important aspect required to provide easy to understand content. This can be achieved with two techniques. The first is human-like stereo vision, although it has the disadvantage of double the camera cost and integration effort. The other option is to create the Structure from Motion (SfM) of the car, thus providing stereo vision over time. Renesas has implemented vision-dedicated hardware accelerators into the R-Car family to power this algorithm on the four cameras in real-time, meeting both performance and low power consumption requirements.
The SfM algorithm issues a list of flow vectors representing the motion of the vehicle and surrounding objects. The next non-trivial task is to find the car’s egomotion by calculating the essential movement from flow vectors and matching the majority of them. From this fundamental matrix, flow vectors can be sorted corresponding to static and dynamic objects in the surroundings. Static object flow vectors directly provide the distance of the object inversely proportional to the flow length.

Figure 1: SfM algorithm implemented in R-Car H2. Outcome of SfM algorithm running on one camera with R-Car H2 (above). 3D model of the environment based on SfM process outcomes (below)
Figure 1 (a) shows an example running on R-Car H2. The circles represent the static feature points which are the outcomes of the structure computation. The colours correspond to the clustered objects which are then fed back to the model deformation. Those can then be used to adapt the 3D model of the environment in real time as shown in Figure 1 (b). Finally, a realistic representation of the car environment is created based on this 3D model mapped with the 3D sphere generated by the graphic engine.

The R-Car family also includes the R-Car V2H, which provides a unique video path approach from the camera video acquisition over the Ethernet network down to the display interface.
This pipelined approach not only releases the requirements to the rest of the system (e.g. overall latency, memory bandwidth and CPU intervention), but also drastically reduces the software development complexity for the system maker.

Figure 2: Surround view video path on R-Car V2H with Ethernet input
Figure 2 shows this special video path of the R-Car V2H. There is no external memory access from the four cameras demultiplexing to the geometric video transformation and each hardware accelerator is dedicated for one camera.
System cost reduction is a main aspect contributing to the higher adoption of the surround view. Cabling is a non-negligible portion of that. In the past year, two approaches have emerged to reduce current LVDS based surround view systems [4]. One uses Ethernet over an unshielded twisted pair, the alternative being an update of LVDS to cost-effective coaxial cables. Both approaches lead to a similar system cost. However, the Ethernet solution not only helps system cost reduction but also offers flexibility for future applications. For example, with the increasing adoption of drive recording systems, new features like multi-channel simultaneous video recording could be supported with very limited impact on costs, as only the SD card interface would be required. The other benefit of Ethernet over LVDS lies in the standardized approach from both MAC levels with AVnu Alliance and PHY level with Open Alliance.


One of the main aspects requiring careful design is latency – in the transport including compression and decompression, as well as in the processing chain. Indeed, the overall latency from camera capture to display should be below 100ms in order to enable real-time perception to the driver.
Currently, cameras run at a frame-rate of 30 frames/sec. When using the global shutter, the sensor cells charge during the exposure time and all at the same time.

Figure 3: Latency for video transportation and geometric transformation
Then the imager starts to output pixel by pixel. Consequently, the last pixel is sent around 1 frame (33ms) after the capture. This is the first frame delay, which cannot be reduced. The other incompressible delay is for the display, where pixels must all be transmitted before they can be displayed, again around 33ms. Finally only 33ms remain to perform the rest of the tasks described in Figure 3.
The first item of the chain is the data transmission. The Ethernet protocol does not provide dedicated mechanisms to ensure low latency transport and camera synchronization. This is why Renesas introduced the first Gigabit Ethernet MAC with advanced AVB hardware support in the R-Car family [5]. This specific implementation provides the necessary hardware to reduce CPU load and optimize the overall compressed video reception. Some specific mechanisms have been implemented as intelligent packet decapsulation and camera video filtering. The multi-view camera applications are part of the AVnu Alliance AVB Automotive profile with fast start-up, low latency (maximum delay of 2ms) considerations for camera video [6].
The first multi-camera systems with Ethernet used low latency Motion JPEG (MJPEG) compression. This technology is based on the well-known JPEG standard widely used in consumer digital cameras. Nevertheless, the impact on quality video with this technology could limit the vision processing performance [7]. Consequently, Renesas considered H.264 compression technology to be the best solution for camera video transmission [8]. It provides a better compression ratio for improved vision processing performance [7] [9]. It has been also massively adopted in all consumers’ equipment that could be connected to the car through Renesas Infotainment connectivity solution. With the R-Car V2H, Renesas has implemented the first HD multi-channel, H.264 compliant, low latency decoder in an automotive SoC.
The ultimate step to reduce the latency is to decrease the latency in the processing portion. Indeed, traditional DSP based systems require a double buffering approach for the video capture. The R-Car V2H features a dedicated engine called IMR that processes the image geometric transformation on the fly. This feature supports direct streaming from up to 5 low latency video decoders. Thanks to the direct path in R-Car V2H, the overall latency in an Ethernet network is reduced in comparison with a classic LVDS approach, as shown in Figure 3.

The IMR is also capable of using a look-up table (LUT) to modify the viewpoint transformation to a 2D or 3D surround view representation on the fly.

The camera viewpoint can be modified for each input frame, enabling animated transition between the user’s viewpoints. Bilinear filtering is natively supported, providing excellent image quality. Thanks to this approach, the R-Car V2H natively supports 3D surround view with very low memory requirements. The R-Car V2H offers the same image recognition hardware as the R-Car H2. Consequently, it can also enable SfM computation or even pedestrian detection.

Figure 4: 3D surround view demonstration with pedestrian detection based on R-Car V2H
It is capable of detecting pedestrians for each of the four cameras in parallel, using histogram of gradient and support vector machine classification. This feature has been already demonstrated on the R-Car V2H during the Renesas Developer Conference last September in Japan, and at Electronica last November in Germany. Figure 4 shows this proof of concept [10].

In this article, we have presented the trend of automotive multi-camera applications focusing on the 3D surround view for parking assistance systems.
We have also introduced the scalable R-Car automotive SoC family. R-Car H2 is capable of creating 3D comprehensive representation of a car’s immediate surroundings to facilitate parking manoeuvres. In the R-Car V2H, a unique direct Ethernet video path has been introduced with Ethernet AVB MAC and multi-channel H.264 low latency decoder for ultra-low latency video processing and memory bandwidth reduction.
Considering that this application would be part of an autonomous parking assistance system, Renesas has already introduced key features to target an ASIL B at system level ■

[1] Mengmeng Yu and Guanglin Ma, Delphi Automotive “360° Surround View System with Parking Guidance”, May 2014
[2] M. Friebe, J. Petzold, “Visualisation Functions in Advanced Camera-Based Surround View Systems”, 2014
[3] Peter Fiedle, “Mehr Power weniger Leistungsaufnahme”, February 2014
[4] N. Noebauer, “Is Ethernet the rising star for in-vehicle networks?”, September 2011
[5] S. Oudin, N. Kitajima „Das zukünftige Ethernet-AVB Netzwerk“, November 2012
[6] AVnu Alliance White Paper “AVB for Automotive Use”, October 2014
[7] J. Forster, X. Jiang and A. Terzis “The Effect of Image Compression on Automotive Optical Flow Algorithms”. 2011
[8] T. Wiegand, G. J. Sullivan, G. Bjøntegaard, and A. Luthra, “Overview of the H.264/AVC Video Coding Standard”, Juli 2003
[9] T. Nguyen, D. Marpe, “Performance analysis of HEVC-based intra coding for still image compression”, May 2012

Simon Oudin is Senior Marketing Engineer for surround view applications in the newly created “Global ADAS Solution Group” at Renesas Electronics Europe.
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Maximum Integration on Minimum Space

Infineon's new TLE986x/7x product series is a third-generation system-on-chip solution (SoC) that offers a wide range of functions – all in particularly compact housings. This makes Infineon one of the first semiconductor manufacturers to offer a highly-integrated embedded power series with a powerful microcontroller, flash memory, MOSFET gate driver and an extensive range of analog and mixed signal peripherals on the market.

Author: Mathias Müller, Product Sales Manager Power Semiconductors and member of the new Automotive Business Unit, Rutronik Elektronische Bauelemente GmbH

With various versions, graded by the size of the internal RAM and flash memory, CPU clock speeds and communication interfaces, developers are free to choose the ideal module for each application.

Two base types with an integrated two-phase gate driver or three-phase gate driver form the core structure of the embedded power ICs. Both are based on single-chip technology and include an ARM® Cortex™ M3 processor with a clock speed of 24 MHz or 40 MHz.

The Cortex™ M3 Core opens up entirely new opportunities in the field of motor control algorithms. The 32-bit µC range addresses precisely the BLDC segment that was served by 16-bit controllers in the automotive industry in the past.
Infineon has also set new standards in the selection of the housing – the space-saving housing concept, known as the “VQFN48 package”, which has only been available to the automotive sector since recently. This package enables automotive system manufacturers to develop much more compact and efficient systems that are optimized to use the available space. Whereas up to 150 different components may be used in modern circuits, the use of the new TLE986x/7x embedded power range enables this to be reduced to less than 30.
Of course, all TLE986x/7x components are AEC Q100-qualified.

Today, with the numerous intelligent and highly complex motor drive systems that vehicles host, it is more important than ever to develop refined control systems in order to keep system costs manageable, optimize systems in terms of their energy efficiency, and ultimately also improve convenience in development. Infineon's new third-generation range of products unites all of this.
The TLE986x series with gate drivers for four n-channel FETs with H-bridge topology as a power stage was specifically conceived to drive two-phase DC motor systems.
It is conceivable that it might be used in automated car sunroofs or to control door windows.
Of course, the modules of the TLE986x series can also be used for all H-bridge-based drive systems in the car.
The TLE987x product group with its six n-channel FET drivers is suitable for driving three-phase (BLDC) motor applications, including fuel pumps, motor fans, blowers for air conditioning systems, water pumps, and a variety of other pumps and fans in sensorless or sensor-based PWM motor control applications.

The optional LIN transceiver of the TLE986x/7x product group is consistent with the LINstandard 2.2, and has been certified by IBEE Zwickau and the C&S Group.
The peripheral set of both modules includes a current sensor and a 10-bit ADC (analog-digital converter) that operates using the successive approximation method and is synchronized with the capture/compare unit (CAPCOM6) for PWM (pulse width modulation control) and 16-bit timers. This is especially important in time-synchronized signal generation, for example with PWM or the synchronous analog signal processing in the ADC.

For communication with the component, an integrated LIN transceiver, UARTs, SPIs and a variety of general purpose I/Os (GPIOs) are available. Both product families have a linear voltage controller integrated on the chip to supply the internal modules and a controller for external loads (e.g. sensors), as well as between 36 kB and 128 kB of scalable flash memory. A nominal voltage supply range of 5.4 to 28 V is also accommodated. The integrated charge pump enables low-voltage operation of the MODFET bridge at as low as 5.4 V with the minimal external integration of two capacitors into the circuit. This cuts the BoM (bill of material) costs significantly when compared to the frequently used bootstrap method for low-voltage operation. The bridge drivers can also be used to program the charge and discharge currents. Combined with the patented flank control for the power profile, this enables the EMC behavior to be optimized at system level for a wide variety of MOSFETs.
Both series can support up to 40 V and can therefore accommodate typical 'load dump' scenarios. At the same time, an expanded operating range of up to 3 V is enabled through keeping the microcontroller and the flash memory fully functional.

For this, Infineon offers a testing and debugging tool for the TLE986x and TLE987x embedded power IC series.

The TLE986X EVALB_JLINK or TLE987X EVALB_JLINK evaluation board provides a full testing interface for all functions, peripherals and properties of the TLE986x/7x product family module in question, and enables a motor to be started directly thanks to the MOSFETs present on the board. The design of the evaluation boards allows for the handling of loads with a maximum power consumption of 30 A. Depending on the model, the MOSFETs on the evaluation boards are either arranged in an H-bridge configuration for a DC motor or in a B6 pattern for BLDC motors. UART and LIN communication, direct access to all I/O pins, and a J-Link debugger are also available.

An extensive toolset, ranging from an editor, compiler and debugger to a code configurator and a variety of example programs, are available to level out the learning curve of application development with the TLE986x/7x module family.
Power at Rutronik
Power semiconductors and their applications have been a focus of Rutronik since back in 1980, meaning that today's team can provide many years of experience, in-depth know-how and close partnerships with the world's leading semiconductor companies ■


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Wearable health devices and power management

Inspired by element14’s Sudden Impact design challenge, this is the third in a series of exclusive blog posts for MDT that explores the challenges of creating wearable medical devices.

Author: Christian DeFeo, eSupplier and Innovation Manager, Newark element14

As our Sudden Impact design challenge comes to a close, we take a look back at the last stage of the design process and see how our twelve finalists’ prototypes coped when put to the test. While trialling their wearable health solutions across various terrains, our competitors unanimously faced one key challenge – power management.
The process of collecting and analysing data over long periods of time has had an inherent impact on energy consumption in our competitors’ sport-related designs. As such, the finalists have been trialling both new and established power management platforms. In this blog, we take a look at how these are being used to optimise their designs.

Wireless charging

One Sudden Impact competitor, Douglas Wong, has been looking at wireless charging as a long-term solution to powering his helmet-mounted trauma monitor for hockey players. To ensure his device remains user-friendly and weather resistant, Douglas’s approach was to embed a Lithium polymer battery into the helmet, enabling it to be charged wirelessly using a Qi charger.
Qi charging is a global standard developed by Wireless Power Consortium that enables any device with a compatible battery to be charged from a wireless pad, using induction transfer. This is a standard that many smartphones already adhere to, and its practicality means that it is beginning to filter into the wearable health industry too.
From a usability point of view, Qi charging provides a simple solution for hockey team managers. By using handful of Qi charging pads, the entire team’s helmets could be fully charged before a game which would consequently ensure the safety of every player on the pitch.
However, with that said, at this stage it is likely that designs such as Douglas’ may still be too much for a QI pad to handle. While the concept has been proved, for this to be a feasible long-term solution, the Qi system needs to be implemented on a significantly larger scale to enable wireless charging to become second nature.

Bluetooth 4.0 and BLE

Another Sudden Impact competitor, Hendrik Lipka, has been trialling various Bluetooth protocols for his helmet-mounted impact and heart-rate monitors, aimed at skiers and footballers. Although the terms Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Low Energy are often treated interchangably, during his design process, Hendrik discovered just how different the two standards are.
Bluetooth 4.0 is a relatively new type of wireless technology, offering considerably lower power consumption versus previous standards. It is a combination of three different protocols: Bluetooth Classic, Bluetooth High Speed and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). With the exception of their data transmission processes, Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth High Speed are relatively similar. BLE, however, is designed for extremely low power devices and works best for short lived, low-data transmissions.
As such, during the design process, Hendrik found that BLE is particularly useful for the transmission of real-time information. Hendrik’s heart rate sensor could therefore capture an athlete’s heartbeat as a ‘current state’, alongside the minimum and maximum values within a specific time frame. As such, BLE proved itself to be an appropriate protocol for athletes that want to use the heart-monitor as a safety measure and be notified of irregular heart rates. However, for continual monitoring, BLE is not ideal and sheds light on the functionality vs. longevity battle that engineers are constantly grappling with.
Ultimately, present day power management solutions still have some way to go before they are totally suitable for use in the wearable health market. The methods that our finalists have been testing highlight the need for more data-intensive technologies that can relay large quantities of data for long periods of time.
In our next and final blog, we look at the final steps our Sudden Impact finalists have taken to elevate their design from an idea, to a viable and usable device ■
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Internet of Things, Hype or Hypertension?

“Internet of Things” was one of the biggest buzz words of 2014 however were the interconnected technologies it tries to describe really novel, or rather the evolution and expansion into new areas of existing programmes such as Smart Metering or Grid, Home Automation, Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Automotive Systems.
So how are the connected innovations these prior programmes initiated and proved finding their way into other market areas and what are the benefits and challenges to be overcome?
As we move into the new year of 2015 will the term “IOT” become stale and fade and will the progression of interconnection between embedded devices continue, without the headaches associated with the issues to realising tangible business opportunities being faced.

Author: Joachim Hüpper, Industrial & Communications Business Unit, Renesas Electronics Europe GmbH

How is IoT changing the world

There are one billion people on the internet today and Gartner predicts 26 billion devices will be online by 2020, a 30 fold increase from 2009. This presents a $300Billion incremental business opportunity to the ecosystem of suppliers to the embedded market and services providers for the connectivity and data management. There are many areas of where IoT connected embedded devices can bring real benefit and are currently being developed & deployed, some examples of these being:

Smart Meter deployments have on going in many European countries with the EU mandate to have 80% of European homes using Smart Electricity and Gas meters by 2020. Most of these programs have a HAN (Home Area wireless Network) and WAN (Wide Area Network back to the supplier via the internet). This brings the possibility of meter connection to smart thermostat, boiler and radiator valves a close reality. British Gas in the UK have already released the HiVE app for controlling heating via a smart phone, with boiler and thermostat connected via Wi-Fi to router.
These is of course also the much publicized “Google Nest” connected learning thermostat which is being enhanced by the Google “works with Nest” programme , this would enable for example a Phillips Hue lighting system to flash the lights if the “Nest protest” sensor detects carbon monoxide.
The features of these early leaders may well become standard in years to come, providing greater control and energy saving which will be great for consumers and the environment.
Also in the built environment, printers have had the feature to prompt users for online ink cartridge replacement for many years. Home Appliances and AV equipment may extend this further being able to report fault codes back to the manufacturer or provider, initiating service calls or spares and consumables to be ordered. No more digging around in the back of the user guide for the fault finding table or searching for a spare part supplier.

The next generation of interconnected manufacturing equipment has become known as “Industry 4.0” where intelligent factories, machines and products communicate with each other, cooperatively driving production. Companies such as Siemens are in advanced stages of research and development of these systems. Enhancing this further smart tags will provide connectivity of the ingredients required for the manufacturing process, giving asset management & materials tracing, reducing errors, providing improvements to “Just in Time” processes and reducing theft.

Connected sensors to detect environmental changes and report early warning for earthquake, avalanche, eruption & tsunami have existed for some years. Now there is the start of the installation of sensors and beacons in major towns and cities. Trials are already under at many sites including San Francisco airport and the city of Reading UK to aid the visually impaired navigate their environment via beacons that send audio announcements of where they are and what is close by to a headset. At San Francisco Airport when users walk past one of the 500 transmitter beacons, their iOS device will announce nearby points of interest; they can find flight gates, ATMs, information desks and power outlets without asking for help.

This could be projected further into the future with self-driving cars avoiding congestion and intelligently rerouting for optimal flow by receiving information from beacons en-route connected to a central traffic management system.

With products like smart watches and the creation of sensor beacons, advertisers have started to realize the massive potential of all this data being collected, and how it can be used to reach consumers. The potential of target adverts being pushed to consumers smart devices as they pass by or browse within a store are not far off and have already been presented in the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minor Minority Report.

In a similar vain to manufacturing in the industrial sector, retail could also benefit greatly from internet connected products. Tesco in the UK generated almost 30,000 tons of food waste in the first six months of 2013. Industry-wide, 68 percent of salad sold in bags are thrown away . IoT offers the prospect of better tracking and management of food items to reduce wastage.

The recent explosion of home healthcare products such as blood pressure & heart rate, blood glucose & body mass index, lend themselves perfectly for evolution to connected devices which send the collected data to predict trends and send to services for analysis.
At the Consumer Electronics show this year Connected Health was centre stage.
Monitoring of body signals and activity using wristbands such as FitBit is now widely accepted and the launch of Apple Healthkit in iOS 8 will initiate many more connected monitors.

What are the new challenges that this evolution brings?

So behind the hype there is some reality today but for each of these application areas to become mainstream there are still many challenges. Five of these we will now consider.

For distributed connectivity wireless is the most practical solution but there is massive fragmentation. Cellular technologies are well established but can’t provide a solution for battery or energy harvested devices such as sensors or beacons. There are no shortage of wireless standards in fact a mind numbing array: Wi-Fi, Wireless-Mbus, Bluetooth and IEE 802.15.4. Each of these may be a good candidate but many have sub standards and frequency or software stack options such as ZigBee, 6LowPAN,

Thread for ‘802.15.4, each with different stack versions and profiles, causing concerns for interoperability.

The Industrial Internet Consortium was founded to help resolve these problems and has a following of greater than 100 member companies, but results are yet to come.
Wireless solutions also need careful antenna design and optimisation plus certification to ensure compliance with the chosen wireless standard, both of which are complex fields and require specialist skills.

Security is probably the greatest headache to most. Many IoT application areas could result in some financial transaction, so a lack of tight security would leave systems open to fraud and any linked to infrastructure could be a target for terrorism, for example energy or traffic management.
Many embedded development companies do not have the skill or expertise in house to ensure robust encryption and authentication so will need to reach out to external experts. For the end consumer, data protection will become a big topic, with remote sensors and beacons tracking our every movement and activity, ensuring that this data is kept private and the consumer feels they are in control, will be key for acceptance. A number of much simpler smart metering trials were aborted due to consumer pressure on this issue.

Big Data
A further challenge for the evolution of IoT will be what to do with all the data that results from the connected sensors. A years’ worth of UK smart metering data of ½ hourly gas and electric meter reads is approximately 3Tera bytes , which come from essentially just two connected sensors. Therefore professionally managed IT web server infrastructure will be required for collection, aggregation, analysis and presentation of the potentially massive amount of data created from IoT systems.
As well as collection data there is also the enablement of download or pushing data to the remotely connected devices. Careful design and testing will be required to support features such as remote firmware code module update, feature addition or deployment of apps in interpreted languages such as Java, python or other languages, including appropriate security features to ensure only authenticated updates are accepted.

Power source limitations
The next technical issue to be considered will be the power source for the end sensors. As most end devices in an IoT environment will not be mains supplied, consumers will reject them if constant battery replacement is required. As the quantity of end devices increases so must the battery life of each to avoid consumer inconvenience. If you consider that 24 devices with a battery like of 2 years each has the same replacement rate as 1 device with a battery life of a month. So efficient low power component choice, system design and battery less techniques such as energy harvesting will need to be embraced.

Use cases to be translated to business cases
Finally, ideas need to be translated into money. There will no doubt be many IoT products launched, but it will be ones with well thought out business case that will thrive. Interestingly as we will consider next, IoT will bring more possibilities for a positive revenue stream than simply the value of the physical device as has been in the past.

So how will this benefit embedded solution providers?

For embedded solution providers, the evolution of an internet connected world which IoT promises, opens up many opportunities and will probably be a disrupting influence in a number of application areas where slow moving dominant players may be displaced or lose market share by more dynamic innovative new entrants. Some examples of these opportunities are:

Differentiation & Innovation
Platforms and interconnect with sensors and actuators can allow differentiation from competitors or new entry to disrupt market areas currently serviced by others. A good example here is integrated home environmental control, where a supplier of security systems today could differentiate themselves by enabling security presence sensors to interact with lighting control or heating system providing energy management or vulnerable person monitoring. “Alertme” in the UK is a good example of this.

Offer new services
For consumers, new services that can increase customer satisfaction or create new revenue streams will appear. Data services, for collection, analysis and presentation of the information from IoT sensors and provide control of connected actuators. These services may be provided directly to the consumer or via other parties that produce “mash up’s” with added value of data from different sources. Think how google maps has been combined with house prices from property sales portals to produce heat maps of property values for an idea of what may come next.
For the developers of IoT products, sourcing proven platforms of software and hardware will be a key enabler, especially as many of the technologies required such as wireless and security are beyond the capabilities of existing equipment manufacturers and certainly start-ups. Communications modules are an easy option for quick addition of wireless technologies particularly whilst de-facto standards for IoT are very much in flux. Finally consultancy services will be very much in demand especially for security and communications technologies.

Increase or add value
Electronic products prices are continually reducing, whether its security systems, appliances or semiconductors. With the advent of IoT adding new innovative features to products that differentiate, will allow product prices to be maintained, whilst offering new services that make use of the collated data or provide control of connected actuators, allowing new revenue streams to be created.
Going forward companies have already identified that the model of revenue purely from hardware is being replaced by profit and value from solutions, software & services.

In this article we have shown that though there is a lot of hype around the term Internet of Things there is much reality today with immense opportunities for the future. However to fully realise the opportunities of internet connected devices will require new IT infrastructure, embedded technologies, software, standards & certifications that end equipment designers and manufacturers today have limited experience of.
A way forward to enable developers is for proven platforms combining wireless, security, and low power operation along with IT data infrastructure that are “production ready” with high quality software stacks, integrated, tested and qualified to required standards ■
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