The growing connectivity in a variety of applications ranging from smart personal devices to automotive infotainment and navigation, driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), offers big potential opportunities for component vendors across a number of devices including microcontrollers, microprocessors, and sensors. IHS Technology expects the global market for connected, or Internet-enabled devices, to surpass 6 billion units in 2014, as new products including cell phones, tablets and computers enter the market.
To help drive the development of new designs in the emerging IoT market, component manufacturers are collaborating in ecosystems that in some cases include cloud service providers to bring Internet-connected devices to market faster.
One of the latest collaborations is between Mentor Graphics Corp. and Atmel. The semiconductor maker has joined the Mentor Embedded Nucleus Innovate Program targeting the IoT market. The idea behind the program is to give small businesses a competitive edge in developing leading-edge connected devices. The program provides a free license of the Mentor Embedded Nucleus RTOS and Sourcery CodeBench tools for Atmel's SAM3x and SAM4x microcontroller (MCU) devices for businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue to kick-start their embedded projects. The collaboration is expected to accelerate the development of medical, industrial, smart energy, and consumer applications.
The Mentor Nucleus Innovate Program targets applications that call for a small footprint, high-performance, and low power. Easy-to-use demonstrations and configurations are designed to help shorten development time for medical, industrial, automotive and consumer applications—from days to minutes, according to Mentor. The Nucleus Innovate Program for Atmel MCUs is a one-year license agreement and includes one board support package.
The development of these Internet-enabled and networked devices are driving other industry partnerships as well. Texas Instruments (TI) recently introduced a third-party ecosystem of IoT cloud service providers. These companies will allow manufacturers using TI technology to connect with the IoT more easily and rapidly, said TI.
TI also recently extended its MCU LaunchPad ecosystem with the introduction of the Tiva C Series Connected LaunchPad. Touted as the first IoT-enabled LaunchPad, this evaluation tool platform enables engineers to prototype a wide range of cloud-enabled applications, bringing connectivity to any new or existing LaunchPad-based application.
The first members of the TI third-party ecosystem include 2lemetry, ARM, Arrayent, Exosite, IBM, LogMeIn, Spark, and Thingsquare. Each company has demonstrated its cloud service offering on one or more of TI's wireless connectivity, microcontroller (MCU) and processor solutions for IoT applications including industrial, home automation, health and fitness, and automotive. These companies offer services that meet the requirements of IoT including integration of data into business processes, data analytics, customizable user portals and smart phone apps, and compatibility with multiple wireless technologies, said TI.
"IBM is helping customers recognize the significant potential of interconnected people, places and objects. Expanding our cloud-based Internet of Things services with TI is a natural extension of both companies' focus on this exponentially growing area," said Michael Curry, vice president of WebSphere software, IBM, in a statement.
Other component vendors – like Murata Electronics – are similarly lining up partnerships that leverage service platforms to make it easier to design in their components, while helping manufacturers deliver Internet-connected products faster. One example is the partnership between Ayla Networks and Murata Americas. The companies are co-marketing integrated connectivity modules, services, and technology. Murata will produce and market the smart Wi-Fi modules that contain the Ayla Embedded Agent software.
Once these modules are integrated into end devices they “turn industrial, household, healthcare, and consumer products into smart-connected products.” When combined with the Ayla Cloud Services and Mobile Applications, the end-to-end solution allows the end users -- consumers, manufacturers, and service providers -- to remotely communicate with devices, collect data and automate operations via the Ayla Cloud Services.
“Adding Internet connectivity to products fundamentally enhances the value and capabilities manufacturers can bring to their customers. The challenge has been developing and integrating all of the system elements required for a secure, smart-connected product,” said Mehul Udani, general manager at Murata Americas, in a statement. “Our collaboration with Ayla removes those roadblocks by providing manufacturers with a drop-in, total solution for virtually any product with a circuit board.”
Murata also has a strategic relationship with Electric Imp, an IoT-based service platform provider that connects devices to the Internet, to produce and sell its next-generation of Wi-Fi enabled connectivity module. The Murata-produced Wi-Fi modules serve as the gateway for manufacturers to connect their products to the Internet, said Electric Imp.
The Electric Imp platform – a complete end-to-end solution – features fully integrated hardware, software, OS, APIs, and cloud servers. The next-generation imp module (imp003, Murata part number LBWA1ZV1CD) is 1/10th the size of first generation imp modules. Key features include easy to use power management and very flexible I/O configuration.