An introduction to the Internet of Things

By now, it’s common to hear conversations about the Internet of Things (IoT), but why? Why is there so much buzz around the IoT?

What is the IoT? 

The IoT is an enabling technology with the ability to impact nearly everything we do and how we do it. It will allow for decision making on a much larger scale than ever before. Being able to control all of the machines in a factory or all of the street lights in a city, empowers  operators to make more educated decisions that weren’t previously possible on a small, local view – thereby driving increased efficiency as well as safety and security. The IoT enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to unlock new revenue from existing products and services. OEMs can stay connected with their product as it is being used in the field and develop new services to add value based on the ways the product is being used. This is only one of many changes that the IoT may bring in existing business models and strategies. 

The Internet of Things is an expansion of the “Internet of people” brought about by the revolution of personal computers and cell phones connected to the Internet. Because of this mass adoption of the Internet as the means for providing services to people, the door has been opened to connect many more “things” to the Internet and leverage the same infrastructure and services. The IoT is an end-to-end process that connects these “things,” – products that include sensors and actuators – to gateways that can then transmit data to the cloud. The IoT connects the physical world, as perceived by the sensors and driven by the actuators, with the cyber world running in the cloud. It enables users to sense, store, present and analyze data to make informed decisions and help them to control the world around them.

Considerations and challenges

While the Internet of Things brings a new horizon of opportunities, there are several barriers in respect to making IoT implementations successful. Determining the use case – whether industrial, automotive, home automation, personal electronics or others – and the intended user benefit, will help developers make more informed design decisions. There are many practical tradeoffs and challenges in the nodes themselves such as deciding between a wired or wireless connection and whether to go with a plug-in, battery-powered or energy harvesting solution, while additional considerations may be related to the required processing performance for functions like calibration, signal conditioning or even local analytics, and the needed industrial robustness. The communication function has always been a barrier and this is especially true if we expect many new players to leverage IoT. To assist these OEMs, the communication function and software stacks have to be encapsulated and pre-certified. There are also end-to-end challenges to consider, with security being the most paramount. When deploying an IoT system, you’ll need a solution that spans from the sensor to the cloud and everything in-between. The challenge here is that this requires partnerships as no one company is able to address all of these elements by itself.

Texas Instruments (TI) is addressing these challenges by providing many of the building blocks for the IoT. We have a focus on embedded and analog devices and provide solutions for sensing, signal chain, power, processing and wired and wireless connectivity – everything you need to get from the node to the gateway to the cloud. Our focus in connectivity has been around reducing the complexity by providing a complete preinstalled and encapsulated Internet software stack. We also provide devices that are oriented specifically for industrial and automotive applications to address the needs in those integral areas of the IoT. TI has an extensive network of cloud partners which allow developers to quickly and easily connect their designs to the IoT while offering differentiated and value-added services.

Ask TI your questions during our Twitter chat 

Now that you have a baseline for what the Internet of Things is, we invite you to join our IoT Twitter chat. You’ll be able to talk about the IoT with some of our experts in real-time. Ask them your IoT questions, talk about trends and let us know what you think is coming next. Join the conversation on Twitter, June 1 from 8:00-9:30 a.m. CST, and tweet your IoT questions to @TXInstruments.

Learn more about the IoT

In addition to the Twitter chat, TI is celebrating the IoT during the week of May 29. We’ll be talking about the IoT all week as well as highlighting related topics. Be sure to follow our social channels all week and look for #IoTWeek to be a part of the conversation.

Key resources, including additional blogs and white papers, can be found below: