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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mergers shake up the semiconductor industry

Review of the year

By Nick Flaherty

This year has seen a staggering consolidation within the semiconductor industry. With deals ranging from the merger of NXP and Freescale through Broadcom and Avago to Qualcomm and CSR, Infineon and International Rectifier and Intel absorbing Altera (which completed today), the field of suppliers in the embedded industry will change significantly by the end of next year as a result.
Other deals are continuing, with Dialog Semiconductor's acquisition of Atmel still in play, and TDK taking over Micronas.
This is highlighted in the recent figures from market researcher IC Insight. Bill McClean sees the integrated device makers (IDM) overtaking the fabless chip makers briefly, partly as a result of the mergers and partly from currency fluctuations. But it does shake up the list of the top suppliers considerably.
As shown in Figure 1, only three of the top-10 IDM semiconductor suppliers are forecast to register growth in 2015 and, in total, the top-10 IDMs are expected to display flat growth this year. says McClean.  Intel remains the dominant player, and Altera's $460m fabless business will barely make a bump in the figures as the new Programmable Solutions division. The combined NXP/Freescale is now moving up to challenge Texas Instruments, although the majority of the NXP basis is moving to fabless rather than IDM.
Top 10 IDMs for 2015 post merger. Source: IC Insights

Although flat growth by the top-10 IDMs would typically be considered poor performance, it is still forecast to be a much better result than is expected from the top-10 fabless semiconductor suppliers (Figure 2).  In order to make direct comparisons for year-over-year growth, IC Insights combined the merged, or soon to be merged, companies’ 2014 and 2015 semiconductor sales regardless of when the merger occurred, providing a more accurate figure. However, how well the companies execute on the merger will impact on this potential growth.

Figure 2: Fabless semiconductor vendors are seeing the effects of consolidation more strongly than IDMs. Source: IC Insights 

As shown, the top-10 fabless semiconductor suppliers are forecast to register a 5% decline in sales this year, five points worse than the top-10 IDMs.  It should be noted that essentially all of the decline expected for the top-10 fabless suppliers in 2015 could be attributed to the forecasted decline in Qualcomm/CSR’s sales this year, which comes from Samsung’s increasing use of its internally developed Exynos application processor in its smartphones instead of the application processors it had previously sourced from Qualcomm.

Figure 3: Flat growth in 2015 shows the semiconductor market moving into its negative cycle, with consequences for the embedded market. Source: IC Insights
All this highlights the turn in the market in figure 3. From positive growth last year to flat sales this year, the market is heading into its downward trend. This will make life difficult for embedded developers as the top ten companies in both areas cut costs and product lines to compensate, and drive more consolidation through 2016.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Market for the Internet of Things to double by 2019 to 30bn connections

By Nick Flaherty

Internet of Things integrated circuit sales expected to grow 15.9% a year over the next four years, with MCUs and SoC processors seeing the strongest growth according to one of the most reliable market researchers. 

Between 2015 and 2019, worldwide systems revenues for applications connecting to the Internet of Things will nearly double, reaching $124.5 billion in the final year of this decade, according to Bill McClean of IC Insights in his 2016 edition of the IC Market Drivers report.  During that same timeframe, new connections to the Internet of Things (IoT) will grow from about 1.7 billion in 2015 to nearly 3.1 billion in 2019 - that's more than five for every person on the planet, but that's still one of the more conservative forecasts. 

Figure 1: Growth in IoT connections to 2019

The new IC Market Drivers report shows about 30.0 billion Internet connections are expected to be in place worldwide in 2020, with 85% of those attachments being to web-enabled “things” — commercial, industrial, and consumer systems, distributed sensors, vehicles, and other connected objects, all with embedded silicon controllers and transceiver. The remaining 15% is in electronics used by humans to communicate, download and receive streams of data files, and search for online information.  This marks a complete reversal from the Internet boom of 2000, when 85% of 488 million Internet connections providing human users with online access to the World Wide Web and the remaining 15% serving embedded systems, remote sensing and measurements, control, and machine-to-machine communications.

Strong double-digit increases in the Internet of Things market will drive up IC sales in IoT applications by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.9% between 2015 and 2019 to about $19.4 billion in the final year of this decade (Figure 2), according to the new report.  IoT applications will also fuel strong sales growth in optoelectronics, sensors/actuators, and discrete semiconductors (O-S-D), which are projected to rise by a CAGR of 26.0% between 2015 and 2019 to $11.6 billion in four years.  The new IC Market Drivers report shows microcontrollers and system-on-chip microprocessors topping integrated circuit sales growth with a CAGR of 22.3% in the next four years, followed by memories at 19.8%, application specific standard products (ASSPs) at 16.4%, and analog ICs at an annual growth rate of 12.7%.

In the forecast, wearable systems are projected to be the fastest growing IoT application with sales increasing by a CAGR of 59.0%, thanks in great part to a 440% surge in 2015 due to the launch of Apple’s first smartwatches in 2Q15.  Sales of IoT-connected wearable systems are expected to reach $15.2 billion in 2019 compared to $1.5 billion in 2014 and about $8.1 billion in 2015.
Meanwhile, connected vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks) are expected to be the second fastest market category for IoT technology with revenues growing by a CAGR of 31.5% between 2014 and 2019 to $5.3 billion in the final year of this decade.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Powering a personal wireless network with urine

By Nick Flaherty

I've been following the development of miniaturised microbial fuel cells (MFCs) at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory for a couple of years now, and it's great to see a prototype with a good use case.

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) replicate biological processes to generate energy, and researchers at UWE in Bristol have embedded the technology in a pair of socks. The key is that the MFCs take in urine and produce enough energy to power a wireless transceiver, creating a personal area network (PAN) link without having to use batteries.  This is the first self-sufficient system powered by a wearable energy generator based on microbial fuel cell technology and the research paper, ‘Self-sufficient Wireless Transmitter Powered by Foot-pumped Urine Operating Wearable MFC’, is published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

The paper describes a lab-based experiment led by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The Bristol BioEnergy Centre is based in Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaborative partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol.

Researchers at UWE have developed socks that convert urine into energy to
power a wireless transceiver for a personal area network without batteries
Soft MFCs embedded within a pair of socks was supplied with fresh urine, circulated by the human operator walking.  Normally, continuous-flow MFCs would rely on a mains powered pump to circulate the urine over the microbial fuel cells, but this experiment relied solely on human activity, which is a key step forward (pun intended). The manual pump was based on a simple fish circulatory system and the action of walking caused the urine to pass over the MFCs and generate energy. Soft tubes, placed under the heels, ensured frequent fluid pushpull by walking. The wearable MFC system successfully ran a wireless transmission board, which was able to send a message every two minutes to the PC-controlled receiver module.

“Having already powered a mobile phone with MFCs using urine as fuel, we wanted to see if we could replicate this success in wearable technology. We also wanted the system to be entirely self-sufficient, running only on human power – using urine as fuel and the action of the foot as the pump,” said Professor Ieropoulos. “This opens up possibilities of using waste for powering portable and wearable electronics. For example, recent research shows it should be possible to develop a system based on wearable MFC technology to transmit a person’s coordinates in an emergency situation. At the same time this would indicate proof of life since the device will only work if the operator‘s urine fuels the MFCs.”

The challenge now is how the MFC cells are refuelled with urine.

Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) use bacteria to generate electricity from waste fluids. They tap into the biochemical energy used for microbial growth and convert it directly into electricity.  This technology can use any form of organic waste and turn it into useful energy without relying on fossil fuels, making this a valuable green technology. Parts of this work were funded by the UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The research is important in other areas of robotics as it would allow autonomous systems to generate power from waste materials to operate for days or even months at a time.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Can WiFi work for the Internet of Things?

By Nick Flaherty

Enhanced Low-Power (ELP) Wireless MCUs Provide Multi-protocol Support and Quadruple Battery Life in Sensors

If you are Broadcom, shortly to be subsumed into Avago, then the answer seems to be no.

The launch of a family of low power devices under the WICED brand to offer low power would seem to be a route forward - after all, WICED ((Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices) is built on Broadcom's WiFi technology. But the new CORE enhanced low power (ELP) use other technologies to achieve the power reduction.

Using low power WiFi to connect sensors for the Internet of Things is a bit of a 'holy grail' as it means that sensor nodes can be easily added to the home network. Unfortunately, the WiFI protocols suck the power from the battery. This is why Zigbee and now Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 and 4.1, with 4.2 emerging soon) have emerged as viable technologies. The trouble is that Zigbee and other 802.15.4 technologies need a gateway to link the sensors to the home network (usually via WiFi). Bluetooth smart held promise as the sensors could connect directly to a smartphone but still mostly need a gateway device.

So a pin-compatible family of 802.15.4 and Bluetooth Smart devices is a great step forward, it's just not the one we hoped for.

The WICED CORE ELP Bluetooth family delivers advanced technology for a wide range of IoT applications, including simultaneous multi-protocol support, the industry's first 40nm flash memory in a communications SoC, low-power consumption and a common development platform. By integrating a host of features including increased processor speed, FPU and DSP libraries, more applications RAM and significant flash memory on a chip the size of a fingernail, Broadcom enables OEMs to create more complex applications and employ a wireless MCU that scales across a much wide product set. "Broadcom further separates itself from the competition with our new WICED CORE ELP family," said Brian Bedrosian, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Wireless Connectivity at Broadcom. "In addition to enabling multi-protocol support, we support more complex IoT applications for OEMs and developers, all while consolidating our low-power solution in a small package."
There are three different multi-protocol devices, all sharing an ARM Cortex CM4 core with floating point and digital signal processing extensions to get that lower power and enable the same software to be used across the different devices:
  • BCM20719 which supports both Bluetooth and Bluetooth Smart protocols
  • BCM20729 which supports Zigbee and 6LoWPAN protocols
  • BCM20739 which supports Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart and IEEE 802.15.4 protocols
The family of devices supports: 
  • 512 KB RAM for complex applications
  • 1MB flash memory for program and data storage including support for over-the-air updates
  • Integrated Bluetooth and Bluetooth Smart and Zigbee 3.0 software stacks
  • Advanced sleep and latency management circuitry
  • Compliant with Bluetooth 4.2 specification
  • Expansive set of IO including precision A/D convertors
    • Support for UART, SPI, Quad-SPI and Serial Control interfaces for interfacing to external nonvolatile memories, peripheral ICs, and sensors
  • On-chip, multi-channel ADC for measuring sensor inputs, battery level, and more
  • On-chip AES 256 encryption engines with support for RSA, MD5, ECC and secure element
  • Native wireless charging support for A4WP and Airfuel
The devices are sampling now, but whether the WICED branding survives the Avago merger remains to be seen.

Low-Power Floating Point Processor Core for Intelligent Connected Devices

By Nick Flaherty

How important is floating point performance for the Internet of Things? So far, most of the processing requirement has been on fixed point, mainly to keep the power consumption down as floating point is notoriously power hungry. However, the increasing need for security means there is more demand for low power encryption all the way down to the sensor node. This presents a significant challenge for the system developer. 
French processor core designer Cortus has developed a single precision floating point IP core aimed at embedded systems requiring good floating point computational performance while also delivering small silicon area and low power dissipation. The FPS26 is the third in a family of products based on the Cortus v2 instruction set. 
Once you have the floating point capability, which gives 10x the performance over an integer core, then new applications become possible such as MIMO for reliable (lower power) wireless connections and machine vision to reduce the amount of data that is sent over the network. Growing numbers of controllers in solar energy and industrial control requiring floating point algorithms, many applications require floating point operations executed in hardware to achieve their performance goals. Complex matrix inversion is a challenging computation in MIMO with challenges around precision, quantisation and scaling which can be mitigated by using floating point to reduce the overall power consumption.

The FPS26 IP core provides single precision floating point performance for applications such as industrial control, machine vision and MIMO wireless systems

“For companies developing intelligent ‘things’ requiring floating point algorithms, our FPS26 core offers outstanding computational performance while efficiently using silicon area”, says Michael Chapman President & CEO of Cortus. “It is an excellent fit with the industrial internet of things and with power control applications”.

Although historically embedded software has been dominated by fixed-point operations, there are cases where values may have large dynamic ranges and floating point computation is required or advantageous. Examples include matrix inversion in MIMO baseband processing, matrix multiplication and fast Fourier transforms (FFTs).

The FPS26 has a Harvard architecture, sixteen 32-bit registers and a 5-stage pipeline. It offers an IEEE 754 single precision hardware floating point unit, a pipelined parallel multiplier and a hardware divider. It supports the AXI4-Lite bus as well as Cortus APS peripherals. The small size of FPS26 makes it highly suitable for cost sensitive applications. The CPU starts at around 0.192 square mm using a 90nm technology. Using the Linpack benchmark FPS26 delivers 9.7 times better floating point performance than the APS25 integer core.

Up to eight co-processors can be added to an FPS26 core and the co-processor interface allows licensees to add custom coprocessors, for example to accelerate computations in cryptography or signal processing, without knowing details of the internals of the core. Co-processor instructions can be inserted into C-code appearing as function calls so that all the code can be developed in C, which was a key requirement of the processor design.
The instructions are 16, 24 and 32 bits in length ensuring leading code density and the pipeline features out-of-order execution enabling nearly all integer instructions to execute in a single cycle, including loads and stores. Interrupts are fully vectored and the architecture ensures a minimum of software overhead in task switches. All cores interface to Cortus’ peripherals including Ethernet 10/100 MAC, USB 2.0 Device and USB 2.0 OTG via the efficient APS bus. They also share the simple vectored interrupt structure which ensures rapid, real time interrupt response, with low software overhead.

The APS tool chain and IDE (for C and C++) is available to licensees free of charge, and can be customised and branded for final customer use. Ports of various RTOSs are available such as FreeRTOS, Micrium uC/OSII, Micrium uC/OSIII & TargetOS.

To date well over 800 million devices have been manufactured containing Cortus processor cores.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Farewell Freescale

By Nick Flaherty

Nearly a year on from the initial announcement, the merger of NXP and Freescale Semiconductor completed yesterday.

The results of the deal, announced in March 2015, is billed as creating a high performance mixed signal chip maker with revenue of over $10 billion, trading as NXP Semiconductor. This now makes NXP the market leader in automotive semiconductor solutions and in general purpose microcontroller (MCU) products, although how the two competing ARM-based lines of general purpose microcontrollers will shake out remains to be seen.

Security and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be key areas of growth, and combine both NXP and Freescale hardware and software design expertise. 

“Through this merger we have created an industry powerhouse focused on the high growth opportunities in the Smarter World, capitalizing on the emerging opportunities offered by the accelerating demand for connectivity, processing and security. Today’s formation of the new NXP is a transformative step on our journey to become the industry leader in high performance mixed signal solutions,” said Rick Clemmer, CEO of NXP. “This merger enables us to deliver more complete solutions to our customers as we are emerging as the leader in the Secure Connections – and the supporting infrastructure – for the Smarter World domain. As a result, we reiterate today that we fully expect to continue to significantly out-grow the overall market, drive world-class profitability and generate even more cash, allowing us to continue creating significant value for NXP’s shareholders.”

So it's a fond farewell to Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector (SPS) and the foray into private-equity and the fab-lite approach (which mapped well to NXP!) 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Industry consolidation accelerates as Microsemi gazumps PMC-Sierra

By Nick Flaherty

Coming hard on the heels of Dialog's acquisition of Atmel and Western Digital acquiring SanDisk, Microsemi wants to acquire PMC-Sierra in a $2.4bn deal that highlights the accelerating consolidation in the embedded industry.

This consolidation is somewhat hidden by the tech bubble involving software and apps, but highlights the change in the semiconductor cycle into a downturn. The industry avoided taking too much of a hit in 2008 as the semiconductor cycle was at its peak, but the current cycle is set to coincide with the bursting of the tech bubble.  

This is important as the Microsemi and Sandisk deals are very much geared to the growth in data centres that is driven by the players in the tech bubble. "This Complements optical and switching portfolios, accelerates existing data center growth effort
," said Microsemi. This deal in particular is a sign of the peak of the cycle, as PMC-Sierra was set to acquire Skyworks, and the current deal aims to change that. 

This is the same kind of deal that happened at the peak of the property market in the UK, where a buyer comes in with a higher offer, called gazumping.  

The PMC deal is valued at $11.50 per PMC share, representing a premium of approximately 50 percent to the closing price on October 5th, 2015, the last trading day prior to the announcement of PMC's proposed acquisition with Skyworks. Microsemi believes its $2.4bn cash and stock proposal would provide PMC shareholders with a substantial premium and immediate cash value, as well as the opportunity to participate in the significant upside potential of a global analogue and mixed-signal leader with a highly diversified platform for growth and profitability. 

"Based on extensive discussions with PMC over the past 18 months and comprehensive analysis, we believe this transaction offers compelling strategic and financial benefits for the shareholders of both Microsemi and PMC," said James J. Peterson, Microsemi's chairman and CEO. "This acquisition will provide Microsemi with a leading position in high performance and scalable storage solutions targeted for data center and cloud applications, while also adding a complementary portfolio of high-value communications products.Microsemi has a strong track record of integrating acquisitions and driving profitability, and we will benefit from increased scale, industry-leading margins, diversified market exposure, consolidated infrastructure and substantial cost savings in a combination with PMC."

The transaction with Microsemi will only be subject to domestic regulatory approvals (as opposed to approvals by foreign government entities including China, which is required under the Skyworks merger agreement and likely to result in additional uncertainty and delays) and customary closing conditions, as well as the approval of PMC's shareholders.

This comes as Qualcomm absorbs Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) after last years acquisition, Dialog bids to acquire Atmel for $4.6bn and Western Digital looks to take over SanDisk. The $19bn SanDisk deal allows WD to use the silicon and embedded software for solid state disk drives, particularly for the data centre. This comes hot on the heels of the $67bn acquisition of enterprise drive supplier EMC by Dell.   

AMD heads into embedded (again)

By Nick Flaherty

AMD is making another move into the embedded market with its latest Merlin Falcon system on chip. This time the company has integrated the south bridge into the chip to include all the I/O support and reduce the footprint in embedded designs.

The company has also paid attention to security, adding an ARM Cortex A50 processor with ARM's TrustZone technology to provide the start of a secure chain for connecting to the Internet. It is also qualifying parts for the higher temperature range needed for embedded and industrial applications. 

The Embedded R-Series SOC processors include third generation Radeon graphics processor units (GPUs), aiming at small form factor boards for graphic-intensive and video applications, particularly in commercial gaming systems and medial applications. The GPUs allow a hardware-enabled H.265 (HEVC) decoder and DirectX 12 to be used for 4K video.

The family uses newest AMD 64-bit x86 CPU core, called Excavator, along with a new approach to power management for reduced energy consumption. This allows the processor to 'move' functions between the GPUs and the processor to keep the device within a specified power envelope. This envelope is between 12W and 35W in 1W steps to keep the cost of thermal management to a minimum.

The ARM core supports a secure boot with AMD Hardware Validated Boot (HVB) and initiates trusted boot environment before starting the x86 cores.

The device is also designed for the industry's unified memory architecture that shares the memory between the CPU and GPUs, making application development (and the power management) easier. The devices have the first Heterogeneous Systems Architecture (HSA) 1.0 certification, and support for the latest dual channel ECC DDR4-2400 memory as well as existing DDR3-2133 designs so that sysems can be easily upgraded for higher performance in the future. 

Customers in several industries such as machine learning, medical imaging and digital signage often need to execute compute intensive, parallel processing algorithms, and HSA is a standardized platform design that allows the GPU to be used as a parallel compute engine. This allows developers to more easily and efficiently apply the hardware resources in today's SoCs, enabling applications to run faster and at lower power across a range of computing platforms. 

"With so much momentum around immersive experiences, especially for visual and parallel computing, the embedded industry needs a high-performance, low-power and efficient architecture with superior graphics and compute capabilities," said Scott Aylor, corporate vice president and general manager, AMD Embedded Solutions. "The Embedded R-Series SOC is a strong match for these needs in a variety of industries including digital signage, retail signage, medical imaging, electronic gaming machines, media storage, and communications and networking."
The R-Series SOCs offer 22 percent improved GPU performance over the second generation AMD Embedded R-Series APU and AMD claims to have a 58 percent advantage against the Intel's Broadwell Core i7 when running graphics-intensive benchmarks.

AMD will support the Embedded R-Series SOC through the next ten years, and the processors support Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Embedded 7 and 8 Standard, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and AMD's all-open Linux driver including Mentor Embedded Linux from Mentor Graphics and their Sourcery CodeBench IDE development tools. Developers can also use the Yocto Linux project versions.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

UltraSoC adds deadlock detection to its SoC analysis, debug and profiling tools

By Nick Flaherty

One of the biggest challenges with developing software for embedded systems is deadlocks, where processors hang or stall as a result of complex interactions of the data. While this is traditionally tackled at the board level with a probe and logic analyser, it's a nightmare when the system is all inside a chip.

So when Cambridge-based tool developer UltraSoC adds deadlock detection capabilities into its embedded system-on-chip (SoC) analysis, profiling and debug, it's a big thing. The new analysis features allow embedded SoC architects, developers and debug engineers to detect and diagnose those hard-to-find corner cases which can cause complex SoCs to hang or stall intermittently and unpredictably, sometimes after days of continuous normal operation.

“Our customers tell us that intermittent deadlock and stall conditions are amongst the hardest problems to solve in their SoC designs,” said Gadge Panesar, chief technology officer of UltraSoC. “These conditions are a major contributor to the current crisis in the SoC industry. Conventional approaches either ignore the problem, or attempt to deal with it by generating massive, unmanageable data sets. UltraSoC takes a smarter approach, focusing on generating meaningful, actionable information; for the first time chip design teams can truly understand the behaviour of today’s complex SoCs.”

Bus deadlocks occur when a processor is waiting for a response from another sub-system via an on-chip bus such as AXI or OCP, but the response never arrives. Traditionally, the only way of isolating such problems has been to attempt to continuously trace and output all bus activity, requiring a high-bandwidth off-chip connection to gather the data, and difficult offline analysis software of huge data-sets. The UltraSoC technology uses a “smart” on-chip bus monitor that is protocol-aware and can be triggered when the time taken for a bus transaction exceeds a programmable limit. When triggered by a deadlocked transaction, the system identifies the complete transaction ID and address, guiding the engineer’s attention to both the master and slave of the problem.

This allows chip designers to efficiently and intelligently “look inside” their products, at wire speed, during normal operation, rather than having to pull out a trace of all the activity and go over millions of data points. The new deadlock detection capabilities are targeted at particularly difficult conditions that can cause devices to fail intermittently and unpredictably, including bus and software deadlocks.

Software deadlocks are increasingly common in today’s SoCs. In a typical scenario, two different software processes might use a locking mechanism to govern shared access to common on-chip resources: for example another core, hardware peripherals or the capabilities of another software process. Problems can arise when each CPU believes that the other has locked its access to the shared resources. In this case UltraSoC provides an on-chip status monitor which can be used to detect the fault condition, halt the processors and initiate data capture to isolate the problem. As multi-core systems and heterogenous architectures become more common this becomes ever more important. A key advantage is that UltraSoc is not tieed to any one architecture, supporting many different bus protocols and processor families (including ARM, MIPS, Xtensa, CEVA and others), making it possible to solve these situations.

SoC debug and silicon validation are key challenges facing the global electronics industry today. UltraSoC’s technology creates an on-chip debug infrastructure that enables pre- and post-silicon debug, reducing the risks in chip design, improving time-to-market, increasing quality and reducing costs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

IoT design competition winners show breadth of embedded design

Three winners of a competition to design systems for the Internet of Things show the innovation of embedded systems.

By Nick Flaherty

The three “Your IoT” design contest winners include Christian Klemetsson, Hoang Nhu and Ekawahyu Susilo.

•       Christian Klemetsson designed his “DeviceRadio” industrial automation solution to connect the real world to applications through virtual wires specifically within the industrial automation market. The goal of this product design is to deliver a custom IoT device on a solderless breadboard and controlled through the Internet in three minutes or less.
•       Hoang Nhu developed a platform for extending the IoT through all parts of the home, from medication reminders to smart power plugs. The Apple HomeKit SmartHome and Wellness IoT Development Platform monitors home environments/energy consumption and daily activities to optimize home appliance settings as well as make recommendations and reminders for optimal wellness.
•       Ekawahyu Susilo rounded out the winners with “Snappy,” (below) - a modular robotics platform designed to help teachers engage students through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Snappy can be used for a variety of science project applications such as determining altitude with water bottle rockets, measuring collision impact in physics experiments, and building a simple local/Internet-connected weather station with humidity and temperature sensors.

The competition was backed by distributor Digi-Key and chip designer Silicon Labs. Digi-Key supplied $10,000 worth of Silicon Labs components to each winner, who will select the Silicon Labs components they need (microcontrollers, wireless chips, sensors, boards and more) to bring their prize-winning IoT ideas to market as commercially viable products.

Contestants entered their IoT design at where all entries were initially voted on by site viewers. The top 15 entries were then judged using the following criteria: innovative application of technology, marketability of the product and the unique nature of the product, with bonus points awarded for a prototype.

“The IoT is the engine driving the growth and future of electronic component usage,” said David Sandys, director of technical marketing for Digi-Key. “Digi-Key could not be happier with the level of participation in the contest and being able to partner with Silicon Labs. The excitement really begins now, when we get to see where the winners will take their designs.”

“Developing connected ‘things’ for the IoT requires a combination of technical prowess, innovative design, and energy-friendly components and application development resources,” said Peter Vancorenland, vice president of IoT engineering at Silicon Labs. “We applaud the three contest winners for their outstanding IoT designs and wish them great success in bringing their inventive ideas to market using semiconductor and software solutions from Silicon Labs and Digi-Key.”

See the winners here

Thursday, January 08, 2015

10 Reasons Why Analytics Are Vital to the Internet of Things

10 Reasons Why Analytics Are Vital to the Internet of Things:

"This year has seen the software at the very highest point in the Internet of Things stack -- analytics -- becoming tightly coupled with the embedded devices at the edge of the network, leading to many different approaches and providers. Being able to monitor and use the data that comes from the Internet of Things is a huge potential challenge with different providers using different architectures and approaches, and different chip and equipment vendors teaming up in a range of different ways."

Slideshow on EETimes by Nick Flaherty