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A New Perspective On The Internet Of Things

Feb 18 2014, 1:56pm CST | by

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A New Perspective On The Internet Of Things

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A New Perspective On The Internet Of Things

How many sensors are required to power the Internet of Things?

According to Davor Sutija, chief executive officer at Thinfilm , about a trillion sensors are required to power the billion connected devices expected to power the Internet of Things. To meet demand for the sensors, the Norway-based maker of organic semiconductors and printed electronics has developed an alternate approach to the Internet of Things.

At the heart of Thinfilm’s approach is a tweak to the existing definition of the Internet of Things. This definition, propagated by large corporations such as Cisco and IBM, puts a network at the heart of the technology. It consists of an ecosystem of connected devices with sensors and intelligence built into physical objects. These devices will talk to and monitor each other, regardless of distance or power consumption. “If the Internet of Things is just a massive machine talking to itself, then a billion or so microcontrollers (or computers embedded within consumer devices) is fine,” explains Sutija.

But, such an Internet of Things is a complex entity on several fronts because it requires a reimagining of the product manufacturing process to integrate microcontrollers into each product.

The discussion becomes important when one considers that most stories about the Internet of Things focus on the product and not on the infrastructure that powers the product.  Whether it is Apple’s A7 processor or Samsung’s curved smartphone screens, the Internet of Things is as much about advances in ubiquitous computing as about electronics. Both the examples I referenced earlier are possible due to the development of new materials and processing power of printed electronics. For example, the LG and Samsung smartphone screens are new variants of plastic substrates encased in rigid glass.

ThinFilm’s approach relies on low power ubiquitous computing and protocols that transmit information over short distances. Instead of a large number of devices connected to each other, this Internet of Things transmits information to a local information hub, such as a smartphone, which would then transmit that information over large distances. Instead of reconfiguring the product to include tracking sensors, this approach uses smart labels and tags to make the Internet of Things possible.

As an example, Sutija points to Blue Tooth, which has low power requirements and transmits information over short distances. “(Using this approach) you can distribute intelligence broadly over a large number of simple devices (or, devices that are not IoT ready),” he says. Instead of big data, which relies on constant monitoring, such devices use small data or snippets of information at specific periods of time. For example, consumers can measure their vitals through temporary monitoring tests that use disposable electronics instead of conventional electronics. “We want to add intelligence to ordinary objects that are also disposable,” says Sutija.

Thinfilm has other elements in its Internet of Things strategy.  The company recently acquired Kovio , a San Jose-based company that manufactures electronic devices on proprietary printed silicon electronics platform. According to Sutija, this has enabled the company to gain a foothold in Silicon ink-based printed electronics. The Kovio offices have also been converted into an NFC innovative center, where research pertaining to this protocol is carried out. In addition to this, the company is also focused on developing a Read/Write memory that can store data for as long as fifteen years without power. Sutija says a combination of these megatrends will accelerate and expand the capabilities of disposable electronics.

Source: Forbes


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