The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the heart of some of the
most exciting technology developments in 2013. A couple of weeks ago, I had the
opportunity to speak with Nikolay Guenov, Director Product Management, Digital
Networking Division, and Nick Sargologos, Senior Marketing Manager, Digital
Networking Division, of Freescale Semiconductor. They caught me up on some of their company’s IoT
developments and gave me a look into where IoT is going in 2014.

IoT as we know it today is an evolution of the smart grid,
according to Sargologos.

 “The IoT is
really a combination of a range of capabilities,” he said. “The whole
thing is about connecting a wide range of sensors, end points, the network, and
the cloud to enable a lot more convenience, a lot more visibility into
processes, events, machine automation, and various aspects of
business-to-business and consumer-oriented activities.”

Last October, Freescale announced a new family of devices
based on the ARM Cortex-A7 cores. The ARM A7 is typically used in smartphones and other
mobile devices. Freescale is extending smartphone-quality intelligence and efficiency
to the network with its new devices. The new chip enables IoT gateways to
communicate with a range of devices including:

  • Appliances
  • Security systems and monitors
  • Smart thermostats

The chip communicates with these devices regardless of the
individual device’s communication protocol, including 802.11, Bluetooth, or
even ZigBee, and relays the information to the cloud.

According to Guenov, their devices target embedded
communications and industrial applications with the highest level of
integration in the industry for the given power interval.

“What we are doing here is merging the knowhow and IP
that Freescale has developed over the years in the networking and
communications market,” Guenov said. He emphasized that Freescale has lots
of intellectual property (IP) around packet processing and various aspects of
embedded systems, especially communications, giving the company a broad reach
into the market.

This strategic move by Freescale targets the next generation
of networking and industrial type applications, so the company’s new products probably
won’t be surfacing in the IoT for another year or so. Guenov said that their
new set of devices will enable the aggregation of smart sensors, smart devices,
and smart ends and bring a new set of capabilities to the cloud. The rise of
IoT has led to a blurring of the traditional network edge that IT pros are
familiar with.

The technology includes inputs all the way back to the data
center to provide big data type analytics to help forecast trends in the data that’s
broadcast back from the smart devices, sensors, and end points in the field. A
gateway aggregates data sent back by those sensors. According to Guenov, these
devices enable you to make localized decisions about how a given action needs
to be taken. He gave the example of a sensor-equipped bridge during wintertime.
Sensors can determine whether there is a structural or weather condition (such
as ice) on the bridge and either turn on warning signs or communicate the local
conditions to another source, like a centralized management system, for further
analysis and trending.

Beyond Guenov’s example, the future of IoT in my eyes is
going to be around making traditional infrastructure and machines smarter with
the resultant business, safety, and productivity gains through connectivity,
decision-making features, analytics, and control feedback that was previous out
of reach.

IoT and the network edge of today

How is IoT blurring the network edge? “The network edge
used to be very well defined. There were devices like access points that
provided Internet or cloud access for laptops and desktop computers,” Sargologos
said. “And then you begin to have other devices like network-attached
printers, network-attached storage devices that became nodes that were also at
the edge of the network and could be communicated via a LAN remotely through
the cloud.”

Sargologos said a new term, “the fog,” has been
coined to describe the trend. “This relates to how diverse and deep the
network edge is becoming because of the diversity of devices that are becoming
network enabled.” He mentioned a range of devices, including thermostats
and dishwashers. However, we can expect to this diversity extend to network-enabling
business applications for logistics and manufacturing where monitoring and
analytics can benefit the overall business.

IoT in 2014 and beyond

Sargologos cited a number of areas where IoT may come into
play in the future, such as control over digital signage across a network fed
by servers storing content. This will enable the signage to change according to
the demographics of the audience.

Your smartphone is also going to play a major role in IoT’s
future. After all, it carries with it so much data about your behavior and

Word on the street is that IoT announcements are going to be
plentiful at the 2014 CES. Freescale Semiconductor appears to be making the
right moves to emerge as an IoT leader as the technology proliferates. For me,
IoT’s promises are still a bit too niche or pie in the sky, but I recognize the
future of IoT in some backend business operations.

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Your take

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