The Internet of Things (IoT) is a huge and rapidly growing market, but requires expertise in widely diverse technologies.
The device side needs microprocessors with both embedded control and networking firmware, and there must also be a cloud side that the device talks to. In most cases, there also needs to be wireless connectivity, requiring development teams to have RF expertise as well. For many development teams, the need to acquire skills in all these technologies is a significant impediment to entering the IoT market.
Texas Instruments (TI) has taken steps to lower those barriers for developers using its microcontroller, analog, and wireless connectivity products by creating what it is calling the TI IoT cloud ecosystem. This ecosystem comprises a network of third-party cloud service providers, TI evaluation boards and software development kits (SDKs) pre-configured with Internet protocols and security firmware, embedded libraries and demonstration software, and complete reference designs including RF circuits and antennas. The software supports a wide variety of network and IoT protocols, including TCP, UDP, CoAP, MQTT, XMPP, SLS, and more. TI's goal in establishing this IoT cloud ecosystem is to speed development time and simplify cloud connectivity for its customers.
The initial members of the ecosystem include 2lemetry, ARM (through its Sensinode group), Arrayent, Exosite, IBM, LogMeIn, Spark, and Thingsquare. These members provide a wide variety of cloud-related services, including integration of data into business processes, data analytics, customizable user portals and smart phone apps, and compatibility with multiple wireless technologies. Each has demonstrated its offerings working with one or more TI products, ensuring developers of proven solutions.
"We have both large and small, almost boutique, cloud partners in the TI IoT cloud ecosystem," said Goren, general manager of embedded processing strategy and initiatives at TI. "We recognize that there is no single solution that will address the needs of all IoT designs, so we are making sure that our customers have a variety of choices both in our product portfolio and in the cloud ecosystem."
This move by TI to provide cloud resources to its customers strikes me as being something the microcontroller industry as a whole needs to embrace. Embedded development teams have long demanded of their processor vendors a rich supply of development tools and library software in order for the team to even consider adopting a given processor architecture. Where vendors could not provide the needed resources themselves, they have sought out third-party support.
The addition of network connectivity and become part of the IoT is the next wave of evolution for processor-based systems, so it makes sense to expect that development teams will gravitate to vendors that will help them navigate the resulting added complexity. And because the processor-based device must also have an associated network service component to complete the IoT system, the inclusion of cloud services is a natural extension to processor design support for vendors to offer. TI's IoT cloud ecosystem may be the template of what to expect from all processor vendors within a few years.
— Rich Quinnell, , Editor in Chief, IoT World