Although many in the electronics field lambast the Internet of Things (IoT) as an inappropriate or inadequate acronym, IoT is a space to huge to be confined to these narrow adjectives. In reality, IoT requires a blanket description, as it covers a vast arena. Problems arise from compartmentalization and although various spaces such as industrial and medical have established a big head start, others have yet to launch their true separate identities.
For the electronics designer this means taking the general palette of IoT features and functionalities and tailoring them specifically to the application at hand. The designer must be knowledgeable about state-of-the-art technologies such as those required for cloud connectivity, wireless design infrastructure, interface ergonomics, and internal power management. The designer must be familiar with the methods of manifesting them in their design, as these may be critical aspects.
For instance, there are several suggestions for scaling the IoT from smart factories to smart homes. Although there are blueprints for pollution reduction, city traffic management, and electrical energy distribution, the purveyors of industrial-grade operating systems do not yet have a detailed plan for the smart home.
According to Wei Tong, Product Marketing Manager of Dialog Semiconductors, wearable technologies can do far more than simply functioning as personal items. Using Bluetooth, a communications standard protocol, wearable devices can connect to a larger network, allowing them to communicate with other devices via beacons and sensors, thereby manifesting the larger Internet of Things.
However, despite the birth of the phrase “the Internet of Things” 18 years ago, and the first connected IoT device 35 years ago, consumers are yet to adopt wearable IoT in mass quantities. According to Nick Davis, this is due to two factors—first, ease of use, or lack thereof, and second, lacking the purpose or serving the wrong purpose.
For instance, take the case of “smart” light bulbs. Some are easy to connect to and control with smartphones, while others give users a hard time. According to Nick Davis, once people face such difficulties, they tend to give up on the entire IoT and smart device concept.
Another example Nick Davis gives is that of a smart toaster or smart refrigerator and the purpose they serve. According to Nick, most companies have not done proper market research into the actual requirement of people who use toasters and refrigerators, and what the consumers expect in such smart devices. However, several new products on the market are potentially useful to designers.
Another example of wrong purpose is the video sunglasses from Snap, the parent company of Snapchat. These are basic sunglasses with a video camera attached. They allow users to capture and post videos more easily to Snapchat. According to Nick, Snap is stuck with hundreds of thousands of their unsold spectacles. Apparently, Snap did not realize that people are not very keen on walking around taking videos with their eyewear.
Despite such debacles above, newer products are appearing on the market that help designers achieve better energy-efficient IoT products, voice recognition engines, and flexible and smart motor-control options that are also lightweight and compact.