(This is one in a series of blog posts previewing Arm TechCon 2017 in Santa Clara. This post in particular highlights an IoT panel session scheduled for Thursday, The Road to One Trillion Devices).

By Shawn Prestridge 

Shawn Prestridge on IoT scaling2035 is only 18 years from now–not very long in the big scheme of things. So if we as an industry are going to deliver a trillion devices, we’ve got to get moving. Most of those devices are going to power Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and that’s a quickly evolving market. IoT’s possibilities are almost literally endless, which makes things a challenge when you think about how to design solutions for it.

A colleague, Cadence’s Frank Schirrmeister, writing on this topic nearby, has estimated that a trillion devices equals an average of about 150 for every human on the planet. He shows how that’s nearly achievable now.

But how do we get there?

Keys to a trillion IoT devices

For me and IAR Systems, there are two non-negotiable tenets:

  1. Never stop listening to what your customers really need. As vendors in the embedded industry, we need to stay innovative and continue to help our customers accelerate development in order to get competitive connected products to market faster and easier. This is easier said than done. The history of electronics innovations shows how startups fill a technology vacuum but over time have difficulty pivoting into adjacent markets or moving to the next level because they fear cannibalizing existing business. Harvard’s Clayton Christensen has famously written about this “innovator’s dilemma.” Staying a step ahead of the competition and ourselves requires vigilance; it’s also part art and part science, but that first step is never stop listening to those customers.
  2. Treat data with respect through complete security. This not only involves personal data in the cloud but also data during the entire lifecycle of a connected product, from silicon device manufacture to end-user product updates. If we use data in the right way we can make product development more efficient, get reliable products to market faster, and increase quality of life for all humans.
    Security issues need to be solved. Delivering completely secure, embedded systems for IoT devices is a major challenge today. This is especially challenging in high-growth markets such as critical infrastructure, industrial IoT and automotive. The good thing is that most companies are aware of these issues and thanks to that we are seeing several major initiatives to solve such problems.

Right direction?

Given that IoT is here now and the industry is starting to deliver solutions, are there indications that we’ve started on the right path to a trillion devices?

Yes. We’re already seeing innovative and complete development technologies, such as Renesas’ Synergy Platform, are out and helping developers get started more quickly than even before. The Synergy platform allows developers to access high quality tools and middleware with virtually no up-front cost such that when they succeed in bringing their product to market, then we also succeed.

Ongoing partnerships and collaborations are making IoT real. We need to work together to share ideas, establish strong strategic alliances and provide new technology offerings. This is already happening in the industry! We at IAR Systems have taken some major steps regarding this during the past couple of years, for example through our partnership with Renesas for the Renesas Synergy Platform. Our recent investment in Secure Thingz is also a step toward the future to enable more secure, connected devices across their entire lifecycle. Secure Thingz helps developers to protect their intellectual property from theft by unauthorized duplication of their end products which is key to help IoT survive; great ideas need to be justly rewarded in the marketplace and this can only be done if they are protected from theft.

The pace of idea-to-target seems to be accelerating exponentially which means that we are getting better at getting the right mix of components that developers can put together easily. This lowers the barriers to developing killer applications and makes more people participate.
So are there any showstoppers?

There are always things to watch out for in any emerging space. For IoT, even though we all want quality code, code quality is something that might be left behind with the increased demands on shorter time to market. We as tool vendors can help developers in this by providing easy-to-use code analysis tools.

Once we get there, once we hit that trillion devices mark, the world we’re be looking at will be quite a bit different. We’ll live healthier lives, for one thing. Virtually all industries have devices or products that can be further utilized through improved communication and connectivity. Companies will increase profit and reduce costs through new business models and solutions, all while making things more convenient for the user and improving the quality of life worldwide.

The IoT will also be key to realizing a more sustainable future for the world. Through improved products and life, we can gain a major positive environmental impact on our planet and the way we consume our limited natural resources. If we play our cards right, IoT can have the power of saving the entire planet.

(Shawn Prestridge has served as IAR Systems’ Senior Field Applications Engineer since 2008. Shawn has worked in the software industry since 1993 and prior to joining IAR Systems he held the position of Embedded Hardware/Software Engineer with Texas Instruments as well as doing Embedded Development as the owner of Ministry of Software.)