Building wireless sensor- and M2M- based IoTs with programmable SoCs - Embedded.com

Building wireless sensor- and M2M- based IoTs with programmable SoCs

At the recent Electronica, Cypress Semiconductor's announcement of its newest ARM-based devices – the PSoc5 family of Bluetooth (BLE) optimized FPGA/MCU combos  – caught everyone by surprise, targeted as it was at the consumer IoT space, already crowded by diverse ARM and other 32-bit CPU-based offerings.

But a review in this week's Tech Focus Newsletter of some of the uses of the company’s PSoc devices – ranging from its 8051-based PSoC1 and PSoC3 devices to its more recent ARM based implementations – indicates that the Cypress approach presents an attractive option to developers of a range of wireless sensor, machine-to-machine, and other Internet of Things designs.

Of the articles and papers included in this week's newsletter, my Editor's Top Picks of articles that illustrate this flexibility are:

Over-The-Air Programming of a WSN sensor interface
A PSoC3-based wireless sensor interface that allows over-the-air reprogramming of distributed motes allows them to be adjusted to changing environmental conditions or tasks.

A Universal Intelligent System-on-Chip Based Sensor Interface
The design of a Universal Intelligent Sensor Interface (UISI) based on a PSoC1 provides a flexible analog and/or digital front-end able to interface different transducer typologies used in WSN-based monitoring systems.

A cloud-based Cyber-Physical System for environmental monitoring
A Cyber-Physical System (CPS) is described for real-time monitoring of environmental data collected from multiple small, low-power embedded nodes built using Programmable SoCs.

Unlike the new Cypress Bluetooth optimized 32-bit PSoC4 BLE is described in “The role of Bluetooth Low Energy in wearable IoT designs,” many early wireless sensor and M2M apps are based on earlier Programmable SoC implementations based on the 8-bit 8051 MCU. None the less, they illustrate the range of wireless sensor and machine-to-machine IoT network applications to which a programmable SoC approach can be applied.

Much of the consumer segment of the IoT market is constrained to predictable human-dictated uses and form factors, well suited to standard processor cookie-cutter design methodologies. This is due to the fact that as the mobile and smartphone market has begun to saturate, major players there have been looking for new markets in IoT for the Android software platform and ARM's 32-bit processors, among others, to offset flattening sales. Why mess with a formula that’s worked remarkably well for the last decade?

How well Android and the various 32-bit CPUs will do in the broader Internet of Things markets – outside the most obvious consumer apps — is a big question in my mind. If anything my analysis of all aspects of the wireless sensor and machine to machine markets for IoTs tells me that it is likely to be a wild and unpredictable application development space, not totally dependent on the word size of the processor. Leadership will go to the platform that offers the most flexibility and range of power-versus-performance options, regardless of whether it is an 8-bit or a 32-bit implementation.

Based on the different directions developers have taken Cypress's earlier eight-bit offerings, I think that their programmable SoC approach may pay off there as well.

Embedded.com Site Technical Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week Embedded.com newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. If you want to see a calendar of topics for upcoming weekly Tech Focus newsletters or have a topic you would like to see covered on Embedded.com, he welcomes your feedback. Send an email to , or call 928-525-9087.

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