Let’s face it. Practically every tech company is dazzled, or more accurately, dazed by the sheer volume of the projected IoT market — “50 billion devices to be connected to the Internet by 2020” — as predicted by Cisco.
I’m not about to dispute that forecast. But I am curious to find out how that translates into the SoC market.
EE Times recently sat down with Richard Wawrzyniak, senior market analyst at Semico Research Co., to see how the promise of IoT market is affecting the SoC landscape.
As Wawrzyniak sees it, every chip vendor gunning right now for the IoT market is picking only “a niche or two” where they think they can win.
Unlike smartphone apps processors, for example, the IoT SoC platform, even if there is such a thing, is unlikely to cover a full range of needs. After all, IoT is a wildly diversified and fragmented market.
The three obvious building blocks identified as necessary in IoT end-node devices are sensors, MCUs, and wireless connectivity.
Wawrzyniak’s colleague Tony Massimini, chief of technology at Semico, is on record saying that, in addition, the indispensable elements that will drive the IoT market are “power management, algorithm (sensor fusion), and embedded security.”
“The concept that ‘super cheap chips have to be there’ [to kick start IoT] is fraud,” Wawrzyniak noted.
By going cheap, he explained, you leave out potentially critical factors like security, regarded by some as a linchpin. In some IoT device use cases, WiFi connectivity could be also necessary.
In recent months, you might have noticed more talk in the media about IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. The IoT industry might be waking up to the fact that IoT for home is really the hardest trick to pull off.
If a home comes with 30 connected devices (not just connected light bulbs but everything else) running 70 individual apps, the inevitable question is who is going to maintain and manage the network, asked Wawrzyniak.
Unlike Industrial IoT, with budgets to pay for professionals to manage the network, not many homeowners are going to spring for a live-in IoT manager, he explained.
That’s one reason why the cost of some consumer IoT devices, on the SoC level, will eventually escalate, said Wawrzyniak. For example, all those connected devices won’t remain as dumb end nodes. Some might need to come with a graphical user interface, so that users can access IoT devices and understand how to use them, said the analyst.
There is one other matter to consider, Wawrzyniak added. If we’re talking about a standalone IoT device — like a door knob or thermostat — to be used at a single point in the home, there’s no problem. But once such a device gets connected to something else, the whole shebang suddenly becomes “a system,” he cautioned.
What matters, said Wawrzyniak, is how deep to embed a connected device into the network. That’s an important question, said Wawrzyniak, because it alters the nature and the architecture of an IoT SoC.
At the advent of IoT SoC proliferation, Wawrzyniak is contemplating a new category — dedicated to IoT purposed SoC solutions — to the three categories of SoCs currently defined by Semico. Those three include advanced-performance multicore SoCs; value multi-core SoCs; and basic SoCs.
Next page: Rising cost of SoC designs
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