Internet of Things (IoT)
The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) is set not just to revolutionize the important embedded systems market, but the very nature of the way we interact with devices and the environment around us.
With intelligent and smart sensors set to become ubiquitous and in an always-on state of readiness, the future services enabled by these newly combined solutions are almost without limit.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of things is the interconnection of physical objects using an internet connection, allowing them to interact external to themselves by sending and receiving data.
IoT is an emerging market trend impacting semiconductor devices, system OEMs, cloud service providers, and internet infrastructure companies.
The ‘Things’ part of IoT is already around us, with the relevant technology embedded in smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes and other consumer and industrial devices. The power of Internet of Things is really the opportunity presented when these always-on devices can communicate not just with each other but also with cloud-based resources, services and applications.
An Internet of Things device or related service applies to the following characteristics:
- The device is connected via LAN, WLAN, or WPAN
- The device communicates certain localized information or requests for service to a network hub or through the network hub to a cloud based service
- The cloud accumulates data from the networked device or provides a service or capability to the networked device
An Internet of Things device can cover a great deal of capabilities and be part of a wide range of vertical markets. To break down the market segments of the Internet of Things, one can look at the requirements of the device in terms of:
- Sustained transmit and receive data rate required for the IoT device
- Type of data the IoT device is handling; for example, the IoT device can be generating or receiving video, audio or other content/data
- The level of processing at the edge of the network; for example, an accelerometer can measure acceleration and velocity, but local sensor data processing may convert that data into distance or energy
- The type of transactions between the device and cloud; for example, whether the device provides any type of proprietary or sensitive data such as medical information which needs to be protected by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act of 1996) laws in the United States
Most IoT applications will be supported by wireless LANs – examples include Wi-Fi (802.11n or 802.11ac), 802.15.4 (Zigbee, 6LoWPAN), Z-Wave or Bluetooth.
IoT Device Classification & Applications
IoT devices can be classified based on the type of data handled. It is useful to view the requirements for IoT devices in this way as a method of determining the device requirements from a power, connectivity, and security perspective. We can classify the devices as follows based on the types of data handled:
- Smart sensor and M2M data
- Connected audio
- Connected audio/video
- Video analytics, automotive, etc.
- High-performance compute nodes
The table below shows the requirements of the IoT device based on the type of data handled. (This table is for illustrative purposes and specific IoT device requirements may vary.)
|IoT (M2M data)||IoT (Audio)||IoT (Video and imaging)|
Ray tracing enabled imaging
Ensigma connectivity processor
Ensigma connectivity processor
|RTOS or No OS||Linux, Android or RTOS||Linux, Android|
|30 days on 700 mA-hr battery||1 day at 1000 mA-hr||Line powered by USB or line|
|BTLE and low power Wi-Fi 802.11n/BT/BTLE Later – 802.11ah||Low power 802.11n/BT/ BTLE||802.11ac|
|40 nm||40 nm/28 nm||28 nm/16 ff|
Digital Rights Management
Digital Rights Management
Wearable 2.0 to IoT Continuum
An IoT device connects a physical device to the cloud for services or further data processing. These devices require certain functional capabilities, and these capabilities will vary based on the application.
There are a set of requirements that are needed by IoT devices, but the scope and the performance of those features will vary based on the application requirements; these feature set requirements are shown below.
|Wearable 2.0 vs Internet of Things requirements|
|Leakage Power||Power Management||Active Power|
|Data Security||Security||Transaction and Data Security|
|Low Level Analysis||Sensor Data||High Level Analysis|
Internet of Things Platforms & Solutions at Imagination
Imagination’s scalable IP solutions are designed to target every level of IoT device and system and offer proven solutions to typical problems including; managing wireless communications bandwidth to balance control and data transfer needs; providing sufficient local processing resources to enable rich graphical UIs or video and image processing; controlling power consumption and efficiency; and ensuring appropriate levels of network and data security.
PowerVR: PowerVR graphics, video and display processors provide the power to handle the most advanced node-based graphics and video processing requirements as well as offering the ability to deliver the advanced UIs expected in today’s IoT devices.
Ensigma: Ensigma RPUs (Radio Processing Units) enable efficient integration of connectivity across all classes of IoT devices from the smallest sensor to the largest multimedia system.
Omnishield: Internet of Things devices must increasingly be designed to support numerous unique applications, various content sources, and in-the-field software updates from service providers and operators, all while ensuring privacy and data protection. Imagination’s OmniShield-ready hardware and software IP is ensuring that customers’ and OEMs’ IoT products are designed for security, reliability and dynamic software management, as use models and services evolve across a wide range of IoT devices.
IoT Power Management
Power management is most important for mobile and other battery backed up devices. In a battery powered device, optimizing dynamic as well as static power is imperative. Power optimization is addressed in three different ways:
- Power management control
- IP implemented for low power
- Power aware software
Power management control should address the inclusion of voltage and frequency scaling. In order to integrate power management control into an IoT device, the system designer needs to identify the known power states for each of the major functional blocks within the device. Table 2 provides an example of power states that the blocks within an SoC that are valid.
|Power State||Power applied||Clocks applied|
|On||VDD Nominal||FCLK = Full speed|
|Idle||VDD Reduced||FCLK = Full speed|
|Sleep||VDD MIN only for memory and F/F state retention||FCLK = Gated off|
|Off||VDD Off||FCLK = Gated off|
IP Implemented for Low Power IoT Applications
IP blocks for IoT should be designed to include power control wrappers for power and frequency scaling, as shown in the able above. IP providers, such as Imagination, can provide power control wrappers that will enable a functional IP block to be set to a valid power state within the device.
To implement IP for low power, the system designer must first identify the power management objectives:
- If the IoT device is turned off a majority of the time, leakage power will dominate power consumption
- If the IoT device is turned on a majority of time (e.g. sensor hubs), dynamic power will dominate power consumption
Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy)
A lot of dynamic power savings would be lost if wireless communications systems operate inefficiently. Bluetooth Smart (also known as Bluetooth Low Energy or BTLE) is positioned for very low power wireless communications, but the power reduction comes at the cost of reduced range point-to-point communications, and low data rates.
For applications requiring higher data rates, Wi-Fi would be a suitable solution. Imagination has developed a low-power Wi-Fi offering including baseband called Ensigma ‘Whisper’. Low-power Wi-Fi is possible in Whisper by exploiting the low-power aspects within the 802.11 specification. Whisper can operate 802.11n over a single 2.4GHz band radio.
Internet of Things Security
A key requirement for IoT applications is security. IoT opens up networks to a variety of threats as more and more devices are connected to a network and eventually to the cloud. Figure 3 shows an example of an IoT device being used for home automation that is connected to a home network with possible threats to the network security.
At the edge of the network, as multiple IoT devices are added, the potential threats are greatly increased. The threats to networks with connected devices are documented and are newsworthy. The LifX brand of connected LED bulbs have been reported as being able to leak wireless security information.
IoT devices must be capable of providing a robustly secure environment. Security is achieved in the
- Secure boot
- Secure code update
- Key protection
- Tamper resistance
- Access control of secure resources
- Secure DMA (Direct Memory Access) with data encryption for critical functions
- Session authentication
IoT Wireless Standards
Typical wireless IoT devices will be enabled by specific standards. The standards deployed will depend on:
- the security requirements needed
- the type of network topology to be supported (e.g. IP, mesh)
- the data rates to be supported
The diagram below provides a classification of IoT network requirements based on sustained data rate. (The majority of IoT applications are handled by Bluetooth and 802.11n.)
In an IoT system, the provision of services by the cloud will depend on several conditions. Security is a concern for device-to-cloud data transactions. An IoT device will need to support data encryption to the cloud via TLS or HTTPS.
Compared to HTTP, these lightweight signalling standards are desirable since they:
- Provide a reduced overhead for communicating to the cloud
- Reduce internet traffic data, as the data communicated is reduced
In addition, the different standards bodies have emerged to support IoT are aiming to develop software stacks that can be used across platforms.
The Thread Group has emerged in the development of a software stack that focuses on networks that are using 802.15.4 wireless mesh networks. A key benefit of a mesh network is that if any device on the network fails, the network can continue to connect and communicate to other devices on the network.
The Allseen Alliance is a nonprofit consortium that is dedicated to driving the widespread adoption of products, systems and services that support the IoT with an open, universal development framework, initially based on the AllJoyn open source project.
Standards bodies, communications standards and security requirements all impact the elements that are needed for an IoT software stack contained in an IoT device SoC.
Cloud client software elements such as those supporting Imagination’s FlowCloud device-to-cloud technology, are added to the IoT device software stack. These elements support specific cloud communications requirements as may be required by the cloud service provider.