Providing the building blocks for “Smart Things” for the IoT

Internet of Things, Smart Things Leave a Comment

The first wave of Internet technology connected people to people and people to organizations via web sites and applications like email. Shortly afterwards, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) phenomena began, quickly opening the potential for billions of “smart things” to communicate with each other using the nearly ubiquitous Internet Protocol technology.

One of the most critical factors which has enabled the rapid expansion – and acceptance – of IoT in the past 3-4 years has been the enormous progress in the underlying technologies. ST and other semiconductor companies have made in making the technologies which are considered the key building blocks of the IoT more compact, more intelligent, more energy-efficient, secure, modular, and affordable enough to be deployed on a large scale. This in turn has spurred the creativity of both large OEMs and startups.

What exactly is a “smart thing?”

RS4920_Smart_Things_light_blueA “smart thing” can sense, monitor, and react to its environment, securely processing the information it collects, then communicate the results to other smart objects – all while managing its power consumption.
ST broadly defines Smart Things as devices with the following features:
• The ability to sense their environment and to act on it – enabled by sensors and micro-actuators (motion, pressure/altitude, temperature, sound, light, etc.)
• A brain to process information and keep it secure – powered by microcontrollers
• Connection with the outside world – enabled by a suite of connectivity products supporting different protocols depending on the frequency and volume of information shared (Cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, LoRa, Sigfox etc.)
• Energy-efficient and energy-savvy capacities – supported by a variety of power and analog components optimized for each sub-system
Enabling Smart Things design – for everyone

Given this definition, many categories of the personal devices we use today are already “Smart Things” such as smartphones, tablets, wearables and connected devices in our homes. But it goes beyond just consumer applications to other objects, that embrace the vast universe of “things” in our offices and factories, on the streets, or in our cars that, by connecting to the Internet, are able to access and share information.

ST today provides all the building blocks designers need to build a broad range of Smart Things.

But it’s not only about making the individual building blocks available. ST also provides a broad range of evaluation and prototyping kits for designers to tinker with and start building new devices. Foremost among these is the ecosystem built around our STM32 microcontroller and the STM32 Nucleo board-based STM32 Open Development Environment. These tools enable developers to build prototypes rapidly and easily by combining essential functions around the STM32 which has become one of the most common “brains” of smart things already on the market.

While estimates vary widely vary, some pundits project 30 billion IoT connected devices are expected to be in service by the end of 2020.

The possibilities are endless – just look at some of the ideas on Kickstarter every week!