How Can We Create One Trillion Connected Devices?

November 8, 2017

Christine Young By: Christine Young
Blogger, Maxim Integrated 


This year's Arm TechCon was focused on how we can put the internet in many more things. You've probably heard the oft-quoted forecast about 50 billion internet of things (IoT) devices by 2020 (Got your smart refrigerator yet?). In Arm's world, it's all about the march toward one trillion smart, connected devices.

In a July blog post, Arm® CEO Simon Segars wrote about sharing views on the future of technology with Masayoshi Son, CEO and chairman of Softbank, back in 2006. Ten years later, SoftBank acquired Arm, and a shared vision around intelligence and connectivity has emerged. "Our vision will change the way we interact with things and each other. It will deliver value and enhance our ability to shape our world. Crucially, it will enable us to make progress sustainably and safely, and make possible anything we dream," Segars wrote. "We think the Arm ecosystem is the rallying point for tomorrow—and the heart of a future built on the silicon of a trillion secure, connected devices that will lead to world-changing inventions."

In two keynotes that kicked off Arm TechCon on Tuesday, October 24, Mike Muller, one of the company's founders and now CTO, and Dipesh Patel, president of the company's IoT Services Group, talked about what it will take to create a trillion connected devices.

Inspired by a chat with his son, who's pursuing a master's in product design, Muller framed his talk around the need to factor in emotion when designing products and user interfaces. Anger, awe, trust, joy – these are all feelings that can be evoked when using or examining new products. For example, Muller highlighted his feelings of awe when watching the precise, remote landing of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on a barge in the middle of the ocean. The awe, he said, stemmed from how impressed he felt about good, old-fashioned engineering (especially after recalling NASA's Saturn V program and the progressions made since then). Anger comes into play when, for instance, a product is poorly designed or its lifecycle not well managed. He cited the example of an angry tweet from a former owner of an electric vehicle, who continued receiving maintenance alerts on his smartphone long after selling the car. Then there’s joy—we all feel this when a product solves a problem in a better way or is simply delightful to use. For Muller, joy comes when he contemplates the types of products that his son may someday create.

"What's 20 years in the future going to look like? It's going to be smartphone meets DNA sequencing meets gene editing…all kinds of things that will be a whole new class of product," Muller said.

Muller shared his current favorite IoT device: a video-based in-home monitor for heart patients. Developed by Heartfelt Technologies, this scanner, which could be hung on a wall, captures cardiovascular information when the patient walks by. The data is transmitted to the cloud for processing and the monitor sends alerts to a care team when, for instance, a patient’s ankles are swollen, a predictor of heart disease. The care team can then prompt the patient to take his or her medication. This potentially life-saving device, powered by artificial intelligence, is comprised of Raspberry Pi boards, a video camera, a hardware drive, and a network hub.

"People are taking components, putting them together, and making new products," said Muller. "That’s the reason why I believe the IoT will be transformational."

Without trust, of course, the IoT won't scale, and all of our talk about one trillion connected devices will be for naught. "Security cannot be optional," Muller emphasized.
 Smart home

How many smart, connected things do you have inside your home?

Start of an IoT Revolution

For Patel, now could be the beginning of a revolution—a visionary view that we may be able to look upon with greater clarity 10 or 20 years down the road. In his keynote talk, he focused on three requirements for the IoT: simplicity, security, and scalability. First off, devices need to be easy to create, deploy, and manage throughout their lifecycles. Second, "security needs to be a first-class citizen, it cannot be an afterthought," he said. Third, "Any solution that you create, if you're going to reach billions and billions of devices, needs to be scalable."

Patel's talk highlighted several Arm solutions that can help designers meet IoT challenges around everything from power to connectivity and security. The open-source Arm Mbed OS embedded operating system, for example, delivers functions needed to develop a connected product based on an Arm Cortex®-M microcontroller: security, connectivity, an RTOS, and drivers for sensors and I/O devices. Mbed Cloud provides a scalable solution to address IoT device management challenges. Advantech, which provides trusted innovative embedded and automation products and solutions, trimmed the time it needed to deploy a smart parking application from typically six months down to three months by using Mbed Cloud, Patel noted. Mbed Edge runs on gateway boxes to allow monitoring and remote control of devices via the gateways themselves.

IoT success, said Patel, will require strong device-to-cloud partnerships. "If we can work together and (follow) these principles—simplicity, security, scalability—I think we can get to a trillion devices," he said in closing.