Kevin Parmenter, Field Applications Engineer, Taiwan Semiconductor
Our industry loves acronyms in a big way. I think this is so finance people can sound like technologists and speak in industry jargon that makes them sound like experts in things other than financial analysis of organizations. In this case, IoT (or Internet of things), IIOT (the industrial Internet of things), and IoE (the Internet of everything) are just the same thing with different points of view — taking things we have had for a while, with newly developed products, and adding an Internet connection to them.
The other night, I arrived home before my wife and started dinner. We had recently bought a new oven, and my wife was visiting with her sister. She called me to let me know her phone with the appliance maker’s app told her all the statistics of my cooking. She knew the temp and condition of dinner remotely better than I did. Our thermostat does the same things. How does that relate to power? Adding an Internet connection to products to enhance their usefulness and functionality requires power from the point of data origin all the way to the point of delivery and everywhere in between.
I have been evaluating a portable piece of test equipment and they wisely choose to use an open OS we use on our phones. I can email data to myself, photos of the test plots, I can save to USB, or I can simply send them to whatever I want via Bluetooth. I can run the instrument remotely with my phone. Clearly, this is an IoT device should I choose it to be. This enhances an already good product to make it great and easier to integrate into our regular technology lives. Do we need it always? I don’t think I need my blender to have an IP address. However, if I am looking for test equipment or medical instrumentation – say a clinical chemistry analyzer or a copier – it’s great for the service staff to be able to diagnose and potentially repair the equipment remotely or diagnose what the issue is and bring the proper parts the first time on a service call.
Even preventative maintenance can be done remotely. Case in point, the two-way radio system for municipalities, utilities, and so forth. I recently attended IWCE, which is the big conference in this industry. 2-way radio systems must be on and available 24/7/365, and traditionally, the way you would know they were down is someone called you. “Hey, the repeater at X quit working”. The service person would go fix or replace it. Now the entire interface with the repeater is an ethernet port. If something goes wrong, the repeater will send a text to the right people with a message “VSWR on antenna port 3.5/1" and someone can be dispatched or software updates can be pushed to the repeaters and/or all radio users remotely, and a dashboard can be provided to show system status. In a short period of time, these systems have transformed from a box of parts to process, switch, and amplify signals to having significant computational and I/O power.
Products are becoming computers first (and whatever their functionality is) to software-defined and remote-diagnostics enabled. In many product industries, this is giving users functionality and capabilities they never imagined before. They can check on their system from a computer, phone, or tablet sitting by the pool somewhere vs. in-person inspection. This goes for factory automation as well. Security must be implemented to keep hackers out. However, this is going to challenge those of us in power to make it all happen — POE, energy harvesting, server power, power over 4-20 mA loops, batteries and battery chargers, components and capacitors to power the peak RF amplifier transmit peaks, and more. This is great for us as it will push the boundaries farther as customers demand more.