Powering the Internet of Things

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Mordor Intelligence forecasts the global IoT market to reach a value of USD 1,386.06 billion by 2026 – up from USD 761.4 billion in 2020. This 10.53% CAGR makes sense since “the IoT” has transitioned from a buzzword into practical applications during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even the IIoT (Industrial IoT), the concept of monitoring and often controlling things via the intern the market, is growing. Meanwhile, any discussion of the IoT brings up the topic of data security, which, in turn, affects the power electronics industry.

For instance, I recently saw a news release for a specific-purpose IoT microcontroller with secure Amazon Web Services (AWS) communications and pre-validated security firmware. It also incorporates open-sourced Trusted Firmware-M embedded security, is Platform Security Architecture (PSA) Certified Level 1, and it is FreeRTOS-qualified for secure device management. This means they have made it as easy as possible to create an IoT device while feeding data to the cloud. Although greater growth is anticipated in this market, the server cloud storage and computing market might be challenged to keep pace.

All of these IoT applications need to be powered.  Like with many applications, they often require multiple, cross-disciplined technologies to work properly. The point of data collection can be either line-powered or powered from regular batteries or Lithium Thionyl Chloride or some other exotic battery technology. The connections to the internet can use various wireless technologies or be wired. The communications infrastructure for the IoT data can be special-purpose and designed for a specific application, but it typically uses Wi-Fi and internet connections and/or the cell system.  The computing, storage and data analytics rely on fast-growing computing processing and server technologies. But again, can they keep pace?

From an economic success standpoint, the value of the IoT data must be greater than the cost of monitoring and collecting the information itself. To meet this goal, there are many new and exciting applications and business models available now or coming soon. The fantastic news about this market is the myriad of potential applications that span many segments of the electronics industry, including consumer, industrial and medical. New applications for communications electronics, for example, will provide capabilities that save time and money while increasing efficiency. This will also provide (fill in the blanks) as a service in an untold number of areas.  When released to the market, some of these new applications will prosper and grow, and some won’t survive.

Meanwhile, the IoT will drive developments in other areas, like the aforementioned specific-purpose microcontroller that solves many design challenges in one IC. Of course, as power electronics engineers we’re interested in the end-to-end powering of the IoT, communications and processing – analytics technologies. These will range from microwatts to perhaps even nanowatts and Kilowatts. The industry is up to these challenges as it continues powering our digital, storage and RF counterparts and everything in between. The IoT growth is certainly driving growth in the power electronics market.