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The Road to IoT 2.0: Requirements, Challenges and Solutions

The Road to IoT 2.0: Requirements, Challenges and Solutions

An article by Dr. Erik Volkerink, Chief Business Officer and Executive VP of Heptagon, a member of the ams group, Armen Kazanchian, Founder and President RF Digital Corporation, a subsidiary of Heptagon, and Skanda Visvanathan, VP and GM of Heptagon’s 3D Imaging Business.*

Introduction

First generation IoT products positioned the mobile phone application as the one-to-one remote control of a product and at times were more gimmicks demonstrating wireless technology than truly enhancing user experiences. As we are heading toward a world with 10+ IoT products per user or household, the model of having a dedicated app per product is quickly running out of steam: intuitive, user-friendly and seamless ways of interfacing will become paramount. Next generation user interfaces need to be truly centered on the user and their habits versus centered on specific product specifications. They will need to be dynamic, context and location aware, and span across multiple products rather than exclusively serving one specific product. In fact, next generation user experiences are not bound to the screen of a mobile phone but involve augmented and virtual reality, gesture recognition, eye-tracking, and voice-controlled virtual assistants with authentication not through fingerprints or simple pin codes, but through touchless iris scanning or face recognition. Products will need to become truly smart – smart enough to interact with the environment to enable seamless integration in a very secure fashion: Welcome to the Interface-of-Things™.

These requirements come at a time when the electronics industry is barely keeping up with the transition from digital to wireless products, which in itself is a technology transition as profound as when the industry moved from analog to digital products. There are numerous implementation challenges with the above vision of the future. At design time, it is unclear what products a specific user will interact with; therefore, products need to be mutually aware in ways unknown a-priori. In fact, over-the-air updates become paramount. Products have to become truly intelligent, context aware and able to communicate, not only their presence, but everything required to interact with it. At the same time, interface platforms need to be able to render the interfaces required to deal with end products on the fly. The technology stack needs to be implemented very effectively and efficiently as latency stacking prohibitively amplifies latency issues in a world with 10+ IoT products. Next generation interface technology such as augmented reality, virtual reality, gesture recognition, will need to be simplified and modularized into simple plug and play building blocks to penetrate the larger economy. Moreover, all levels of the IoT technology stack need to be modularized to simplify development.

These challenges further widen the gap between development complexity and productivity in a world where many IoT projects are already challenged to deliver results that are on time, on target and on budget. New and more agile IoT development methodologies are needed, leveraging plug and play building blocks versus traditional waterfall approaches, in order to win in the IoT 2.0 era and beyond.

Solutions

For many of us, the mobile phone was the first connected product we experienced, which in many ways calibrated our IoT product expectations in terms of over-the-air updates, fast development cycles, and slick user interfaces. Early IoT products (IoT 1.0) were centered around dedicated apps and were limited in capabilities such as voice and gesture interactivity. They were developed using simple and sequential waterfall approaches. Instead of focusing solely on basic point-to-point connectivity, a new IoT era now calls for more functionality with better integration and usability, driving the need for a new methodology for faster product development.

Centered on user habits and intentions vs. products: The IoT 1.0 paradigm of one app per product is becoming less and less viable in a world with an exploding number of apps. Cross-industry collaboration and technology becomes paramount to enable user interfaces that are location and context aware, and which sense user intentions such as apps that display relevant information and control components as you walk into a new environment.
Heptagon smartphone appA great example of this is a hotel. Envision that you arrive at a new hotel and walk up to a kiosk that senses your presence. You securely exchange information, are checked in, and then directed to your room. When you approach your room you are detected and can unlock the door with your phone and a password. Once inside the room you can operate everything from the lights, temperature, minibar, and even order room service, all by simply navigating the environment. Ideally you never had to download a new app and your interactions are completely secure. The RF Digital Simblee technology from Heptagon, a member of the ams Group, not only makes this scenario possible, but it provides a rapid path to development.

Touch screens vs. advanced interfacing: Gesture recognition, popularized by futuristic and science fiction movies, is rapidly finding its way into the most innovative IoT products. In the era of multiple 3D vision-enabled products such as collaborative augmented reality goggles, resilience against interference is paramount. A non-intrusive additional dimension is needed to get the necessary insights into the scene to make these products work smoothly. Next generation product authentication will not go through simple pin codes, but through iris scanning or face recognition. 3D vision solutions from Heptagon, an ams Group, provide gesture recognition, augmented reality and virtual reality capabilities that work both indoors as well as outside, resolving interference issues. Moreover, illumination solutions address the need of eye-tracking, iris scanning, as well as face recognition.

Advanced sensors: New sensors, in terms of capabilities or price point, enable new product functionalities. For example, spectrometry technology can enable a lot of new IoT products. The sensors can identify common organic materials such as foods, fabrics and materials, agriculture, environment, medicine and pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, petrochemicals, and more. Heptagon, a member of the ams Group, is at the forefront of new sensor modalities, and the Simblee-connected handheld spectrometer is one example of this. Another real-world example combines advanced sensors into a system to provide essential air quality monitoring for an industrial shop, where large amounts of dangerous chemicals are often released in the air. Without proper venting, prolonged exposure can prove dangerous and have serious long-term effects. Ideally, industrial shops would be outfitted with sensors that determine when air quality reaches an unsafe level and integrated into a smart connected system which notifies, alerts, and activates ventilation. Heptagon, a member of the ams group, combines Simblee with ams sensors, to accomplish this, making environmental safety simple in an industrial environment. Here’s how it works:

Agile vs. waterfall methodologies: Traditionally, companies have used a serial approach to product development, referred to as a waterfall methodology. In the area of software development, a major transition happened toward an agile development methodology. Agile development describes a set of principles for product development through which requirements and solutions evolve in a collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement. Agile development encourages rapid and flexible responses to change. However, IoT product development is still very much done using a waterfall approach leading to challenges related to on time, on scope, and on budget delivery. Especially in the case of IoT products, the new IoT technology stack is not well understood, while end-users are demanding new products faster than ever, with regular updates, and with all the new requirements of IoT 2.0 products. Due to these and other competitive pressures, the waterfall customization of cookie-cutter IoT reference designs is rapidly running out of steam.

Diagram: Heptagon agile developmentHeptagon, a member of the ams Group, has solved this problem with RF Digital’s Simblee and enabled true contemporary development protocols and tools to accelerate innovation toward IoT 2.0 intelligent products, and continues to rapidly expand its Interface-of-Things™ ecosystem with qualified sensors as well as application platforms. The company’s RF Digital Simblee ecosystem currently consists of 1,500 engineers, marketing professionals, and executives from 50+ companies working with the technology and participating online in its IoT forum.

Agile Principles * Agile Software Development * Simblee Development
Individuals and interactions Self-organization and motivation are important, as are interactions like co-location and pair programming Co-location and pair development are supported
Working software and hardware Working software is more useful and welcome than just presenting documents to clients in meetings. At any time, there is working hardware (not documents) using Simblee building blocks
Customer collaboration Requirements cannot be fully collected at the beginning of the software development cycle, therefore continuous customer or stakeholder involvement is very important. Requirements of IOT products are not always clear and the model allows for continuous customer involvement and inputs
Responding to change Agile methods are focused on quick responses to change and continuous development. Rapid prototyping and rapid change due to modular approach.
* From the The Agile Manifesto, February 2001

The Simblee ecosystem consists of modular foundational blocks including cloud, mobile apps, sensors, actuators, and wireless subsystems, combined with a proprietary operating system that serves as the “glue.” The Simblee operating system allows developers to focus on actual use cases versus the plethora of internal hardware, software, cloud and mobile client complexities. The framework optimizes reuse while preserving the desired customization, effectively enabling the agile product innovation methodology for IoT products with a seamless path to mass production.

Summary

Welcome to IoT 2.0, where products evolve to be connected, adaptive, and mutually aware in ground-breaking and exciting new ways. Development cycles are compressed and methodologies are truly agile, leveraging plug and play building blocks focusing on fundamentals. A world where the environment, user-interfaces or even capabilities are not fully known a-priori. New capabilities and improved user experiences are developed and available faster and more cost-effectively. Heptagon, a member of the ams Group, offers complete, simple and seamless solutions, powering the Interface of Things™ and paving the way for this next era of IoT to thrive!

* Co-authors:
Erik VolkerinkDr. Erik H. Volkerink serves as Chief Business Officer and Executive VP of Heptagon, now a member of the ams group, and also serves as CEO of RF Digital Corporation, a subsidiary of Heptagon developing connectivity solutions for IoT products. Dr. Volkerink formerly served as the CTO of $26B Flextronics, CTO of Advantest Americas, and CTO of Verigy. He is an angel investor in various startups, holds a PHD EE from Stanford, a MBA from Wharton, and had served as a Consulting Professor of Stanford University. https://www.linkedin.com/in/volkerink


Armen KazanchianArmen Kazanchian is the Founder and President of RF Digital Corporation, a subsidiary of Heptagon. An accomplished entrepreneur, electrical engineer and system architect, Armen Kazanchian has been shaping the wireless industry for 30 years, and most recently with his launch of the innovative RFduino and Simblee™ technology and ecosystem. https://www.linkedin.com/in/armen-kazanchian-a1922b120


Skanda VisvanathanSkanda Visvanathan has held the position of Vice President and General Manager of the 3D Imaging Solutions BU at Heptagon since February 2016. He has over 20 years of experience in the Semiconductor Industry – in the US, Europe, Asia and South America. Skanda has previously held senior management positions at Hewlett Packard, Agilent Technologies and Advantest, where he successfully grew emerging product lines into large multi-million dollar businesses. Skanda has a degree in Communications Engineering (Dipl. Ing. Nachrichten Technik) from the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, Germany as well as an MBA from the University of Warwick, Great Britain. https://www.linkedin.com/in/skanda-visvanathan-2189178/

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