Will the Internet of Things transform hardware design?

It’s becoming more clear that if the Internet of Things is going to reach its full potential, we’re going to have to figure out new strategies for powering sensors. I’ve looked at ‘ambient backscatter’ as an energy harvesting possibility and there’ve been attempts to use kinetic energy by attaching sensors to something that moves.

That thinking is now coming to the world of chips. ARM has taken enormous market share in mobile by being the low power chip of choice, transforming design from the smartphone to the server. But the company is also concerned about chips that could power lots of tiny sensors. In fact, its CEO Warren East often speaks bullishly on the future of the embedded market.

Mike Muller, ARM’s CTO, recently said in an EETimes story that “Normally, the best strategy is to do processing as fast as possible and then go to sleep for as long as possible — get in and get out. But for energy scavenging, it can be different. And it turns out the design tradeoffs are different.”

The demands of the Internet of Things will impact how the chip itself functions because rather than having access to large bursts of power, sensor chips could use a continuous low flow of harvested power dictated by the rate of energy scavenging. It’s still very early for the Internet of Things, but similar to the scaling up of the cloud, I can see it beginning to transform hardware design.

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Adam Lesser

Cleantech Curator Gigaom Research

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