Internet of Things sparks innovation with new options in connectivity

The floodgates have opened for today’s design engineers as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes the next frontier for technology innovation and new product development.


IoT is being lauded as one of the top 10 tech trends of 2014, with industry analysts estimating a potential market size of 26 billion installed units by 2020, driven largely by low-cost sensors.

The RFID development community initially coined term the Internet of Things (IoT) in 1999. The phrase has recently moved onto the radar of industry influencers and visionaries because of the proliferation of mobile devices, advanced embedded technologies, and the adoption of cloud computing. Today’s accepted definition refers to the connectivity of everyday objects that can be recognised, located and/or controlled via the internet.

For both consumers and businesses, IoT presents many new opportunities for innovations that leverage real-time data and data-sharing. With access to relevant data via everyday devices connected to the internet, people will be able to make better decisions based on health and fitness monitoring, more efficient transportation routes, remote medical diagnostics and tracking of agriculture or food products.

In anticipation of the inevitable explosion of IoT activity, electronic component manufacturers and distributors are ramping up new product introductions around key technologies – sensor, wireless and processor – used
to support new connectivity solutions. The market opportunity will impact end-users across many distinct vertical markets, such as consumer electronics, medical, transportation, military and aerospace.

“Innovative suppliers are eyeing new opportunities for new product development strategies, creative partnerships that leverage this disruptive technology to improve how people live and work in a more connected environment,” said Mark Zack, global VP of semiconductor product for Digi-Key. “At Digi-Key, our support of this trend provides a significant opportunity for professional engineers to design and develop innovative new products that can quickly enter the market as timely IoT solutions.”

Experts predict that, from cars to mobile devices to wearable clothing, literally billions of things will be connected to the internet within the next couple of years. This spike in connectivity means product manufacturers will have a lower barrier to entry and new options for innovation, in response to increasing demand from consumers for higher tech solutions. At the core of IoT products is the integration of tiny micromechanical (MEMS) sensors that can be programmed and equipped with microcontrollers, batteries and radio chips to send data via the internet.

As miniature, high-efficiency sensor technology becomes more pervasive, it has also become more affordable and easy to use. Engineers have access to low-cost, all-in-one units that incorporate sensors, signal processing, batteries and transmitters, forming the foundation of networked devices across a wide range of applications.

As technology continues to evolve and grow, the shift toward advanced wireless communications and M2M connectivity will clearly drive significant and exciting changes for component manufacturers and design engineers who understand the ever-changing IoT landscape and its immense impact on how we work, how we play, and how we live in today’s highly connected world.

Ian Wallace is sales director, UK & Ireland, Digi-Key Corporation
+44 (0) 1344 204002 (UK Office)