A Snapshot of the Evolving IoT Landscape, From Connectivity to Computing

January 11, 2022 by Nicholas St. John

Here, we'll round up recent releases from u-blox, Avnet and onsemi, and Murata that illustrate how the IoT industry relies on component-level advances.

The CES 2022 stage brought a slew of new IoT developments to the spotlight, including an automatic license plate reader, a smart floormat, and a glucose wristband monitor. But undergirding the many flashy, new IoT devices this year is a number of smaller hardware-based innovations. 

Here are a few highlights from u-blox, Avnet and onsemi, and Murata that illustrate how new components drive the advances in connectivity, computing, and security within the multi-billion-dollar IoT industry. 


u-blox Prioritizes AWS Connectivity

Many IoT developers today are prioritizing connectivity to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. This gives users a central hub to configure settings, analyze and process data, and troubleshoot any possible issues.

u-blox recently developed two new modules with AWS connectivity: the NORA-W2 AWS IoT ExpressLink Wi-Fi module and the SARA-R5 AWS IoT ExpressLink cellular module for IoT connectivity. u-blox says these modules offer a simplified and abstract command set that allows users to quickly set up these devices without an in-depth knowledge of programming.


Block diagram of the NORA-W2

Block diagram of the NORA-W2. Image used courtesy of u-blox

The NORA-W2 module can connect to Wi-Fi 4 and Bluetooth low-energy 5 protocols. At 10.4 mm by 14.3 mm, this module features a dual-core CPU and can be made with a pin for external antennas. Alternatively, it can have a PCB antenna pre-done.

Meanwhile, the SARA-R510 module is power-optimized. u-blox says the low-power wide-area (LPWA) module—built for battery-powered systems—consumes less than 1 uA of current in power-saving mode.


Avnet and onsemi Team Up to Combine AI and the IoT

Avnet and onsemi are also working together to create easy-to-deploy IoT solutions. In this partnership, Avnet has provided its connectivity technology, the Avnet IoTConnect platform, to the onsemi RSL10 Smart Shot Color Camera. This solution allows users to capture real-time images and transfer them to the cloud over the Bluetooth low-energy protocol. These images can then be used to manage devices, make decisions, and set alerts.

The two companies say this solution can help OEMs rapidly develop and deploy intelligent camera-based systems with minimal effort on their part. Avnet’s first integration onto an onsemi product was atop the RSL10 Sensor Development Kit, which onsemi claims have the industry’s lowest power Bluetooth radio and an array of advanced environmental sensors.


RSL10 Smart Shot Color Camera

The RSL10 Smart Shot Color Camera. Image used courtesy of onsemi

The RSL10 Smart Shot Color Camera is a complete node-to-cloud out-of-the-box solution designed for “always on,” multi-year battery life applications. During the on-state, it consumes only 3.2 mW. The advanced color and mono image sensor is paired with environmental sensors such as an accelerometer, motion sensor, and temperature sensor to allow event-based image capturing. Users can control and configure this data on the RSL10 Smart Shot mobile app as well.

The small form factor of the device also allows firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updates, 360 frames-per-second (fps) imaging, and a less than 1 fps continuous image stream via Bluetooth. This makes it useful for security applications. 

The RSL10 Sensor Development Kit provides a range of smart environmental sensing that allow cloud connectivity for end-to-end capabilities. The kit is said to ensure device-to-device security via Veridify’s ASIL-D-certified tools. These tools can thus be utilized for machine learning and AI applications via local low-latency AI predictive algorithms.


Murata Claims "World's Smallest UWB Module"

Another company heavily involved in IoT development is Murata, which is developing an ultra-wideband (UWB) module that measures at 10.5 by 8.3 by 1.44 mm. This device supports frequency bands 5 and 9 and utilizes short-range RF to implement Type 2AB UWB and Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) connectivity.

Murata says this module includes built-in security and accurate position detection, making it a worthwhile candidate for healthcare and industrial applications. The system contains three antennae: two UWB for phased difference of arrival (PDoA) and one for BLE communication. It also uses high-density memory, a 250 nA deep sleep mode, wide temperature ranges (-40 to 85°C), and voltage ranges (2.5 to 3.6 V).


Murata Type2AB module

The Murata Type2AB module. Image used courtesy of Murata

PDoA is an essential tool to measure the angle of arrival. This measurement is of high interest in the IoT community to provide real-time positioning and localization. It measures the angle of a receiver from a dedicated transmitter device. Decawave has provided users the ability to perform this measurement via PDoA as well as time difference of arrival (TDoA).


The Embedded IoT Evolves With Micro Advances

From big-name protocols like AWS to rising underdogs like UWB, the connectivity landscape is rapidly evolving at the chip level. Further, the team-up between Avnet and onsemi demonstrates how power continues to be a paramount focus as edge computing becomes a staple in many IoT devices.  

Each of these companies is working to create IoT frameworks that allow engineers to quickly prototype and deploy IoT solutions in a variety of fields.



What do you think will be the next big hurdle for embedded IoT design? Share your thoughts in the comments below.