Semtech Corp. and IBM announced Friday an advancement in wireless technology that could help boost the capabilities and utility of small, low-powered sensors. The advancement, which includes a data transmission distance up to nine miles, could become a significant factor in a world where sensors are everywhere -- the so-called Internet of Things.
Next week, the two companies will be demonstrating their jointly-developed solution at a European trade show. It includes a software development kit from IBM, called Mote Runner, for Semtech’s low-power SX1272 radio frequency integrated circuits and gateways.
The sensor platform utilizes Semtech’s long range, or LoRa, modulation technology that is designed to dramatically improve existing modulation techniques. IBM’s software, which allows applications to be loaded or updated over-the-air, is already being used in sensors that monitor snow accumulation in the Sierra Mountains in California and measure air quality in various cities.
Smart Metering, Train Tracks
The IBM/Semtech solution enables data transmission distances up to nine miles in rural areas, and up to three miles in urban ones. The companies said the current maximum distance of a smart-meter transceiver is up to about 1.2 miles.
The new sensors employ a star network architecture, in which each gateway can handle millions of transactions daily. Applications could include smart metering or remote monitoring of train tracks; the system is designed in particular for battery-operated devices.
Thorsten Kramp, an IBM researcher, said in a statement that his company’s vision of a Smarter Planet requires improving “the usability of instrumented sensors and devices to securely and efficiently manage large volumes of data” and to handle adaptive long-range communication, which Semtech’s long-range hardware and IBM’s software can now accomplish.
Although there are varying definitions of the term, the Internet of Things often refers to an emerging stage of the Internet when there is an explosion of Net-based sensors and tracking devices that could reach 22 billion Web-connected devices by 2020, according to IMS Research. One piece of the puzzle to employ this sensor-everywhere data deluge is the development of low-powered, far-reaching wireless sensor networks, or WSNs.
The Weightless Standard
Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, told NewsFactor that the IBM/Semtech solution could be an important part of the puzzle for one segment of the Internet of Things, where we “want to collect and transmit information from remote spots.”
He added that another piece could be Weightless, a new effort to create a global standard for machine-to-machine communications that is backed by chip designer ARM and telecommunications provider Cable & Wireless, among others.
Other puzzle pieces are arriving on a regular basis. In June, for instance, Microsoft first showed its embedded version of Windows 8 that could be used in a wide variety of non-computer objects, products and machines. Cisco has gone one step further, regularly releasing reports on the Internet of Everything, which includes not only sensors on physical objects but mobile devices, big data analysis and social media monitoring in its terminology.