By Eric Huang, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, USB Controllers
The Internet of Things (IoT) market encompasses a broad range of applications from human-interactive wearables to fully automated machine to machine (M2M) applications used in in smart machines, buildings, and entire cities. All of these IoT products have the common requirement of being “always on” or “mostly on” to continuously gather data from the environment and transmit the data to the cloud. While the devices run continuously, they must also minimize power consumption while performing wireless communication and sensor processing tasks.
For the next few years, IoT products will likely ship in volumes below the tens of millions of units annually, which limits the efficiency of designing a single system-on-chip (SoC) to roll out across a broad range market applications. Mobile phones, for example, ship in the tens of millions of units and therefore can use a single, highly integrated SoC with hundreds of functions (and IP cores) on one chip. On the other hand, IoT systems will be assembled and built from multiple discrete ICs as their volumes increase. As a result, connectivity inside an IoT system and on the printed circuit board (PCB) will be extremely important.
The architecture of IoT systems must be designed with the flexibility required to handle different wireless protocols, minimize power consumption, and add new sensor inputs. The natural solution to ensure flexibility is integrating an interface for both internal and external connections. USB is the clear choice. With USB, consumers can plug any device into a PC and it will work. Most tablets, PCs, and mobile phones have at least three internal, on-PCB USB connections for the keyboard, touchpad, touch screen, camera and/or modem, adding up to billions of USB peripheral chips with thousands of functions. USB’s ubiquity in computers, phones, TVs, and set top boxes includes an ecosystem of chips with USB interfaces ready to plug into those devices.