It seems like scarcely a week can go by without major advances in the Internet of things (IoT) sector. The latest news comes from a collaboration between Semtech and IBM that resulted in a technology capable of manage and transmitting sensor data wirelessly over a range of 9 miles (15 km), a distance that’s impressive by any measure.
The collaboration between tech giant IBM and Semtech (a NASDAQ-listed a company that manufactures mixed signal semiconductors) was demonstrated this week in the Semtech/Future Electronics category of the European Utility Week show in Amsterdam.
The technology is essentially a sensor platform comprising of a software and hardware element. IBM’s Mote Runner software provides the user interface and Semtech’s SX127x, an ultra-low power long-range transceiver, brings the hardware. The platform is a series of radio-frequency sensors and gateways with the customisable interface provided by IBM.
The Mote Runner software is already being used in a number of related applications out in the field. For example, it’s used to operate systems that measure air quality in several major cities and also to gauge snow accumulation in the Sierra Mountains in California. It affords users the ability to upload and modify applications over the air. Other possible uses include monitoring the health of manufacturing machinery, medical devices, train systems and agricultural and irrigation systems.
The package means that remote deployment, monitoring, development, integration and customisation are all possible via a simple visual interface. In short, it should be a simple task for engineers to set up and connect the many networks that will contribute to IoT as a whole.
The hardware aspect is brought to the IoT table by the SX127x uses Semtech’s trademarked long-range frequency modulation technology, LoRa. It was designed to significantly improve frequency modulation techniques for more reliable and stable data transmission over wireless networks. Essentially, it’s a long-range multi-modem capable of receiving several packets of data from different sources simultaneously.
According to the news announcement released by IBM, the pending explosion in smart connected devices will result in 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data being produced each day and it certainly seems like it wants to be the one transmitting as much of it as possible.
The new wireless technology may be limited depending on the lay of the land in the surrounding area. For example, to achieve the maximum range, an even landscape in a rural environment is necessary. In densely populated urban areas, the distance is likely to see a drop to around 3 miles (5 km). According to the press release, the current maximum distance for comparable technology transmitting data using a low-power system is just 1.2 miles.
Many are optimistic about the potential for the IBM/Semtech collaboration. One analyst from market research company, Reticle Research, told NewsFactor that it could be a “significant missing piece” slotted into the IoT puzzle. According to the director for wireless products at Semtech, Hardy Schmidbauer, “The biggest request we hear from our clients is longer battery life, low cost, ease of use and longer distances,” He went on to say that “With IBM, we now have an answer to all of these questions.”
It certainly seems like an interesting project so watch this space for any major developments in the upcoming months.