In California's first gold rush, the real winners were people in San Francisco who "mined the miners," selling tools and supplies to everyone out looking for shiny metal. A century and a half later, the same thing is happening with the Internet of Things, where big vendors are plying IoT startups with software, hardware and services.
The billions of connected devices supposedly in our future are nothing until they actually go on the market and attract buyers. Developers are anxious to build prototypes and get into production, so vendors large and small are lining up to help them do it quickly.
A lot of that activity is taking place at and around the Internet of Things World conference in San Francisco. Startups like Ayla Networks and Mode are announcing tools and cloud services to cut out much of the work involved in developing IoT products.
Microsoft used the show to push its Azure IoT services, including billing, provisioning and analytics delivered from the company's cloud. Samsung Electronics unveiled the Artik series of hardware-software modules for devices on Tuesday, and Qualcomm is expected to announce its latest offerings in that area at an event in the city on Thursday.
None of these products sell themselves, so who's chosen to use them and what else they will work with are key. Samsung brought some intriguing examples on stage Tuesday.
Startup Boogio said using the Artik 1 module allowed it to craft a much smaller prototype of its sensor pad for feet. The Boogio pad senses movement and pressure from the wearer's feet, both standing and walking, so doctors are interested in using it with patients who have balance and mobility problems, the company says. Boogio thinks the sensors also could provide real-time data to the Oculus Rift headset for another element of realism as wearers walk through a virtual space.
The pad is designed to fit into the bottom of any shoe, but the previous prototype required a block of electronics that had to hang out over the side of the shoe. The Artik-based design has just a thin board the size of a small postage stamp, so it's closer to fitting fully inside the shoe. It also cut out time that Boogio previously had to spend integrating Bluetooth, power management and other components, co-founder and CEO Jose Torres said.
French startup Weenat plans to use Artik in sensors that farmers can stick into their fields. The sensors collect data about the soil and air and send it to the farmer's smartphone for better planning and decision-making. Weenat expects Artik to allow for smaller and more power-efficient sensors and to cut down on development time for adding new types of measurements.
The Weenat sensors will take advantage of Samsung's integration work with Sigfox, a French provider of low-power wide-area networks. Software for Sigfox is included in the Artik platform, and silicon and a connector for Sigfox are built into the development kit Samsung will sell for the Artik 5 and Artik 10, its larger modules.
Device creators using Artik will also be able to tap into some third-party software environments. Artik is certified for use with the open-source Arduino ecosystem popular with hobbyists, so the chips can be programmed using the Arduino Software Development Environment.
A software library from IoT software startup Temboo is also preloaded on every Artik module. The software works with Temboo's cloud service to simplify the programming of a device. Temboo demonstrated this with a water tank equipped with Artik-powered sensors. Temboo's cloud service automatically generated code to make the Artik device send a notification to a phone when the tank ran low and let a user tap a button on the phone to remotely start a refill pump after being notified.
Naturally, Samsung has its own uses for Artik, and the chips will play a role in the company's goal of making all its home electronics products Internet-connected by 2020, said Yoon Lee, vice president of the company's Smart Home and Digital Appliances division.