Riot starts with a claim to industry’s lowest power NB-IoT and eMTC baseband chip

Internet of Things (IoT) newcomer, Riot Micro is claiming that a radical design approach applying BLE/Wi-Fi architecture has delivered a new cellular IoT solution with cost/power levels that are characteristic of short-range wireless systems. Here Peter Wong, CEO, tells  Jeremy Cowan how Riot has reinvented itself as an IoT chipset maker.

Semiconductor start-ups are rare things these days. But Vancouver, Canada-based Riot Micro has made its IoT market debut with what it claims is the industry’s lowest power baseband modem chip for cellular IoT.

The company began life a decade ago working on LTE IP technology to licence to the general market. Then three years ago, in search of faster growth Riot changed direction and brought in Peter Wong as CEO. “We retooled and refinanced,” he tells IoT Now, “grew to about 30 people, and developed a chip for cellular IoT, based on LTE NB1 and eMTC specifications.”

Peter Wong, Riot Micro’s CEO

“Why IoT?” we ask.

“Because that’s where the majority of growth was. If you look at other cellular technologies – you know Cat 3, 4 , 5, 6 – as you go higher and higher for the smartphones and tablets of the world it gets harder and harder for a start-up to compete realistically. The key differentiators are integration and powerful processors with Snapdragons etc., and going up against the Qualcomms of the world didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” says Wong.

“When the standards started to evolve for M2M (machine-to-machine communications) it looked like there could be a significant inflexion point where the requirements changed significantly and where processor technology was not the King of the Game. It was about optimising for more performance and lower power, and of course much, much lower cost.”

“Cost being a huge factor in services with low ARPUs (average revenues per user),” IoT Now suggests.

“Exactly. That drove why we formed the team that we did. LTE is a relatively sophisticated protocol and technology relative to other wireless technologies like BLE and WiFi. But when you break it right down and look at NB1 and eMTC we felt there was a ton of simplification you could do technically and implementatikon-wise and speed-wise. When you’re driving 200kbps or even 1Mb you can take certain design approaches that are extremely power-efficient and really help drive the cost down. The memory is an example. We optimised the LTE protocol stack so that it only does NB1 and MTC. We could minimise the amount of memory required. Our protocol stack operates entirely within the memory within our chip.”

So the Riot Micro RM1000 has been built using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi architecture techniques to deliver a cellular IoT solution with the low power and cost levels of short-range wireless systems. The RM1000 is now being offered to module manufacturers and OEMs designing narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and eMTC systems that can include automotive, asset management, home automation, industrial, point-of-sale, smart energy, and vending applications.

Asked who the company sees as its key rivals, Peter Wong tells IoT Now it would be […]

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Change is coming to ‘stagnant’ wearables market as heart rate sensors claim accurate monitoring

Today’s continuous monitoring tech is shifting the consumer mindset away from a reactive monitoring approach to a proactive one. And this is having a dramatic effect on the market for wearable technologies, as Jeremy Cowan reports. 

Instead of waiting for annual visits to the  doctor to get results for blood pressure and other vital signs, consumers want real-time information about their health status. So says Sui Shieh who is vice president, Industrial and Healthcare Business Unit at one wearables manufacturer, Maxim Integrated.

This shift is causing an increased demand for accurate, small, and low-power wearable devices, said to be an important enabler for this new way of thinking. As continuous monitoring and preventive healthcare become more common, both technology providers and health practitioners must embrace and accommodate these new demands to be successful, he believes.

“Global healthcare costs are high and growing,” says Sui, “with spend now running at 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) – in the US it’s $ 9 trillion. The consumer mindset is moving from reeactive to proactive, with prevention and early detection (of illness) by fitness apps, and chronic disease monitoring” with healthcare devices. But, as he goes on to say, fitness apps generally give little information; that’s why the market has been stagnant for two years.

“The market is there,” he says, “with six million users in 2016 rising to 50 million in 2021, according to analysts, Berg Insight. Our customers are now looking for clinical-grade performance (with US Food & Drug Administration certification), the longest battery life, a small size, and high accuracy.”

Sui Shieh: Wearables market is shifting towards prevention and early detection of illness

Maxim believes that it’s now able to meet these requirements. Through compact, low power solutions, it has a new range of devices that enable accurate monitoring of vital signs to monitor wellness/fitness and prevent health problems before they even begin.

Maxim’s portfolio of sensors for wearable health and fitness applications allows consumers to accurately monitor a variety of key vital signs while being mindful of low power (for longer battery life) and small size (for convenience and comfort). The MAX86140 and MAX86141 can be used to measure PPG signals on the wrist, finger, and ear to detect heart rate, heart rate variability, and pulse oximetry.

The MAX30001 measures ECG and BioZ on the chest and wrist to detect heart rate, respiration, and arrhythmias. Compared to competitive solutions, the MAX86140 and MAX86141 is claimed to require less than half the power and is approximately one third smaller, while the MAX30001 requires approximately half the power in almost half the size. By collecting beat to beat data about the heart, these solutions collect accurate data so users can recognize important symptoms when they first begin. In addition, the MAX30001 meets IEC60601-2-47, clinical ECG standards.

“The convergence of clinical grade diagnostics in form factors small enough to integrate into all sorts of smart, everyday clothing is impressive,” said Adrian Straka, director of Hardware and Manufacturing, SKIIN. “The ultra-small MAX30001 enables SKIIN’s bio-sensing underwear to monitor and track health […]

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Intel to cut 140 staff across IoT divisions, reports claim

Intel is cutting 140 staff across its IoT divisions, reports claim

US chip-maker Intel is cutting 140 staff across its IoT divisions, according to reports in Silicon Valley Business Journal and The Times.

As many as 100 staff in the company’s Santa Clara headquarters, as well as 40 staff in Leixlip, Ireland, have been let go. All of the staff involved are said to have worked within Intel’s IoT divisions.

The reports follow Intel’s announcement in June that it has discontinued three of its IoT and embedded device market offerings. The Edison, Galileo and Joule compute modules and boards, which had been developed to bolster Intel’s IoT strategy, are no longer in production.

“There have been some changes in our workforce that are driven by the needs and priorities of the business, which we consistently evaluate,” an Intel Ireland spokeswoman told The Times.

“Efforts are being made to mitigate the impact by helping employees identify other suitable roles in the company.”

Read more: Lost jobs but happier customers — insurance embraces AI and IoT

An uncertain future

The news does come as a surprise, however, given that Intel announced back in April 2016 that it was laying off 12,000 employees as part of a $ 1.2 billion restructuring process that was apparently intended to tackle the rise of IoT, and the continuing slump in PC sales.

At the time, CEO Brian Kraznich, admitted “It’s time to make this transition and push the company all the way over”, with a renewed focus on supplying chips for smartphones, cloud computing, sensors and other IoT devices.

In Q1 of 2017, Intel’s IoT division generated $ 721 million in revenue, which marks an 11 percent increase year-on-year. These numbers equate to less than 5 percent of Intel’s sales, though, and the job cuts raise questions around the future of Intel’s IoT strategy.

Roughly 300 staff also took voluntary redundancy last year, though the chip-maker is yet to confirm the final number, alongside the staff cuts today. “We have not publicly disclosed the number of redundancies made as part of our global restructuring program, and do not plan to do so,” the company said.

Read more: Opinion divided on impact of AI on jobs market, says BT survey

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SAS, Cisco claim first platform for IoT analytics at the edge

SAS, Cisco claim first platform for IoT analytics at the edge

Networking giant Cisco and business intelligence company SAS claim to have developed the first ‘edge-to-enterprise’ platform for IoT analytics.

Driven by a growing demand from customers who want to ‘analyze data in motion’ – meaning before it is stored or real time – the SAS, Cisco IoT Analytics Platform has been developed to enable analytics on devices at the edge of the network.

The point of this, as noted in a report on the product by analysts at 451 Research, is that there is little value in analyzing some kinds of IoT data “after weeks, days or even in some cases, hours.”

Out on the edge

The platform’s reference architecture combines Cisco’s networking, edge and datacenter infrastructure with SAS’s streaming and advanced analytics capabilities.

There are three main elements that end users will benefit from, say the companies. At the edge, so out on the device, Cisco’s 829 Industrial Integrated Service Routers can now run SAS Event Stream Processing (ESP), which is what enables analysis of data in motion with a ‘sub-second response time’, close to the devices and sensors generating that data.

Cisco’s 829 routers are supposedly designed for deployment in harsh environments, which could be useful for the kinds of customers the two companies say they are targeting, including those operating oil rigs and smart grids.

The second feature is flexible enterprise computing, whereby relevant data sets are identified at the edge and sent back to the data center or cloud and combined with historic enterprise data to add context. This is done using the open source publish and subscribe mechanism, Apache Kafka.

Last up is network management, connectivity, management and monitoring. Cisco will provide the robust infrastructure to connect the edge devices to the data center or cloud, and will support the management of analytics at the various network layers. Again, this is necessary for businesses like electric utilities where a large number of edge devices are used in things like smart grids.

Read more: IoB Insiders: What can the iPhone teach us about IoT edge devices?

Millions of events

Cisco and SAS said they have validated their design using sensor data from a smart data containing millions of events. According to 451’s report, the data was ingested by SAS ESP deployed on the Cisco 829 routers. It was then streamed to an ESP instance in a data center and finally into Apache Hadoop for further analysis and for models to be built.

The companies say that, as well as the aforementioned use cases in utilities and oil rigs, the platform would benefit companies manufacturing connected cars, as well as anyone looking at asset performance or predictive maintenance.

SAS admitted that its ESP does not currently support the statistical language R, but said it may add this if customers ask for it. Instead, models can be written in C++ or Python today.

Nevertheless, with market research company IDC predicting that by 2019, 45 percent of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge of, the network, this is an important step.

Read more: Smart meter provider creates app store for utilities using IoT edge devices

Edge-to-enterprise

Alan Webber, IDC’s research director, said the ability to turn IoT data into valuable knowledge is what “makes this partnership between SAS and Cisco so exciting. It brings two world-class companies together to offer truly edge-to-enterprise value in transforming edge data gathered through IoT into unmatched business value through analytics.”

Mike Yost, president of MESA International, a global community of manufacturers, producers, industry leaders and solution providers, also sees value in the platform. “When you dig down into the heart of the IoT discussion, it’s all about the business value potential presented by bringing IT and OT together – a complex challenge our members are eager to solve,” he said.

“Confidently pushing analytics through the network to where the data is created solves many problems. I trust people will enjoy being transformed from data caretakers to explorers, discovering all the possibilities that exist with better insight.”

451 analyst and author of the report, Jason Stamper, said “No single vendor has what we might call a ‘complete’ Internet of Things (IoT) technology stack, and SAS and Cisco are no exception. However, by working together, they have shown how it is possible to do analytics from the edge of the network right through to the data center and various types of cloud, too.

“It may be a reference architecture and a coming together of what were existing products, but for companies looking to do IoT-type analytics, it still makes a lot of sense. It also highlights the importance of edge computing for its role in IoT, as well as the leading role that stream processing technologies are likely to play in the era of the Internet of Things.”

Full analysis of the product can be found in 451’s report SAS takes Event Stream Processing to Cisco’s Edge for Internet of Things Stack.

Read more: Are we edging closer to IoT Edge Computing?

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