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Looking to Break into the IoT Revolution? Reach for AIR | Cypress Semiconductor

Looking to Break into the IoT Revolution? Reach for AIR

It seems like everyone these days is talking about the Internet of Things – and for good reason. The market of bringing connectivity to a vast range of devices is expected to reach $3 trillion by 2020.

For some of the larger tech players who already have the R&D heft and the engineering expertise at the ready, bringing prototypes to life and testing the market with new products is an easier task than it is for, say, an emerging startup with a great idea but limited resources or expertise.

“If you are just going to tinker, that’s one thing, but if you want to produce a robust, high-quality product for manufacturing, it comes with a unique set of challenges,” said Mark Bowyer, director of wireless business development at Syracuse, N.Y.-based Anaren Inc.

One of the greatest challenges is bringing wireless technology to something that previously didn’t have such connectivity, such as a home appliance or a body sensor of some sort. Without the engineering know-how to add Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or some other wireless protocol to an object, prototyping and testing an Internet of Things device can be an expensive, time-consuming undertaking or, worse yet, a deterrent.

That’s where Broadcom’s WICED™ Smart system-on-a-chip platform and Anaren’s AIR offerings converged to help address these challenges. The result was Anaren AIR, a $30 license-free, out-of-the-box development module (product specs) that aims to help would-be Internet of Things players get to market faster.

Broadcom and Anaren will not only be demonstrating their IoT offerings – including the WICED™ platform of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Smart embedded connectivity boards and the AIR module – at the Internet of Things World industry gathering later this month in San Francisco, but they are also co-sponsoring a hackathon to get their products into the hands of the Bay Area’s most creative developers.

“The number one value proposition, in tandem with Broadcom’s technology, is to enable a mass market adoption of wireless protocols,” Bowyer said. “We want to make it easy for an embedded microcontroller guy to add wireless connectivity to his platform.”

Mass market adoption of anything can be tough for the uninitiated. For example, selling a product internationally requires custom work to accommodate the regulatory guidelines of various countries. Likewise, acquiring the talent that it would otherwise take to engineer and test new products can be costly for a small player.

“This piece of the industry sometimes views wireless technology as a kind of black art and would normally look for an outside consultant or add technical capabilities to their teams,” Anaren’s Bowyer said.

But with kits like the Broadcom-powered Anaren AIR, you no longer have to be an embedded software or hardware expert to make an IoT product, said Sid Shaw, senior product line manager for Internet of Things business in the Broadband and Connectivity Group at Broadcom.

Each AIR module (think of it as a tiny, wireless data transmitter and receiver) incorporates a low-power RF transceiver chip. For IoT developers, the benefits are many: It offers performance, a small board footprint, ease-of-use and pre-established compliance with applicable regulatory standards for sale in the U.S. and Europe.

Anaren’s AIR module includes free support and an online development tool, dubbed “Atmosphere,” that enables developers who don’t have application-writing experience to crunch code via drag-and-drop software, monitor data gathering and connect to the cloud.

“What Anaren is doing on top of our WICED™ Smart software development kit is drastically reducing the barriers to entry and inviting more people into the IoT ecosystem,” Shaw said.

That’s important for the market to expand beyond smartwatches and smart appliances and into new market verticals, such as retail, automotive, medical and industrial applications, Anaren’s Bowyer said.

“It aligns with our strategy of enabling different tiers of the market,” he said. “Today’s 100,000-unit customer could be tomorrow’s one million-unit customer, and we want to enable all of them.”


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