Will new connectivity technologies be revolutionary or evolutionary? - Q&A with Mike Hopkins, Mobile Industry Specialist, Imagination Technologies

2A complex ecosystem is evolving today based on user-specific information, with multiplatform application delivery over multiple channels. Companies can no longer afford to stay isolated in a world where dialogue within social platforms has become a fact of modern life. As current forecasts indicate that the number of mobile subscriptions will exceed the number of people worldwide, the market is about to enter a new phase of expansion into connected devices. Mike explains how cloud computing and a new generation of connected devices will provide users with information that will bring about a more open, simple, and effective living environment.


ECD: Numerous reports and studies have analyzed the potential of the Internet of Things. Why do you think the idea behind connected devices is beginning to gain traction?

HOPKINS: Firstly, if we look at macroeconomic trends, more than 3 billion consumers will soon be able to afford this connected lifestyle. Just by looking at this number, companies can see great potential in improving services, cutting costs, and developing opportunities by incorporating cloud-based services and reusing operating systems and applications.

Users can also benefit from automated firmware and software updates, sustained after-sales services, remote maintenance, and personal safety and sustainability. These are just a few examples of the myriad of services the Internet of Things can bring as it starts moving toward global acceptance.

ECD: It seems that TV networks and cable companies have managed to keep a tight grip on broadcast content. Do you see this business model changing in the near future?

HOPKINS: Although cable companies and networks continue to dominate other content providers, we foresee a gradual change in how services will be delivered. One can observe this shift already happening as major TV networks allow viewers to watch full episodes of their shows on their websites. Also, dedicated players for tablets and smart TVs have been granted access to a large range of live content and can stream some previously broadcasted TV programs.

Therefore, a hybrid model is the key to improving video quality while providing an open door to a larger content storehouse. This should empower all network providers to take advantage of the vast resources the Internet can provide, both maintaining and expanding their business models as the connectivity options keep expanding.

ECD: We’ve seen the term “connected” being thrown around a lot, especially when it comes to smart TVs and set-top boxes. Is it just related to the entertainment industry, or can other markets take advantage of the intelligent Web?

HOPKINS: Although the home entertainment market has been active in the past few years in terms of product releases, we are beginning to see exciting announcements and reports that involve other areas of the industry. According to a recent report from Berg Insight, the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market is expected to soar to more than 350 million cellular connections by 2016. The study indicates that actual shipments of M2M devices have increased by 35 percent this year and are reaching record levels with every quarter.

This fast-growing trend is bringing forth an increasingly diverse range of applications in home automation and security, as well as in health care and even the toy manufacturing industry. Companies are starting to attract consumers from the viewpoint of completely connected systems offering convenience and intuitiveness at their core, while at the same time appealing to a broad customer base with a varied degree of technical awareness.

As connected devices reach mass market, vendors will have to create and adopt new standards to encourage developer communities to build applications that extend the breadth and capabilities of these new products. Therefore, new categories will be created while the old ones will be revitalized by this ubiquitous connectivity, which will enable embedded devices to deliver their functionality using an optimal mix of local- and Internet-based resources.

Expect to see areas such as the sensor market and the telecommunications industry benefit from this rapid development. Remote monitoring within the health care industry will require state-of-the-art devices that can report and diagnose patients in a discreet way, while mobile connected devices will lead to cross-national roaming tariffs. Alongside these key players, the true technology enablers will be businesses that can provide software for all of these hybrid devices. We have developed our IP exactly with that in mind and now offer platforms like Ensigma that, in combination with our Meta 32-bit multithreaded connected processors and Flow connectivity technologies, drive a new wave of multistandard, low-power connectivity systems across many market sectors and on a global scale (see Figure 1).

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Figure 1: The FlowWorld fully customizable Internet radio and content portal offers a wide range of services for Internet-connected products built on connected processors.
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)

ECD: How do you think all of these concepts will come together to revolutionize the way we think of technology being present in our lives?

HOPKINS: One great example of this revolutionized thinking is the concept of eHealth. This is a sector of the industry where society, government, and businesses can unite to achieve some admirable feats. Imagine programming shoes to send a distress signal when they detect a sudden fall, monitoring various access points in a house to establish if someone’s mobility has been affected, or having smart bandages that can detect when they are due for removal. The global shortage of nurses and health care aides may be solved by adopting smarter technologies that incorporate cost-efficient preventive care, especially for the growing population of aging adults across developed countries. We think this will bring about a profound change to individuals and society as a whole, as we realize the extended benefits of a networked health care system.

ECD: Looking at these diverse markets brings up the potential issue of software fragmentation. How do you think this problem can be overcome? And how will the industry push for mass-market production without creating a system of closed, proprietary software nets that would make it difficult for all of these products to be connected?

HOPKINS: The expansion of the connected device ecosystem presents challenges of potential fragmentation similar to what occurred when smartphones started to emerge. These can be avoided by employing a strategy whereby commonalities between different products and domains will be found to enable application reuse, allowing developers to take advantage of open platforms and standards to speed up the introduction of complex systems for the wide variety of devices that need to interact with one another.

Our Flow Technology can meet this need by delivering a complete hardware and software package for always connected services. This technology provides enhanced Internet-based services and a series of APIs through which our partners can control and manage service configurations for any MetaFlow connected product, fulfilling the requirement for integrating multiple applications over different networks or even different network technologies.

Mike Hopkins is mobile industry specialist for Imagination Technologies.

Imagination Technologies Mike.Hopkins@imgtec.com www.imgtec.com

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