This article is part of a series of articles realized in partnership with established experts from the IoT world. We have asked them to share their knowledge and best practices, giving you a step-by-step guide on how to successfully lead your IoT project, from its conception, to its life in the field. If you’d like to read more inspiring articles, just click here.
They have been around for longer than the Internet of things and even well before the Internet. They are discreet but at the same time, everywhere! Sensors are a key component of an IoT system and they act as its ears, eyes, nose, fingers, and even its taste buds. They gather data and provide the application with the information it needs to perform its duty. More recently, new technologies have given superpowers to sensors. They can now feel, think, analyze and even predict the future… well almost!
The advent of the Internet of Things has given sensors the leeway they needed to develop and numerous companies have hopped on the sensor train. With this plethora of choices, how do we choose the best sensor?
Gildas Henriet, Technical Marketing Manager and Tarik Souibes, EMEA Marketing Director at STMicroelectronics, one of the leading providers of high quality MEMS sensors for consumer and industrial applications, are giving us today, a few keys on how to approach this dilemma.
STMicroelectronics has been known and recognized for its sensors, semiconductors and microsensors for about 20 years. We provide global solutions to our clients. Essentially we address 3 big domains: smart mobility, power & energy, and Internet of Things & 5G. Our products cover sensing solutions, processors, connectivity solutions, security solutions, power management solutions and everything around it: simulators, calculators, development tools, ecosystems, software and evaluation tools. Our solutions are proven in the field and can be personalized to suit any specific project. We have developed our own proprietary tools to allow for vertical integration. To go further, we created a global ecosystem that allows developers to connect their devices seamlessly and ensure that they interact securely with cloud applications and other devices. Our solutions are designed to enable the designer to focus on his project, without having to manage any infrastructure. In effect, it enables them to jump-start their sensor application development by providing tested platforms and open-source software applications.
Our clients initially share with us their project objectives and their desired result. In accordance with the functionality that they wish to have in their finished product, we can then position our tools to allow the clients to evaluate —in a blink of an eye— the feasibility of their project and validate its concept. On this basis, the client can start developing. I dare say: “it’s as simple as that”!
We can then accompany the client with applicative assistance thanks to an online support facility but theoretically, with our products and tools, available online, the client can be self-sufficient, even if not an expert. Our tools —like the SensorTile.box— can be configured according to the level of knowledge that the client has of our products. This product is a small box in which we’ll find the majority of our sensors plus a processing block and connectivity. They are plugged on a PCB that can be powered with a USB rechargeable battery. The system comes replete with an Android or IOS application whose parameters can be set for one of our existing applications or a bespoke application. We really put ourselves in the shoes of our interlocutor to ensure everything is made easy for him and he can concentrate on the tasks that have real added value. With SensorTile.box, our goal is to allow electronics designers to very quickly prototype and test their ideas, so that they can find out immediately if their idea is viable or not, and then if they can push it forward.
There are more and more communities of developers today, including our own community, where developers can help each other and share recommendations. We gather our clients’ feedback and integrate them into our processes to develop new innovative functionalities and create new applicative supports that were lacking before, such as our resources library. Today, part of our R&D responsibility is to listen and engage with the community to increase customers’ proximity: the communities are exchanging good practices; tips, software, codes, … we see many people developing things on their own… so maintaining, listening, caring about our community is important, to arouse interest and help them discover the potential of our solutions.
In the IoT world, it is difficult to have all needed skills in-house. Even large corporations or industrial companies don’t have the full expertise portfolio available internally, so they need to create their own ecosystem as well.
We can tell that the IoT is now a more mature domain in spirit, in conception and projects. When IoT started, we had no guarantee that a device would work. Today, people who come to see us have a project that is better thought than previously. The success rate of IoT projects is a lot better than it used to be. But this ecosystem we mentioned didn’t exist back then. It's now a lot easier to find the right hardware and the relevant documentation, but still, there remain a few questions one needs to ask oneself when choosing a sensor for an IoT solution:
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