Edgeware is the New Software
Last week CLSA Americas analyst Ed Maguire published a fantastic report titled Deep Field Discovering the Internet of Things. The report detailed the pending impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the key companies and technologies that are poised to drive the IoT ecosystem. In addition to many of the well-established players in the space including Splunk, IBM, Apple and others, the report highlighted Camgian and our new Egburt platform as a key innovation supporting the unique requirements of IoT and one of the more interesting entrants in the market.
Further to this point, the design and development of IoT solutions require a complex integration of sensors, hardware, networks, communications, data storage and software analytics. In terms of system design, there is no other segment of the IoT architecture more challenging than operations at the network’s edge. While many would argue that new products in software analytics or communications will drive the IoT revolution, I would posit that innovations in edgeware, which I define as integrated device level hardware and software, are critical enablers for this new market, without which IoT will never reach its full potential.
Unlike traditional IT where the network end points are fixed and well understood, connectivity to the vast array of physical systems in the proposed IoT landscape such as equipment, vehicles, facilities, humans and other “things” (the possibilities are endless) is a very challenging technical proposition. This is because extracting, digitizing, processing and wirelessly communicating sensory information from such assets in an affordable and reliable way requires fully optimized device designs of hardware and software. That is to say, hardware and software within a device are designed to work together to deliver maximum performance at minimum cost at the network’s edge.
Such innovations will take time to enter the IoT market as edgeware development lifecycles (unlike software) are long and require very experienced, diverse teams of designers and engineers to deliver robust, scalable products (Maguire points out in the Deep Field report that most talented hardware engineers are in their late 40s or 50s). For example, our Egburt team comprises a variety of specialist including electrical, computer, firmware, application software, mechanical and industrial engineers (not to mention the marketing and industrial designers) who work closely together within a rigorous product design and development process. When building hardware, this process is key to ensuring first pass success as board re-designs and re-spins are expensive, time consuming and in some cases catastrophic to a product development plan.
Moreover, IoT edgeware such as Egburt must be fully optimized around multiple dimensions such as power consumption, data exploitation, latency, form factor, weight and cost – a remarkably difficult process that can feel like a game of engineering “whack-a-mole”. Case in point, Egburt’s firmware which supports complex signal processing and sensor analytics has been fully optimized to deliver the maximum possible performance at the lowest possible power. Coupled with a custom ultra low power hardware architecture and a rigorous power cycling scheme, Egburt’s power efficient firmware enables long-life battery operations that exceed two years for typical IoT applications.
In summary, the unique requirements of IoT will drive demand and opportunities for new edgeware innovations across a broad range of applications. Addressing these opportunities will require embracing an integrated hardware and software design philosophy and structuring the underlying teams and processes to support this approach to product development. At Camgian Micro, our company was built on this philosophy with device level hardware and software innovations at the heart of our information services and products. As such, we are looking forward to showcasing our edgeware skills next month with the launch of Egburt, our cool new IoT application services platform.