Freescale takes the broad view of IoT/M2M

October 18, 2013 // By Peter Clarke
Freescale Semiconductor's five business units cover microcontrollers, automotive microcontrollers, networking, sensors and RF. All these topics can be related to the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications (IoT/M2M).

It should therefore be no surprise that Freescale is eager to help develop this nascent market, said Iain Davidson, the company's marketing manager for networking.

And with its product base ranging from MEMS to networking via RF Freescale has an opportunity to bring some order to the fragmented IoT/M2M market. Freescale has put down its marker with the Kinetis-W range of microcontrollers, which integrate sub-1 GHz and 2.4 GHz RF transceivers that use IEEE 802.11.4 with a proprietary protocol or ZigBee with ARM-based microcontrollers.

Some applications will want to piggyback off established cellular communications networks, some off Wi-Fi. For others that is not possible. "We have IEEE 802.15.4 and ZigBee, but ZigBee does not have long range."

Davidson makes the point the IoT/M2M is fragmented for good reason with thousands of applications and use cases driving the setting of specifications together with multiple wireless and wired communications technologies. Freescale often achieves success by bundling products from across its business divisions, he said. "It can be sensors together with gateway processors and even cloud-based software and services. We are not about to try and force-fit some sort of universal solution," he added.

Davidson said he expects most applications to be developed along a two-tiered arrangement with a local network connecting wireless nodes to a hub and then WiFi or 3G/4G cellular communications aggregating data and control information and sending it to and from the "cloud."

Iain Davidson, marketing manager for networking at Freescale.

With the integration of multiple sensor types together with a wireless modem and application processor the mobile phone is not only an enabling hub for IoT/M2M networks but could also be predecessor of – and test bed for – highly-integrated wireless sensor nodes. Freescale is no longer heavily involved in the development of silicon for mobile phone handsets so does that put the company at a disadvantage?

Davidson acknowledged that customers may have preferred modem suppliers. Sometimes Freescale