“IoT is in a bit of a trough right now,” Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs, told EE Times, just as he was leaving the ballroom where he delivered a keynote entitled “Accelerating the IoT” to a packed audience at the Design Automation Conference.
With a market anxious about the insecurities of IoT and hobbled by connected devices that remain both hard to design and expensive, there is indeed a whiff of IoT backlash in the air. Tuttle also concedes that IoT isn’t among the “new things” that ordinary people talk about these days.
Nevertheless, the CEO sees this lull as an opportunity for Silicon Labs.
Tuttle made two points abundantly clear during his keynote and a subsequent one-on-one interview with EE Times: Silicon Labs is in it — the IoT market — for the long haul, while striving to deliver the “simplicity” and “security” that will entice system designers to add connectivity to their products.
But he also warned: “It will take multiple decades for IoT to play out.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
Tuttle isn’t discussing what IoT can do to Silicon Labs’ bottom line next quarter or next year. His long view on IoT is allowing him to ponder societal changes IoT could bring in 2020, 2030 and beyond.
IoT impact on system designers
In fact, during his keynote, Tuttle didn’t dwell on IoT as a market opportunity with billions of connected devices primed for exploitation by Silicon Labs. Of course, there is that.
Instead, he spoke more about the impact of IoT on system designers. “When you design your next product, I don’t know how you can do it without thinking about connectivity,” he said.
“Products remain static if they aren’t connected,” Tuttle said. With connectivity, products become dynamic, able to add new features, upgrade functions and enhance security. Systems can become end nodes capable of monitoring and tracking. Connectivity can add value to products, he noted. “Without it, your new product will race to the bottom.”
Of course, the early days of IoT have focused on the home market, with products like connected washing machines and refrigerators. Inevitably, this begs the question: “What for?”
Despite such skepticism, system designers are adding connectivity to “old-school” products, said Tuttle.
Consider, for example, power tools. Picture a construction site. Workers arriving onsite activate their Bluetooth-connected power tools with an app on their own smartphones.