Renesas joins IoT development platform rush

Renesas says its chips-and-software package can cut out the need to build baseline functionality

Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics is joining the rush to offer a hardware development platform for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Its Synergy Platform consists of microcontroller units and software that can link them to devices such as smartphones.

Enormous growth has been predicted for the IoT industry. Market research company Gartner said last year that there will be 4.9 billion things, such as appliances and sensors, connected to the Internet in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and that figure will reach 25 billion by 2020. Much of that growth, though, will depend on how easy it is for product designers to get their 'things' connected to the Internet.

Renesas said its platform lets engineers begin development at the API (application programming interface) level, eliminating the need to work on lower-level tasks such as software for peripheral drivers. Buying the chips and software separately would involve testing them for compatibility, it said.

The platform could represent significant time and savings for manufacturers, especially those that lack the expertise needed to link traditionally offline products to the Internet, a Renesas spokeswoman said.

One example of how the platform could be used is by an eye wear maker that wants to produce a pair of glasses with an onboard camera, like Sony's SmartEyeglass specs. The Renesas platform would provide the microcontroller unit and the software needed to link the glasses to users' smartphones.

The platform will be sold to product makers and consists of a family of Synergy Microcontrollers with various performance, connectivity and security features, and software tools including plug-and-play add-on components. The platform will be showcased at a developers' conference in California in October and will hit the global market in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Renesas is among several chipmakers who have been pushing IoT by trying to make it easy and quick for manufacturers to embed sensors and other devices in products. Energy-efficiency has been a key theme for hardware makers.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

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