Everybody is talking about the cloud. In the MCU world, there are plans to integrate cloud connectivity into some microcontrollers for out-of-the-box operation.
The announcement from Digi International reveals a collaboration underway with Freescale to integrate the iDigi Device Cloud into Freescale's Kinetis and ColdFire microcontroller platforms. The results are expected to become available to the market in July of this year.
This capability that Digi is bringing to the Freescale devices is an interesting technology. For one thing, it is a service and not a software package you can download. Digi provides the server infrastructure, security policy, and virtual private network (VPN) capability. What the MCU does is to access this service over an IP connection through WiFi, Ethernet, or cellular connection to the Internet. Once logged into your VPN, the MCU can transfer information to or from your cloud-based application software.
This kind of connection allows you to upload data from devices scattered across the world, download instructions (including software updates) to said devices, and generally treat this worldwide collection of smart sensors and devices as being wired together in your lab (with perhaps some added delay). Digi offers a tutorial on its site that discusses deployment of these networks, but you need to register to access it.
Cloud computing extends the geographic area that your devices can cover to anywhere on the Internet. Using a third party rather linking devices back to your own server has the typical make-versus-buy advantages, including an added layer of security between your network and the hackers of the world. This is powerful stuff, allowing you to create really substantial installations of whatever it is your MCU does.
As discussed in my blog MCUs Driving Smart Society, the MCU now lies at the heart of a trend toward having millions of smart systems communicating with each other, and us, about things happening on the far side of anywhere. Are any of you working on such a project? Let me know on the message board below.