The search for the 4th Protocol – the missing link of the IoT

The thorny issue of wireless protocols and the Internet of Things

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There are now twice the number of connected devices on the planet than humans. From smart meters and thermostats to pumps, smart motors, sensors, and robots, there is no lingua franca in the IoT. Amid competing technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular and radio frequency, and many iterations of each, the communications landscape is confusing. The Internet of Things – so often used only as slang for enabling devices to become ‘smart’ – has a missing link.  “The low-power, low-cost, mesh networking capabilities of 802.15.4 networks make them the primary wireless technology choice across a number of different vertical markets including home, building and industrial automation, smart metering, and home entertainment,” says Andrew Zignani, Research Analyst at ABI Research. ZigBee is expected to see its strongest growth in the home automation market, where the share of total ZigBee shipments will rise from around 9% today to 28% in 2019. However, the industrial IoT has other plans.  In the IoT as a whole, all of these typical wireless protocols are being used. “Standards in the IoT space are somewhat in their infancy, but I would expect a bias to Wi-Fi due to its ubiquity in the home, and Bluetooth LE for devices paired with mobile phones taken from the home,” says Phil Williams, Principal Architect, Rackspace, who also thinks that Power Line connectivity provides a simple plug-and-play approach when teamed up with an internet-connected gateway device.   Why is the industrial IoT different?   Smart buildings, grids, meters and agriculture are now being constructed across the planet, and it’s this Industrial IoT that the likes of Siemens, GE and Rockwell, as well as IT companies like Cisco, Intel, Oracle and Qualcomm, are most interested in. However, Wi-Fi and ZigBee are unlikely to triumph.

“While the IoT has evolved with the use of Wi-Fi and ZigBee, these are still limited by battery life, insufficient cell coverage and unmanaged local area networks (LANs),” says Olivier Hersent, the CEO, CTO and Founder of Actility, a provider of network solutions and managed information systems for the Internet of Things (IoT) market. “The IoT on an industrial scale will be about ‘0G’ rather than 4G or even 5G.”

See on Scoop.itInternet of Things – Technology focus


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