We have a new Planet Analog blogger, Radek Tadajewski, CEO of oort, a company that has invented a unique, patent-pending technology that lets users create smarter homes and businesses.
According to Gartner, by 2022 the average consumer will have more than 500 connected Internet of Things (IoT) gadgets in their homes, and PWC has predicted that the IoT market will be a multi-trillion dollar industry by then. Given these predictions and the opportunities that we know the IoT can create, there’s no question that the technology will permeate everyone’s daily lives -- it’s just a matter of when and how.
The “when” seems as if it will be much sooner than anticipated, as the relatively simple concept of smart things has captured the imagination of the public. So much so that Gartner announced that the IoT had become the most overhyped technology. Whether or not you concur with the research firm’s assessment, one fact that is abundantly clear is that to deliver on the market’s expectations, the IoT needs standards. Now.
The battle for supremacy
Major device and component manufacturers have taken sides and created competing IoT standardization groups such as the Open Interconnect Consortium and Thread Group. However, many of these standard groups won’t even begin testing until mid-2015. Other standards currently available to the market like Z-Wave, a protocol that runs on a sub-Gigahertz frequency band or Zigbee, an IEEE 802.15 wireless communication standard, lack interoperability because they require either bridges or additional components to work. Without direct compatibility with users’ smart devices or other devices that use similar protocols, these standards reduce the range and number of IoT devices that can work together, whether within a home automation system or a connected car.
However, there are two current standards that are used in all major smart devices on the market: Bluetooth and WiFi. With these two standards, the intelligent devices that people already interact with every day -- their smartphones, laptops, or tablets -- have the ability to control the IoT, and with WiFi-enabled hubs, they can send data to the cloud and be controlled from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Many market observers have presumed that WiFi, or some flavor of it, will be the default communication standard in the IoT. While wider ranges aren’t always necessary, because it is expected that most IoT devices will be activated within the home, WiFi offers a superior range that can potentially reach several miles. However, WiFi consumes more energy than many of the other standards on the market, making it useful only in specialized scenarios. This hindrance will also affect the products’ ability to work efficiently. A market standard for the IoT must be economical for power consumption. With the exception of higher data streaming use cases, such as cameras, WiFi will be too cost and power-inefficient to become the number one standard.
Why we’re betting on Bluetooth Smart
The benefits that Bluetooth Smart boasts as the standard for the IoT currently exceed other potential standards. Bluetooth Smart was born and bred for lower power consumption, making it the ideal radio standard for developers to make lamps, lights, and toasters smarter. With Bluetooth Smart, a smart sensor’s coin cell battery can last for months or even years. And with Bluetooth’s addition of mesh networking capabilities, the range at which connected devices can link is extended to over 1,000 feet and perhaps indefinitely, as billions of nodes can be supported. Bluetooth Smart with mesh networking, previously a key differentiator for ZigBee and Z-Wave, will help to extend the range and efficiency of smart home or business IoT communications, while minimizing power consumption.
Because of Bluetooth Smart’s low power consumption and tremendous potential, it’s been adopted natively by most major smartphones and tablets, in addition to many of the most popular wearable devices, which significantly reduces the barriers for widespread adoption. For people to buy into the promise of the IoT, they need to be assured that their products will work seamlessly with each other to accomplish all of their desired tasks.
Over the next several years, we can expect the interoperability race to heat up, particularly once we’re able to see what many of these new standard groups are working on. When they do, the competing standards will co-opt each other’s best features, as Bluetooth Smart did with mesh networking, and technologies will improve as a result. Standards need to allow for interoperability between devices, or the IoT will not be able to evolve to maintain 500 connected IoT gadgets per household.