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Wireless sensor nets: ready for prime time?

Posted: 30 Apr 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless sensor? networking? Wi-Fi?

After years of promises and hype, the wireless sensor networking market is ready to take offat much lower levels than originally thought, according to panelists at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC).

There are, however, still challenges for the wireless sensor networking sector. The business is still hampered by a bevy of rival standards, technology issues as well as too many vendors chasing after the market.

In fact, there are hundreds of vendors in the wireless sensor networking market, leaving one expert to believe that the sector is ripe for consolidation. "There has or will be" a shakeout, said Kirsten West, an analyst with West Technology Research Solutions LLC.

Still, there is room for new startups, but the barriers to entry are becoming difficult. As one example, for the integrated players, the development costs for the RF device are becoming expensive.

Meanwhile, amid the probable shakeout, the market is set to take off at a rate much smaller than expected. At one time, the wireless sensor market was projected to be a business in the "hundreds of millions or billions of dollars," West said. "A lot of vendors thought if you build it, people will flip."

In reality, the wireless sensor networking market is projected to hit $40 million in 2010, up from $28 million in 2009, she said. "We're getting close to the ramp," she said. "The components are ready."

At one time, one of the stumbling blocks was the chips, which will not ready for prime time. For example, Zigbee-based devices failed to incorporate frequency-hopping technologies, thereby inhibiting growth.

In addition, there are still a plethora of standards, which causes confusion in the market. At present, the standards include Zigbee, EnOcean, 802.15.4, Insteon and low-power Wi-Fi.

Like the vendor base, there is expected to be a consolidation on the standards front. "Something has got to give," she added.

Still, wireless sensor networking devices have found traction in home automation, building automation and medical. There are new and emerging applications in smart energy, said Stuart McLaren, product manager for ST Microelectronics Inc.

Another emerging market is human mobility location-based services, said Kris Pister, founder and chief technology officer for Dust Networks.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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