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Competition, product direction affect shifting IoT terrain

Posted: 02 Mar 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT? competing technologies? 6LoWPAN? Zigbee? Thread?

The presence of several competing technologies and the quest for an interoperable product direction influence the shifting landscape of the Internet of Things (IoT). The terrain has become complex, and it will only continue to be even more complicated. Competing platforms are still evolving, and according to those familiar with the IoT terrain, pathways to interoperability need to be established between them.

"At this point, you have several competing technologies, and a lot of it has to do with how the user interacts with devices," said Michael Anderson, chief scientist at PTR Group, an engineering and marketing services company.

Anderson will review the emerging landscape at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston and Silicon Valley, giving engineers guidance on directions for their IoT products. That's helpful, given how hard vendors are beating the drum for competing platforms such as Thread from Google's Nest group and two competing Linux Consortium effortsIoTivity from a group led by Intel and AllSeen promoted by Qualcomm.

"I'll talk about the pros and cons of various frameworks, where they came from and who's behind them and draw the landscape if you are interested in setting a product direction that's interoperable," said Anderson.

All across the industry, chip, system and software makers are trying to come to grips with the fast-moving IoT terrain, For his part, Cees Links, chief executive and founder of Green Peak Technologies, a Zigbee chip vendor, recently published a white paper online on his views of the landscape.

The focus of Zigbee, a set of spec that has evolved over the last several years, is on low-power nodes that may operate for years on coin-cell batteriessomething Wi-Fi cannot enable. Zigbee's more recent competitors include 6LoWPAN, a similarly low-power 802.15.4-based alternative that supports the IPv6 version of the Internet Protocol (IP). The rise of 6LoWPAN helped motivate Zigbee to come up with its own IP-based variant.

In its white paper, Green Peak admits it did not try to include in its landscape some alternatives such as cellular, DECT, RFID and proprietary specifications such as Z-Wave, EnOcean and others, which further complicate the terrain. "The sooner this complex material is sorted out, the better it will be for everyone," the white paper concludes.

White paper sketches out Zigbee's view

Links of Green Peak estimates that Zigbee ships 3-6 million chips every week and as many as half a billion are already installed. "People are focusing a lot of attention on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but they are expensive and power hungry," Links said, adding that Bluetooth will focus mainly on wearables while Wi-Fi targets devices around the home, a two- to four-fold larger market.

In "the battle of the network layer," IPv6 is not suited to simple devices like LED lights, he said. Its 1,500B minimum address space could force respond times of hundreds of milliseconds compared with just a few for a 1B Zigbee message, he added.

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