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Chinese companies ride IoT bandwagon

Posted: 09 Dec 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Bluetooth SIG? IoT? Gresham's Law? wearable? MediaTek?

A large number of Chinese gadget makers have joined the Internet of Things (IoT) mania to catch an expected new wave of growth driven by connected appliances for homes, some of which can use smartphones as remote controls. In fact, the Chinese government has aimed to unify some of the disparity with a proposed reference architecture for IoT known as ISO/IEC 30141. The country will be counting on its domestic industry, which makes about 2.5 billion home appliances annually, to implement local standards.

The daunting number of wireless technologies competing for a share of the IoT business threatens to stifle growth of the overall market. There's an alphabet soup of industry organisations and standards including the Bluetooth SIG, the ZigBee Alliance, the ANT+ Alliance, EnOcean, the IP500 Alliance, KNX RF, the ULE Alliance, Z-Wave and the 6LoWPAN group.

"A significant market that can reshape and impact the IoT market is China," said Jagdish Rebello, a senior technology director with market research firm IHS. "China is by far the largest market for many existing and potential IoT applications including industrial automation, smart cities and connected home."

A Chinese government push for adoption one of two particular standards in the industrial automation market should tip the scales in favour of the adoption of the standards, according to Rebello.

While expectations have been dialed back from the initial euphoria, the IoT market is expected to grow 19 per cent this year.

Web services, IoT usher in new design landscape
During a keynote at the recent Designers of Things event, a consultant stated that the rise of IoT and Web services is paving the way for new design principles. The new goal is to attract and impress customers with experiences that evolve in flexible ways that show you understand their needs, said Nandini Nayak, an executive at Fjord, a division of Accenture.

Manufacturers in China have been laying foundations. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is aiming to build an ecosystem of connected devices controlled by its handsets. The company has merged about 20 startups and is planning for more acquisitions as it launches smart home products such as air filters, security cameras, power strips and light bulbs.

Huawei has developed open-source IoT technology rather than building hardware. The company's Agile IoT platform includes the Lite OS, available to developers free of charge. The software connects IoT devices such as wearables, smart homewear and smart cars.

Huawei is also aiming for the smart cities market with a collaborative cloud service that integrates apps, networks and terminals to make operation of branch offices more efficient and a smart transport system that connects to trains and buses.

Gresham's Law

A sort of Gresham's Law, under which bad currency chases out good, may be taking effect in some product segments. The entry of dozens of Chinese manufacturers into smart watches is dropping factory prices of the products to a range of $15 to $55, according to a November 17 report by investment bank Credit Suisse.

The watches, mostly incorporating a MediaTek Aster SoC or dual-core processor to provide 3G calling, run a basic version of Android Wear and simulate the interface of the Apple iWatch, the report said.

MediaTek and Qualcomm are the main suppliers for China's wearable and home IoT offerings, according to the Credit Suisse report. Qualcomm is targeting new businesses in wearables, control and automation, consumer electronics, M2M and smart cities, the report said.

Qualcomm's new consumer electronics group is focused on TV video and gaming, wireless docking and smart monitors, sports and security cameras, drones and robot cleaners and home hubs, according to Credit Suisse.

China's Rockchip is diversifying into smartphones for IoT, and with its partner Intel, is promoting the SoFIA 3G-R, integrating a 64bit Atom quad core, a 600MHz ARM Mali GPU, a 3G modem and support for WiFi, 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.

Rockchip has also launched the RK6321 smart watch SoC including customised sensors, Infineon baseband from Intel, low power Bluetooth and WiFi.

Outside the living room, vendors are commoditising the GoPro action camera with devices based on chips from Taiwan's Sunplus and Novatek that are capable of 4k video recording and priced at $40-80 from the factory, according to Credit Suisse.

- Alan Patterson
??EE Times

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