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Can we talk? Internet of Things vendors face a communications 'mess'

Patrick Thibodeau | April 21, 2014
Vendors will tell you that the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived. We're here to tell you that it hasn't.

There is a degree of trash talking or at least pointed criticisms by the various vendors.

ZigBee officials, citing their open standard, dismiss rival Z-Wave as "more of a user group for Zensys," which developed the Z-Wave communications protocol. Sigma Design bought Zensys and now licenses the technology.

Meanwhile, an official of the Z-Wave Alliance is similarly dismissive of ZigBee, and says device makers using ZigBee will implement it in different ways, creating incompatibilities. ZigBee, in response, says it runs a certification program to ensure uniformity.

For its part, CSR, in its Bluetooth mesh announcement, pointed out the shortcomings of both ZigBee and Z-Wave.

"From a networking perspective, the IoT is a mess and will remain so," said Nick Jones, an analyst at Gartner. "I expect for the next few years more than 10 wireless technologies will get significant traction in IoT applications."

There's no perfect technology. Challenges include the cost of the hardware, with cellular being the most expensive. And then there are issues such as operations costs, bandwidth, range and architecture to consider. Different applications have different requirements and different needs, said Jones.

"The first problem is there is no single wireless technology that optimizes all of these for all situations," he said.

The compatibility of the data interchange is another problem.

"Even if two devices share the same wireless, they may not share the same communications protocols. I expect we'll see lots of islands," Jones said. "Will a Samsung microwave talk to a Bosch washing machine, a Phillips smart light bulb and a Siemens smart electricity meter? Probably not for a while."

 

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