Based in San Jose, California, Silver Spring Networks uses a mesh network architecture based on the 802.11.15.4g standard (also known as Wi-SUN) supporting speeds up to about 1 mbps. The company focuses on utility networks and smart cities -- what CEO Mike Bell calls “the Internet of critical Things.” One advantage of a mesh network is that it’s easy to extend coverage a little further (in a cellular network, a new base station may be required). Silver Spring claims 22 million devices connected. Customers include the city of Glasgow, Scotland and Oklahoma Gas & Electric.
Cellular fights back
Given the huge market forecasts, the mobile phone industry is busy developing IoT standards for 4G and 5G. The industry’s answer to radically different architectures (LPWA and mesh) is an assortment of network, protocol, and device enhancements. This includes LTE-M, which will enable devices that use less bandwidth, consume less power and are less expensive. What’s still missing is the motivation to weigh down networks that are expensive to build and operate with things that, individually, generate very little revenue.
Likewise, there are reasons to be skeptical about the role of IoT in 5G. The mobile phone industry has its hands full trying to deliver greater capacity, lower latency, and higher speeds. At some point you have to ask whether it wouldn’t make more sense to build separate networks for IoT.
The Internet of Things will require a range of technologies and business models. It’s good to see more connectivity options from companies with real customers starting to emerge. Because growing the IoT market will continue to take time.
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