Bluetooth and ZigBee to dominate wireless IoT connectivity

Bluetooth and ZigBee to dominate wireless IoT connectivity

Over a quarter of all wireless connectivity will be due to IoT devices

Bluetooth to get more power, range and speed for IoT devices
Bluetooth and ZigBee to dominate wireless IoT connectivity

IoT devices will account for 28 percent of the wireless connectivity chip market by 2021, according to a new report.

Analyst firm ABI Research said that Bluetooth smart home devices will show a 75 percent growth rate between 2016 and 2021, though 802.15.4-based ZigBee and Thread (which Google’s Nest is part of) will lead with 34 percent volume share of the home automation and 29 percent of the smart lighting markets by this time.

Industry standard IEEE 802.15.4, which is a technology used in personal area networks, will also see growth in smart metering, building automation, industrial, and street lighting market, accounting for almost one-third of 802.15.4 shipments by 2021.

A majority of fitness and activity trackers are using Bluetooth Smart, with the solution extending to medical applications moving forward. It also promises significant opportunity for beacons across numerous verticals, such as retail and advertising, with ABI Research forecasting a 129 percent growth rate between 2016 and 2021. However, looking ahead there will be increasing competition in the connectivity sphere across numerous IoT verticals.

“2015 witnessed a growing trend toward the development of multiprotocol connectivity SoCs for the IoT, some of which support both Bluetooth Smart and 802.15.4,” says Andrew Zignani, industry analyst at ABI Research.

“Devices that incorporate multiprotocol chipsets will be more future-proof. While a product might utilise Bluetooth in the short term, a device manufacturer may want to switch to Thread in the future or have the ability to talk to multiple connectivity protocols once deployed.”

Related: The Internet of Things remains an absolute maze of communication protocols

IoT requires combination of technologies

The analysts said that it might not be a case of either Bluetooth or ZigBee or Thread, but rather using a combination of these technologies in a single device. The recently announced acquisition of GreenPeak by Qorvo and the resulting expansion in their RF portfolio with low-power SoCs, 802.15.4, and Bluetooth solutions, illustrated the growing importance of both of these technologies for the IoT, according to the research firm.

It also said it expects to see a growing presence of smart home hubs that incorporate multiple connectivity solutions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, Z-Wave and 802.15.4 (ZigBee/Thread). These solutions will have a significant role to play in the development and consolidation of wireless connectivity solutions for the smart home. These hubs are already being already offered by the likes of Google, Samsung, and Huawei, according to Zigani.

Ian Hughes, analyst for the Internet of Things at 451 Research, told Internet of Business that multi-protocol devices offer some degree of future proofing with an ever evolving landscape.

“The major telecoms companies are working with the multitude of new protocols that devices can communicate with. Most of these threaten the traditional Sim card business, so the new opportunities are in the management and configuration of these complex devices,” he said.

“An IoT endpoint having more than one way to communicate removes the need to make any direct decisions at the architecture stage, however, it increases the complexity of device management. If a device is changing protocols dynamically it becomes a more complex proposition.

Hughes added that if devices are being rolled out with one network configuration, but then a future one changes the protocol, “it is clearly beneficial for the older devices to not need replacement, but to just simply work due to the onboard multiple redundancy.”

“At 451 Research we have noted several times that the arguments over protocols are missing the application and business model opportunities. There needs to be a cultural shift to address the opportunities,” he said.

“The use of IoT sensors from one industry silo by another is where disruption occurs, and new opportunities arise. This can happen at a device level, e.g. A device may operate in a low power infrequent communication model, but be able to be called into action as a realtime device in another situation. A city pollution sensor may just need to take a reading every month, but in an emergency situation in a city it can provide realtime accurate information to the emergency services.”

Related: Bluetooth to get more power, range and speed for connected devices