CES 2019 provided more evidence of companies making decisions on Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi seem to be prevailing. If IoT connectivity were to be compared to roulette (CES is held in Las Vegas, after all), betting on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is like betting on black or red. With most possible outcomes being one or the other, your odds of winning are pretty good.
First Alert showed a line of smoke detectors that integrate with either Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa. But wouldn’t it make as much sense, if not more, to integrate Wi-Fi? A representative of the company acknowledged that versions with Wi-Fi are coming, perhaps later this year.
State laws commonly mandate the installation of smoke alarms in every dwelling; it makes perfect sense to combine two devices that are heading for almost the exact same level of ubiquity in the exact same places. Combining the two devices moots the question of where to add a separate Wi-Fi repeater. Adding Wi-Fi to a dwelling will be no more obtrusive than mounting the smoke alarm that has to be there anyway. Physical obstructions scattered within rooms pose minimal challenge to the latest versions of Wi-Fi; that said, the ceiling is still a great place to mount a wireless device.
Wi-Fi is simply overkill for some applications, however. Furthermore it isn’t anywhere near as widespread as one might hope in places where people don’t congregate in number, which includes most spaces dedicated for commercial, industrial, or utility use.
Rigado is betting on Bluetooth, which got a boost, literally and figuratively, from the evolution to Bluetooth 5. Prior to Bluetooth 5, Bluetooth devices were basically for personal networks, for example connecting a smartphone to an external speaker system. Bluetooth 5 extends the protocol’s wireless range from roughly 100 meters to 300 or 400 meters (indoors).
Rigado builds components for Bluetooth connectivity, including a chip that supports roughly 20 active Bluetooth devices simultaneously. The company considers itself first and foremost an integration partner. That said, Rigado has built its own Bluetooth gateway, a device that can host IoT apps and can tie together as many as 100 active Bluetooth devices (integrating five of its chips) over an area of about 2,000 square feet.
That’s for connecting active Bluetooth devices; if used to monitor simple Bluetooth tags that act as occasional beacons, each gateway can support hundreds of devices. In either mode, Bluetooth gateways become an interesting option for retail operations, the hospitality business (restaurants, notably), and medical facilities, where Bluetooth can be an incredibly useful and low-cost method for tracking and/or monitoring stock or supplies.
In roulette, the safe bet is on black or red, but you can also play a specific number. There are other wireless connectivity options in the IoT, somewhat akin to betting on a specific number; choosing the correct one could lead to a big payout.
The options include ANT+, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, EnOcean, InGenu, LoRa, LTE, NB-IoT (essentially the IoT use case subset of 5G), Sigfox, Sub-GHz, the ULE Alliance, Weightless, WiGig, and various flavors of WiFi ( Figure 1 ). If you’re getting involved in the IoT, how do you make the right decision?
Figure 1 The market for wireless IoT connectivity is highly fragmented. Source: Qorvo
The best technological option for your application might end up a loser in the market. It is nearly inevitable that the number of wireless options will eventually reduce to three or four – but which ones?