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Keeping Watch Over the IoT World

March 29, 2019
Some of the new trends making an impact on the Internet of Things include the emergence of ecosystems and the resurgence of Wi-Fi.

Staying current with the latest and greatest in the Internet of Things (IoT) space—and the different wireless technologies associated with it—can be quite a challenge. Right in the thick of it all is Silicon Labs. The company offers a wide range of wireless solutions, supporting technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and others.

Sid Sundar, senior product manager at Silicon Labs, recently weighed in on some of the emerging trends and technologies that he’s seeing in the IoT world. “For a long time, I think people were waiting to see whether there would be one wireless technology to rule them all,” said Sundar. “There were discussions about whether it would be Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, or other proprietary standards. I think people are acknowledging that there’s a place under the sun for all these wireless technologies, and they’re each carving out a niche.”

Sundar pointed out that the emergence of ecosytems is a major development in the IoT. “We’re seeing a lot of decision-making by customers and product manufacturers now being driven on the ecosystem side,” he explained. “There’s no longer this idea of just trying to support every technology or service for every single device. Manufacturers are targeting the ecosystems they want to be a part of. We’re seeing the choices that the ecosystem vendors are making, whether it’s Comcast and Amazon going with Zigbee or security infrastructure teams going with Z-Wave.

“These choices that infrastructure teams and ecosystem leaders are making are driving decision-making on the end-node side. People still want to be able to utilize multiple protocols and talk to multiple devices, but they’re recognizing much more that the technology choice depends heavily on the use case and application as well as the ecosystem they’re targeting.”

Wi-Fi’s Resurgence

Also gaining traction in the IoT, according to Sundar, is the reemergence of Wi-Fi. “The other trend I’ve noticed is the resurgence of Wi-Fi in IoT-type applications. I think part of it is this understanding that there is a divergence in all the standards that are being supported for IoT today. That isn’t likely to be resolved anytime soon. I think a couple years ago there was a mentality that you would use Wi-Fi for streaming content, you would have low-power wide-area-network (LPWAN) consolidation for cellular infrastructure, and there would be one IoT protocol to rule them all.

“Given that’s not happening, I think there’s a resurgence of Wi-Fi in terms of it becoming more and more relevant for IoT end nodes. I think that’s being driven by a couple of factors. One, we’re seeing end nodes that actually need direct cloud connection capability and have reasonable throughput requirements. Security cameras are a great example of that. Also, I think there’s a renewed emphasis by wireless vendors to try to drive Wi-Fi to get to a price point and a power point that makes it more and more acceptable for our end customers as a wireless solution of choice for IoT deployments.”

The WGM160P is a standalone module. The WF200 comes in a 4- × 4-mm QFN32 package, while the WFM200 is a 6.5- × 6.5-mm system-in-package (SiP) device.

Silicon Labs recently made an announcement concerning its new Wi-Fi solutions. They include the WF200 transceiver integrated circuit (IC), the WFM200 transceiver module, and the WGM160P standalone module (see figure).

The WGM160P Wi-Fi module is a standalone Wi-Fi solution optimized for IoT systems. It has a built-in host processor capable of running the full Wi-Fi stack and customer applications. The WGM160P supports IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with low transmit and receive current. In addition, its blocking performance ensures robust operation in crowded network conditions. For more information on the WGM160P module and other products, visit Silicon Labs’ wireless product page.

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