Monday, June 22, 2015

What Technology as Foundation of IoT?

We have been dwelling on Zigbee technology and its standard for quite some time. The discussion is mainly related to WSN, IoT, and so on. But then the question, are there any other technologies or standards as solution for those system. Then answer is definitely yes. There are bunch of technologies towards IoT or implementation of WSN. From the same family from IEEE standard, there are Low Power Bluetooth and WiFi. Other than that, there are Z-wave, Insteon, EnOcean, and other proprietary standard. Even Google, one of the biggest companies on the world, has been joining in competition of IoT by introducing Brillo couple weeks ago. Surely, we are wondering which standard or technology that will be survived or dominate the market of IoT?

The competition amongst technologies are actually narrower into home automation system. All of them more concern on controllable and connected devices within home. The more extensive application is just about building automation unlike Zigbee that has broad applications besides those two applications. Probably, home or building automation is the closest and most demanded application in IoT such that all of them prefer to provide solution on it rather than other field.

Let's take a look the competition in the same standard of IEEE: WiFi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. Each of them has different standard which are 802.11, 802.15.1, and 802.15.4. Of course, each of them has different characteristic. WiFi technology offers highest data rate compared to the others.  However, power consumption of the device is also the biggest one. The network topology can also handle star topology with limited number of nodes. This topology also applies to Bluetooth technology. Unlike WiFi, Bluetooth has lower data rate and lower range of coverage. Power consumption of Bluetooth devices are also fairly huge. In providing low-rate and low-power WSN, Zigbee is the best choice amongst them.

Whilst, Insteon is protocol for home automation which combine power-line and wireless system to communicate with the devices on the network. This is the characteristic of Insteon and an advantage for using this technology. In term of data rate, it provides much less compared to other technologies. As for EnOcean, the key characteristic is that this technology offers the integration with energy harvesting.  EnOcean aims for home automation system with maintenance-free since there will be no batteries on its product. For some reason, this will be very beneficial.

The remaining technology to compare is Z-wave. This is truly competitor of Zigbee. Specification of Z-wave pretty the same of Zigbee. Even though Z-wave is categorized as proprietary standard, its market is bigger than Zigbee. But unlike Zigbee, the market is only for home automation system. Z-wave is also supported by hundreds of companies in providing  home automation solutions. Probably, due to Z-wave appeared earlier so that it has bigger market share. Other reason maybe installation of the device is easier and it is cheaper compared to Zigbee as reviewed by some people. But, the performance of Zigbee technology has been reported better.

In the future, these technologies will be the options in the market. Each of them has its own characteristics which may have its own market share. Especially for Insteon and EnOcean, they may go to market which taking into account their characteristic. Z-wave has already been the winner for current situation. However, Zigbee keeps developing their standard. Its wide area of application maybe one of factors that will beat Z-wave in the future. Its capability to support IP will be beneficial as well in IoT. As the topic of IoT is getting more popular, there is high probability that new technology will emerge. Just like Brillo released by Google, there  probably more are coming.

As I concern about energy usage, Zigbee Pro with Green Power will add up the performance of Zigbee. Perhaps, it can be leading factor compared to others. Or, it even may be able to surpass EnOcean which has specialty on  energy harvesting. Its effort in reducing power consumption and application of energy harvesting will be tough competition with EnOcean.

The competition will be still going until it is proven which technology will be the winner. Zigbee is already the leading technology with open standard but does it guarantee that Zigbee will be adopted by most people? In my opinion, Zigbee is already on the right track on taking position in the market either now or in the future. It surely has several advancement of technology compared to the others. Its development trend is also promising by introducing better and technologies within its product. Support from hundreds of companies will give advantage on the development itself. I am pretty sure that Zigbee will be one of leading technologies used as foundation of IoT.

Lee, Jin-Shyan, Yu-Wei Su, and Chung-Chou Shen. "A comparative study of wireless protocols: Bluetooth, UWB, ZigBee, and Wi-Fi." Industrial Electronics Society, 2007. IECON 2007. 33rd Annual Conference of the IEEE. IEEE, 2007.
Potdar, Vidyasagar M., and Samitha J. Kuruppu. "Evaluation of wireless home automation technologies." Digital Ecosystems and Technologies Conference (DEST), 2011 Proceedings of the 5th IEEE International Conference on. IEEE, 2011.
Withanage, Chathura, et al. "A comparison of the popular home automation technologies." Innovative Smart Grid Technologies-Asia (ISGT Asia), 2014 IEEE. IEEE, 2014.