Surging Wi-Fi traffic, new uses cases, and emerging IoT applications will result in a nearly 54% increase in wireless IC shipments by 2020, forecasts ABI Research. The short-range wireless connectivity market technologies – including ZigBee, Thread, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and NFC – will continue to evolve to meet new market demands, as evident with various new and upcoming enhancements. These include Bluetooth 5 and Bluetooth Mesh, the ZigBee Alliance’s reveal of dotdot language for the IoT, Wi-Fi HaLow (802.11ah), WiGig (802.11ad), new Z-Wave security enhancements, and the growth of ICs that combine several of these connectivity solutions.
“The proliferation of multi-protocol ICs and devices will allow for much simpler product creations and quicker times to market regardless of the deployed technology,” says Andrew Zignani, Industry Analyst at ABI Research. “A prime example is Qorvo’s recent GP695 SoC product announcement that integrates multiple communication protocols, including IEEE 802.15.4, ZigBee, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The technology collaboration reduces complexity for IoT device designers by enabling them to take advantage of a single SKU development platform.”
Specifically, Bluetooth 5 speed enhancements will benefit wearables and other handheld devices that will sport quicker performance times, quicker data transfers and syncing, and faster firmware updates, all while keeping power consumption down. The higher speeds will also lead to improvements in future wireless audio applications. Mesh, which Bluetooth SIG remains set to standardize in 2017, will become increasingly vital to the support, creation, and enhancement of use cases that include smart lighting control, building automation, and condition monitoring. Mesh will help enable Bluetooth to compete in areas in which other technologies previously held the competitive advantage.
Wi-Fi’s continued evolution will come in the form of several new protocols. 802.11ax will focus on overall network efficiency improvements rather than simply boosting peak speeds. 60GHz WiGig (802.11ad) will improve Wi-Fi’s suitability for 4K streaming, docking, and VR applications. The sub-1GHz HaLow standard (802.11ah) will open up new opportunities in low-power and in an extended range of IoT applications.
Wi-Fi chipsets that incorporate 802.11ax, WiGig, or HaLow technologies will make up 60% of all wireless IC shipments by 2021. However, both WiGig and HaLow represent a new direction for Wi-Fi and will face unique challenges in terms of creating a new ecosystem in different bands.
Lastly, Z-Wave’s strong interoperability will remain a major advantage and key value proposition, allowing service providers and others to provide a manageable and more advanced smart home solution that can resonate beyond early adopters and reach a mainstream audience. Further security enhancements through the new S2 security framework and strong backing from key home security vendors will help the technology grow in the years to come.