There are two camps of thinking on the IoT: those who believe Bluetooth and Wi-Fi rule the edge, and those who support any of dozens of other wireless networking specifications for their various technical advantages. The ubiquity of Wi-Fi in homes helps devices connect in a few clicks – so why don’t more IoT designers use it?
I know firsthand that bringing up my new house here in Texas would not have been possible without Wi-Fi. Besides two smartphones, two tablets, two laptops, and one printer, we also have our DIRECTV Genie, our Google Chromecast, and our Samsung TV on Wi-Fi. I’ve been toying with the idea of an Ecobee thermostat someday. Even the Dell desktop I’m typing on right now is connected via Wi-Fi since my Cat5 wiring isn’t terminated yet.
What do all of those things have in common? They either have a really big power cord, or they connect daily to a charger that also has a really big power cord. When the game shifts to battery power with infrequent recharging, such as most people expect with IoT devices, one big question comes up about Wi-Fi. Compared to alternatives, most Wi-Fi implementations have been at the high end of the power consumption scale.
That is starting to change. IoT devices are pushing for lower power Wi-Fi chipsets that are more battery-friendly. Several microcontroller vendors have companion chips to add Wi-Fi to their platforms. Maker modules are replete with Wi-Fi. There are kits such as the Adafruit Feather HUZZAH and Electric Imp and Particle Photon out there to help bring IoT prototypes up very quickly. The Wi-Fi Alliance has just announced HaLow for future applications, an evolution to the 802.11ah specification supporting a 900 MHz band.
As we’ve been hearing from vendors in recent weeks, differentiating IoT products for mass production may rely on creating a purpose-built SoC with optimization. That demands power-optimized Wi-Fi IP and integration knowledge many IoT startups lack.
CEVA is teaming up with ARM for a webinar next week to explore these trends and illustrate how next-generation low power Wi-Fi SoCs can be built now. With many use cases demanding more range and bandwidth, low power Wi-Fi may overtake Bluetooth in the smart home by some forecasts. Analysts think 20% of wearables will also integrate Wi-Fi – I think that figure might be conservative, if the recharging concerns are addressed.
This webinar is a good opportunity for IoT designers to hear the low power Wi-Fi story and ask questions of both ARM and CEVA about how customized SoCs can help. Registration is free on the CEVA website: