Choosing a Wireless Standard

The first question that most designers ask when adding wireless to their product is “which wireless standard to use?”  In some cases, where it is connecting to an existing product, that’s easy to answer.  If it’s not, it’s a lot more difficult.  It’s one reason I wrote a book about it – to try and help designers answer that question.  But another part of the same question is how well the different standards promote themselves as a solution? 

This year has seen some major changes within some of those wireless standards.  The ZigBee Alliance has lost Benno Ritter – for many years the global marketing face of ZigBee.  And the Bluetooth SIG has replaced its Chairman, Mike Foley, as well as its CTO, Andy Glass.  Both are interesting moves, as each of these standards is still evolving.  ZigBee is taking on smart lighting, home automation and smart metering, whilst Bluetooth is finally seeing Bluetooth Smart appearing in the mainstream.  In a recent issue of Incisor magazine, Vince Holton wrote about the loss of passion within the Bluetooth SIG – a sentiment that I’d echo and also extend to some of the other wireless standards.  But that’s an opinion formed from being close to these groups.  A few years ago I ran to survey to try and see what the general engineering opinion was of the different wireless standards. Prompted by Vince’s article, I thought it would be useful to run the survey again to see what designers think as we approach the end of 2012.

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The Cost of Wireless Standards

How much does it cost to produce a wireless standard?  And how long does it take?  Surprisingly those aren’t questions that are asked very often – probably because most developers are happy to use what already exists rather than starting again from scratch.

In the UK, some members of the smart metering programme have begun asking these questions, potentially for the wrong reasons.  They’ve realised that ZigBee – the current front-runner for the UK smart metering deployment, can’t provide the range to cope with every single house or block of flats, and have started wondering about whether it might make sense to start again from scratch.

A few years ago, when I was writing my book on the Essentials of Short Range Wireless I attempted to put some numbers to those questions.  It seems an appropriate time to publish them, as the answers are a lot more and a lot longer than most people think.

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