According to an updated market forecast from ABI Research, the installed base of active wireless connected devices will exceed 16 billion in 2014, an increase of nearly 20% from 2013. The number of devices will more than double from the current level, with 40.9 billion projected for 2020.
“The driving force behind the surge in connections is that usual buzzword suspect, the Internet of Things (IoT). If we look at this year’s installed base, smartphones, PCs and other ‘hub’ devices represent still 44% of the active total, but by end-2020 their share is set to drop to 32%. In other words, 75% of the growth between today and the end of the decade will come from non-hub devices: sensor nodes and accessories,” revealed Aapo Markkanen, Principal Analyst.
From a tech supplier’s strategic point of view, the critical question that lies ahead is how the plethora IoT devices will ultimately be connected. Until recently, the choices that product OEMs have faced have been fairly straightforward — with cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and others all generally addressing their relative comfort zones. Going forward, they will be in an increasing competition with each other, so for the suppliers the strategic stakes are getting much higher.
“The recently introduced Thread protocol, spearheaded by Nest Labs, is not only setting the bar higher for ZigBee in the 802.15.4 space, but also piling up pressure on Bluetooth suppliers to enable mesh networking. In the meantime, the LTE-MTC and LTE-M initiatives may well expand the market for cellular M2M, while startups like Electric Imp and Spark could do the same for Wi-Fi. And finally, we also shouldn’t ignore what’s going on with passive, proximity-based connectivity offered by RFID and NFC,” added ABI Research Practice Director Dan Shey.
Another prime example of this convergence is the newly-unveiled Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), formed by tech leaders Atmel, Broadcom, Dell, Intel, Samsung and Wind River. The aim of this new project is to establish a common communication framework based on industry standard technologies to wirelessly connect and intelligently manage the flow of information among devices, regardless of form factor, operating system or service provider. The OIC also intends to deliver open source implementations for a variety of IoT market opportunities and vertical segments from smart home solutions to automotive and more, utilizing both existing and emerging standards like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, Zigbee, Zwave and Ant+.
The new Atmel | SMART product line includes the SmartConnect wireless IC family, which combines ultra-low power Atmel MCUs with wireless solutions and complementary software. The SmartConnect wireless portfolio is a family of self-contained, low-power, and certified modules bringing wireless Internet connectivity to any embedded design, without compromising on cost and power consumption. Adding to the already broad family are recently-acquired NMI’s 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth certified products. These innovative, highly-integrated solutions will accelerate seamless communication and connectivity for the IoT.
“Combined with our existing Wi-Fi and Zigbee solutions and industry leading microcontroller portfolio, Atmel is positioned for substantial growth in the Internet of Things marketplace,” explained Atmel CEO Steve Laub.