IoT World Summary Part II: Wireless LAN Connectivity Spaghetti, Issues & Solutions


This article reviews the IoT connectivity options (wireless PANs and wireless LANs) discussed and debated at the IoT World conference IoT Technical Architecture track on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.   Surprisingly, no wireline technologies, e.g. Power over Ethernet or Automotive Ethernet for connected cars (e.g. Broadcom offering) were mentioned.  Some wireless WAN issues (e.g. licensed vs unlicensed spectrum) were discussed in a panel session that’s summarized below.

Part III will focus on IoT Wireless WANs, sometimes referred to as LPWANs or LPWA.  See preview at the end of this blog post.

Navigating the IoT Connectivity Landscape, Alex Kengen, International Product Marketing Manager Dialog Semiconductor:

Mr. Kengen identified the following IoT industry verticals: smart car, smart city, smart home and wearables. Presumably, these are the IoT market segments Dialog Semi is pursuing. Notably absent is Industrial IoT, which this author (and many others) think will be the biggest IoT market in terms of revenues.

“Smart home” is characterized by multiple connectivity standards/specs, ease of use (very important), low cost, low power dissipation (=longer battery life), good security, robustness (availability/no downtime), use of IPv6.

There’s a “sea of confusion” when it comes to IoT Connectivity standards, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbe, Thread, and DECT ULE.  These are illustrated in the 2 slides below:  

Alex noted that DECT ULE was low power, star topology, and a high data rate.  IEEE 802.15.4 Zigbee had the advantage of a mesh topology and long range.

Dialog Semiconductor’s Portfolio of low power wireless SoCs:

Optimized for low power, small size and low system cost

Embedded Software stacks

Highest levels of integration and ease of use

Complete development environment and development tools and local support

Unique innovations on Sensor Fusion, Energy Harvesting, Audio

Supporting a wide range of IoT applications with reference designs

•  DA1458x: Single-chip solution for low cost, small and light devices such as Proximity tags, Beacons, Smart Buttons, Disposables, etc

•  DA1468x:  Single-chip solution for standalone wearables and other rechargeable devices

•  Module Partners include:  Murata, Panasonic, TDK, ALPS, LG-Innotech, Samsung (SEMCO)

•  Portfolio of Reference Designs (SmartBond [TM])

•  DA14583 IoT Sensor Development Kit

Kengen’s Closing Comments (Alan’s comments in parenthesis):

• There is a massive market opportunity for IoT (but will it be realized?)

• To realize the full potential of IoT, innovations are needed to drive it to the next level (no mention of what type of innovations?)

• Dialog Semiconductor focus is on helping the IoT grow, together with the major players (who are they?)

• Dialog Semiconductor cooperates, not competes, with other standards (presumably the one’s noted in above chart)

• Let’s take IoT to the next level!!  (whatever that means???)

Panel: Examining the Array of Connectivity Enablers for IoT

Note 1.  ATIS (Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions) is a founding partner of oneM2M – a global standards initiative for M2M communications and the Internet of Things.  oneM2M has selected ATIS as the initial Registry Management Authority for the oneM2M Application Identifier (App-ID) registry powered by iconectiv.  The Registry enables delivery of globally unique software application identifiers, based upon oneM2M specifications, and provides application identifier management to support developers and enterprises within industry verticals.

Note 2.  NFC (Near Field Communication) is a standards-based short-range wireless connectivity technology that makes life easier and more convenient for consumers around the world by making it simpler to make transactions, exchange digital content, and connect electronic devices with a touch. NFC is compatible with hundreds of millions of contactless cards and readers already deployed worldwide.  More information at the NFC Forum website.

IoT Issues discussed by the 2 panelists:

  • What are the key aspects when considering network connectivity? There will be different evaluation and selection criteria for different connectivity choices.  The criteria to be reviewed should include: Range; Data Rate; Power; and Security.  
  • IoT vendors and solution providers should think about user experience (who is the user of a “thing?”).  Interoperability and security are most important for a good user experience.  Privacy may also be an issue.
  • Range should include ability of the wireless signal to penetrate walls (WiFi is not at all good for that).
  • Low power is critical for battery operated “things” in the field, where the battery must last for a very long time.
  • Capability to change bandwidth/bit rates for applications like video surveillance, medical videos, and/or data bursting from equipment or controllers will also be an important criteria for those applications.
  • As technology evolves, it will be essential to “future proof” IoT modules, equipment and controllers.
  • Compatibility with legacy IT networks might also be an issue (except for totally greenfied IoT deployments)
  • Huge BATTLE:  proprietary specs vs standards for modules, connectivity, messaging formats & protocols and apps.
  • IoT industry needs standards for devices, connectivity, protocols, and open APIs.
  • Wireless WAN issue:  licensed vs unlicensed spectrum.  


Licensed spectrum is owned by a single network operator (in the U.S. the spectrum is usually auctioned by the FCC).  2G, 3G, and 4G-LTE all use licensed spectrum.

Unlicensed spectrum is not owned by anyone. Rather, it’s used by any equipment transmitting/receiving in that frequency band.  Because there are many more players, interoperability may be a bigger issue than for licensed spectrum connectivity options.  All WiFi WANs use unlicensed spectrum.  LTE-M is being developed by 3GPP for unlicensed spectrum.

Note: Wireless WANs for IoT will be the subject of IoT World Part III Summary.

Challenges for IoT Conncectivity:

  • Interoperability, in light of the current “chaos and confusion” in connectivity options, forums & alliances, proprietary technologies,etc.
  • Solid and widely accepted standards are required for: PHY & MAC/Link layer connectivity, auto-discovery, authentication, reliable messaging, and security.  
  • Security is critical: If one IoT device on a shared network is compromised, then all networed IoT devices on that network are at risk.
  • A shake out is inevitable with only the “robust standards” becoming commercially viable.  All IoT industry participants must work together to enable interoperability and “fair behavior” for all players.
  • It will be “at least two years before we know who the dominant players will be.”
  • More IoT solutions are needed to be accessible to customers (no examples given).
  • Search engines to find IoT solutions and apps will be needed.
  • Lack of spectrum as the number of IoT devices is growing exponentially.
  • May have to rely on mesh networking to realize required range.
  • The Wi-Fi Alliance® has introduced Wi-Fi HaLow™ as the designation for products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah technology. Wi-Fi HaLow operates in frequency bands below one gigahertz, offering longer range, lower power connectivity to Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ products. Wi-Fi HaLow will enable a variety of new power-efficient use cases in the Smart Home, connected car, and digital healthcare, as well as industrial, retail, agriculture, and Smart City environments.

Creation and Smart system partitioning for IoT Systems, Colm Prendergast, Director of IoT Cloud Technology, Analog Devices (ADI)- session started at 1:40pm 
[Unfortunately, I could not attend this presentation due to the very late conference lunch which involved standing in line for over 35 minutes till 1:05pm when lunch line opened. Then another 10 minutes to get a small plate of food] 

Session Abstract:

True value creation in IoT comes from monitoring and analyzing a system and then modifying it to create a more effective and efficient desired outcome. This results in then taking an action to match where appropriate intelligence can be added along an IoT chain. Every “SMART” step in IoT is an opportunity to create & capture value.

We share some examples to demonstrate value creation and then explain SMART partitioning. It explains the trade-offs of how and where to add intelligence along the signal path and shares some industry trends for SMART IoT design. These are discussed with respect to some key IoT parameters including cost, power and security.

Stay tuned for Part III on Wireless WAN/LPWAN/LB WAN connectivity options.  

Preview:  This author was aware of the huge number of wireless personal (PAN) and local (LAN) connectivity standards being promoted for IoT and other low power, lower speed applications.   Astonishingly, we were not aware of an even bigger set of IoT wireless WANs, because they’d all be based on a low power, low speed version of LTE.  WRONG!  Many such wireless WAN specs are being generated in forums or alliances, while some are proprietary technology of a single vendor!  The resulting chaos and confustion may lead to IoT market fragmentation due to lack of interoperability between IoT “things” and the wireless networks they connect to.

Till next time, here’s a pic of Alan asking a question at one of the above sessions.  Track Moderator Daryl Schoolar of Ovum is to the right, in back of Alan.

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