M2M Heavyweights Back Standards Drive for Wireless IoT, but They Need Help

Summary Bullets:

  • Cisco and Accenture add global credibility to the Wireless IoT Forum’s standards rationalisation efforts, while WSN Tech adds China to the UK contribution from BT, Telensa and Arkessa.
  • Consolidated standards should give developers a bigger target market at which to aim, increase innovation in applications, reduce develop-ment costs and lower ROI thresholds for buyers, but market history suggests it may never happen.

The Wireless IoT Forum, backed by Cisco, Accenture, BT, Telensa, Arkessa and WSN Tech, hopes to rationalise the many largely proprietary wireless standards used in M2M/IoT applications. It believes this will encourage more application developers and systems suppliers to enter the sector, giving more choice, so that more customers buy wireless M2M projects.

But, ZigBee, Bluetooth and even WiFi are already accepted application-oriented wireless IoT standards. Sigfox, Weightless and LoRa could be-come so for low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs), as could the emerging LTE-U.

Why are there so many wireless standards? In the early days of wire-less M2M, pretty much every system was custom-built and self-contained, like vehicle tracking, which historically hit the buffers as soon as the vehicle crossed a border. Some vendors, such as systems inte-grator CGI, reckon 80% of the device management, data collection and handling is common to all M2M; only 20% needs to be fitted for the ap-plication. That includes the wireless bit.

The choice of wireless protocol is application dependent. As William Webb, who leads both the Weightless SIG and the Wireless IoT Forum, notes: GSM is overkill for some applications, such as meter reading or waste bin management. The GSMA argues that GSM-based 4G/5G is the one size that fits all, but Telensa, which has a very successful municipal street lighting business, says it is simply too expensive for cash-strapped town councils.

End users should continue to match the technology to the application, seeking to maximise cost-benefit efficiencies. Standards will help, but the choice of which wireless system to use is unlikely to reduce to just a few, at least any time soon.

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