ABI Research says IPv6loWPAN is the "in thing" for SP100

Key Developing Industrial Wireless Sensor Networking Standard Looks to IP SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - September 17, 2007 - Increasingly, it appears likely that the developing ISA SP-100.11a industrial WSN (Wireless Sensor Networking) standard will adopt the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) "6loWPAN" WSN networking protocol to a greater or lesser extent as SP-100.11a's own networking layer.  Although exact details are still to be worked out, the SP-100.11a Committee agreed to the adoption of 6loWPAN as a general principle.  SP-100.11a is a key effort to standardize WSN technology for industrial use cases, and is analyzed in-depth in a recent ABI Research study entitled, Wireless Sensor Networking (WSN) in Industrial Automation.   The adoption of 6loWPAN potentially provides several important benefits to the SP-100.11a standard at the networking layer, depending on how 6loWPAN is implemented.  For example, the full 6loWPAN standard has recourse to the full range of IETF tool sets and management techniques developed and refined over the years for IPv4 and IPv6.  These are tools that recent non-IP-based WSN standards, such as ZigBee and Z-Wave, have to develop essentially from scratch.    Likewise, full 6loWPAN functionality would enable individual SP-100.11a sensor nodes to communicate "directly" with the wider IP-based world (including enterprise back-end infrastructure, for example), as opposed to relying on the mediation of gateway proxies and application profiles, as is currently the case with ZigBee.   Sam Lucero, senior analyst for ABI Research, says, "To date, many implementations within the industrial market have been proprietary "” so a technology vendor will come up with its own wireless sensor networking technology from the standpoint of the physical layer and proprietary networking protocols."  Lucero adds, "This leads to vendor lock-in and higher prices."   Vendor lock-in is a significant problem, as companies do not want to deploy an expensive system and then later find out the vendor no longer supports it.  In contrast, SP-100.11a and 6loWPAN are open standards efforts.  SP-100.11a should be ratified as a standard in 2008.   Although the adoption of 6LoPAN has not been officially announced, ABI Research is keeping its eye on the deliberations of the standards body.    This market for WSN technology, including the prospects for SP-100.11a and other WSN protocols in the industrial automation market, are analyzed in-depth in the recent study from ABI Research entitled, Wireless Sensor Networking (WSN) in Industrial Automation, which discusses in detail the market opportunity for WSN in industrial deployments, implications of key standards efforts including Wireless HART, SP-100.11a, and "industrial" ZigBee, WSN adoption trends, and key players involved in making WSN a reality in industrial automation.  It forms part of two ABI Research Services, M2M and Short-Range Wireless.

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  • I'm a proponent of Short Range Wireless and all efforts to bring wireless connectivity to industrial environments. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm also a shareholder in Ember [www.ember.com], a company that has placed its bets on the ZigBee standard.)

    I'm also a big fan of ABI's research, but I disagree with points made in the above blog entry.

    The first is the suggestion that 6LoPAN does NOT require "the mediation of gateway proxies" and that other standards do. In fact, 6LoPAN requires some element in the network to perform all the processing that transforms between full IP packets and 6LoPAN packets. This is normally done by gateway boxes sitting at the edge of the wireless 6LoPAN network. As long as you have a gateway box, it can just as easily perform protocol conversion between IP and other wireless standards such as ZigBee.

    The second of contention is Mr. Lucero's implication that "non-open" standards lead to vendor lock in and higher prices. As a counter example, ZigBee is not considered an open standard -- an implementor is required to join the ZigBee alliance in order to release ZigBee certified products -- but with dozens of manufacturers of chips and software stacks, ZigBee is multiply sourced and customers who adopt ZigBee solutions enjoy the cost benefits of a competitive market place.

    • Robert Poor www.nbt-ventures.com

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