Wireless sensor network growth expected in 2007

Source: Industrial Networking,

Jul 05, 2006

The wireless sensor network (WSN) marketplace still is in the early stages of development. As a result, the market is littered with multiple standards and technologies vying for supremacy, and that fragmentation is slowing market growth, according to ABI Research.

However, a recent study by ABI reports that the WSN market should begin to realize its potential in 2007. The report also found that many WSN devices use IEEE 802.15.4 chips. ABI adds the well-known ZigBee protocol competes with Zensys’ Z-Wave and SmartLabs’ Insteon for use in residential WSNs.

Sam Lucero, ABI’s senior analyst, says WSNs will play roles in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Residential products typically are first to market because applications are simpler, and testing and reliability demands are less stringent. Commercial and industrial solutions will likely follow.

However, market dynamics also will change as the industry grows. Today many WSN chips—really systems-on-a-chip (SoCs)—are packaged in modules that may include added circuitry, stack networking, layer software, and antennas. ABI adds component manufacturers can use these drop-in components to WSN-enable products without needing to know a lot about RF engineering or having to do extensive testing.

“In this early market, we see a place for these module makers to help [component] OEMs,” says Lucero. “However, as volumes increase and cost becomes an issue, we think that [device manufacturers] will begin to forego the modules because they add a variable cost. They’ll develop products based directly on the SoC, where their costs are fixed and spread over many units.”

The report adds modules also can continue to thrive in certain commercial segments and in industrial plant monitoring. Volumes will be low enough for [device] OEMs to forego expensive in-house development of RF expertise and use the module. Also, many modules come with supporting software, bundled as a system that makes it easier to deploy a complex network.