Cellular and LPWAN Technologies to Threaten Short-Range Wireless Solutions in Nascent IoT Markets


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Short-range wireless technologies, like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4, increasingly target nascent IoT markets beyond the consumer space. ABI Research finds that these technologies will face a greater competitive risk from emerging M2M cellular and LPWAN technologies, particularly in specific IoT market segments. The new competition will target transportation and logistics, utilities and energy management, smart cities and smart buildings, industrial automation, and smart agriculture markets, among others.

“LPWAN technologies including RPMA, SIGFOX, LoRa, LTE Cat-M1, NB-IoT, and EC-GSM-IoT comprise a very competitive and rapidly evolving IoT connectivity landscape,” says Andrew Zignani, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “These technologies are specifically designed for IoT and are arguably much better matches for outdoor, larger-scale IoT applications due to their abilities to target greater coverage areas, their ease of deployment, and their greater scalability. In contrast, short-range wireless connectivity solutions, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee, are created for computing and consumer applications but are increasingly extended to address IoT verticals, as well.”

ABI Research forecasts the IoT will represent 15% of Wi-Fi, 27% of Bluetooth, and over 60% of 802.15.4 device shipments by 2022, as these technologies continue to evolve and target emerging opportunities ranging from wearables and healthcare to beacons, smart home, building and industrial automation, and smart cities, among others. LPWAN and legacy M2M cellular technologies are set to ship nearly 575 million chipsets by 2022, growing faster than any short-range connectivity solution across IoT verticals.

ABI Research finds that cellular and LPWAN technologies, often perceived as more reliable than short-range connectivity solutions, require less intermediary gateways, can support greater distances between end nodes, and scale from the very smallest to the largest number of end devices, while providing a battery life that exceeds 10 years. Therefore, to maintain their status in the competitive market, short-range wireless chipset suppliers will need to take advantage of mesh networking functionality, lower chipset costs, wider availability, greater brand awareness, established and proven technologies, security features, IPv6 support, no service costs, and other unique advantages that include higher data rates and strong presence in human-machine interface devices like smartphones.

“IoT markets are diverse, and there is no one size fits all technology solution,” concludes Zignani. “Implementers and product designers must make numerous decisions on the required bandwidth, coverage area, capacity, reliability, battery life, cost, security features, topology, and frequency of messages, scalability, among other criteria. Only then will many of these technologies be able to carve out success stories despite the strong competitive landscape.”

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