According to Cisco, 2013 is the year of the "Internet of Things" (IoT) or "Internet of Everything." There is no doubt, that, with the multiplicity of sensor types, the significant reduction in cost and size of sensors and connectivity solutions, the dramatic increase in processing power and storage, and the multitude of cloud offerings, that the IoT is happening. Numerous connected devices are appearing on the market. In the residential market, for example, connected weight scales, heart rate monitors, door locks, irrigation controllers, thermostats, smart plugs and appliances, to name just a few, are showing up on the shelves of the Apple store, Best Buy, Home Depot or Lowe's.
The multitude of wireless technologies has definitely not helped the deployment of IoT. Several wireless technologies, often proprietary, and not based on the Internet protocol (IP), were used in applications. These wireless technologies offered cost advantages for local connectivity and lower power consumption primarily due to the low data rate of the applications and their smaller RF channelization. However, when the devices needed to connect to the internet, bridges had to be deployed. The result: the cost advantages disappeared and the devices could not benefit from the well proven value of the Internet protocol. In addition, with smartphones and tablets becoming the preferred control and monitoring devices for the IoT, more and more device manufacturers are considering Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for connectivity, as opposed to other wireless technologies.
Late February, GainSpan unveiled its GS2000, the industry's first chip to combine low power Wi-Fi and ZigBee IP - onto a single die. Wi-Fi brings the local connectivity to the smartphone and the remote connectivity through the internet. It leverages the extensive installed base of Wi-Fi access points in residential, commercial and industrial applications as well as hotspots. ZigBee IP, the only other wireless IP based technology in Local and Home Area Network (LAN/HAN), extends the reach of IP to more battery operated devices, through the use of smaller channelization and meshing.
The GS2000 is a highly integrated System on a Chip (SoC) containing multi-standard RF as well as both 802.11b/g/n and 802.15.4 PHY/MAC functionality, dual ARM CortexTM -M3 processors, and large memory size. Although lower power consumption processors are available from other companies, the Cortex-M3's were chosen as the best compromise between processing power, low power consumption, and low cost, to support the multitude of IoT applications. One Cortex-M3 runs the wireless LAN functions, while the other handles all the networking stack and services including IPv4 and IPv6, personal and enterprise security, embedded DHCP, DNS and HTTP(S) clients and servers, XML parser, service and device discovery as well as application profiles.
The Connected Home is one market that will benefit from these capabilities. For example, the Wi-Fi/ZigBee IP combo solution will bridge the gap between smart meters using ZigBee in the USA and the new connected white appliances, now starting to integrate Wi-Fi. Appliances can now be connected to the appliance manufacturer's cloud service for maintenance, troubleshooting, firmware upgrades, or customer notification (i.e. to replace a fridge filter), to the customer's smartphone for remote control or monitoring as well as to the meter and the utility's network for load shedding.
GainSpan is innovating with the Internet of Things in mind. The integration of Wi-Fi and ZigBee IP will extend IP connectivity to more devices and has the potential to accelerate the Internet of Things. The Internet has come a long way from its days of serving just Web pages. Today, it's becoming an integral part of our lives.
Bernard Aboussouan, Vice President of Marketing, GainSpan Corporation, leads GainSpan's marketing and application engineering functions. Before joining GainSpan, Mr. Aboussouan was vice president of marketing and business development at Sequans Communications, where he was instrumental in building the company into the leading WiMAX chipmaker and also led Sequans' expansion in the United States. Earlier, he served with BeamReach Networks, Harris Corporation and Nortel Networks.