VDC Reviews Industrial Wireless Monitoring Market

Natick, MA -- A recently completed market study from Venture Development Corp. (VDC), RF/Microwave Industrial Wireless Monitoring and Control Products: For Discrete and Process Manufacturing, Global Market Analysis, focused on shipments of the following products for on-site industrial monitoring and control:

  • Data acquisition systems
  • Network products (access points, I/O devices, modems, repeaters, routers, transceivers)
  • Operator interface terminals (hand held, notebook, tablet, vehicle mount, wearable computers, and PDAs)
  • Remote controls
  • Sensors/transducers (flow, level, pressure, temperature, vibration, other)

Current Market
The study found that the largest share of 2007 shipments of these consisted of products using proprietary wireless protocols.

  • Proprietary in these frequency bands: 5, 4.9, 2.4, and 1.4 GHz; 900, 800, 400, 300, 150–174, 54–108, 72, 27, 13–22 MHz
  • IEEE 802.11Standards: a, b, g, n
  • IEEE 802.15.4 Standards: 802.15.4, ISA SP-100, Wireless HART, ZigBee
  • Other Standards: Bluetooth, Wireless USB

Those using proprietary wireless protocols accounted for $US 339.9 million of the total of $US 615.5 million, or over 55%. Wireless products with proprietary protocols operating in the 800 and 900 MHz band accounted for the largest share of worldwide shipments of these products, followed by those with proprietary protocols operating in the 400 MHz band.

Proprietary networks operating in the 400, 800 and 900 MHz ranges have been preferred in industrial applications for several reasons. Industrial applications in large facilities, such as oil and gas fields or water/wastewater treatment plants require longer distances, for which these bands are suitable.

Compared to higher frequency networks, these provide better propagation (especially through walls and other obstructions), and require lower transmission power and/or provide longer transmission distances. The RF components for the products—and thus the products operating at these frequencies—have lower prices. In addition, many of these are in applications where high data rates are not required. For example, data transmissions may only be for simple on/off controls or alarms. Others may be for remote monitoring of variable signals, but without high data transmission rate requirements. In addition, many users believe that proprietary networks are more secure and more reliable than standard networks.

Forecast Market
Nonetheless, dramatic shifts in shipment shares are expected over the next four years, with a trend toward greater implementation of standard wireless networks, and a decline in shipment share of the wireless (RF/microwave) products using proprietary networks. VDC forecasts that in 2012 shipments of these products using wireless standards will account for 56.5% of a market valued at nearly US$ 1.5 billion. Typical advantages of using standard networks include lower costs, interchangeable products from different suppliers, and established best practices (including security and interference protection, and ease of installation and integration).

VDC forecasts that in 2012 the largest worldwide shipment share will be for products using the IEEE 802.11g standard, followed by those using proprietary protocols operating in the 2.4 GHz band.

Overall, the wireless Ethernet IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n standards accounted for 34.2% of worldwide shipments in 2007. The share is forecast to increase to 36.7% of the total in 2012. The largest share gain among these is expected for the high throughput, broad bandwidth IEEE 802.11n standard. Declining shares are forecast for the IEEE.11a and b standards, with these expected to be displaced by shipments using the IEEE 802.g and n standards.

The largest share losses are expected for shipments using proprietary networks in the 400, 800, and 900 MHz bands. Shipments of products using these are still expected to grow over the forecast period, however, at relatively slow rates, as these are being displaced in applications by products using standard networks.

There is also displacement expected by shifts to proprietary networks in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. As the price of components for products operating in these bands continue to decline, shifts to these frequency bands follow. Networking products using these communication bands have higher data throughput than for those in lower frequency bands and can be used in all geographic regions.

Small but rapidly growing shipment shares of the products using IEEE 802.15.4, ZigBee, Wireless HART, and ISA SP100 standards are forecast. Attractive features of the IEEE 802.15.4 standard include low complexity, low cost, and low power consumption. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard supports a large number of nodes and operates in a mesh network. Low power consumption is achieved by sending only periodic data at low data rates; nodes exist in "sleep" modes the vast majority of the time.

The standard allows the development of multiple protocols. There are now several of these in existence, and under development, such as ZigBee, Wireless HART, and ISA SP100.11a. It is unclear at this point as to what extent products using these different protocols will be interoperable.

It should be noted that shipment distributions by types of networks vary considerably among the product classes studied. Application requirements such as transmission distances and data rates are most significant in the choices of networks to be used. For example, IEEE 802.11b accounted for the highest share of on-site operator interface terminal worldwide shipments in 2007, and IEEE 802.11g is expected to account for the largest share in 2012. Here there is typically the need to communicate large amounts of data to and from controllers, computers, and devices at high data rates.

About VDC
Venture Development Corp. (VDC) is a technology market research and strategy consulting firm that advises clients in a number of industrial, embedded, component, retail automation, RFID, AIDC, datacom/telecom, and defense markets. Using rigorous primary research and analysis techniques, the firm helps its clients identify, plan for, and capitalize on current and emerging market opportunities. We strive to deliver exceptional value to our clients by leveraging the considerable technical, operational, educational and professional experience of our research and consulting staff. During our nearly four decades of ongoing operation, we have had the pleasure of serving most of the world's leading technology companies, many high-profile start-ups, and numerous blue-chip early and later stage investors. Our products and services consist of research reports, annual research programs, and custom research and consulting services. Founded in 1971, the firm is located in the Boston area.