Wireless Applications

Wi-Fi Moves into the Sensor Networking Realm

January 16, 2008

ABI Research predicts a shift in which the wireless technology plays a larger role in the sensing and industrial process control arenas.


SCOTTSDALE, AZ /BUSINESS WIRE/ -- "Rarely is Wi-Fi invoked within the context of wireless sensor networking or industrial process control," observes Sam Lucero, ABI Research Senior Analyst. "Wi-Fi is considered too power-intensive as many sensors, actuators, and other devices require battery operation while deployed for several years at a time—whereas Wi-Fi is optimized for limited time usage: from a few hours to less than a full day."

But a new transition peeks over the horizon, put forth by a company called GainSpan.

A Wi-Fi chipset company, GainSpan has developed various techniques that provide the battery life needed by sensor networks for Wi-Fi.

ABI Research notes several benefits for such a capability. If companies have already deployed a Wi-Fi infrastructure, access points, etc., it will reduce or even eliminate the need to deploy additional backhaul sensor infrastructure.

"Wi-Fi is more widely used and understood as a technology than many sensor-networking technologies being developed," continues Lucero. "GainSpan may in fact be able to offer a wider base of tools to develop applications. And overall system cost may be lower via a simpler topology."

In many cases, Wi-Fi can transmit farther than sensor network technologies. Rather than use a dense cluster of meshed nodes, which are inherently more complex to network and manage, Wi-Fi is a simpler start, reducing complexity of the network topology.

"GainSpan contends that it has created a highly integrated system on chip (SoC) that reduces the amount of extra components and circuitry needed," Lucero explains. "Total bill of materials will fall noticeably as well."

ABI Research believes this kind of Wi-Fi approach has a sweet spot that particular customers will find enticing; and those with a Wi-Fi infrastructure already deployed (without expensive wired or alternate legacy control systems) will benefit the most.

In the recent report "Wireless Sensor Networking (WSN) in Industrial Automation", ABI Research discusses 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 details key players involved in making WSN a reality in industrial automation. It forms part of two ABI Research Services: M2M and Short-Range Wireless.

About ABI
ABI Research is a leading market research firm focused on the impact of emerging technologies on global consumer and business markets. Using a unique blend of market intelligence, primary research, and expert assessment from its worldwide team of industry analysts, ABI Research assists hundreds of clients each year with their strategic growth initiatives. For information, call 516-624-2500.


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