This is the last blog of the series and I want to leave you with something forward looking. There are many challenges hindering the growth of the home automation market, one of the largest I see being the fragmentation in both technologies and protocols. Many different wireless technologies appear in this market with options including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and Thread in the future for mesh networking, and even proprietary sub-GHz protocols, each fulfilling different needs.
Among these connectivity technologies, there are three major blocks that make each wireless protocol unique: the physical layer, the wireless stack, and the application layer.
If we were writing a “wireless novel,” the physical layer (also known as the radio) is analogous to individual words; the stack is the grammar – the rules for how the words are arranged; and the application layer forms the elaborate, descriptive sentences comprising the novel.
Take, for example, a connected lighting application in a smart home: the connected light’s radio operates at 2.4 GHz, the stack is Bluetooth Smart 4.1, and the application is custom. A motion sensor, used to automatically turn on the light when someone enters the room, might use a radio operating on a different 2.4 GHz modulation scheme; operating IP-based Thread protocol stack for mesh networking; and the application is open.
So how do we get all of these hardware and software elements talking to each other to ensure interoperability? A rapidly emerging trend to ensure device-to-device interoperability in the smart home is the use of multiprotocol SoC devices capable of “speaking” multiple wireless languages.
This type of system-on-chip implementation is a critical first step to support wireless standards, ensuring interoperability among connected devices supporting these standards. The SoC device must have enough flash memory to be able to store multiple protocol stacks in firmware and to enable dynamic switching among the protocols as devices join the network. Equally important is the application layer software that connects the end user to the hardware. This application layer such as ZigBee Cluster Libraries, OIC, AllJoyn, or Weave should be protocol agnostic, therefore providing a way to unify the underlying wireless protocol standards.
A holistic hardware and software approach based on these multiprotocol hardware devices, carefully combined with firmware, software, and development tools, will enable an IoT device to effortlessly speak different wireless languages. This unified hardware and software approach to multiprotocol connectivity holds the promise of ensuring seamless interoperability among many disparate smart home devices, from lights to wireless sensors nodes to actuators.
For more information on Silicon Labs’ wireless offerings, check out www.silabs.com/wireless
For more information on Silicon Labs’ Home Automation reference designs, check out www.silabs.com/connectedhome
For a refresh of other topics in this blog series, check out: