Stephen DiFranco in Engadget: “Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Will Learn to Work Together to Take Full Advantage of the IoT” | Cypress Semiconductor
Stephen DiFranco in Engadget: “Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Will Learn to Work Together to Take Full Advantage of the IoT”
Editor’s Note: Broadcom experts often weigh in on popular topics on industry sites around the Web. Below is a reprint of a story that appeared in Engadget, in which Stephen DiFranco, Senior Vice President of Sales at Broadcom, talks about how Wi-Fi will enable the Internet of Things.
It was a long journey, but Wi-Fi has moved from geekdom to stardom, just in time to form a seamless, fun to use, and aesthetically pleasing foundation for a wave of Internet of Things (IoT) applications and devices that will pervade the home, the road and the office.
These applications are being developed up by innovators who are continuously identifying ever more interesting and useful ways to harness sensor, monitoring and control technology. They are then wrapping these ideas in intuitive software with ubiquitous connectivity so they can delight consumers with easy-to-use devices. And delighted they are. From medical and fitness, and home monitoring, to life-tracking, simple texting, photo and video sharing, all the way to full user-to-user video streaming using new features such as Wi-Fi Aware. So happy are we that according to Cisco, by 2017, Wi-Fi will account for most Internet traffic.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. In the early 2000s Wi-Fi was the territory of engineers and die-hard geeks. It was difficult to set up, hard to secure and in competition with Bluetooth. At the time, Bluetooth was shaping its own path forward, having at one point been promoted as the only wireless connection you’d ever need. That was hyperbolic, of course, but it quickly settled into a useful wire replacement for headsets. Then Bluetooth Smart emerged, and the rest is still history in the making.
For Wi-Fi users, the Internet itself helped, providing information for those willing to plough through the setup learning curve with devices of seemingly infinite complexity. You almost had to be a network engineer to understand what you were doing. Still, many users kept going, or relied up on their geeky sibling, friend, or even friend of a friend.
Unfortunately, that reliance came with hooks. You know what I’m talking about. You set up a Wi-Fi network for your friend’s friend. Everything works fine, then they move something, or disconnect the router or access point to hide that “ugly” geeky thing, and suddenly it doesn’t work as well, if at all. You get the call for help, and there goes your evening.
Those were the days, and may still be the days for some users and techies, but the emergence of really easy-to-setup Wi-Fi routers from the likes of Google and startups such as Eero and Luma, are changing all that, and quickly. By hiding all the complex home Wi-Fi network management, security, performance monitoring and guest access behind easy-to-use smartphone apps, they have managed to make Wi-Fi routers not only easy to setup but also aesthetically pleasing. Now, that Wi-Fi “thingy” is as welcome on the living-room or dining-room shelf as the most stylish of lamps or exquisite examples of Italian art.
This “outing” of Wi-Fi is where it gets even more interesting. With routers and access points (APs) now out from behind RF-sucking bookshelves or home theater systems, they can operate more effectively with greater signal propagation and higher data rates. Combined with mesh networking of multiple devices throughout a home to ensure “surround Wi-Fi”, the frustration of mysterious dead zones becomes a quaint artifact of a bygone era.
Now luddites are becoming converts, neophytes are suddenly experts, and geeks and techies are free to go deeper into the hardware and software behind these new Wi-Fi APs and routers and do what we enjoy most: optimizing them to the nth degree.
Along the way, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have refined their complementary natures, have overcome their coexistence issues, and have learned to work together to take full advantage of the IoT paradigm.
Take the Protag key finder, for example. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy) to home in on a lost key ring, but also uses Wi-Fi for geofencing and to help find a device within range of that Wi-Fi network.
Eero amplifies this complementary nature of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, emphasizing that the smartphone app only as to connect with one Eero, via Bluetooth, for the app to be able to control an entire mesh network of up to 10 Eero devices. It’s literally an “Easy” button.
Eero and Luma are developing apps that make the network easy to use and fun to monitor, but it’s the use of Wi-Fi for IoT that continues to gather momentum. Door locks, energy use, remote cameras, and fitness devices get much of the attention now, but there is even more happening outside the home.
Wi-Fi is moving to the automobile with in-cabin video streaming, while sensors throughout the automobile are connecting the car to the dashboard and the smartphone via Bluetooth. Even the once hidden on-board diagnostics (OBD) connector has been Wi-Fi enabled to give us greater access to the inner workings of our vehicles on our smartphones.
Beyond the car and in areas where APs and cellular networks are not available, Wi-Fi Aware is there for us, giving us proximity-based service discovery connectivity to send data, share media, discover gaming opponents and access local information.
The ubiquity of Wi-Fi and the exponentially increasing number of services and applications for which it is being used, make for an always-on experience for users that is evolving so rapidly that it’s folly to predict where it will take us. Suffice to say for now that it’s open house on new ideas as the tools needed to get ideas from concept to reality become more efficient and prolific, from low-cost, high-performance silicon, to IoT platforms such as ThingWorx, Xively, Ayla Networks and Zentri that get us from idea-to-cloud quickly and efficiently.
What are your ideas? Let me know. Me? I want an IoT device that monitors stress as deadlines loom and adjusts my caffeine intake accordingly. Or, maybe Luma and Eero can develop a feature that let’s me monitor my family or friends’ networks so they don’t do silly things like stick an AP under a couch, or behind a steel-studded wall.