Normally, silicon chip announcements don’t catch my eye. This is not to say that chips are unimportant; they are critical to achieving the goals for the IoT. Generally, however, I tend to take a higher level and more holistic approach to IoT subjects. That’s why, when 3 recent announcements caught my eye, I thought there might be more here than just “typical” chip announcements. These may be signals of some significant future direction for IoT communications.
The first announcement was ’s acquisition of two companies providing NB-IoT technologies. NextG-Com offers a complete layer two and three software stack for NB-IoT, and Mistbase provides a complete NB-IoT physical layer implementation solution. As a reminder, ARM had already ventured into the wireless space, having acquired Wicentric for its Bluetooth stack, and Sunrise Micro Devices for its integrated Cordio Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 intellectual property (IP) short-range technologies.
Last week I provided my thoughts (Hype Vs. Reality: When Will Internet Of Things Networks Appear?) on the timing of NB-IoT (now called LTE-NB1). LTE-NB is going to be one of the most pervasive IoT connectivity technologies for at least the next 5 years—when it finally arrives. What is significant is that ARM, the leader in core technologies for IoT applications, has bet on LTE-NB for its long-range customers. To me, that speaks volumes as to the desire for system providers to use these three connectivity technologies for their IoT applications.
The second announcement was by , who announced two chips: the QCA4020 and QCA4024. The SoC QCA4020 is a tri-mode device, integrating Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy 5, and 802.15.4. As a reminder, 802.15.4 is the basis of both ZigBee and Thread. The QCA4024 is dual-mode, and integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4.
This is a significant announcement in that this is the first release of a Qualcomm chip that supports 802.15.4. Again, like the ARM announcement, this broadcasts to the world that the key technologies for IoT are Wi-Fi (which was a given), as well as Bluetooth and 802.15.4.
I will also note that today, Silicon Labs is announcing its dual-mode chip, the Wireless Gecko EFR32xG12 that includes both Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4, along with support for proprietary 2.4GHz protocols.