Internet Of Things Connectivity Options Come Into Focus

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.

Mike Krell

IoT connectivity (Source: Mike Krell, Moor Insights & Strategy)

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.