Home devices are getting smarter by the millions, despite the lack of a single communications standard.
“While the general acceptance of a single technology for smart home applications would make device manufacturers' lives easier, this is not necessarily the reality we will see," said Lisa Arrowsmith, market analyst at IMS Research. "Despite this, IMS Research forecasts that over 90 million ICs will be shipped for ‘smart’ devices in the 2009-2014 period."
Some OEMs are waiting for the adoption of a single communication standard before adding smart functionality to the consumer products they manufacture, according to IMS Research, while other companies are adopting a modular approach that may enable easier transition even if alternative technologies come to the fore.
IMS said that there are pros and cons for each of the existing technologies and none is a one-size-fits-all solution.
For example, IMS said, Z-Wave has a full "ecosystem" of products with proven interoperability, but some product makers are leery of adopting a proprietary technology; in addition, in the U.S. it is not listed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a recommended technology for smart HANs (home area networks).
Another example: ZigBee Smart Energy has support from NIST and will be included by some utilities in smart meters with integrated HAN-enabled gateways, making it easier for enabled devices to communicate directly with advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) signals via the smart meter. But some OEMs are reluctant to use the technology because of past interoperability issues.
IMS does not foresee one standard communications protocol for smart home applications in the near future, so multi-comms hubs and bridging devices will be more important in the coming years.
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