- Beyond drones and phones, AR/VR and connected car, the building blocks of an IoT ecosystem – from silicon to network technologies – were a major part of what people came to CES 2016 to discuss.
- While IoT deployments are moving forward, the need to build out foundational aspects of the ecosystem at the connectivity layer suggests that expectations of spectacular near-term growth should be tempered.
On the first official day of CES 2016, we saw more news and announcements around the pre-hyped themes that I mentioned earlier; from new smartphone launches to virtual reality headsets to differentiation within the wearables space, my colleagues have been diligently covering most of them. As I continued to focus on what CES 2016 could teach us about network evolutions and service provider technology trends, one thing stood out: IoT. In particular, it was almost impossible to ignore all of the ways in which vendors came to Las Vegas to showcase how they were advancing IoT device and network capabilities.
- Silicon Cornucopia. No matter the technology, the chipsets and processors running them are constantly evolving and improving. The pace of change in IoT-focused silicon solutions, however, is truly impressive. Consider Qualcomm’s new automotive processor, smart home reference platform and Bluetooth Smart SoC. Add to that Broadcom’s 64-bit quad-core router platform and low-power mobile combo chip as well as Marvell’s new IoT gateway platform, along with a myriad of other connectivity offers, and you get the idea; vendors are doing everything they can to enable the full-featured, low-cost and power-efficient devices necessary to help diverse IoT use cases take off.
- Ericsson + AT&T + LTE Cat-1. When AT&T talked up NB-IoT at its Developer Summit, it seemed that a commitment to the technology was inevitable. Right on cue, Ericsson announced what it called the “first complete cellular low-power wide-area (LPWA) offering, with backing from leading operator AT&T.” To be clear, the software enabling the new technology won’t be available until Q4, but another major-league endorsement suggests scale will be coming.
LoRa Comes to America. The race to get NB-IoT into the market has been driven, in part, by the availability of low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) alternatives like LoRa, Sigfox and Ingenu. It was no surprise, then, that those technologies would be on display at CES 2016. The LoRa Alliance, for example, held an event to talk up their global progress and plans to build out coverage in the U.S. with support from senet. One hundred thousand square miles of coverage might sound impressive, but an acknowledgement that coverage will only be built where there’s upfront business to be earned suggests a while before we get to ubiquity.
On their face, the IoT ecosystem advancements seen at CES 2016 are all good news for the industry; where each helps to solve key pain points – device costs and efficiency, network costs and efficiency, ecosystem development and diversity – they should all drive IoT growth. Yet, if each is “foundational” in some way, then they also speak to the maturity of the market. To be sure, IoT continues to move forward since many use cases don’t require the super-efficient network technologies or devices or even a broad array of home devices. Where the ones that do rely on the capabilities announced this week in Vegas are expected to help IoT scale, it’s clear we may need to wait a while before they arrive.