When it comes to the internet of things, perhaps the key enabling technology is wireless networking technologies. Without the two primary wireless data networking technologies — cellular and Wi-Fi — almost every IoT device would require a wired connection to the internet, dramatically limiting the ability of developers to create IoT applications that deliver value to businesses and consumers.
However, thanks to these two wireless networking technologies, IoT is big and getting bigger — research firm Gartner forecasted that in 2017, 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide, with this number reaching 20.4 billion by 2020. With as many as 10 billion additional connected devices forecast to be deployed over the next three years, IoT application developers face an important question as the market continues to mature — given each technology’s bandwidth, cost, coverage and security characteristics, should they design their IoT applications to use cellular, Wi-Fi or both?
Security, bandwidth and coverage are not the only capabilities developers need to consider when deciding whether they their IoT applications should use cellular, Wi-Fi or both, but they might be the most important. In terms of cost and bandwidth, cellular has in recent years caught up to Wi-Fi, and today Wi-Fi’s advantages in these areas are minimal or non-existent. However, when it comes to coverage and security, cellular has significant advantages over Wi-Fi, advantages that it will build on over the coming years.
Despite these advantages, Wi-Fi is not going away anytime soon. Wi-Fi has a strong established base in most households, and the fact there are no additional costs to connect multiple devices to a Wi-Fi network means that Wi-Fi will likely continue to be used for many consumer and smart home IoT applications over the coming years. In addition, with costs coming down for both technologies, building IoT applications that support both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity is an increasingly attractive option for developers looking to cover all their bases and differentiate their consumer versus enterprise-level services. However, with cellular increasingly equal to or better than Wi-Fi in terms of bandwidth, cost, coverage and security, many developers who previously might have only considered Wi-Fi for their IoT applications are likely to be looking at, if not switching to, cellular over the coming years.
Source: Philippe Guillemette Sierra Wireless – IoT Agenda