Don't choose between Bluetooth and WiFi for IoT and non-IoT applications

April 29, 2016 OpenSystems Media

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the major growth markets of our time. Fundamental to the IoT concept is connectivity between devices. Typically, the preferred connectivity mechanism is wireless, using both short- and long-range wireless technologies.

The choice amongst wireless technologies used in 2016 is broad, particularly with short-range technologies (Figure 1).

Figure 1

In Figure 2, developers reported on which wireless protocols they were expecting to design with over the next 12 months.

Figure 2

As shown, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are the most popular protocols for both IoT and non- IoT embedded developments. Their adoption is particularly high in the areas of industrial controls, consumer electronics, electronic instrumentation, and medical devices. Bluetooth usage within these industries is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

For some time, people have been discussing which of these technologies was best. A part of the argument was based around characteristics such as power use, range, and data throughput. The general consensus now is that each technology has some use cases to which it is best suited; and the other technologies are suited for other uses. There is no simple “one size fits all” approach. Rather, designers must analyze their own needs and make their own decisions.

Costs must figure into the equation as well. Data from the 2016 EMF survey around development costs is shown in the table. Interestingly, this data shows that the costs of Bluetooth only, Wi-Fi only, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi combined are all very similar.

From this analysis, it appears that the cost of developing both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi into a product is similar to choosing one over the other. Integrating both eliminates the complex use-case analysis as well as the cost surrounding making that decision. Integrating both provides the flexibility to cater for different use cases than might have been envisioned at the commencement of development.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi together can be handled in a single wireless chipset, such as the TI WiLink 8. Combined with Clarinox software, this can be achieved with various RTOS and MCU combinations. The Clarinox stacks are one of the few that can handle the interoperability of the two technologies. Clarinox’s common framework will ensure that priorities are handled.

So your choice should be an “and” and not an “or.”

Jerry Krasner, Ph.D., MBA is Vice President of Embedded Market Forecasters and its parent company, American Technology International. A recognized authority with over 30 years of embedded industry experience, Dr. Krasner has extensive clinical research and medical industrial experience, including the successful filing of over twenty 510k submissions. He earned BSEE and MSEE degrees from Washington University, a Ph.D. in Medical Physiology/Biophysics from Boston University and an MBA from Nichols College. He has been a visiting professor at the Universidad de Las Palmas (Spain) where he was recognized for his work in neurosciences and computer technology.

Dr. Jerry Krasner, Ph.D., MBA, Embedded Market Forecasters
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