Alan Woolhouse, Chair of the Weightless SIG Marketing Working Group, recently published a series of articles dedicated to Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) technologies and solutions. His final article in the series focuses on the positives, the negatives, and the intricacies of leveraging proprietary technologies vs. open standards in choosing LPWAN technology.
The arguments in favor of open standards for LPWAN technologies are familiar: Open standards allow for interoperability between manufacturers and have the potential to support a broader array of vendors and participants. Open standards also help create a collaborative environment with a more diverse base of participants, which can produce broader innovation. This leads to a more competitive landscape and lower costs, both on the production side, and and for consumers.
This article stresses the need for a vibrant ecosystem of suppliers on both sides of what Woodhouse calls the “two-ends” problem. He explains, “Every wireless link has two parts, the transmitter and the receiver, or the base station and the device. Typically, the company or person buying the base station is different from the one buying the device and neither wants to be committed to buying from a particular company due to decisions made by others. Open standards allow a vibrant ecosystem of suppliers for both sides of the link, enabling each party to choose their preferred supplier.”
Woolhouse’s article also examines the Internet of Things (IoT), asking the question of whether the right standardization is in place. The answer today is unclear, and according to Woodhouse, this is leading to a lack of traction and slowing the creation of connected devices. While the recent announcement on Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) shows positive momentum, there is relatively fragmented industry support for IoT today, and for LPWAN, no clear single standard with “multiple options in the licensed and unlicensed spectrum.” While working towards a single standard is admittedly difficult, Woolhouse comments that it is critical because “standards only function effectively when there is a single standard for each application space – Bluetooth for personal connectivity, Wi-Fi for local area networking, cellular for wide-area connectivity.”
Previous articles in Woolhouse’s series have covered additional topics necessary in defining the strength of an IoT connectivity technology such as capacity, quality of service, range, reliability, battery life, security and cost. You can the full set of articles here.
As OpenStand advocates recognize, applying the OpenStand Principles to support LPWAN and IoT standards development will not only help ensure many of the benefits Woodhouse references are realized, open standards will also help speed innovation and the advancement of technology for humanity.