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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

ANT vs. Zigbee ???

This article in the name of Rod Morris, engineering manager of ANT, is by far the most detailed published description of ANT.

But I tend to think this article had been in the publisher's pipe line for a long time before its reappearance, because the tone and competing target of Zigbee are completely different from what ANT's recent movement.

The article does not disclose too much of technical details on "how", but it still shows some thoughts that are very interesting,

"There are technologies where all nodes are identical and therefore equally capable of acting as "slaves" or "masters" within a practical network and swapping roles at any time. In such a network, nodes can act as transmitters, receivers or transceivers to route traffic to other nodes and can leave or join the network in an ad hoc fashion. In addition, every node is capable of determining the best time to transmit based on the activity of its neighbours, so no special "coordinator" (such as ZigBee's ZC) or "router" (ZR) node is required."

Back to my previous point

I do not think the comparison with Zigbee is proper though and is the up-to-date market strategy of ANT , as Zigbee is now targeting to a different market niche, where ANT is not very strong at, at least in terms of the number of products in the market. ANT may be very easy to make a sensor go wireless, but to make a network is a story on another level. Zigbee could be overkill in simple network topology, but it should find its way in market that needs "infrastructure".

I see a strong push of ANT in the sport and health market instead, therefore the suitable competing target should be Bluetooth ULP. Another reason for this article like this is maybe Bluetooth ULP is still in vapor and no way to compare.

The article also seems against both standard and proprietary, though ANT itself is a proprietary protocol. To this point, this sounds contradictions and nonsense.

"Avoid the compromise

By adhering to a strict standard, ZigBee operates satisfactorily in the defined sectors for which it was conceived and designed. It meets that objective of interoperability. However, standards-based technologies are rarely the optimum engineering solution because they are subject to compromises.

Chief among these are the attempts by the ratification bodies to ensure the standards satisfy all interested parties (rather than meeting the specific needs of end applications). In the case of ZigBee the compromise manifests itself as additions to the protocol to cover rare implementations. The net result is delayed release, lower efficiency, increased power consumption and increased costs.

ANT is a superior protocol to ZigBee for many ultra-low power practical wireless networking applications where interoperability is not essential. With the world becoming increasingly wireless—and design requirements for wireless links becoming more exacting - many designers may well look beyond the standard when specifying the WSN communications protocol in their next product or application."

It may reflects ANT internal struggle, which is on one side, ANT wants to keep its proprietary nature with its focused technology focus; on the other side, ANT wants to separate itself from other proprietary protocols.

The recent marketing move of ANT+Sport proves that ANT is matching with Z-wave in that an open standardized application layer is on top of a proprietary lower protocol layer to form a hybrid standard.

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