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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thinking Like A Dandelion (2)

The competition among WSN technologies, has well gone beyond feature to something like eyeball economy of Internet or competing for attentions. When everything is equal – not for capability, but for imperfection – the technology has the highest mindshare and easiest access could very likely get the chance for a first try to prove concept if you want to call it this way. I have talked to an ANT sales in an industrial show several years ago. What they told me was that people tried Bluetooth and Zigbee, they failed then they eventually turned to ANT. Stop thinking that way any more! When Bleutooth Low Energy is well deployed, I bet any people from ANT still dare to just let people try BLE first and wait for them turning back, though they may still legitimately call ANT a technically better solution.
When four years ago Wibree becoming part of Bluetooth, people behind Wibree did think like a dandelion. I have indicated that BLE's success will be represented by the single mode chip volume, not the dual mode chip shipment. But the dual-mode-chip-on-every-phone is truly the “dandelion strategy” of BLE. Applying the metaphor, the dual mode chips are the dandelion seeds of BLE. Not all the dual mode BT in phones and notebooks will be used. But via phones, BT are everywhere in our lives. For any specific and weird problems that require a wireless solution, no matter it is to log your sports performance data, to remote control your smart appliance or to read a meter on a factory floor, a BLE equipped smart phone / tablet / notebook could be the most accessible technical candidate. When there are abundant entrepreneurs, engineers and software programmers readily to devote their time and brain power, the most powerful strategy is to enpower them to fulfill their thoughts. Who knows if one out of a hundred of the apps may really works and go big. Such that the BLE is to exploit every possible growing environment

Another point that  the dandelion metaphor also tells us is no matter how small the piece of soil is, it worth exploiting. We will for sure be seeing the popular long tail phenomenon here too, that is, though there are a few killer applications, those not so popular contribute to a great deal of the volume  in total as well. This is because these none popular applications are so many and each satisfy a very different need.

Take a look of Bluetooth shipment statistics, certainly you see headset has the most volume (I do not count mobile phones as an application, as they are the dandelion seeds), but  the “other application” category also sits on top. Do you know Wii is using Bluetooth to communicates with its different types of  gaming accessories? This type of use belongs to the “other application” category. We probably don't know it at all if not because it is Wii. Many such off-the-main-target potentials are out there. It may be a usage outside of any existing defined profiles and does not need interoperability. Each may only has several thousand a year in volume. But all together they form a huge amount.

So to make the technology like a dandelion to enable it to exploit every possible applications is the fundamentally crucial to penetrate into new segments as well as to protect existing market from being invaded. To find killer applications is just a side-product of such an endeavor.

A standard intending to have a fast growth has to be easy to access, cheap price, open source, easy to use … basically to remove as many things perceived as barrier to enable engineers and entrepreneurs to try the technology and eventually deploy it. To be equipped in every phone is definitely one of the key elements of this strategy. Other technologies like DASH7 and ANT, as well as Zigbee, are all very serious getting into phones, open source their codes etc... Things will not stop here.

The availability of Bluetooth Low Energy has at least forced the existing wireless sensor technologies to start to think like a dandelion to some extent.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the nice text. I am working in wireless M2M. Yesterday I made to one of my project customers the proposal to use an ANT powered smart phone as remote control for their machines. As we all know, there is no Bluetooth LE available. Other reaon is that the costs for qualification with ANT are much lower than with Bluetooth LE. If we will have both in our phones later on, then ANT will be the best option for small to medium volume. My project customer has several machines at the same location. With ANT I can create a mesh net. If I am informed right, then mesh is not support with Bluetooth LE. With using an ANT powered smart phone they will save:
    - Qualification costs on Bluetooth LE or ZigBee, because ANT is much less
    - Development of a hand held remote control, because the remote control is already inside the smart phone
    - Costs for RTTE, FCC and other for the remote control, because they think global
    Summary = Tens of thousands USD

    Last but not least I have written my wish to Santa Claus in my blog:

    Santa, please help with a smart phone including radio link ANT, ANT+ or Bluetooth LE
    Santa Claus, I hope for it that you read my blog. I would like to have a smart phone with a low power radio link like ANT+ (also called ANTplus) or Bluetooth Low Energy.
    The whole story you get here:
    I hope you will enjoy the small story.