The Weightless SIG today (20 October 2014) announced that NWave Technologies Ltd, a leading Internet of Things (IoT) over ISM spectrum vendor, has joined the group to contribute to the rapid evolution of the recently announced Weightless-N specification.
Weightless-N is the new and unique open connectivity standard for IoT/M2M over ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) bands. It will complement the original Weightless specification developed for ‘white space’ radio bands, now known as the Weightless-W standard.
NWave is a leading provider of connectivity technology for the Internet of Things in unlicensed spectrum – specifically the ISM bands below1GHz. NWave’s technology is designed to operate in 868MHz in Europe and 900MHz band in the USA.
Weightless-N will utilise Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) technology to deliver best in class connectivity solutions that retain all of the core competitive advantages of Weightless technology that have already been established. Minimal power consumption will enable terminal devices to operate in the field for up to ten years on a single AA form factor battery.
Simple terminal hardware utilising low cost components will enable modules to be deployed for around US $2. Network costs will be minimised through excellent signal propagation characteristics – an urban range of 5km to a low cost internally located antenna and between 20–30km rural range to an external antenna.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG, said: "We are delighted to welcome NWave Technologies Limited to the Weightless SIG,” adding that, “NWave is a leader in IoT over ISM spectrum and the company's deep technical experience in LPWAN connectivity will make a significant contribution to the rapid development of Weightless-N.”
Webb continued: “Bringing proven capability from an existing technology provider to the SIG and merging it with the expertise already established within the group will accelerate the development of Weightless-N as the leading global open standard for machine connectivity over licence exempt spectrum.”
Jonathan Wiggin, CEO of NWave Technologies, commented: “We are delighted to have become a Core Member of the Weightless SIG and to be able to use our experience and expertise in the development of communications technologies for the Internet of Things in order to contribute to the development of the Weightless-N standard.”
He added: “We expect that our collaboration within the SIG’s working groups will help to bring the Standard to completion early next year.” Wiggin went on to explain: “A global, open standard is critical for the successful commercialisation of a wireless technology and for the first time a standards body is proactively bringing together the elements that will quickly allow us to make this a reality.”
Work is underway through the Weightless SIG’s established technology working groups – an extensive network of leading companies with specialists in the key parts of the specification development process. Version 1.0 of the Weightless-N specification is anticipated by the end of Q1 2015. Commercial deployments of Weightless-N compliant technology are expected shortly after.
Speaking to Wireless ahead of the announcement Webb, said: ‘We needed a company that could provide a start for us with technology already developed and deployed and who knew what worked. NWave is ready to go into the standards arena as it has a strong developer team and some early deployments.
‘Weightless-N fits their business model very well and they have realised that by pushing a proprietary technology they will not generate much volume, so they were looking for a way to move into an open standards world. We are delighted they’ve joined the Weightless SIG and think they will fit in very well.
Webb acknowledged that NWave’s decision is a definitive one for the company. ‘It is a big step for them in that it is a one-way step. Once your technology is in an open standard you can’t go back, so it is a decision they thought about very carefully and which had to be put to board members and shareholders, but they are keen and interested and absolutely behind us.’
The impetus now is to get the standard done and ensure the necessary equipment is ready so people can start developing applications and begin trialling products.
‘The problem we hit with Weightless-W was that we got the standard done fine, but fell down on having equipment and chipsets ready to enable products to be developed and trials started,’ explained Webb.
‘The good thing about having NWave join us is that it already has equipment and documents available. which it will feed into the Weightless-N standard. They have chipsets and are working on software development kits (SDKs), so we hope people can buy equipment even before the standard is finished as it will be almost the same.
‘We saw something similar with Wi-Fi where vendors brought out pre-standard equipment. The point is we are not starting with a blank sheet of paper and that should speed development,’ said Webb.
Webb added that the SIG is very open to other companies which may have developed proprietary M2M/IoT standards, such as SigFox. ‘SigFox is to be highly commended for what they’ve achieved to date, but it will be more difficult for them if they only offer a proprietary solution in the future.
‘If you are a big telco wanting to deploy a network you could buy proprietary base stations and terminals or go the open source route if there is one. Most will automatically choose the open standard to avoid vendor lock-in. So, we hope the likes of SigFox may become part of the standard in the future, if it looks like an attractive option for them at some point,’ said Webb.
Two key Weightless supporters have been acquired in recent weeks, Neul by Chinese mobile infrastructure giant Huawei and chip designer CSR (a Weightless board member from the start) by the world’s largest mobile chip provider Qualcomm. Webb noted that it was too soon to say what the new owners’ views of Weightless and their on-going commitment to it will be.
Webb concluded: ‘My current guestimate for the standard to be ready is end of Q1 2015. It depends how many companies pile in. If it is a lot that might slow things down, but we don’t know how many will want to join in yet. But Weightless-N will be less complex to develop than Weightless-W, so we think that timescale is a pretty good guess.’
The Weightless SIG is the world’s leading M2M standards body. Machine communications, often termed M2M, has long been forecast to be a sector with massive growth with forecasts of 50 billion connected devices by 2020 from cars to sensors to traffic lights to healthcare applications and much more.
The Weightless SIG’s central mission is to co-ordinate industry players to foster the development of a new and revolutionary communications standard (called Weightless) to enable efficient machine-to-machine communications operating in TV white space and other spectrum bands.
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