The market share of combo ICs is forecast to grow from 1 percent to more than 12 percent of the total 802.15.4 chip shipments by 2019, according to ABI Research. This is driven by the 802.15.4 wireless connectivity market’s continued transition towards IP-enabled solutions, increasing from six percent of the market in 2015 to more than 30 percent by 2019, according to the market researcher.
ABI analysts explain that “with significant market opportunities for both ZigBee and Thread, there is a growing incentive for suppliers to provide a futureproof multi-protocol solution able to support the varied IoT device types down the line.”
The report projects that emerging IP-enabled networking technologies such as Thread will snag a significant proportion of the 802.15.4 market, particularly in the smart home, while the recent collaboration to enable the ZigBee Cluster Library to run over Thread networks will drive a faster development process and increased 802.15.4 chipset shipments.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the market for the connected home and other low-power wireless networking environments will continue to adopt multiple connectivity solutions based on different needs and priorities. Although there is a clear trend towards IPv6 solutions, not every end device will need to support IP, and there will be room for both IP and non-IP solutions across the various IoT markets,” said Malik Saadi, ABI Research's VP, Strategic Technology, in a statement.
For suppliers to leverage these opportunities, they need to provide portfolios that support numerous protocols to drive demand, reduce costs and improve time to market, according to ABI Research.
“In the past, the majority of key Wi-Fi and Bluetooth IC suppliers have not provided an 802.15.4 solution, while 802.15.4 suppliers have not been aggressively pursuing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,” Saadi continued. “Vendors with diversified connectivity portfolios encompassing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 802.15.4, and other low-power wireless solutions, such as TI, Silicon Labs, STM, Freescale, Nordic, Marvell, and Microchip, will be able to take advantage of these opportunities. These combo solutions will become vital in providing the scalability and flexibility needed to drive the smart home and other IoT vertical markets in the near future.”
“One thing that is clear is that multiple protocols will co-exist in markets such as the Smart Home and manufacturers must have a plan for multi-protocol environments, agreed Lee Ratliff, principal analyst at IHS Inc., in a statement. “Silicon providers that offer a smart and integrated solution to support both communication protocols allow their customers to keep all future options open, without compromising on price, reliability or market positioning.”
While the ABI report notes that it will be some time before 802.15.4 chipsets paired with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth gain traction in the market, there are short-term opportunities for “soft” combos that integrate multiple 802.15.4 protocols on the same chip and use the same radio layer.
One of these products is GreenPeak’s GP712, a multi-protocol chipset that supports both ZigBee and Thread packets. In addition to the multi-protocol support, the key benefits of the chipset is that it helps future-proof IoT solutions and reduces costs when designing set-top boxes and gateways, said the company.
“Both ZigBee and Thread will be dominant in the Smart Home and IoT,” said Cees Links, founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, in a statement. “In order to support both communication technologies, the new GreenPeak GP712 supports the two protocols in a single QFN package thereby offering a future-proof, low-cost, small footprint, single chip solution. Our next generation GP712 radio chip provides the industry’s best multi-channel and multi-protocol solution for concurrent, transparent and complimentary ZigBee and Thread network application processing, all in the same design, at no extra cost. ”