For seemingly ever the conventional wisdom has been that a wired connection would always be more reliable than a wireless one.
That may just be changing. ABI Research forecasts that the global wireless connectivity market — excluding cellular connectivity — will reach more than 10 billion annual IC shipments by 2021.
And the protocols are starting to sound pretty compelling.
Here are the top five ways wireless might just win:
1. Bluetooth. Certainly long in the tooth, but pervasive. Bluetooth will be in 60% of total devices by 2021. And Bluetooth Smart will be in 16% of devices by that time. Bluetooth Smart emphasizes power efficiency while the recently adopted Bluetooth 5 emphasizes range and speed.
2. Wi-Fi. By 2021, Wi-Fi will be found in 47% of all devices, half of which will be smartphones. For high-speed wireless data transfer like networking, mobile devices, computing, and peripherals you've got 802.11ad, aka WiGig. For low-power Internet of Things devices and wireless sensor networks there's the sub-1GHz Wi-Fi HaLow aka 802.11ah.
3. 802.15.4-based technologies like ZigBee and Thread. These are good for growth in energy management and smart city applications, like building automation, smart metering, smart lighting, and industrial applications. This will make up almost 9% of the market by 2021.
4. NFC. Payments from smartphones and wearables will continue to take advantage of NFC and their growth may be slow but it's starting to look more sure.
5. Combined multiprotocol System on Chips. No more will you have to choose which protocol to support or how you can stuff all the chips for all the protocols you need into an ever-shrinking form factor. Multiprotocol SoC will reduce complexity and cost, while future-proofing devices and getting them to market faster.
Someday plugging in a wire may feel as outdated as cranking a car to start it.
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Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, covering the most important tech issues of the day with the smartest minds in technology.