Broadcom pushes WiFi to connect Internet of things


Chip giant Broadcom (s BRCM) has launched a new WiFi chip module for manufacturers to use to add connectivity to devices, appliances, energy management gadgets and other things that less commonly have Internet connections. The WiFi module, which the company is calling Wireless Internet Connectivity for Embedded Devices (WICED), contains a processor, a WiFi radio, a connectivity API, and a software stack.

Broadcom’s move is an effort to use WiFi to tap into the “Internet of Things,” movement, where every device will one day be able to talk to each other, beyond just computers and cell phones — think everything from your car, to sensors throughout your home and office, to your electricity meter, and even down to tiny objects like the cap of your prescription pills, which could text you and tell you “hey, it’s time to take me now.”

However, not everyone thinks WiFi will be the dominate wireless networking technology that will provide the wireless layer for this Internet of things. Energy companies, smart meter makers and appliance makers are largely going with Zigbee, or even Z-Wave, because of low power needs. Though, no doubt WiFi will play a large role, particularly for devices in the home that will run over the home wireless connection.

A good portion of the Internet of things will involve energy-related products. Appliances, like dishwashers, microwaves, and water heaters, could use connections to be a lot more energy efficient, and connect with utilities to better manage the grid. Most homes in the U.S. will eventually get connected smart meters installed, acting as a two-way gateway for homes and utilities. Many of the appliance makers are waiting for standards to mature that will dictate what type of connectivity they need to embed in their goods.

Image is of GE’s connected fridge.


Ashu Joshi

Utilities have been hesitant to take the Smart Metering data and share it openly due to regulations issues. And they are in Smart Appliances for the reason of Peak Load Management – it would surprise me if they are interested in entering the Consumer Home and play the connected game. Also Zigbee is strong on Smart Metering with a special/secure profile to support Smart Meters. WiFi would work very well for appliances that have their own power and its ubiquitous presence in broadband homes.


I understand why BRCM launched this product into the market now but I believe it will not dent the market until they realize that their Internet of Things (IoT) product family needs to support multiple protocols in the 2.4 / 5.8 GHz (ISM) band. Their embedded radio needs to support ZigBee/Bluetooth LE + Bluetooth classic + WiFi – but I doubt the Wi-Fi service ever gets lit up on the these machine-embedded SoCs. Only the pure “Wi-Fi is the only way” bigots believe Wi-Fi is appropriate for M2M comms. But Wi-Fi _is_ the logical & appropriate gateway to the private and public cloud services – through a home-based hub that grocks Zigbee (mesh) _and_ Wi-Fi. For many homes, a smart thermostat is that obvious hub.

Jim Aimone

I think the focus on SMart Meters is wrong. It misses the main point that it is the Homeowner and not the Utility that wants the ability to control their energy costs and therefore thei appliances.
The way to go here is to provide incentives and standards for Consumer Appliances makers (Water heaters/AC/Refrig etc) to install M2M type devices that allow homeowner to access and control/manage the devices usage remotely via in home tools and or the Internet.
Utilities need access to the meter just to monitor and record usage levels. The SMart Meter really does not offer anything more than that and can provide remote access to the utility over any broadband service in use in the household (Wired or Wireless). In actuality we do not really need a smart meter per se when a simple device can be connected to the existing meter to pick up and relay the usage to the home network.

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