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2011 Guide to Wireless Technology Standards

NOTE: Driven by the rapid evolution of wide-scale IoT solutions, we see an emerging set of new wireless technologies. We have updated our 2011 Guide to Wireless Technology Standards to include some of them. We are committed to keeping our clients abreast of the latest promising technologies that may bring them a competitive advantage.  See our latest guide.

Which wireless standard makes sense for your application?

Multiple standards exist for wireless: Bluetooth, Wireless USB, Zigbee and WiFi. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, so depending on your application we would choose different technologies.

 
Voler Systems 2011 Guide to Wireless Technology Standards
Bluetooth Wireless USB Zigbee Wi-Fi
Range Short range (3 meters unless the power is increased) Short range, 3 to 10 meters Medium range up to 100 meters.  Longer range requires more power Medium range to 100 meters
Operating Frequency Low and high speed data (to 24 Mb/sec in version 3, though today most devices are 3 Mb/s max) Low and high speed data (to 480 Mb/sec, but many wireless USB chips can’t handle this rate) Low speed data up to 250 Kb/s High speed (to 600 Mb/sec)
Implementation Cost Low cost Low cost Low cost of parts, but implementation can be expensive. Low cost with new Wi-Fi modules
Power Consumption Low power – it can sleep between transmissions, but the wake-up time can be 3 seconds, compared to a few milliseconds for Zigbee Low power – it can sleep between transmissions Low power – it can sleep between transmissions Generally not suited to battery applications, but there are several standards, some include low power
Networking Topology/ Configuration Point-to-point Point-to-point Self-organizing multi-node mesh network. Point-to-multipoint
Typical applications Connecting Cell phone to headsets or computers to peripheral devices Toys Primarily used in PC peripherals. Good for transmitting high speed sensor data, such as vibration Widely used in industrial and commercial applications like lighting control, process control, and measurement of data that is on portable devices Excels at carrying Ethernet signals wirelessly.  It is also used to connect consumer electronics devices, such as hand held game consoles and cameras to PCs.
Strengths Designed to replace wires in portable applications.  Good for audio, and can support video Software compatible with USB. Easy to convert serial or USB to wireless USB Excellent for very low data rate battery powered applications. Ability to conserve power by sleeping yet have high power for long distance transmission. Can extend transmission distance by passing data from node to node. Designed for stationary base station with multiple portable devices. Ethernet data rates
Weaknesses Not good at sleeping between transmissions. Limited range Limited range.  Even shorter range at high speed (3 meters at 480 Mb/second) Complicated software to implement – some vendors have Zigbee like solutions to overcome this. Not good for battery operation.

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