Initiatives by governments, global alliances, and large public companies such as Cisco, IBM, Johnson Controls, and Siemens are driving innovation and standardization in mesh networking, IP sensing, WiFi Sensors, and energy harvesting. The most impactful technologies for wireless building automation systems today include the following:
ZigBee has the largest market share for building WSN, backed by the top four building automation vendors, end users such as Kroger, and hundreds of manufacturers, systems integrators, and startups. While there are few certified ZigBee products today, the largest current building WSN deployments such as CityCenter consist of ZigBee devices by multiple vendors including Control4, Axxess, Bartech, and SAFLOK. Vendors are currently migrating to the latest ZigBee PRO feature set and the ZigBee Building Automation profile is expected to be published in early 2010.
As much as 15 million wireless sensor nodes will be installed within the next five years that will need to be either battery powered or powered by ambient energy. While operating lifetimes of 10+ years is possible with batteries using the latest radios and protocols, the prospect of disposing of millions of batteries conflicts with WSN's value proposition as a "green" technology. ON World's survey found that battery lifetime continues to be one of the major concerns about wireless sensor networking. Furthermore, the labor costs and setup problems associated with changing batteries gives wireless sensors powered with energy harvesting an unfair advantage.
Demand for greener solutions has driven adoption of battery-less wireless sensors by EnOcean that has spurred the formation of the EnOcean Alliance with 125 members and 350 EnOcean products. The ZigBee Alliance has also launched an energy harvesting initiative to reduce the power consumption of certain devices that will be capable of supporting energy harvesting.
IP Sensor Networking
IT convergence and rapidly developing standards and industry alliances are accelerating the development of IP sensor networking for buildings. Supporting sensor networking across any physical medium, wired or wireless, IP sensor networking encourages innovation by opening up building WSN solutions to a large pool of Internet, IP and IT focused developers. It also brings battery powered 15.4/mesh technologies by Atmel, Dust, and Synapse into the mainstream with increased installation flexibility and robust reliability. Arch Rock has recently achieved the highest IPv6 certification level for its IP sensor networking platform.
The emergence of Low Power WiFi chipsets by GainSpan and others has made WiFi a potentially disruptive technology for building WSN with its intrinsic support for IP. By leveraging the WiFi infrastructure that is installed in tens of millions of buildings, WiFi sensors reduce installation costs, simplify development, and provide easy integration with data networks. ON World's software simulations found that low power WiFi chipsets provide multi-year lifetimes for many building WSN applications, even with dozens of transmissions per hour.
In 2013, the global building WSN market-- including WSN systems, software and services-- will be $4 billion, up from $453 million in 2008.