Wi-Fi and sensor networks aren't typically mentioned in the same breath, but that's about to change. Wi-Fi chipset maker GainSpan has unveiled a highly integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) that could help usher in Wi-Fi into the field of sensor networking and industrial process control.
The Wi-Fi/sensor disconnect is largely due to the fact that Wi-Fi is power-intensive, but many sensors, actuators and other devices run on batteries that have to last for at least several years at a time. GainSpan's SoC promises to support the battery life needed by sensor networks for Wi-Fi.
The GainSpan GS1010 SoC allows the deployment of sensor systems using standard tools and knowledge base. It also allows seamless integration with existing management systems, including enterprise network management systems and SCADA industrial and building automation systems.
More to the point, the chip's power-management feature provides battery life of five to 10 years, opening the door to many new applications and usage models that improve indoor and outdoor air quality, cut costs and improve operational efficiencies.
ABI Research senior analyst Sam Lucero is impressed, noting that that if companies have already deployed a Wi-Fi infrastructure, GainSpan's SoC will lower or even eliminate the need to deploy additional backhaul sensor infrastructure.
"Wi-Fi is more widely used and understood as a technology than are many sensor-networking technologies being developed," he said. "GainSpan may in fact be able to offer a wider base of tools to develop applications and overall system cost may be lower via a simpler topology."
Also, Wi-Fi can typically transmit further than sensor network technologies. Rather than employ a dense cluster of meshed nodes, which are inherently more complex to network and manage, Wi-Fi is a simpler start, Lucero says.