If you’ve been following the various low powered networks and personal wireless networks that are used for IoT, you would have noticed that the majority of them are closed source and protected by intellectual property law. This is not only a bad thing for development, but it can also limit the functionality and interoperability of IoT devices that operate on different network protocols.
This week, Sigma has made an unexpected move by opening up their Z-Wave standard to developers, royalty-free, increasing the potential for new and innovative devices. Previously, only members of the Sigma Z-Wave Alliance had full access to the standard, and even then they were limited by a non-disclosure agreement. It is expected that by inviting more developers to explore the network and create prototypes for it, Z-Wave will have a stronger chance of becoming the leading mesh network for personal home use.
This is not the first time that Sigma has released their intellectual property into the wild. Less than half a decade ago, they made their ITU G.9959 radio design available to other developers, which means that startups and even large companies can incorporate the design, royalty-free. Of course, Sigma has reasons for sharing their technology, and clearly they want to become the key player in IoT networks. With more than 30 billion IoT devices expected to be in deployment within the next 5 years, it is no surprise the Sigma is trying all they can do to gain a strong position in the consumer, corporate, and industrial markets.
Sigma is So Far Enjoying Significant Market Penetration
So far, their strategy appears to be working. They’ve supplied more than 50 million Z-Wave microchips that are now in home appliances and other devices, and their technology is used by 90% of the security companies in the US that use IoT based systems.
Despite this latest news, Sigma can’t afford to slow down. They’ll need to continually develop new technologies and iterate on their current systems, especially if they want to remain competitive with Zigbee and Bluetooth. Bluetooth is of particular concern, especially as Bluetooth 5 is right around the corner, offering 4x the bandwidth of the previous spec, and 10x the range. Bluetooth is hugely popular in consumer electronics, and users are familiar with the name and the basics of how the technology works.
At this stage, Sigma is showing that they’re not afraid of taking risks to be competitive, but it will take up to a year before we are able to see which company is truly dominating the mesh network landscape.