There's no clear end in sight for the protocol wars in the Internet of Things, according to Tanuj Mohan, co-founder and CTO of building controls startup Enlighted, which developed its own 802.15.4 protocols.
Mohan, a networking expert who worked at Cisco, Novell, and Tropos and built multiprotocol routers at Hughes, believes the outlook for Zigbee is particularly dim. The IoT, he said, needs a set of open APIs and protocols that work with a variety of physical-layer networks. In this way, IoT networks should act more like IT nets.
"Anyone who tries to build a physical layer and drive a software stack based on it all the way up to the application layer is a fool," he continued. "The IP and network layer should have nothing to do with the media. The last-mile protocols have some play, but they are not as important as people make them out to be. It doesn't matter if[nodes] talk over one protocol or another. In any case, you will need mediation devices.
"Today Zigbee is the most cost-effective, but tomorrow WiFi will figure it out. Networks talk SNMP or CORBA -- every few years there's a new management protocol," Mohan said. "In some sense, that's what will happen in IoT -- it will keep moving, and people will need open APIs.
Mohan criticized the 250-kbit/s Zigbee standard as too slow and complicated for use in building automation. "You don't want the network to be the bottleneck, and Zigbee is one of the slowest of any protocols I know. "
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