Wireless Modules Will Get Cheaper, More Reliable, and Faster

Advances in wireless communications are consistently improving the usability of consumer and industrial electronics alike. Matthew Oppenheim, a researcher at InfoLab21 (Lancaster University, UK) recently shared his thoughts with us on the future of wireless technology.

matthew_oppenheim_2Fast. Cheap. Reliable. Choose any two. The classic quote of engineering project management. I spent some time over the last year implementing a couple of wireless technologies to make prototypes of assistive technology devices. Initially, I used a Bluetooth module. Cheap. Fast enough for my purposes. Reliable? Getting the module to connect to and stay connected with my development platform was frustrating. The handshaking protocol meant that for every iteration of firmware, I had to reconnect the module. Which worked. Most of the time. Sometimes the half a dozen other Bluetooth devices in the lab would confuse the base station. Re-connecting for the dozens of incremental changes to the firmware each day was frustrating. So I tried an XBee module with the ZigBee protocol. Fast enough. Reliable. No handshaking so no delay in connection. I can power cycle the base station or the transmitter and the data comes streaming through again. But not cheap. Probably about five times the cost per node compared with the Bluetooth module. So what are my predictions for the future of wireless modules? From a hardware designer’s point of view, I predict future wireless modules will be faster, cheaper, and more reliable. Choose any two.