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Wireless Technologies Enable the Internet of Everything

Imagine a world where all manner of electrical and electronic devices are connected together via a wireless link -- that's the Internet of Everything. The installed base of active wireless connected devices will exceed 16 billion in 2014, that's about 20 percent more than in 2013, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.

Moreover, the number of devices will more than double from the current level, with 40.9 billion forecast for 2020.

"The driving force behind the surge in connections is that usual buzzword suspect, the Internet of Things (IoT)," said Aapo Markkanen, principal analyst at ABI Research.

If we look at this year’s installed base, smartphones, tablets, PCs, and other hub devices still represent 44 percent of the active total, but by the end of 2020 their share is likely to drop to 32 percent.

In other words, 75 percent of the growth between today and the end of the decade will come from non-hub devices -- such as wireless sensor nodes and accessories.

From every technology supplier's strategic point of view, the critical question is how this plethora of IoT devices will ultimately be connected to each other and the Internet.

Until recently, the choices that product OEMs have faced have been fairly straightforward, with cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and others all generally addressing their relative comfort zones.

Going forward, they will be in an increasing competition with each other, so for the suppliers the strategic stakes are getting much higher.

ABI says that the recently introduced Thread protocol, spearheaded by Nest Labs, is the clearest example of this convergence. It is not only setting the bar higher for ZigBee in the 802.15.4 space, but also piling up pressure on Bluetooth suppliers to enable mesh networking.

In the meantime, the LTE-MTC and LTE-M initiatives may well expand the market for cellular M2M, while start-ups like Electric Imp and Spark could do the same for Wi-Fi.

And finally, we also shouldn't ignore what’s going on with passive, proximity-based connectivity offered by RFID and NFC. For example, Thinfilm's plans with printed electronics warrant attention.

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