More than 60 legacy technologies and emerging RF formats for Internet of Things (IoT) applications are used today. In particular, ZigBee and Thread are emerging technologies whereas Bluetooth and cellular technology have already been in the market for some time. For several IoT applications, Wi-Fi and cellular technology are widely used. In some niche applications such as WPAN for wearables and WLAN for home automation, Bluetooth is widely used. For proximity wireless technology networks, NFC is widely accepted. ZigBee and Thread are primary choices for low power networks in smart homes and smart energy applications.
Frost & Sullivan has recently conducted extensive research in the field of test equipment for IoT wireless technologies and findings indicate that this niche market in particular reached $168.6 million in 2015, growing at 6.2% compared to the previous year.
Frost & Sullivan foresees sustained low double-digit growth, picking up a 11.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 to 2020.
The consumer electronics segment held the largest market share at 39.2% followed by industrial automation and smart cars. For consumer and mobile phones, demand is increasing for testing applications and opportunities are increasing for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Today, the LTE price point still makes the technology unviable for IoT devices; however, LTE-M should enable lower-cost chipsets and compared to ZigBee and Wi-Fi, representing test opportunities.
Growth opportunities in the long term are coming principally from wide area and personal area networks. The bulk of the market is still concentrated in the personal area network space. This segment is the fastest growing within the global T&M market for IoT wireless applications.
Keysight Technologies, Rohde & Schwarz, Anritsu Company, National Instruments, and LitePoint are the top 5 participants in the global T&M market for IoT wireless applications.
Current Trends and Opportunities
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Clients are looking to new testing scenarios with higher modularity, PC control, and software defined radio (SDR) Wi-Fi solutions covering all of the main wireless technologies and all of the stages of an IoT device product life cycle.
The wireless industry will require T&M vendors to have a software price position for wireless testing. An increasing need is demanding higher modularity, customization, and software design that can facilitate cost-effective upgrades.
T&M technical enhancement is moving toward supporting a high-volume production environment and field testing with the capability to obtain ultra wideband signals and to get data from several integrated wireless devices in parallel for faster multisite test outlines.
The primary opportunity for testing is in the IoT radio module before it is installed into the device as well as in the amount of testing needed. After IoT radio module testing, opportunities decrease over the product lifecycle.
For every module, undergoing a complete design and production test is needed. Once the IoT radio module is installed into the device, there are Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements focused on compatibility testing that must be met. Yet heavy testing remains absent at the module level.
In the current market dynamics, companies must be able to keep up with evolving technologies to carry out more precise and realistic testing. The continuous emergence of wireless technology standards and the communications industry’s move to higher frequencies require new signal analysis capabilities.
The largest segment of the wireless communications market is still under 6 GHz, and most standards do not require more than 100 MHz of signal analysis bandwidth. However, the emerging 5G and the IEEE802.11ad technologies are expected to be deployed in the uncrowded 60 GHz to 80 GHz millimeter wave bands and will have modulation bandwidths up to 2 GHz.
In terms of the technologies under the 6GHz frequency ranges that are driving demand, significant activity is seen in LTE unlicensed development for wireless networks that use unlicensed spectrum.
This is taking LTE measurements between 3 GHz and 4 GHz to up to 6 GHz. Specifically, now significant focus falls on spectrum allocation in the 2.4 GHz frequency range for commercial applications.
Typically, applications in these ranges tend to have low bandwidth, low data rate, and low energy requirements. Looking forward, requirements are moving to 80 GHz with 2 GHz bandwidth presenting a significant challenge to T&M equipment.
Top 3 Key Requirements
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Future Development Trends Are in the Process of Achieving the Following:
A higher modular form factor and software-enabled solution will become a comprehensive service offering. Interoperability testing software programs will be compatible with other technologies.
Technical enhancement will support 5G and millimeter-wave-frequency communications systems. Requirements are going to be above 60-80 GHz with 2 GHz bandwidth in an RF signal analyzer. The key advancements will be in bandwidth, density, and multichannels.
Public safety will enforce enhanced security for wireless connectivity solutions.
T&M technical advancements will support next generation RF signal analyzers with 12, 14, to 16 bits – ADC (analog to digital) hitting rates at 10 GS/s.
T&M technical enhancement will support high-volume production environment testing with the capability to obtain ultra wideband signals in a single trial and to get data from several integrated wireless devices in parallel for faster multi-site test outlines.
Frost & Sullivan anticipates growth in new testing scenarios and capabilities required where clients are looking to increase modularity, reprogrammability, and PC control due to software defined radio (SDR) being used in large numbers for wireless devices.
New opportunities will come from increasing flexibility options and being able to measure all sorts of different wireless standards in all stages of the product life cycle including R&D, field testing, monitoring, deploying, and manufacturing.
The future trend is heading toward a software-defined architecture and structure-based rather than a purely hardware-based system. The wireless industry will require every test and measurement vendor to have a software price position for wireless tests. There is an increasing need for higher modularity, customization, and software to support cost-effective upgrades and rapid maintenance.