Short-range radios today play an essential role in connecting smaller devices to our mobile phones. We can expect a lot of new applications leveraging the Bluetooth Low Energy and Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Network standard (IEEE 802.15.4) with connectivity through a smartphone or wireless access point – also known as a capillary network. This concept is emerging to address the unique network needs that many new applications will have.
The obvious driver for introducing short-range radio is battery life and the need to avoid cabling. Many emerging devices, such as sensors, cannot be charged as frequently as smart smartphones and need to be run using a zero-maintenance model (e.g. deploy and forget). The ability to introduce a wireless device with no or low-charging needs enables a whole range of new industrial and consumer applications, like sensors (temperature, humidity and pollution), alarm generators (windows, fire) and smart control and consumption (gas, water, electricity).
This new application paradigm will be cloud based, with devices running close to the customer while the back end will run in the cloud. Capillary network connectivity provides an end-to-end connection between the device and the cloud. This connectivity bridges the short-haul private area network with fixed or wireless access, metro transport, and the cloud. As the primary target is commercial applications, the value of capillary connectivity will be application dependent with little correlation to the amount of bits used.
As part of the zero-provision paradigm, the applicable devices will rely on automatic discovery, directory and provision mechanisms provided by the network and the cloud. A key part of the capillary network concept is automated provisioning end-to-end. These connections also need to provide the right security levels for the application at hand. This can be achieved by leveraging existing security mechanisms in mobile networks.
My predictions for the future of capillary networks are:
• Devices connected through smartphones or access points with low-power radio is a rapidly growing network application area
• The ability to provide end-to-end support, to devices with mobile-like capabilities through capillary networks, is crucial for broad industry acceptance.
• Zero maintenance is a vital requirement for both the powering and provisioning operations of these new devices.
• Operators can introduce new revenue generating capillary connectivity services tailored to application needs.