Written by IEEE | February 25, 2020 | Updated: September 26, 2022
The interconnection of devices embedded in everyday objects, commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT), is essential for your ability to obtain information from the devices, connect with others and share data quickly through your mobile device and other electronic devices. You may even be one of the billions of people across the globe who already have an IoT device in your home, car, office or town like a power meter, street lights, refrigerator, security camera, thermostat or even a light bulb.
However, you might not realize the importance of creating network technology standards for developing and protecting the future of those IoT-enabled technologies.
With IoT devices being produced by a wide range of vendors becoming increasingly connected via wireless connections, especially when establishing IoT in new vertical markets, it’s important that a standard for those wireless networks and wireless personal area networks (WPAN) is created to enable multi-vendor interoperability.
Enter the members of IEEE 802 Wireless Working Groups, IEEE 802.11 Wireless LANs (aka Wi-Fi) and IEEE 802.15. Both groups develop standards not only for wireless networks but for IoT networks, mesh networks, body area networks, wearables, and visible light communications.
“Wireless networks enable products to serve the unique requirements of smaller vertical markets and niche applications to deliver the benefits of interoperability through standardization,” explains Tim Godfrey, IEEE member and chair of the IEEE 802.24 Vertical Network Applications Technical Advisory Group.
This means that in specialized fields and industries, such as medicine and factory automation, devices from different vendors can cooperate and successfully inter-operate without causing interference to other devices in the application space.
“These range from short-range body area networks for medical applications to the Smart Utility Network that can connect electricity meters and other power grid devices with a mesh that covers a large city,” says Godfrey. “These standards define the over-the-air wireless protocols that allow devices from different manufacturers to exchange messages and data.”
Essentially, if 802.11 and 802.15 wireless standards weren’t in place, your devices would be competing against each other and would ultimately be less effective and more expensive..
As a consumer, it’s useful to appreciate why these standards are important for IoT devices and applications.
“Open standards allow multiple suppliers to enter the market, reducing prices and increasing choice,” says Godfrey. “An ecosystem of interoperable products encourages innovation and ensures a stable, long-term source of supply independent of any single vendor. Active standards are periodically amended to include new features to meet changing market needs and incorporate the latest technology innovations.”
Godfrey confirms that the family of IEEE 802 wireless standards are ready to support all new applications that hit the market.
“Each standard has specific characteristics aligned and optimized to serve specific IoT application requirements,” explains Godfrey. “Some IoT applications require devices that can run for years on a small battery, while some IoT applications require reliable and robust connectivity in an outdoor environment with many obstructions.”
“The variety of standards allows the rapidly growing IoT to be implemented with interoperable connectivity that meets the unique sets of requirements for the various applications,” says Godrey.
So, the next time you talk to your smart home, start up your connected refrigerator or check the time on your smart watch, think about how this may not have been possible without the standards created by the world class engineers in the 802 Wireless Working Groups producing the IEEE’s family of 802 standards over the past four decades.
The thousands of engineers participating in developing 802 networking standards have paved the way for innovation in connectivity that has changed and continually influences our lives in ways large and small. Join us in taking a look at the technology of 802 and the accomplishments in creating technical standards that allow us to enjoy the hyper-connected world we have today.