Metcalfe's Law says the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of that network. Hence, the recent announcement that the ZigBee and Wi-Fi Alliance groups would work together to bring Smart Energy 2.0 to Wi-Fi networks, when combined with Google PowerMeter tool access, makes the accumulative value of those two networks in the home much more valuable--and the opportunities for embedded designers a whole lot broader and more interesting.
Developers interested in taking advantage of those opportunities should partake in a special session on how to add low-power Wi-Fi capability to their next embedded design at the up-coming Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), April 26-29.
That it's engineers from Microchip delivering the course is particularly timely, given the ink is barely dry on that company's purchase of low-power Wi-Fi IC startup ZeroG, and then this week it disclosed the results of its partnership with Google in the form of a reference implementation for Google PowerMeter, a free software tool that allows consumers to view their home's energy consumption from a personalized iGoogle page.
|Designers looking to take advantage of the rising opportunities in wirelessly networked embedded devices need a radio that intermittently sends small amounts of data, can get on the network, transfer data, and get off quickly and which can communicate with other devices, systems or users via the Internet|
From an observers point of of view, it was disappointing that Microchip bought ZeroG. With a solid solution and a growing demand for low-power, ubiquitous, embedded Wi-Fi, ZeroG looked for all the world to be the next breakout, go-it-alone, Wi-Fi chip company since Atheros. Instead, it may be become a Radiata: bought by Cisco and its talented engineers subsumed or dispersed, though ZeroG's engineering talent remains prominent within Microchip so far.
With the recent Smart Energy 2.0 deal, however, the timing was perfect from ZeroG's point of view. With a common protocol linking ZigBee and Wi-Fi devices, the case for an ultra-low Wi-Fi solution dissipates somewhat, given that low-power applications can now use ZigBee and then communicate with a Wi-Fi network where and when available.
That's not cut and dried, of course, so I asked Microchip for its take, as there's still likely a good case for ZeroG's offering. Mark Wright, applications manager at Microchip, responded via email.
"The independent push in the smart grid from these two camps has caused each to be pushed for all opportunities. This, in turn, has caused confusion in the market--especially in the smart-energy sectors. Microchip offers both technologies. We can work with a customer to provide what is best for their given design opportunity or need."
Think of it as Metcalfe's Law of Business: having both makes Microchip more valuable to its customers and that it also has a wider ISM-focused portfolio only adds to that.