The future looks bright, but in Pister's view, the present might be characterized as partly cloudy.
The oil and gas industries have led the industrial automation sector in real-world IoT adoption. The startup he founded -- Dust Networks, now part of Linear Technology -- helped enable several such deployments. But many glorious predictions have fallen far short. One market watcher predicted there would be more IoT nodes than cellphones by 2007, creating an $8.1 billion market. "That did not happen. We're not even remotely close to the numbers they predicted."
Several problems have stalled growth, such as a lack of reliable, low-cost, standard-based products from multiple vendors. "Sadly, most wireless products out there are crap, and they end up setting the industry back, slowing down adoption for everyone. Wireless is a really hard challenge that people in the academic and commercial worlds are still very much working on."
Help is on the way. Pister and other technologists have been driving a set of standards based on the widely used Internet Protocol. The IoT version is based on the IEEE 802.14.4e radio that uses a form of mesh networking with time synchronization, letting radios stay off most of the time to save power.
The last piece of the suite of standards is almost done in the Internet Engineering Task Force. That standard, 6TSCH for IPv6 time-synchronized channel hopping, will provide the routing glue to let nodes find one another in a mesh.
It has taken several years for the pieces to come together using the design-by-committee open standard processes at groups like the IETF and IEEE. "Standards are incredibly slow and painful. You should not go into standards if you don’t have a really strong will to live."
The emerging stack of standards marries IoT and IP.
The good news is engineers have already built OpenWSN, a working open-source implementation using the approach. "I feel the open standards solution is done."
Next stop: the fingernail-sized node.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times