Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Opportunities for cellular connectivity in consumer devices

Consumer electronics devices from TVs to games consoles are increasingly being connected to the internet to allow access to remote content. In the near future connectivity options will also be increasingly integrated into an ever wider range of consumer devices, ranging from home control systems to fridges and washing machines. The Consumer Electronics, Intelligent Buildings and Healthcare sectors will together account for approaching 9 billion connected consumer devices by 2020, but these devices will be overwhelmingly connected by short range technologies.

The debate around the potential benefits of adopting wide area cellular (WWAN) technologies for connecting various consumer electronics devices, instead of short-range technologies such as WiFi, has been ongoing for several years, and full consensus has yet to be reached. In this Research Note we set out the arguments for, and against, the use of WWAN technologies for connecting various types of consumer device.

There are a number of arguments in favour and against the use of WWAN for connecting these devices:
  • Out-of-the-box connectivity
  • Homogeneity of connectivity
  • Wide area cellular connections for resilience
  • Cost disadvantages of wide area cellular technologies
  • Mobile capabilities as a differentiator

I’ve explored these dynamics in some detail in a recent Machina Research Note, but the overall conclusion is that mobile operators should focus on mobile WiFi (aka MiFi) and embedded connectivity opportunities where they can add real value, (including through mobility, resilience and significantly increased utility). Short range communications technologies will suffice in most other situations.