Wireless semiconductor specialist Silicon Labs has published a summary of its recent long-term test into mesh network technology for the Internet of Things (IoT), putting Zigbee, Bluetooth Mesh, and Thread through their paces.
Designed to simplify the deployment and management of sensor networks, mesh networking allows each node in the network to communicate with each other node – meaning that vast swathes of sensors can be controlled and monitored through a very small number of gateway nodes. As with any technology, there are competing standards; Silicon Labs’ test aims to figure out which of the three most popular is the most effective.
In a write-up for EE Times, Silicon Labs’ Tom Pannell explains: “We conducted the tests over a 12-month period in a commercial Boston office building with active Wi-Fi and Zigbee networks in range. The wireless test clusters were deployed in hallways, meeting rooms, offices and open areas.”
The test’s conclusion, sadly, is not exactly clear-cut. “The fact is, there is no wining mesh protocol,” Tom explains, pointing to results which saw similar performance between technologies in small networks, Bluetooth lagging behind for larger networks and larger payloads but coming out on top for sub-11 byte messaging, and all suffering from latency increases as the network size grows. “Performance varies greatly based on the application requirements. The test results underscored several factors that are critical in making the right protocol choice.”