Security and reliability needed to grow WSN market

Thursday, 12 April, 2012

Maintaining the security and reliability of wireless sensor networks (WSNs) will be crucial to the success of these technologies in high-risk fields such as medical devices, defence and natural disaster monitoring, despite breakthroughs in energy-harvesting techniques, a report by semiconductor expert GBI Research has found.

The report found that while energy-harvesting technologies have encouraged the adoption of WSNs due to the attainment of improved energy sources, manufacturers must continue to make improvements to enhance security and reduce the risk of interference.

Recent developments in incorporated energy-harvesting technology have increased the lifespan of WSNs and decreased the maintenance needs and costs surrounding their use. This has increased the potential of the market, with sales volumes expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 46% during 2011-2016, from less than 500 million in 2011 to over 2.5 billion in 2016.

However, if WSNs are to achieve their full potential in monitoring and control applications, manufacturers will need to focus on innovations in security and reliability to allay performance concerns. Security is the primary concern, as there is always a possibility of unauthorised access. The failures of early wireless standards such as the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) were mainly due to security issues.

Reliability is also a key requirement, as wireless transmission can be affected by path loss, shadow fading and ambient noise. WSNs are also susceptible to interference, which can corrupt the signal and break communication.

The future of the WSN market rests on the success of the latest authentication and encryption protocols under development, which can provide greatly enhanced security as long as strict quality controls can be maintained. Emerging technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), ZigBee Green Power, Wi-Fi Direct and innovations from EnOcean will also enable WSNs to perform more varied applications across the medical devices, automotive, energy-efficiency and agriculture industries, aiding the success of the market.

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