Weightless M2M standard nailed down

Last week Weightless, the M2M radio technology, became standardised via a 600 page specification voted through at the Weightless plenary conference in Cambridge UK.

The group will now move on to the next phase - to give Weightless some global visibility. Some of the members of the Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) will now take some early versions of the technology "off to clients and actually start doing trials," says Matthew Bailey, VP of marketing at Argon Design and SIG member.

Weightless has been designed from the ground up to be an optimum M2M radio technology. That means supporting low and intermittent packet data exchanges through a light-weight protocol using ultra-low-powered devices.

The technology is designed to share spectrum in the relatively low frequency (these days) white spaces (spectrum free from signals) in and amongst the world's television transmission channels.

This spectrum is to be offered as 'free' public spectrum (in much the same way as WiFi occupies a public band) except that the technology will be capable of sharing spectrum with other types of radio network. The networks will all use a database look-up to ascertain which bands of 'white space' are free and able to be used in any given area.

This approach has been given the go-ahead in both the UK and the US and Weightless is hopeful that its low-powered technology, developed in Cambridge in the UK, will be picked up in the US. If and when it is, it will likely become a viable M2M network standard world-wide for a broad range of Internet of Things applications.

The key is its extremely low power requirement. This will enable tiny single chip radios capable of extending the life of a single small battery for up to 10 years, claims Weightless supporters.

The Weightless SIG's Bailey is bullish about the technology's prospects. He says the technology is as likely to be deployed by established telecoms players who will could easily add it to their cellular networks, as by new entrant M2M players planning to build greenfield networks. Bailey points out that in addition to heavy-weight supporters such as ARM and Google, Weightless is also backed by UK-based Cable & Wireless, recently bought out by the world's second largest mobile player, Vodafone.

The paper stats are impressive. The technology can power-up to cover a range of up to 10 km - so is capable of rural and agricultural applications (chipping and monitoring individual farm animals is bound to be a big application in the years ahead). The cost of the Weightless chipset to power devices on the network is expected to be less than US$2.

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