Consumer electronics products no longer exist in a vacuum: increasingly they are linked to each other via a number of short-range radio technologies.

CE vendors, faced with a series of overlapping use-cases, network areas, standards and technologies, need to understand the applications best suited to each, and how they relate to each other.

Fortunately, short-range networking technologies are settling into more or less clearly defined roles, and will by and large complement each other rather than competing. “Technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, UWB, 60 GHz and ZigBee will not compete within the home,” says ABI Research senior analyst Douglas McEuen, “but will be used in coordination, overlapping and coexisting for full wireless network coverage. Each of these technologies has a sweet spot or specialty.

Bluetooth is the driving technology in the personal area network (PAN) and may see some success in remote controls, especially for gaming. Wi-Fi will be the key technology for wireless Local Area Network (LAN). UWB and 60 GHz respectively will be specialized for home office peripherals, and for wireless HDMI (uncompressed video sent from a set-top box to a high-definition TV) ZigBee stands apart, as home automation technology.”

There are a few competitive counter-trends worth noting. Recently, Intel and OZMO Devices announced a program that uses standard Wi-Fi protocols to handle PAN tasks such as syncing notebooks with various PC peripherals and wireless consumer electronics.

The Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics (RF4CE) industry consortium has been formed recently to develop a new protocol for radio frequency remote controls that would compete with Bluetooth to replace IR remote controls for audiovisual equipment. However, these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

A new Research Brief from ABI Research, “Short-range Wireless in the Home Networking Environment,” describes the landscape and examines the opportunities in the home networking market environment for the short-range wireless technologies. It forms part of two ABI Research Services: Short-range Wireless and Mobile Devices.