Connectivity protocols in mobile devices and consumer electronics are finding new growth through evolving standards. Two key short-range communication protocols, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth v4.0 (or Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE) are benefitting from the activities of the Bluetooth SIG and the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The goal of these groups is to simplify and standardize device implementation for OEMs, beefing up the protocols’ capabilities and pushing them into new devices and vertical applications. They provide a way for CE OEMs’ priorities to be factored into these competing (yet complementary) protocols.

“To remain competitive against their short-range competitors in mobile devices, connectivity protocols must advance their capabilities,” says ABI Research Senior Analyst Michael Morgan. “Space, power, and cost are serious concerns in mobile device design and unless a connectivity protocol can ‘pull its weight’ it risks being excluded from OEMs’ design considerations.”

BLE is expected to ride alongside the massive adoption of earlier versions in handsets and other devices. The low power sensors can be added to health and fitness monitoring devices and deliver a new addressable market for Bluetooth to serve.

Wi-Fi Direct offers P2P communication capabilities similar to Bluetooth’s. As Wi-Fi continues to penetrate into all manner of devices and consumer electronics, it gains potential to replace Bluetooth in certain device segments (eg. remote controls, Bluetooth headsets).

According to ABI Research forecasts, Wi-Fi Direct device shipments will experience a 50 percent CAGR from 2011 to 2016 and ship in 2 billion devices in 2016. Not to be outdone, total BLE device shipments (both dual and single mode) will grow at a 61 percent CAGR to ship 2.9 billion devices in 2016.

Vice President Kevin Burden points to a prominent exception: “Another short-range technology, NFC’s ‘mobile wallet’ function, is not benefitting from an industry body’s drive to standards: the NFC Forum takes the position that the marketplace is the best arena for that process.”

ABI Research’s new “Mobile Devices Connectivity” study investigates and highlights the current and future market potential for short-range connectivity including NFC, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi, 802.11x across a number of mobile device segments.