The installed base for 802.15.4-enabled devices is forecast to increase almost fivefold over the next 5 years, rising from just under 425 million to over 2.1 billion in 2019, finds ABI Research. “The low-power, low-cost, mesh networking capabilities of 802.15.4 networks make them the primary wireless technology choice across a number of different vertical markets including home, building and industrial automation, smart metering, and home entertainment,” comments Andrew Zignani, research analyst at ABI Research.

With support from a number of chipset suppliers including Microchip, Silicon Labs, Freescale, GreenPeak and Texas Instruments, among others, annual 802.15.4 device shipments are set to grow from 206 million to over 730 million in 2019. ZigBee-enabled devices, currently accounting for 74 percent of all 802.15.4 shipments, are set to continue leading the way throughout this time, reaching over 350 million annual shipments by 2019. In particular, ZigBee will see strong growth in the home automation market, where the share of total ZigBee shipments will rise from around 9 percent now to 28 percent in 2019.

However, ZigBee will face increasingly difficult challenges from IPv6-enabled alternative 802.15.4 technologies such as 6LoWPAN, including the Google backed, Thread. “One of the challenges facing ZigBee is the current confusion between the numerous different profiles targeting different applications, making interoperability between heterogeneous ZigBee nodes and applications very difficult. The industry is therefore increasingly turning towards IP-based standards to address these issues,” adds Zignani. Interviews with a number of industry players all point towards a growing demand for IP functionalities and an expectation for the market to consolidate around 6LoWPAN-based 802.15.4 solutions. ABI Research estimates indicate that IP-enabled 802.15.4 devices are set to account for a growing proportion of the market, rising from around 2 percent today to just shy of 35 percent by 2019. In contrast, whilst overall shipments will grow considerably, ZigBee’s market share is set to fall throughout the period, dropping below 50 percent in 2019.