FROM THE BLOG

Proprietary RF is History

If you go to semiconductor company websites (here is TI’s), often you can go to a “wireless” section, and they put a list of all the different chips they make for different types of wireless interfaces.  The list contains a bunch of very specific options, and then there is always a section for “Proprietary RF.”

All this really means is that they are selling parts “naked,” and you need to supply your own networking firmware, but that’s not really the point.  The point is that OpenTag will run on many of these “Proprietary RF” components (even though it is a standard-based stack), and so will a custom protocol stack that you designed specifically for some application.  The upside of a proprietary solution vs. a standard-based solution has traditionally been efficiency and performance, and the downside is single-sourcing (if you think you might want a standard, you probably need one).  If the company goes away or decides to change pricing, you have no options.  Of course, there is more.  People end up building proprietary RF solutions for two reasons:

  • Standard-based solutions have always been too bloated.  The cost of the solution only goes down when volumes go to infinity, and that can take a long time.  It might not even happen at all.
  • For smaller, “closed-loop” applications, a proprietary RF solution can be designed specifically to the application, yielding maximum performance.

I spent over four years hand-crafting OpenTag and DASH7 to be revolutionary.  I was reminded this recently when I was discussing network setup with some other engineers who make a living implementing proprietary RF products for various clients.  Hearing their “war stories,” I realized the DASH7 engine inside OpenTag could be adjusted at runtime to morph onto each of their proprietary architectures.  ZigBee and most other 802.15.4 stacks have been failed experiments to replace proprietary RF in this kind of way — they are too bloated, too difficult to learn, and they are not concise in the way they approach standardization.  OpenTag/DASH7 is the line in the sand, where there is no more excuse to design a proprietary RF system for wireless sensor networking.  OpenTag is smaller than a lot of the proprietary RF solutions it replaces, it is open source (so it can live forever if it needs to), it is based on a single standard (DASH7), and it can perform as well or better than even the most application-specific, proprietary WSN system can.

We started Haystack to frame an effective manner for supporting all of the DASH7 projects we are told about.  In truth, we could also be supporting any kind of WSN or low-power RF system you are considering.  OpenTag/DASH7 will deliver greater value than proprietary RF can, period.

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