On this episode of the podcast, Deepal Mehta of InnoPhase IoT joins Ryan Chacon to discuss ultra-low-power Wi-Fi for IoT products. They cover the benefits and challenges of Wi-Fi, trends in Wi-Fi, how ultra-low-power Wi-Fi benefits battery-powered IoT devices, how to deploy a Wi-Fi battery-powered IoT product, and how Wi-Fi will continue to lead the market.
Deepal Mehta has over 30 years of broad-based accomplishments in strategic business unit (SBU) and profit center management, strategic planning, business development, and product marketing/management, focusing on semiconductor-based solutions. At InnoPhase IoT, he leads Business Development, including Partner Programs, Marketing, and Strategic Sales Development.
Interested in connecting with Deepal? Reach out on LinkedIn!
About InnoPhase IoT
InnoPhase IoT is a leader in ultra-low-power Wi-Fi connectivity solutions for IoT products. Its groundbreaking programmable digital radio architecture drastically reduces Wi-Fi power consumption and enables new categories of fully wireless, battery-operated, cloud-connected IoT devices. Its award-winning Talaria TWO™ Wi-Fi + BLE modules are ideal for battery-operated remote security cameras, video doorbells, connected sensors, AR/VR, high-resolution lossless audio, wearables, and other energy-critical wireless IoT applications for home, commercial, retail, industrial, and healthcare markets.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:47) Why choose Wi-Fi?
(04:28) Challenges with Wi-Fi
(07:34) Wi-Fi trends
(19:51) Learn more and follow up
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m Ryan Chicon, and on today’s episode, we have Deepal Mehta, the Senior Director of Business Development at InnoPhase IoT. They are a company that is focused on ultra low power Wi-Fi connectivity solutions for IoT products. We are going to be talking about all things Wi-Fi.
Great conversation. I think you’ll get a lot of value out of it. Prior to getting into it, we’d appreciate it if you’d give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel, and hit that bell icon, so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out. If you’re listening to this on a podcast directory, please subscribe, so you get the latest episodes as soon as they come out as well.
Other than that, let’s get on to the episode. Welcome Deepal to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Deepal] Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate the opportunity.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. It’s great to have you. So before we get started into our conversation, I’d love it if you would be able to give our audience a quick introduction about yourself and the company.
– [Deepal] My name is Deepal Mehta. I’m a Senior Director of Business Development in InnoPhase IoT. InnoPhase IoT is a company that specializes in ultra low power Wi-Fi IoT solutions. So as part of my role, I manage the partner programs at InnoPhase IoT as well as the outbound marketing and strategic sales and business development.
Our company was founded in 2022 as a spin out of InnoPhase Inc. And it has a long history of innovative RF technology to enable Wi-Fi to be at lower power levels. Our goal is to be close to the Bluetooth power levels, and we focused on the IoT markets in the smart home, industrial IoT, business automation, and areas like that.
– [Ryan] So with all the different connectivity options out there when it comes to devices, why is Wi-Fi a focus for you all?
– [Deepal] So as we looked at the marketplace for IoT, we saw that really there are certain hurdles of realizing the full promise of IoT. And one of it is the wireless connectivity, right? Untethered IoT devices. And for that wireless technology is very key. As we looked at the various wireless technology, Wi-Fi definitely stands out, as you know, Wi-Fi is very ubiquitous. Huge penetration in the laptop, cell phone marketplace. And then a natural progression is to go into the internet of things market where Wi-Fi would give a direct cloud connectivity. As you know, Wi-Fi is based on the protocol stack is the IP- TCP IP stack or UDP IP stack, which is the standard software that’s been there for the internet over the decades.
And by using Wi-Fi in the IoT, you could leverage the stack as is the connectivity to the cloud, which is very important for IoT functionality, right? There are legacy wireless technologies like Bluetooth and Zigbee and others. But the problem is the performance is not there, right?
So initially the IoT devices wanted sleepy sensors. You’re measuring temperature or humidity. You wake up once a day, transmit short bursts of data and then go to sleep. Okay, Bluetooth, Zigbee, good for it. But now as we see emerging use cases of IoT devices, video is definitely- video cameras, there’s definitely one lossless audio, all those things require much higher performance, and that’s where Wi-Fi shines out. And as we look at more and more emerging use cases like AI at the edge, that’s where you would need Wi-Fi functionality to update your AI models and things like that. So if you look at the compatibility with the internet protocol stack, even progression going forward in terms of technology, if you look at Matter protocol that is being talked about for smart home automation, interoperability between various ecosystem device players, big mega players in the consumer electronic space, Matter is the common protocol that would make it interoperable and Matter actually is defined to run over IP stack. So it has to run over Wi-Fi or Thread, right? It can’t run over Bluetooth or Zigbee. Again, making it very seamless. Connectivity for IoT, Wi-Fi was the choice for us.
– [Ryan] So let me ask you then, what is- it sounds like a big focus for you all is around the ultra low power- making the Wi-Fi ultra low power consumption standpoint. What is it right now that’s the big challenges with Wi-Fi. I’m assuming it’s because it consumes a lot of power to do what we need or what most applications require it to do.
But with the new applications and more adoption around the industry with things like cameras and other things that are more- that require more energy to run them, it sounds like there is still a challenge that exists when it comes to Wi-Fi. If you could maybe talk to our audience a little bit about that because I think a lot of, for them, they don’t think or really know about that kind of thing because it’s just does my device work or not?
– [Deepal] Yeah. No, exactly. And you said it right, so I listed all the advantages of Wi-Fi, but the obvious disadvantage of Wi-Fi is it’s really power hungry, right? And the focus of the technology was initially in the cell phone area or the laptop area where the batteries are usually slightly bigger, right?
And so the power, although relative it’s lower power for the mobile application still, it’s not the low power required for the IoT use cases, right? Where you have billions of devices. Very difficult to manage, very difficult to access sometimes, and for that, being battery operated in lower power is really important.
So we took it up upon ourselves to say, okay, I’m gonna try to reduce the power level of Wi-Fi without breaking compatibility and standard space, right? So we still would be certified by Wi-Fi Alliance, so you don’t want to break- do proprietary stuff, of course, physics allows you to reduce power by doing proprietary stuff.
But what we did was we innovated, and we have a unique RF implementation with a hundred plus patents, which makes it 2-4x lower power than what’s out there in the marketplace, without breaking the compatibility. So that’s been our focus, to leverage all the advantages of Wi-Fi, but offer it at a lower power level. And from a use case, user experience perspective, so today’s cameras, wireless cameras that are out there in market, if you look at the spec, the battery life is three to six months. Now the cameras are hanging somewhere outside your home at a higher elevation. It’s very difficult for a consumer every three to six months to go change the battery.
By just making it more than a year plus battery life, it just makes the transition, the user experience good, makes the transition to Wi-Fi based wireless cameras much more possible, right? So you’ve seen forecasts from ABI Research that, okay, you’ll have 3.2 to 5.6 billion Wi-Fi endpoint devices. To make it happen, you need to have it battery operated and lower power to really realize the promise of the marketplace needs, you know.
– [Ryan] So you’ve mentioned a number of things that I wanted to ask about. As the Wi-Fi space continues to evolve, there are obviously new trends that we’re seeing. One of them sounds like we’re going to more battery powered devices. There’s the AI at the edge, which you mentioned. You mentioned the other protocols like Matter, but what- can you talk a little bit more about the trends in the Wi-Fi space that are really starting to require us to think more about power consumption and being something that’s important?
Because obviously, you’ve given one really good example of- if the battery only lasts a few months or a few weeks, then the cost to change the batteries and the time to change the batteries becomes a little bit of a nuisance. So what is it about that’s happening in the hardware connected device space that is requiring us to really start thinking about this when it comes to these types of devices in the smart home and so forth?
– [Deepal] Right. So, uh, as you know, for any consumer having an untethered device or a wireless based device, battery operated is the goal, right? For ease of use, ease of operation. But because the battery life is so low today, three to six months, the penetration in the market is we believe approximately only 10%.
Believe it or not, about 90% of the cameras are still tethered or powered, wall powered and things like that, which comes with its own hassle. But people do it because it’s, there’s no other way. Just like when people initially move from desktop PC to laptop PC, everybody didn’t move to laptop even though it was so compelling because of the costs were high and the form factor was not convenient. So same thing is happening in the Wi-Fi based IoT spaces. People want to move to this, but there are technical challenges. So that’s what we are working on, and we believe the market would go up to 50% untethered, right? Or battery based cameras or other IoT devices if we make the Wi-Fi power low.
So that’s the trend we are seeing. And the other trend we are seeing is AI, right? So initially, as I said, you had sensors or IoT devices that would send some data to the cloud. The cloud would do all the AI analysis and predictive maintenance or vision analytics or whatever the use case, send the data back to the consumer, but that is a lot of latency, right? Now, the ideal thing is to do AI at the edge, but AI, as you know, is a very compute hungry and power hungry problem statement, which drains a lot of battery life. So by us doing a very lower Wi-Fi, which is a huge component of battery consumption, consumers can have AI features added on without doing a trade off of battery life, right?
So we allow AI features at the end, but still maintaining a one plus year battery life, right? So that’s the trend that you don’t have to do the trade offs that you had to do while moving to battery powered Wi-Fi. And the last thing, as you said, the Matter protocol is the key. And a lot of the Wi-Fi protocol based devices would be leveraging it because Matter runs over TCP IP, which is the bottom there is Wi-Fi.
So that’s the things. Now in terms of the cloud connectivity, which is what the new IoT applications need, if you are based on Bluetooth or Zigbee, then you needed some connectivity box which would translate your Bluetooth to Wi-Fi, then the Wi-Fi will talk to the access point and to the cloud. By offering Wi-Fi directly to the sensor or the IoT device at the edge, they can directly connect to access point in the home if you’re talking about home- smart home based IoT devices or in an enterprise use case or a building or things like that. So that allows you to not have the connected device. Now, if you need to do connectivity device, then our device would work for that also, because we do offer a single chip Bluetooth Wi-Fi combo.
That’s the other thing we did for ease of use, so that it can directly connect to the legacy Bluetooth devices in the network. So those are some of the trends that I see.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. What about when it comes to just the evolution of other technologies outside of just, let’s say Wi-Fi, that are enabling these battery operated IoT devices to last longer when it comes to that battery life? Because I imagine- I mean we’ve seen that just over the years, battery life has improved with many different kinds of use cases.
But what are you seeing outside of just the advancements in Wi-Fi, but also the fundamental technological breakthroughs that are happening in the industry as a whole that are really enabling and making this possible?
– [Deepal] One of the things, as you might have heard, is energy harvesting and a lot of the Wi-Fi cameras I’ve seen nowadays come with a small solar panel on top of it. So think of it, if you get a year plus of camera battery life just based on the low power Wi-Fi, as well as the system optimizations that we do in conserving the power of the ISP or the video processor and making efficient, power optimized cloud connectivity, right?
So you, you remain connected, but you can operate at a lower power. Those all things are there, but it can be augmented by, say, having a solar panel close to your camera or on your camera, which will drive your battery life even more. And there could be other techniques of doing solar harvesting. The other thing that we are looking at is, of course, there are ways to do proprietary wireless technology for sub gigahertz and things like that.
But again, we don’t feel that’s the right way because again, you’re not leveraging the huge ecosystem of Wi-Fi. The wide players, the amount of players available in the marketplace to meet the needs, we feel it’s going in the wrong direction. But the other thing is also the Wi-Fi of today is not stagnant.
As you know, there’s a whole Wi-Fi 6 that is a move to Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 6, the number six, not the SIG six, which works with the industry players to reduce the power going forward. What we’ve done is implemented a lot of the power management techniques today. So you don’t have to wait for Wi-Fi 6 to achieve the low power, right?
So there are a lot of other wireless technologies to do it, but we feel that optimizing the Wi-Fi standards based and augmenting the solution through system level technologies power management is the way to go.
– [Ryan] One of the last questions I wanted to ask you before we wrap up here is when it- when I- if- for audience who’s listening to this and trying to really grasp what is required or what they need to be thinking about when it comes to deploying a Wi-Fi battery-based IoT product, I imagine it’s at times can be quite challenging, but what are the keys
to doing that successfully or what is it that makes it difficult that needs to be thought about in order to increase the likelihood of success when it comes to deploying those Wi-Fi battery-based products?
– [Deepal] So we focused a lot on the Wi-Fi aspect, but essentially we are not shipping a Wi-Fi device, we are shipping an IoT device or the consumer is deploying, or the industry is deploying an IoT device. And it’s really a system. And depending on the end device, there are various other components that you need to look into and manage, right?
So if you are looking at the wire- camera, Wi-Fi camera based IoT device and the ISP, image signal processor or a video processor, a huge amount of that, right? So you have to pick the right ISP. If you want AI features, you have to make sure you have the AI features in it, and you need to manage the software integration at a system level.
The ISP comes with its own software. The Wi-Fi comes with its own stack. You need to integrate the two and make sure you have a power optimized, integrated solution, right? So you can’t just think about Wi-Fi, you have to think about the system solution. Same thing if you are a vibration sensor or a temperature sensor.
You have the Wi-Fi, maybe you have a MCU that you need for certain peripheral interfaces, for sensors, other sensor interface. You need to make sure you pick the right MCU or in our case, we have integrated Arm controller also in our Wi-Fi solution. So you could do a single chip, or you may need a two chip.
And so you need to think about that. So software integration, selecting the right components, and then making sure the solution is cloud connected, right? So maybe you have a private cloud, so you need to develop software for the cloud side also, it’s not just the device, because you need an end-to-end use case that the consumer or the person will be looking for, right?
The industry would be looking for. So those are some of the things that you need to look at for the end solution. And then again, the interoperability with the other devices is also very key.
– [Ryan] Perfect. So the last thing I wanted to ask you is so going forward now in this space, how does Wi-Fi continue to lead going forward? Obviously we’re talking about some challenges here. We’re talking about bringing the power consumption down, which is a challenge. But as this space continues to evolve, will Wi-Fi remain as the leader in this area or what do you think will happen or what is required to happen in order for Wi-Fi to stay at the front of the pack?
– [Deepal] So, as you- and we are focusing today on the IoT space, so I’m looking at where does Wi-Fi grow from now in the IoT space, right? As I said, there’s more to Wi-Fi 6 from today, which would focus on some of the lower power features, but also from a Wi-Fi perspective, there’s multi-band, right?
So Wi-Fi is not a single band technology. So you can have Wi-Fi at 2.4, you can have Wi-Fi at 5 gigahertz. And to reduce the interference, you may need multi-band support, right? Now, a lot of the IoT devices, initially because of the power challenge and the cost challenges and all that, were only single band.
But as you move into the future, you can integrate more stuff with the lower semiconductor process technology. So you will see a move for multi-band Wi-Fi. Now, those- that’s not revolutionary. It’s already there in the cell phones and the laptop market, but you’ll see that coming into the IoT space also, right?
So you’ll see multi-band Wi-Fi support also. And so that’s the thing where you make the Wi-Fi solution better and better while still maintaining the power and the cost constraints and the interoperability and the standards based solution, right? So that’s how I see Wi-Fi progressing in the IoT space, leveraging the goodness that we saw in some other markets, but doing it at the the spec level that is required for the IoT space.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Yeah, I appreciate you jumping on here and talking about a lot of these interesting topics as it relates to Wi-Fi. I don’t think a lot of our audience necessarily is focused on it day-to-day, and there are members of our audience who obviously are, but understanding exactly where the challenges lie when it comes to bringing these battery powered devices in the IoT space to market, what the challenges are, where the industry is headed, the things you all are doing, which are fantastic. And for those members of our audience who are interested in following up, learning more, wants to discuss this conversation further, what’s the best way that they can do that?
– [Deepal] You could reach out to us, our website is www.innophaseiot.com. You could reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and we would be glad to work with you to understand your problem statement and deliver a solution for you. One thing I didn’t emphasize, but there’s always the technology piece, but then there is getting out to the marketplace. And there are a lot of R&D challenges which need- like reference designs, ODM, high volume manufacturing partners. So that’s all the solutions that we work on also, not just the chip and the module, but the complete solution that’s high volume manufacturable with regulatory approval.
We look forward to working with anybody who’s interested in this space to pave a way with the suite of products and solution sets that we have with our partners to enable them to be successfully reaching their marketplace goals.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well Deepal, thank you again so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it and look forward to getting this out to our audience.
– [Deepal] Thank you very much. Enjoy talking to you and thanks for the opportunity again.