In December I wrote an overview comparing and contrasting ANT+ and BLE. Now it is time to apply the differences to a real world example, home automation. When ANT+ was bought by Garmin, it ruled the fitness realm and was used in almost all of their fitness devices. BLE set the standard for home automation. All of this is changing as home automation companies have realized that a mesh network is the best option for home automation. Currently, Google’s NEST and Control4 utilize mesh networks. Nest uses the network, Thread, while Control4 uses Zigbee. Just recently, ANT+ has announced it is ready to jump into the home automation field. Could this be because Apple released HomeKit utilizing BLE protocol and they want to compete? Probably.
If you read my earlier blog, you know that BLE typically uses either a P2P network or a star network while ANT+ uses a mesh network. I believe that a mesh network is better suited to home automation (and apparently so do Google and Control4) based on the ability for nodes to communicate and the flexibility it offers. In a P2P or star network, there is one control node and each of the other nodes can only communicate with the control node. In a mesh network, there is still a control node but all the nodes can also communicate with each other. So why do you want a mesh network for home automation? Reliability.
Mesh networks are more reliable because there is more than one communication route. It’s like having only one route to work versus several to choose from. If you have only one route, and there is an accident, you have no choice but to bear the burden of heavy stop and go traffic. If you have other routes to choose from, the accident may not slow you down at all. In terms of home automation, if one device breaks down in the signal path (the accident on the road), the network will just find a different route to the destination.
So ANT+ has jumped into the home automation realm, but does it stand a chance against BLE? As one of my co-workers stated, it’s all about market penetration. BLE is the standard for low energy wireless protocols and everyone recognizes the name. Most people probably haven’t heard of ANT+ and don’t know why they should choose a mesh network over other types. It looks like HomeKit may quickly overtake the home automation market because of name recognition and marketing, so for the foreseeable future it appears that BLE may leave ANT+ in the dust. I plan on checking back after ANT+ has been in the home automation market for a bit to see what actually happens, and I may just do another follow up to let you know as well.