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The Guide to Choosing Between Standard and Proprietary Protocols

Telink Staff

November 15, 2021


A network of threads wrapped around pins

Choosing between a standard and proprietary wireless protocol starts with understanding the advantages of each and what’s best for your application. 

As a developer, one of the common decisions you’ll find yourself making is choosing between using a standard protocol or developing a proprietary protocol. Standard protocols are tied to specific organizations or developed through collaboration between organizations, and they include many features that your application may or may not need. In contrast, proprietary protocols are those which are custom-built for a particular purpose or design. 

Different protocol types fit different user needs, and Telink offers a wide spectrum of solutions. Choosing the proper protocol that fits your needs takes careful consideration. This guide will dive deeper into differentiating between standard and proprietary protocols to help you understand the advantages and limitations of each.

Standard Protocols: When to Choose Them

Standard protocols are wireless communication protocols developed by specific organizations, like Bluetooth SIG and Thread Group. A very large number of different devices support standard protocols, meaning wide compatibility with manufacturers and faster time to market. In addition, built-in device interoperability makes it easy for consumers to make decisions about their product purchases. 

But standard protocols also see some limitations. The push to include lots of features increases the level of complexity. This may result in code redundancies and bloated software that can ultimately create cost and usage implications for the final product. There may also be extra costs and certifications because they are developed by specific organizations. Membership fees are usually required, as well. 

In addition, niche applications are not necessarily served well, as some user requirements are only partially catered for with standard protocols. When standard protocol implementations become too expensive either from a licensing perspective or because it requires too much processing power, designers may choose to develop wireless systems based on proprietary protocols instead.

Below are some familiar technologies developed as standard protocols:

Bluetooth: Developed and administered by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Bluetooth Classic technology is used primarily in audio streaming applications, while Bluetooth LE, built for performance, reliability, and scale, means efficiency from every angle when it comes to power and cost. Delivering the benefits of both Bluetooth Classic and Bluetooth LE, dual-mode solutions combine both technologies on a single chip. Bluetooth Mesh is one of the industry’s most popular short-to-mid-range communications protocols with a proven IoT network architecture. Transformed for the IoT, it combines the benefits of mesh networks with a massive installed user base delivered by Bluetooth technology. 

Zigbee: Highly flexible and reliable, Zigbee’s full-stack platform was designed by the Zigbee Alliance — now Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA) — for cost-effective low-power and low-bandwidth wireless mesh applications. It enables a wide range of connectivity. With a rich cluster library, it helps create highly interoperable ecosystems across multiple verticals, from smart homes to industrial applications, all built on chips designed for out-of-the-box compatibility. Telink has been developing Zigbee SoCs since 2012.

Thread: Founded on a mature protocol stack, Thread is an IPv6-based, low-power mesh networking technology that brings IP addressability and direct cloud access to mesh networks of up to hundreds of devices. With many of the same benefits of Zigbee, Thread offers useful control and flexibility for device makers and end users, making it a viable protocol for a number of IoT applications, from smart lighting to supply chain management.

Standard vs proprietary protocols

Proprietary Protocols: When to Choose Them

As mentioned earlier, designers and developers turn to proprietary protocols when it doesn’t make sense to go with standard protocols either due to unnecessary costs, features, and processing power, or due to unique functions, and security requirements. Proprietary protocols are customized to meet the specific needs of an application, and they are most common for particular vertical applications. For instance, it’s useful for low-latency wireless audio solutions, as standard protocols may not be able to achieve sufficiently low latencies due to built-in redundancies. 

2.4 GHz: Developers creating applications that require custom or proprietary protocols outside the industry standard have access to Telink’s 2.4GHz SoCs. The de facto radio frequency band for the IoT, 2.4GHz has applications spanning every vertical and device class. Telink’s 2.4GHz SoCs offer developers the customization they need without compromising a clear and cost-effective path to market.

Applications for 2.4GHz include connected toys that prioritize innovation and cost-efficiency, human interface devices that feature unique functions and security, and electronic shelf labels and logistics tracking systems that demand highly efficient connectivity solutions.

How Telink Can Help You Choose the Right Protocol

Choosing between standard or proprietary protocols comes down to knowing what your wireless system requires. Telink is protocol agnostic in our approach to building chips that will power the products of the future. We can help you deploy a standard protocol, implement a proprietary protocol of your design, or help you develop a proprietary protocol for a particular application. Working together, we can help you solve problems and more quickly create a successful product. 

Please visit our wiki to learn more about all our development tools, or ask us a question through our Technical Forum or by contacting us directly today.