There are so many options for low-power wireless communication these days. BLE is everywhere, and many other manufacturers try to push their protocols as well. LoRa, Dust, Zigbee, Thread, Sigfox, etc., the list is long. What I think is lacking is a good way to compare the total energy consumption. Data rate and transmit power are easy, but there are so many other variables that make it difficult to compare.

What is interesting is the lowest possible energy consumption for a transmission period, and thereby the longest possible lifespan, but obviously also for the sensor node to function in the environment it is designed for.

This question would be much too broad without some constraints, so these are listed below.

Q: Which is the most low energy wireless protocol?


  • Industrial enviroment (WiFi present, but not crowded 2.4 GHz like residential areas)
  • Data packages of 10 kB (kilobytes)
  • Range up to 150 m inside steel structure with some steel obstacles
  • Transmission period 1/week
  • Network of potentially 1000 nodes
  • Highly predictable lifespan if supplied from primary battery
  • It is allowed for a power manager to disable the voltage supply to the wireless subsystem, though some protocols are designed to be always powered and have a low power keep-alive communication going (Dust comes to mind)
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is not a shopping question. OP is asking for a protocol comparison. Relevant: digikey.com/en/articles/techzone/2011/aug/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Jun 29, 2016 at 8:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you need mesh routing? Or is it enough that each battery-powered device sends data directly to a master node? \$\endgroup\$
    – filo
    Jun 29, 2016 at 8:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DmitryGrigoryev if you look at the μJ/bit results, for example, you'll see that the results differs by several order of magnitude from technology to technology. So if, from module to module, you have half the consumption or twice the consumption, it is not really relevant. Well, I'm not really trying to convince anyone, anyway. I just give my point of view. \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Jun 29, 2016 at 10:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DmitryGrigoryev Yes, I understand well they obtained the results using the method you describe. For a given chip. But I just keep thinking it gives a valid (although rough) idea of what would be the consumption for a given technology (whatever the module) for the reason I mentioned above. And yes, I can be a bit stubborn, sometimes. \$\endgroup\$
    – dim
    Jun 29, 2016 at 10:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There will be differences in the PHY energy efficiency of different tech, but not by orders of magnitude. What does make a difference of consumption by orders of magnitude is how you want to be able to interact with your sensor nodes. If they're asynchronous, with an Aloha-type MAC and a store-and-forward piggy-back downlink, power budget can be absolutely minuscule. OTOH, if you require your nodes to stay synchronized because you want to be able to ping them at any time, this can burn a lot of power. Please add such constraints. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sylvain
    Sep 20, 2016 at 20:00


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