Exploring IoT connectivity options
All IoT deployments require hardware, software and wired or wireless connectivity and most require some level of services to implement.
Wired networks have a long-standing tradition of meeting the demands of Internet of Things (IoT). Ethernet and fieldbuses have been the default technology options for exchanging factories’ time-critical data since the 1980s, said Jeroen Hoebeke, an associate professor at IDLab, an Imec research group at Ghent University/University of Antwerp.
Yet, while they are robust, wired networks are costly and involve a high degree of complexity. Cables need to be run to every machine, sensor and actuator, he said.
In this article, we explore some of the options for IoT connectivity.
Wired vs. Wireless Connectivity for IoT Devices
As such, wireless connectivity has been a driving force in the proliferation of IoT deployments, said Sandra Wendelken, senior research analyst, mobile services and software at IDC.
However, each IoT wireless connectivity option brings inherent advantages and disadvantages, said Adam Benson, chief technology officer of Inpixon.
The tradeoffs involve factors such as range (i.e., the distance the signals travel), power consumption (i.e., hard-wired power versus battery-powered and battery life), bit rate (i.e., how much data can be sent and how fast), resistance to interference (i.e., some technologies handle signal reflection and absorption better than others), location accuracy (how precise a fixed or moving device can be pinpointed), real-time versus near real-time (e.g., this second versus a few seconds ago) and price, Benson said.
Since the majority of IoT devices use wireless connectivity, it is then a question of what range of wireless is required for the application, said Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO, Beecham Research Ltd.
“If only limited coverage is required, such as in a hospital ward, then Wi-Fi and other short range wireless technologies are appropriate,” Duke-Woolley said. “If a wider coverage is needed, it is then a question of the data rate required for the application and the reliability versus the cost.”
LoRa and Sigfox connectivity are used for low-data-rate applications, while 4G and 5G broadband are used for high data rates, Duke-Woolley said. Mobile networks are also better for assets that move, such as trucks. Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M (aka CatM1) are cellular alternatives to LoRa in particular. In a remote area, satellite may be the only option but currently is more expensive than other connectivity types, he said.
However, the choice of IoT wireless connectivity will depend on the objective, Benson said. And sometimes a combination of technologies will suit the needs best.
Wendelken said that the IoT wireless connectivity category can be broadly split into two types: short-range connectivity and long-range connectivity.
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