The Internet of Things is growing at an astounding rate. In 2017 there was a reported 9 billion devices in use. By 2020, only two years away, this number is expected to be as high as 50 billion. As more and more use cases are identified for connected solutions, the question becomes one of scale, performance and cost. Will networks be able to accommodate an infinite number of wireless devices, each with their own unique demands? What’s the best connectivity choice for the IoT solutions you design, deploy or use?
IoT connectivity options
Pros: A reliable, low-cost choice that is also very secure and fast
Cons: Only practical if your devices are located close enough to each other or to a wired Internet access point for everything to be connected by cable. For most of today’s IoT applications, this simply isn’t possible.
Pros: Enables you to add wireless access points or routers to a wired connection to increase the distances between your devices.
Cons: Deploying a large number of wireless access points can be expensive. You need to address router security vulnerabilities and encrypt the connection. Wi-Fi signals degrade over distance, and with interference from walls, or other users on the same channel, you may face ever-moving ‘dead spots’.
Pros: Today’s mobile broadband networks are highly reliable and available almost everywhere.
Cons: In order to accommodate large data transmissions, cellular networks operate in the higher bandwidth ranges. As a result, IoT devices use significant energy just to connect to the network and transmit data. If your devices are mobile or deployed in remote areas, they’re probably battery operated—and battery life then becomes a constraint.
Short-range (think Bluetooth, ZigBee or ZWave)
Pros: Short-range channels use unlicensed spectrum, which makes them cost attractive, particularly for low power transmissions.
Cons: Transmissions are subject to interference and these options aren’t designed for long-range deployments. They may meet the need inside a small office space, but if your solution is meant for long-range transmissions, they’re not right for you.
By its very nature, the Internet of Things is dependant on connectivity. In fact, choosing the right connectivity for your device is imperative as it affects the cost, performance, and ultimately the success of your solution. Yet, the available options explored above all come with a caveat, and aren’t necessarily the right fit for many IoT solutions.
Low Power Wide Area Networks: specifically designed for the future of IoT
Now for the good news. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPPP), responsible for standardizing the 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE wireless technologies used widely today, has designed two new network standards specific for most IoT solutions, focusing on long-range communications at low bit rates, perfect for the short bursts of data transmitted by these devices.
These new Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks are being deployed by wireless providers worldwide to deliver the reliability, security and freedom from interference – and ultimately the Quality of Service you’ve come to expect from your cellular service.
Here are the basics to get you started:
The M stands for “Machine” type communications. LTE-M operates on a 1.4 MHz bandwidth, and has a peak data rate of 300 Kbps for now with future evolution up to 1 Mbps which some solutions may require. It also supports seamless handovers between cell sites, making it ideal for mobile applications like asset tracking.
The ‘NB’ is short for Narrow-Band. NB-IoT uses a 200 KHz bandwidth and has a peak data rate of 25 Kbps for now with future evolution up to 130 Kbps. If your devices reside in fixed locations and transmit infrequently, then an NB-IoT deployment may be attractive.
LTE-M and NB-IoT are ideal connectivity solutions for IoT in terms of cost, reliability, security, and performance.
Learn more about TELUS connectivity options for IoT, including LPWA, at telus.com/iot