Technological advances are creating a new wave of connected products that previously operated in isolation. This enables companies to control large numbers of products remotely, improving operational efficiency in the field. It allows them to constantly gather streaming information from sensors, creating opportunities for new services and reducing the cost of existing ones.
The Key Role of IoT Connectivity
Connectivity enables the best possible communication by creating a bridge between the physical and the digital world. It links physical devices, such as sensors and controllers, and the applications in the cloud that interact with them. A connectivity solution enables applications to interact with devices to monitor, control and manage them, as well as subscriptions.
An IoT-based service depends on the reliability and quality of the connectivity link. This makes connectivity an important building block in IoT infrastructure. Not only must it be reliable and offer the appropriate quality of service to serve the underlying devices and applications, but it must also be secure enough to stop sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
The Benefits of Cellular Connectivity
There are several different technologies that can be used for IoT connectivity, but many suffer from significant drawbacks. It’s important to understand your short and long-term needs and the strengths and weaknesses of the alternative connectivity technologies
Wired networking is a non-starter for many IoT connections, for example. Economic considerations preclude hardwired connections to local area installations at short distances. These links make it time consuming, disruptive and expensive to move or add equipment. At first glance, local area wireless connections would seem to solve this problem. However, they can also suffer from management problems.
Traditional Wi-Fi communications channels are subject to interference thanks to heavily overused 2.4 GHz bands. While 5 GHz is better, many Wi-Fi frequencies also use this spectrum today, and it is limited by shorter-distance coverage. These constraints make it more difficult to place and move IoT devices reliably. It’s also a difficult technology to scale in large volumes, and its limited range makes it difficult to support collections of devices scattered across remote locations. Wi-Fi frequencies also have security risks; to learn more, read our white paper “Risky Business: Avoid the Dangers of Wi-Fi with Cellular-Equipped Laptops.”
6 Considerations for IoT Connectivity
For companies looking to implement an IoT solution, there are six crucial considerations:
In many IoT deployments, infrastructure will have to span many different geographies, each with different carrier coverage. Managing multiple SIM vendors across a global deployment is challenging. Infrastructure will also have different coverage requirements based on the use case. An urban deployment may require support for dense clusters of devices to serve a tightly packed population, for example, whereas a rural implementation may serve a sparse population spread across a wide area. Design teams also need to consider the extent to which the IoT network must provide indoor coverage. Extending communication inside buildings introduces a range of technical issues, such as frequency considerations and density of device placement. Or your deployment may only require regional coverage, for example just in the US or Europe.
- Data quality
Many IoT deployments support mission critical business processes or are in sectors that are part of the critical national infrastructure. Their connectivity solutions must preserve data integrity and reliability, delivering data streams consistently so that networked IoT devices can support accurate, timely results for applications running mission critical processes. However, companies can face frequent connectivity issues, with local gaps in coverage or prolonged outages, especially if they have a single network provider.
A collection of connected IoT devices will also provide the basis for managing potentially millions of devices spread across a wide area. An IoT connectivity solution must therefore be able to scale. Monitoring the state of IoT devices across the network and controlling their operation relies on a robust connectivity layer.
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