Internet of Things (IoT) devices are low power, battery-operated and capable of connecting to the Internet via a communications network.
Depending on the environment and usage requirements, each technology has strengths and weaknesses concerning cost, range, scalability and network-specific connectivity. Range performance divides the technologies into those that operate in Local Area Networks (LANs) and Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs). Wi-Fi, Bluetooth/BLE, Zigbee, Z-Wave and Thread are classed as LANs operating with ranges under 100m. LPWANs, cellular and Wi-Fi HaLow™ have coverage up to 10km and beyond. LANs typically handle constant high bandwidth rates, while LPWANs deliver small blocks of data at low bandwidth rates, additionally dealing with geographical location issues and network congestion.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a subset of IoT, allowing sensors or industrial robots to connect to the Internet and dedicated analytics platforms to process and display data. Suitable networks for this application are licensed LPWANs such as NB-IoT & LTE-M and unlicensed ones such as LoRa, Itron Networked Solutions, Sigfox & MIOTY.
Here we look at some of the key networks in detail.
LoRa uses Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) techniques making it resistant to channel noise interference with high immunity to multipath and fading. It has good sensitivity, doppler shift resistance for non-static devices and network scalability by the reduction of data speed to gain range. Network congestion can be eased by increasing the number of gateways. LoRaWANs can be professionally monitored or may be free-of-charge as in the case of community networks such as The Things Network (TTN).
Itron Networked Solutions (previously Silver Spring Networks) technology consists of an IPv6-based wireless mesh network that primarily sends energy consumption data from smart meters to utility companies. Deployed networks are now handling third-party devices to provide additional safety information to protect infrastructure and customers.
Sigfox is a global chargeable ultra narrowband network using star topology with wide coverage and network uptime guaranteed. Base stations are proprietary using an open transmission protocol with a cellular style approach. Adoption has so far been in the electricity grid and water/wastewater monitoring sectors.
MIOTY is an emerging LPWAN standard purpose-built for complex industrial and commercial IoT sensor networks. The protocol is designed for extreme robustness against interference with excellent mobility, extensive coverage and vast scalability for IIoT deployments. At the core of the protocol is Fraunhofer’s patented Telegram Splitting, specifically designed to eliminate interference and allows for deep penetration in underground applications which could be a problem for other LPWAN solutions. MIOTY data packets can travel up to 15km in rural areas, minimizing the number of base stations needed for full coverage in industrial complexes, campuses or oilfields. Battery life is optimized with sensors able to operate unattended for up to 20 years.
Wi-Fi HaLow™ is the designation for products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah technology, targeted at low data rate IoT applications. It operates on sub-GHz narrow-band channels offering extended range and lower power connectivity. The technology is particularly suitable for rural communications where cell phone traffic can be offloaded from base stations.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) specific networks include those provided by Landis +Gyr, Itron, Aclara, Sensus, Arqiva and Telefonica. These networks are focused on reliability, range, power consumption and scalability to monitor energy consumption and industrial sensors.
In summary, there will always be a trade-off between network range, speed and sensor power consumption when choosing an IIoT network. Generally, two out of the three can be achieved satisfactorily depending on requirements. The quality and reliability of networks are also balanced by the cost of operation per device.
CNIguard’s products are equipped to deliver connectivity over customer-specified networks with the flexibility to incorporate new technologies when appropriate.
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