Pradeep Singh | 25th May 2016
Network connectivity is the foundation for IoT, and the type of access required will depend on the nature of the application. Many IoT devices will be served by radio technologies that operate on unlicensed spectrum and that are designed for short-range connectivity with limited QoS and security requirements typically applicable for a home or indoor environment. Let’s explore some of the popular wireless technologies –
ZigBee is a low-cost, low-power,low latency, limited range wireless mesh network standard targeted at the wide development of long battery life devices in wireless control and monitoring applications.
As per Bob Heile (chairman of the ZigBee Alliance) – “ZigBee was purposefully designed to address capabilities not supported by other wireless technologies and continues to be the only standard capable of securely, economically and efficiently connecting thousands of electrical switches, lights, door locks, thermostats, cable set-top-boxes and a myriad of other devices, seamlessly into an Internet of Things,”
2. WiFi and Wi-Fi HaLow:
Wi-Fi is a popular wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections (wireless LAN – WLAN). It mainly uses 2.4 gigahertz (12 cm)UHF and 5 gigahertz (6 cm) SHF ISM radio bands.
The Wi-Fi Alliance recently announced a new IEEE specification, 802.11ah, developed explicitly for the Internet of Things (IoT). Dubbed HaLow (pronounced HAY-Low), it’s aimed at connecting everything in the IoT environment, from smart homes to smart cities to smart cars and any other device that can be connected to a Wi-Fi access point.
3. Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart):
Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the ISM bandfrom 2.4 to 2.485 GHz) from fixed and mobile devices, and building personal area networks (PANs). It can connect several devices, overcoming problems of synchronization.
Bluetooth low energy (LE) (also called Bluetooth Smart or Version 4.0+ of the Bluetooth specification) is the power- and application-friendly version of Bluetooth that was built for the Internet of Things (IoT).
6LowPAN (IPv6 Low-power wireless Personal Area Network) is a simple low cost wireless network of devices that have limited power and relaxed throughput requirements. It can support star, mesh, and combinations of star and mesh topologies.
6LowPAN is a mesh network that is robust, scalable and self-healing. The 6LoWPAN group has defined encapsulation and header compression mechanisms that allow IPv6 packets to be sent and received over IEEE 802.15.4 based networks.
Z-Wave is low Powered RF communications technology that supports full mesh networks without the need for a coordinator node. Optimized for reliable and low-latency communication of small data packets with data rates up to 100kbit/s, it operates in the sub-1GHz band and is impervious to interference from WiFi and other wireless technologies in the 2.4-GHz range such as Bluetooth or ZigBee.
It is very scalable and can enable control of up to 232 devices. Z-Wave uses a simpler protocol than some others, which can enable faster and simpler development, but the only maker of chips is Sigma Designs compared to multiple sources for other wireless technologies such as ZigBee and others.
Thread was designed with one goal in mind: to create the very best way to connect and control products in the home.
Built on open standards and IPv6/6LoWPAN protocols, Thread’s approach to wireless networking offers numerous technological advantages, including a secure and reliable mesh network with no single point of failure, simple connectivity and low power. All Thread networks are easy to set up and secure to use with banking-class encryption to close security holes that exist in other wireless protocols.
Public cellular networks have penetrated deeply into almost all locations. With minimal initial investment it can provide a reliable network connectivity to IoT devices.
IoT services currently require low data transfer rates between device and application server and can run well with GPRS connectivity. However, data-intensive applications like video surveillance, emergency health services and automotive devices will function only with transfer rates of 3G or LTE networks.
Hight power consumption is an issue with cellular network as most IoT devices usually have to run on extremely low power – much lower than typical LTE handhelds. Another major limitation is due to LTE band fragmentation across the world because it is very expensive to support several bands on a single device.
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a set of short-range wireless technologies, typically requiring a distance of 4cm or less to initiate a connection. NFC allows you to share small payloads of data between an NFC tag and a portable device such as a smartphone. Today there are 500 million NFC-enabled devices in the market, and eventually the majority of things in our environment will have NFC tags on them.
As per Mohamed Awad, director of product marketing at Broadcom – “NFC promises to streamline everyday tasks at home. Imagine a day when setting down a smartphone on the bedside nightstand tells the room that you’re ready for bed, prompting the lights to dim, the TV to set its sleep timer and the device to being re-juicing.”
Sigfox is a French company that builds wireless networks to connect low-energy objects such as electricity meters, which need to be continuously on and emitting small amounts of data.
It is a LPWA (Low-Power Wide-Area) network, currently deployed in Western Europe, San Francisco, and with ongoing tests in South America & Asia. The SIGFOX allows a bidirectional communication, both from & to the device. The communication is always initiated by the device.
The SIGFOX network is designed for small messages sent every now and then. It is not appropriate for high-bandwith usages (multimedia, permanent broadcast).
LoRaWAN is a media access control (MAC) layer protocol designed for large-scale public networks with a single operator. It is built using Semtech’s LoRa modulation scheme.
LoRaWAN is designed to provide Low Power Wide Area Network with features specifically needed to support low-cost, mobile, secure bi-directional communication for Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M), and smart city, and industrial applications. It is optimized for low power consumption and to support large networks with millions and millions of devices. It has innovative features, support redundant operation, location, low-cost, low-power and can even run on energy harvesting technologies enabling the mobility and ease of use to Internet of Things.