5 Leading IoT Wireless Technologies and their Best Use Cases

Customers today demand much more than simply a product; they demand highly efficient, reliable products. This requires OEMs to monitor their product in the field. Therefore, products must transmit performance data into the cloud or other IoT applications. This way, it is possible to remotely manage and diagnose the Product as well as predict any Product failures ahead of time, minimizing downtime and improving performance.

As products become more complex, traditional methods of product health monitoring and scheduled maintenance are not sufficient. Wireless technologies play a critical role in transmitting data to the cloud in a secured manner.

5 Leading Wireless Technologies for IoT Devices

1. Narrow Band IoT, Cat M1, or 5G

With recent advancement in LTE (4G) radio technology, cellular devices have become less expensive and have started to consume less power. Narrow Band IoT (NBIoT) and Cat M1 allow devices to send small payloads with low bandwidth directly to the cloud. The key advantage of having cellular connectivity on an IoT device is that, once machine is connected to a network, it can be monitored from anywhere in the world. The communication can be secured by implementing a VPN or adding authentication and encryption. However, many plants are in remote locations where network coverage may not be available, so coverage needs to be checked before deploying.

Applications of Cellular Technology
The applications of Cat M1, 4G, NB IoT, and 5G include the following.

Industrial Automation:
Industry 4.0 envisions a factory in which all devices and elements–including the product being manufactured–are fully connected, utilizing flexible, open standard connectivity solutions as well as incorporating internet and cloud technologies.

Smart Manufacturing:
Smart manufacturing includes many sensors and monitoring devices to check real-time factory output and measure productivity. These sensors can use any of the cellular technologies mentioned above.

Fleet management and autonomous driving requires bandwidth. Therefore, cellular technology is important to the automotive industry.

2. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

The latest versions of Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are suitable for many industrial IoT applications since they consume less power and have an extended range mode. BLE is adopted in Bluetooth standard v4.0. BLE focuses on low-bandwidth applications that involve infrequent data transmission between devices. BLE provides the option to operate in point-to-point, star, mesh, or broadcast topologies.

BLE mesh devices can set up connections with multiple devices within the network. BLE mesh utilizes only the advertising/scanning states of BLE devices. This means that devices that are part of a Bluetooth mesh network do not connect to each other the way that traditional BLE devices do. Rather, they relay information to each other via advertising packets which are received by the other devices via scanning. The advantage of a BLE mesh over other mesh networks is interoperability. For example, two machines using different BLE hardware can interoperate. This guarantees that you can add monitoring capabilities to your plant in future expansions. However, the data rate on a BLE mesh is low.

BLE Topologies (Image Credit – Silicon Labs)

Applications of BLE Technology
The applications of BLE and BLE mesh technology include the following.

In a factory or warehouse, employees can receive Bluetooth alerts from machinery on their tablets or smartphones. It can also be used for configuring machine monitoring equipment.

Smart Keys:
A mobile app would receive a secret pass code key upon hotel check-in, the user just needs to go to the hotel room door with his or her smartphone. The smartphone will exchange the pass code securely to the door lock using BLE, and it will open.

Retail Shops:
As soon as a customer walks into a store, a welcome message is shown on his or her mobile device. When he or she goes near a product shelf, the product’s details are displayed on their mobile screens. The retail industry is trying to find ways of targeted and contextual advertising, in which BLE will play a large role.

Comparison of Wireless Technologies

3. Wi-Fi

There are many variants of Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance has recently adopted a version numbering system for the variants: Wi-Fi 1 (802.11b), Wi-Fi 2 (802.11a), Wi-Fi 3 (802.11g), Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n), Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax).

The most popular topology utilized in Wi-Fi is the star topology, in which nodes can only communicate with each other through a central hub. Wi-Fi has two modes, access point (AP) mode and station mode. In AP mode, a router which is connected to the internet and IoT devices can connect to this AP through station mode and become internet enabled. Wi-Fi can work on 2.4GHz and 5GHz, the latter of which is less congested.

Wi-Fi also works on a mesh topology called mesh Wi-Fi. Mesh Wi-Fi works by using two or more devices, called “nodes,” to create a secure, strong Wi-Fi network. Nodes communicate with one another to determine the fastest band for your devices. It also has self-healing technology which reroutes traffic if one node fails. Mesh Wi-Fi is different from Wi-Fi extenders. Wi-Fi extenders simply boost the main router’s Wi-Fi signal, while mesh Wi-Fi systems create a whole new Wi-Fi network, separate from current router’s Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is energy intensive, therefore, it is often not a feasible solution for large networks of battery-operated IoT sensors, especially in industrial IoT and smart building scenarios. Instead, it is more suitable for connecting devices that can be conveniently connected to power outlets.

Applications of Wi-Fi Technology
The applications of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi mesh technology include the following.

Vision Applications in Smart Manufacturing:
Video Monitoring Systems require high bandwidth and are generally powered by Power over Ethernet (PoE) or a power supply.

Smart Energy Meter:
Now being deployed in residences, smart energy meters communicate with each other and transmit their readings to the central utility office for billing without the need for human meter readers.

4. LoRa

LoRA is a long-range proprietary communication protocol. LoRA is good for small payloads and a limited number of uploads and downloads per day. LoRA communication can be achieved in the free frequency band or in license bands using LoRAWAN. The LoRAWAN gateway has internet connectivity. It collects data from nodes and sends it to a server. Depending on the geographical region, payload limits and frequency of operation are considered.

Application of LoRAWAN technology
The applications of LoRAWAN technology include the following: smart lighting, radiation and leak detection, smart sensor technology, air quality and pollution monitoring, smart parking, vehicle management, waste management, and more.

5. Zigbee

Zigbee is a mesh network with routers, coordinators, and end-devices. Zigbee is also good for battery-operated devices since end-devices can sleep and wake up at scheduled times to get messages. A Zigbee coordinator can have internet connectivity and act as a gateway for all routers and end-devices. Due to the advantages of Zigbee technology–like low cost, low power operating modes and its topologies–this short-range communication technology is best suited for several applications, as discussed below.

Industrial Automation:
In the manufacturing and production industries, a communication link continually monitors various parameters and critical equipment. This might require a variety of sensors connected to a gateway. Therefore, Zigbee mesh considerably reduces communication costs as well as optimizing the network.

Home Automation:
Zigbee is perfectly suited for controlling home appliances remotely as a lighting system control, appliance control, heating system control, cooling system control, safety equipment operations and control, surveillance, and more.

Smart Metering:
Zigbee remote operations in smart metering include energy consumption response, pricing support, security over power theft, and more.

Smart Grid Monitoring:
Zigbee operations in this smart grid involve remote temperature monitoring, fault locating, and reactive power management.

Zigbee technology has become popular because it provides consistent mesh networking by enabling a network to control over an extensive region as well as providing low-power communications.

How IoTfyNow can Help IoT device manufactures and OEMs
There are various wireless network technologies available for Industrial IoT. The suitable technology for your product depends on the use case. IoTfyNow, with its IoT design expertise, can help you select the right network technology. IoTfyNow, with its 6-step product development process shown below, delivers end to end IoT products. IoTfyNow can help them by integrating radio networking technologies into their plants, making them monitorable, controllable, and predictive. Manufacturers and OEMs can take their plants to next level.

IoTfyNow Product Engineering Workflow

The IoTfyNow team, with more than two decades of proven expertise in designing IoT products, can help you simplify your IoT product development journey. If you are planning to build an IoT solution and are looking for an expert partner who can help you with end-to-end product development, schedule a time to talk with one of our IoT Product engineering experts.

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