Right choice of connectivity is crucial for your IoT use case. Once the data is collected from local sensors, it has to be transmitted back to the internet via gateway so that the data can be analysed and key decisions be made and actionized. There are lots of connectivity options are available, however choosing the right IoT connectivity solution for your use case may seem difficult.
IoT connectivity technologies are broadly classified into LAN, Cellular, Low powered wide area network (LPWAN) and Legacy Satellite communication. Some of the key requirement is that the device consumes low power and has a long battery life. It also requires that the network has a long range, has a good data transfer rate, low latency and low cost.
When making decisions, you must evaluate the IoT connectivity solutions based on some of the important metrics listed below:
- Data Volume – How much data are you sending through the edge devices/nodes
- Area of Coverage – What is coverage area required for the use case for e.g. Home, Building, a campus or City
- Power Consumption – How much of power does your device consume and battery life
- Bandwidth and Latency – What is the volume of data, what is accepted latency and frequency of data to be sent back to server or cloud
- Price – How much we can afford to spend to make the use case a viable and has better ROI
Additionally consider the environment in which the IOT system will operate and available existing infrastructure based on that align the choice of IoT connectivity solution.
Connectivity type v/s Coverage
Over and above all these factors, it’s also important to understand the difference between a prototype and a final product. The connectivity option chosen for a prototype may cover a limited area. However, when the system scales up, the limited range may not work and may require choosing an alternative connectivity technology.
Connectivity options and key metrics
LAN technologies like WiFi, Zigbee and Z-wave work well for short range especially for home, office or factory building. These networks can be established without much of investments. Their power consumptions vary and ranges are severely limited, however, making them ill-suited for outdoor, remote, or spread-out applications.
Cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G well fit for IoT use cases especially having requirement of high data throughput that need long range. Cellular generally support large amount of data rates, shorter battery life, and generally the hardware’s are expensive. Cellular technologies operate in the licensed spectrum mainly controlled by the government or federal agencies.
When compared to Cellular networks, LPWANs support smaller data transfers and the devices have better battery life running over years. IoT requires a communication technology which fit for both long range and Low power consumption.
Each of these communications technologies are meant for different needs. Some IoT use cases can benefit from hybrid connectivity. Choose the right one for your needs.