Widely Used Wireless Technologies for IoT Applications

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The Internet of Things is a common term in the tech world; however, it is rarely heard among the general population. Although we are all impacted and influenced by IoT technology, a large section of the non-tech populace is blissfully unaware of their connection with it.

IoT connects various objects such as electronic devices, vehicles, and more in a seamless network where information is collected and transmitted among the interconnected devices. This technology is instrumental in connecting the digital world with the physical one. It is estimated that by 2027, there will be more than 41 billion IoT devices.

The success or the failure of IoT solutions depends mainly on many factors – similar to any other project. However, what makes IoT projects unique is that they are dependent on establishing a credible connection between the various devices and the IoT platform. Without a reliable connection, the project is bound to go bust from the beginning. We will be able to choose the right wireless network technology only after first analyzing the application requirements. The use-case will influence the choice of network technology to a large extent.

Next-Gen IoT Wireless Technologies to Choose From

In this article, we are going to talk about 8 next-generation IoT wireless technologies. Each of these IoT tools and platforms come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, and no matter which one you choose, you are bound to make a calculated trade-off. Let’s start pitting these technologies against each other based on power, cost, and battery, among others.

Advanced IoT wireless Technologies to Look Out For:

1. Cellular Networks

We are all familiar with Cellular technology – the same tech that’s used for mobile phones. Initially, these mobile networks were designed for battery-dependent smartphones. And, these networks weren’t the best fit for IoT development. However, newer advancements in these technologies are making them useful for IoT.

Although the mobile network is readily available in most locations, the cell tower connectivity is sorely lacking in areas that need monitoring the most– such as elevators, utility closets, and basements. Even though the technology is now less reliant on power, it still needs considerably more power than other wireless technologies.

5G cellular networks, the next-gen technology, comes with high-speed mobility making them suited for video surveillance, transportation, and logistics, transfer of medical datasets, and automation. It is projected that by 2024, 1.9 billion 5G Cellular subscriptions will come up.

2. LPWANs

Low Power Wide Area Networks were developed as a counter-measure to tackle cellular connectivity challenges. LPWANs send small packets of data over longer distances – when compared with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

LoRaWAN or Long Range Wireless Area Network is a popularly used IoT network that uses long-range communication for connection. LoRaWAN needs considerably low power and economical chipsets. Moreover, this long-range network can offer connectivity services to large and densely populated areas.

3. WI-FI

Although WI-FI is hugely popular among home environments, its lack of coverage and dependence on power and scalability make it a less potent option in the IoT space. Wi-Fi is more suited for connecting home gadgets that can be easily connected to a power source. It is not an appropriate option for industrial IoT connections.

The newest offering from Wi-Fi – the Wi-Fi 6 – delivers an improved bandwidth even in densely populated areas. Yet, this technology is still in its infancy and would require a revamped infrastructure.

4. Mesh Networks

As the name suggests, Mesh Networks are dependent on how the components interact with one another. Unlike a star formation topology, where all the nodes communicate with a central hub, mesh networks spread data among each node to reach the gateway.

Mesh Networks don’t work well on long-range, and they need numerable sensors to get ample coverage for your app. Besides being short-range, this network consumes more power. However, mesh networks are solid and reliable, quickly send data over the network, and are easy to install.

5. Bluetooth and BLE

Bluetooth is a prevalent short-range communication technology. This technology was designed to transmit data from one point to another or from one point to multiple points between consumer devices. To cater to the specific needs of consumer IoT devices, Bluetooth Low-Energy was developed.

Bluetooth-enabled devices are usually used in connection with smartphones that act as a central hub for sending information to the cloud. These days, BLE technology is used mainly in medical wearable devices.

6. Zigbee And Other Mesh Protocols

Zigbee is quite similar to Mesh Networks because it is a short-range wireless technology offering network coverage by transmitting sensor data over various nodes. Contrary to LPWAN technology, Zigbee offers higher data rates with low-power efficiency.

ZigBee and other similar mesh protocols typically work well for short-medium range IoT applications, where the nodes are closely and evenly distributed. The best example of the Zigbee IoT use case is for home automation.

Zigbee is usually not considered for industrial purposes as their connectivity is not suited when sensors are dispersed over significant geographical locations and in complex network setups.

7. LAN / PAN

Local Area Network / Personal Area Network is an economic data transfer network with predominantly unreliable connectivity. For IoT solutions, wireless PAN and LAN are usually used as WI-FI and Bluetooth. Wi-Fi works best in a closed environment. Moreover, Wi-Fi needs a strong signal and proximity to access points for it to work seamlessly.

8. RFID

RFID or Radio Frequency Identification transmits small amounts of information over very short distances by using radiofrequency. It has been helpful in the retail and transportation sectors.

An RFID tag is usually attached to the product or equipment in logistics, enabling businesses to track their asset movements in real-time easily. It helps in streamlining the supply chain and inventory management. In the retail sector, RFID tags are primarily used in self-checkout counters and smart shelves.

Wrapping Up

With this overview of the various IoT wireless technologies available, you should be better positioned to choose the right one for your particular application needs. Each use case is different, and the technology should be selected based on the project’s needs. Choosing the right technology could make a lot of difference to the overall success of your project.     


Author: Kamal Rupareliya

Kamal Rupareliya, a Director of Products at Inutz, focusing on innovation through technology such as IoT, JAMStack, and Serverless Computing. He is an expert in IoT, Mobile Design, and Product Strategy, and he loves applying inventive ways to utilize technology and empathy towards creating remarkable digital software products.

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