What Is IoT Connectivity?
IoT connectivity refers to the methods by which all of your organization’s IoT devices connect to the enterprise network and communicate with each other.
How Does IoT Connectivity Work?
An IoT network consists of multiple sensors and devices that connect to an IoT gateway / router which then wirelessly communicates with the enterprise network. In many cases the IoT application stack is hosted in the cloud or on an edge device on-premises within the enterprise infrastructure. Each device sends data, such as temperature, fluid level, and conductivity, to the network for processing. Many IoT sensors are highly versatile and collect numerous types of data.
The IoT network collects this data and can take a number of actions depending on the metrics. For example, if oil levels are low an executable script can create a maintenance request ticket for that machine. If temperature levels are rising quickly, a fail-safe can shut down the machine and send an alert to the appropriate staff. The key takeaway is that sensors collect and send data to a network that can record it and automate tasks based on the data received in real time.
IoT Connectivity Factors
Before designing an IoT network, there are a few factors that need to be considered. Each environment can have different requirements depending on the desired outcome. For instance, devices that share a lot of data continuously might require a private cellular solution that supports deterministic bandwidth and predictable latency.
Coverage describes how much range you require for your IoT connectivity. In a home, IoT sensors require only enough coverage to cover the inside of the home. In an industrial setting, coverage requirements can span thousands of square feet.
Consider what you need to monitor and where it will be located. This will help you narrow down what kind of wireless technology you’ll need. Many companies use different wireless networks for each solution. For example, fleet-tracking IoT sensors use cellular services for their wide range while smaller stationary devices use Wi-Fi inside the office.
Consider how much power you have available throughout the locations you want IoT connectivity. Remote work sites, agricultural operations, and rural environments might have limited options to power IoT devices. Each sensor might have different power requirements depending on its location and functionality.
Farms using IoT sensors tend to have little power and large coverage requirements. In this case, a private cellular network can ensure coverage across many acres to reach all devices on the property. Sensors in rural areas can use cheap low-power batteries to share data with the cellular network. This eliminates the need for additional fiber connections or power lines.
IoT connectivity can vary in cost depending on your network requirements. Large coverage areas require higher power solutions such as Wi-Fi or cellular service. These networks require access points to distribute the signal, and a backhaul connection.
IoT operations requiring ultra-low latency can use 5G to meet their requirements. This is typically more expensive than LTE solutions but provides a significant increase in data rates, bandwidth, and capacity.
Some IoT sensors collect and send large amounts of data. Typically large files, video, and live data streams consume the most bandwidth. You’ll want to choose a network that can support the data from all of your devices.
Consider the distance between your IoT sensors and the nearest internet gateway. If the distance is short, Bluetooth might be an appreciated option. Large enterprises looking for more scalable solutions could use a private mobile network to cover multiple locations at once.
Types of IoT Connectivity
How exactly does each solution work? What are the use cases for each solution? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each solution?
Private Cellular 4G LTE and 5G Networks
Private mobile networks provide long-range reliable coverage across enterprise indoor and outdoor facilities that can support IoT connectivity. Unlike commercial networks, private 4G and 5G networks can be designed to meet your exact coverage, capacity, and data rate requirements. This makes private cellular networks a great option for large enterprises and businesses that scale their IoT connectivity over time.
- Enterprise environments.
- Agricultural operations.
- Rural work sites.
- Organizations with high-capacity low-latency requirements.
- Highly reliable - Great for sensors that travel on vehicles, robotics, and conveyor systems.
- Secure by default - Uses eSIM or physical SIM cards to authenticate to the network and provides encryption by default (more secure than network passwords).
- More control - Private networks allow companies to set custom service levels, failover options, and assign cellular resources to vital applications.
- Better range - Cellular networks use the most power but offer the best performance in terms of reliability, coverage, and capacity.
- Easy to configure - Plug-and-play cellular access points combined with templated dashboards make it easy to start getting value.
- Works alongside Wi-Fi - Integrates directly with IT infrastructure, existing service-level agreements, and firewall rules.
- Large coverage area - Cellular networks can capture data across many square miles depending on your infrastructure.
Low-power wide-area networks use specialized cellular connections that provide ample coverage while serving low-power devices. This LPWAN is a solid option for IoT connections that use little bandwidth and send small amounts of data. LPWAN uses small low-power batteries to power its connections.
- Monitoring single metrics (temperature, light, etc.).
- Low-bandwidth operations.
- Applications that don’t require continuous streams of live data.
- Wide range of coverage - Requires few base stations to cover large areas.
- Ideal for lower-power applications - Uses little power to send and receive data.
- Limited in terms of performance - Its lower-power consumption limits the network in terms of bandwidth and data rate.
Almost all businesses use Wi-Fi throughout their campuses, making it a convenient contender for IoT connectivity. Wi-Fi uses a moderate amount of power and can typically provide around 2000 square feet of coverage per access point.
Wi-Fi is a good option for stationary IoT sensors within a limited range. IoT applications that might move, such as autonomous robotics should consider a cellular solution for a more reliable connection. Organizations that require 24/7 uptime and mandatory low latency should consider private 5G.
- Small-to-medium-sized IoT operations.
- Indoor areas with few obstructions.
- Applications that don’t require ultra-low latency.
- Easy to configure - Many businesses already have Wi-Fi available in their environment.
- Moderate indoor coverage - Provides decent coverage for short to medium-range areas.
- Moderate data rate and capacity - Can support most data rate and bandwidth requirements.
Many of us are familiar with Bluetooth through our phones, headphones, and wireless speakers. But Bluetooth can be a viable option for short-range IoT connectivity. Recent improvements have lowered Bluetooth’s power consumption and made it a viable option for sending data to sources within 25 feet.
Bluetooth is limited in terms of its performance. Ideally, sensors can use Bluetooth for short-range, low-power, and low-bandwidth applications.
- Short-range IoT connectivity.
- Low-power consumption requirements.
- Sending small amounts of data.
- Inexpensive - Bluetooth is an affordable option for short-range IoT connectivity.
- Limited bandwidth - Bluetooth isn’t the best option for sending large amounts of data.
- Low-power consumption - Bluetooth can use low-power, cost-effective batteries.
The Celona Solution
Celona partners with enterprise organizations to enable private cellular wireless IoT connectivity within their facilities as a seamless turnkey 5G LAN solution.
Celona uses its cloud networking principles to make implementing private cellular networks an out-of-box experience, similar to IoT infrastructure solutions. Onboarding can be done alongside existing enterprise infrastructure, without interrupting business operations, and enable network segmentation for critical IoT solutions.
If you’re looking to build your own cellular wireless network for your IoT infrastructure, you can work with us to test-drive the Celona 5G LAN solution via a free trial.