Extending the range of the Internet of Things (IoT) with new connectivity technologies

As we move through 2015, connectivity services for optimized Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) communications have continued to grow with the goal of fully integrating new technologies into our daily lives. M2M Now points out that new vendors are “moving beyond cellular and satellite connectivity” by harnessing Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) that are readily accessible around the world.

Wifi can be utilized for M2M applications like home security systems, sensor-based lighting, smart streetlights and parking meters, but has a range of about 300 square feet. Cellphones and tablets operate through GSM network frequencies that have high power consumption, but these can be utilized for functionalities like keyless car and home entry. Wide Area Networks (WAN), offer connectivity across metropolitan areas, entire regions, nations, and can even be harnessed internationally by utilizing different existing Local Area Networks (LAN) in the “sub-GHz” domain that utilize lower frequencies. The main benefit of LPWAN is that its low-power requirements, coupled with the low bandwidth demand compared to needy smartphones and other mobile devices, allow LPWANs to be readily available for allocation by M2M for communication and maintenance. With options for 2.4 GHz and sub-GHz, developers now have the tools to design a wireless system that meets the needs of their application.

Michael Barkway, consultant at The Technology Partnership, points out that “while technologies like cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth required interoperability from the start, for M2M that’s less critical and non-standard products and WAN services have already escaped onto the market. Standards can however evolve by a more de facto approach too, and this looks like the more likely outcome in a substantial part of remote M2M access infrastructures.” These emerging functionalities, however, are not without their own limitations. Barkway goes on to admit that “bandwidth restrictions cause some tough challenges for software updates and security, but nonetheless, the technology is an interesting alternative for long-range, low-power deployments.” Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG which recently launched the Weightless-N standard for low-power, long-range applications, explains that in addition to bandwidth allocation and coverage, custom design for IoT industry standards, deployability for monitoring and maintenance, and optimization of battery life is paramount.

LoRa Alliance’s Staale Pettersen commends their conceptually optimal network architecture where “gateways act as a transparent bridge relaying messages between end-devices and a central network server. All end-point communication is bi-directional, allowing user downlink messages even in ad-hoc applications, while enabling network management and authentication. To support Over the Air software upgrades as well as mass distribution of messages, a multicast/broad cast mode can also be used.” Influential companies like Cisco, IBM, Texas Instruments, and NWave, as well as some major telecom operators are coming together to streamline functionality and ensure seamless integration of hardwares and softwares by collaborating on a global standard.

Industries like manufacturing, agriculture, and health care can enjoy the benefits similar to consumers through increased accessibility, more secure data sharing, and customization. Emulators, IDEs, middleware, compilers, and hardware solutions are all becoming available for us to harness in order to contribute to the evolving standard of IoT and M2M. Contact Us to today to learn more about the growing role of IoT and M2M in the enterprise!